Category Archives: Fiction

Episode 32: Out Of Control

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

BC Archives Link IV 20130607

Thirty-two —

Monday night.

Anna feels queasy. Funny thing is, so does Anthony. It’s a few minutes past eleven. Anna has turned the TV off and on a half dozen times already in the half hour or so since the news ended. She can’t decide whether to stay right where she is and let the little waves of nausea pass or get up and go kneel over the toilet.

Anthony, on the other hand, knows precisely what to do to combat his unsettled stomach. He learned all about it during Yippie!’s self-defense training sessions in Lincoln Park. He ties a water-soaked bandanna over his nose and mouth. He rather likes the idea; it makes him look like an outlaw.

Anna picks up the months-old copy of TV Guide and thumbs through it. A few seconds later, she tosses it across the room.

Anthony dips his fingers into a jar of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly being passed around by some hippie chick wearing a nurse’s cap with a peace sign button pinned to it. He rubs the jelly on his exposed facial skin. It reminds him of the time some ten years ago in his mother’s kitchen when he tried to reach into the pot where rigatoni was boiling. He was famished from playing baseball all afternoon out in the alley with his pals. He’d been Ernie Banks that day. He has to laugh right now. Even then he was a radical. He was the only kid on the block who wanted to be one of the Negroes on the Cubs. Anyway, he’d reached into the potful of boiling water with the wooden spoon and accidentally flipped a piece of pasta and a good third of a cup of hot water onto his face. His skin immediately splotched carmine. His mother, reacting to his howl of pain, raced into the kitchen and whacked him on the side of the head with her wedding ring hand, which produced a welt on his cranium that long outlasted the redness of his face. Cherie then got the jar of petroleum jelly and rubbed some on the burned skin. Anthony smiles at the memory. The hippie chick says, “What’s funny?” He says, “Nothing. Just thinking about my mother.” And she replies, “Yeah, I’ve heard that soldiers going into battle think about their mothers.” Anthony is silent; he’s stunned by the realization that this may indeed be a war.

Anna needs to stand up. Then she doesn’t. Anna thinks she has to pee. Then she doesn’t. Her feet throb. Then they don’t. She feels dizzy. Then…, well, you know. She thinks, This is really weird. She’s going in a thousand different directions at once. Like that time she and Anthony did Orange Sunshine for the first time back in December. So speedy and confusing. She didn’t like it at all; she felt out of control. She thinks, Is this a flashback?

Hallucinogen

Anthony’s still rubbing petroleum jelly onto his skin when he hears a voice over a distant police bullhorn. “It is now eleven o ‘clock. The park is closed. You must disperse. Begin leaving the park now.” The cop issuing the announcement has a deep, raspy voice, the voice of a stupendously aggravated old geezer, say, who’s pissed that these scruffy kids have hit their goddamned ball into his backyard for the two-dozenth time. Only the guy behind the voice is no geezer. He has a badge and a billy club and a service revolver and hundreds of other supremely pissed off guys behind him. At least that’s what Anthony figures since he can’t see any of them. The voice comes from over a little rise, a relic of an ancient shoreline some several hundred yards from the present one. Anthony shivers. Nothing like a disembodied voice to scare you to death.

Anna gently holds her enormous round abdomen in her hands. She feels like Atlas preparing to hoist the world up on his shoulders. She describes little circles with her hands. Her shirt buttons look like they’re about to pop. She undoes the bottom three buttons to expose the skin of her belly. She places her fingertips on that taut skin, so softly, so carefully that they’re almost not making contact with it.

Now there’s a light, a corona, an aura emanating from behind the little rise in Lincoln Park, just like last night. Haze begins to billow up, backlit by the corona. A few people near Anthony start singing “Kumbaya.” The singing itself makes him even more tense, contrary to the intent of the singers. He thinks, Jesus Christ, you people, do you think that’s gonna stop these guys from breaking our heads?

Life Magazine

Photo/Life Magazine

The middle of Anna’s body feels as if it’s being gradually squeezed, as if a giant hand has taken hold of her around the waist. She says out loud, “Oh!” She’s embarrassed because no one else is around. Then she’s embarrassed because she’s embarrassed. The giant hand squeezes again. She hollers, “Oh!”

Anthony hears the hippie chick with the nurse’s cap blurt out a frightful, “Oh!” She has caught sight of the front line of Chicago police officers coming over the little rise, their faces covered by gas masks, some of them carrying billy clubs, others shotguns. The hippie chick turns and runs blindly.

Anna thinks, This is it!

Anthony thinks, This is it!

Anna’s nausea disappears.

Anthony’s nausea grows worse. The teargas fog that seconds earlier had looked like a a cheap cinematic effect has drifted over the protesters. His eyes sting. His skin burns. It feels as though his nasal passages and throat are filled with razor blades. He unties his bandanna and flings it away.

Anna undoes the top button of her clamdiggers. Still, she feels as if they’re gripping her like a vise. She stands and wiggles out of her pants. She tosses them across the room where they land on the months-old TV Guide.

The cops begin to run toward the protesters. Anthony feels the hairs of his body going erect. He pivots and begins to run himself, toward the south, down State Parkway, where he’ll undoubtedly find a place to hide. He runs and runs and runs and runs until he finds himself, panting, in front of the Playboy Mansion. He falls to his knees.

Anna’s uterus contracts. It is a pain so severe it seems the entire room has been bathed in a bright white light.

A man comes out of the mansion. He sees a cop advancing on the kneeling freak on his front lawn. The cop’s arm is raised. In his hand, he holds a black nightstick that he hopes will break the head of the hippie piece of shit kneeling like some kind of blow job artist on the grass. The man, Hugh Hefner, shouts to the cop, “Hey there! Don’t do that!”

At that very moment another cop who is running past whacks Hefner in the ass with his billy club.

The first cop’s nightstick travels in a downward arc some 36 inches or so. The sweet spot makes contact with Anthony’s skull. His field of vision is filled with a brilliant flash, a light so bright and bold that for a millisecond he wonders if the atom bomb has fallen.

Bang!

Anna glances down at her abdomen. The first contraction was so strong she assumes she can literally see her belly turn smaller. She waits and waits and waits and waits for a second contraction that will not come tonight.

The brilliant white light fades away. Anthony reels and collapses on his back. Now he can see the face of the cop wielding the nightstick. It is his very own neighbor, Sal Sanfillipo. He is grinning. He raises his right arm again. Anthony closes his eyes tightly. He doesn’t even feel the second blow.

Anna stands, unsure of herself, wondering if she’s going to be able to maintain her balance. She picks up the phone and dials the phone number of the home she grew up in. “Please, please, please,” she whispers, “pick it up, Daddy. Pick it up!” But it is Tree who says hello. Anna silently places the receiver back in its cradle. She walks gingerly back to the sofa and eases herself onto it again. She breathes deeply. She closes her eyes. A few minutes later, she awakens and says, aloud, “What happened?”

At that moment, Anthony, laying on Hugh M. Hefner’s lawn, awakens from his own involuntary nap. He has the worst headache he’s ever experienced. He says, “What happened?”

But he, too, is alone. Hefner has dashed back into the mansion. Sal Sanfillipo has run off to swing his billy club at other freaks.

Also at that moment, Tree stands at her front window. Al’s voice comes from the bedroom: “Who was that on the phone?” She takes a drag from her Pall Mall. “Wrong number,” she says. She parts the curtains a half inch and peers across the street at Anna and Anthony’s house.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

Episode 31: This Is Suicide!

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

BC Archives Link III

Thirty-one —

Sunday night, August 25th, 1968. 10:45 pm. Anna takes stock of her life.

She has been sitting upright in this living room sofa for the last three months of her life, never once rising from it to, say, get a glass of water or even to relieve her never-ending bulging bladder.

At least that’s the way it feels.

She has also gained so much weight that her bathroom scale cannot possible accommodate her. She has to weigh, oh, probably 900 pounds at this point. Maybe more.

Yes, it really feels that way.

Anna’s inner soliloquy: Jesus Christ, Dr. Francona better be right about the due date. Three more nights. That’s all. I wish there were a drug that would make me unconscious until then. I wish. I wish….

Anna would swallow that pill without a second thought.

This pregnancy business is a mother.

She drifts off into fitful sleep, lulled by the mantra, I wish, I wish, I wish….

Speaking of mantras, Anna’s husband [and the man responsible for her blimpish state], Anthony, is hearing one as well, only it isn’t lulling him to sleep.

It goes Om — a simple monosyllabic, two-letter plaint to the Universe, drawn out, O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-mmmmmmmmm, as long as its utterer can bear. It evokes the shapeless, dark energy from the hidden corners of existence, a Vedic monotone inviting a god, any god, to partake of the sacrifice to come, and by his good graces, prevent skulls from being cracked open. Some dozen or so utterers of Om have created their apian buzz in the middle of this sea of anxiety, led by the chief utterrer, the poet Allen Ginsberg. He sits in the lotus position in the Lincoln Park grass, in the dark, his little group as well as a much larger group of lefties, freaks, clergy, medics, and hangers on surrounded by a force of hundreds of riot-equipped Chicago police officers backed up by hundreds of Illinois National Guardsmen standing at present arms with fixed bayonets.

This Om is all some people think they need to protect themselves against the rifles, pistols, blades, blackjacks, and clubs of the assembled sky-blue- and khaki-green-clad peacekeepers. The poor dopes.

Howard Bingham Photo

Om

Adding aural texture to the Om overture — the Om-erture, as it were — is the constant banging of drums, a pounding that has not stopped since earlier, in the afternoon, after the first cop attack that left only a few dozen freaks with centimeters-long rips in their scalps and splitting headaches. That, in the vernacular of this baseball town, was only batting practice.

Comes an announcement over a hand-held bullhorn. “The park will close at 11 pm. If you remain in the park after 11 pm you will be in violation of the law. You will be subject to arrest.”

People who have them begin to check their watches. Some call out the minutes before the pigs’ witching hour. Freaks have climbed trees, the better to see over the little ridge at the north end of this section of the park, the staging area for the police and National Guard skirmish lines. Skirmish lines that everybody here is convinced — that is, all except for the Om-ers — will sooner than later became attack lines.

The drums go on but, eerily, the guitar strumming, equally ceaseless up until only 20 or so minutes ago, has stopped. It’s a hell of a lot easier to run with a drum than it is with a guitar. And people are ready to run. Only they have no idea which way they’ll go.

A sandy-haired freak, tall and thin as Abe Lincoln, a reed, or a shaft of wheat, has been dancing circles around the anxious other freaks and serious lefties waiting for the clock and, surely, the club, to strike. He has been taunting the crowd, calling them cowards for leaving the park at 11 pm the previous two nights, in obeisance of police orders. He laughs at them as he gibes. He teams up with another freak, this one husky, upon whose shoulders a short kid climbs so he can wave a Viet Cong flag stapled to a rickety standard. The flag’s gold star is certain to arouse the cops, many of whom have brothers or cousins in Nam, but is meaningless to the Guardsmen, most of whom enlisted just so they could avoid that Southeast Asian hell.

It’s the cops, though, whose skirmish line will sweep down before the Guards’.

The husky kid doesn’t know it — or does he? — that his VC flag is as a red cape whipped before the eyes of hundreds of snorting bulls.

Now some freaks and many of the squarish, anti-war lefties and clergy begin to trickle out of the park. The tall blond freak and the kid with the VC flag begin to scream at them: “Stay in the park!” “Parks belong to the people!” and “Revolution now!”

Against their better judgement, against all common sense, and in a few brief moments, against the law both figuratively and literally, they reverse course and trickle back in to the park. Meanwhile, MOBE leaders and demonstration marshals yell, “Don’t come back! Go! This is suicide.”

One of the marshals tries to pull the kid off the husky freak’s shoulders. Another tries to tear the VC flag out of his hands. The kid, though, has locked himself into place with what seem the iron thighs of a gymnast and, with the iron grip of a young athlete who has developed extraordinary forearm and hand musculature thanks to hundreds of hours spent on the high bar, keeps his flag.

Anthony thinks, I’ve seen that kid somewhere before.

A man directly behind Anthony breaks this reverie with the shouted pronouncement, “10:59!”

Now, the tall, thin freak and the husky freak/VC flag kid duo, who have become default leaders of this chaos suddenly and for no good reason, begin to lead an impromptu, ragtag parade southbound out of the park toward the triangle of land formed by the split of LaSalle and Clark street. This, just as the cops’ skirmish line begins to advance in the dark with a Hollywood horror movie glow of floodlights backlighting them.

Barton Silverman Photo

The cops, who crave the coming clash as much as the freaks et al fear it, almost visibly recoil, a comic double take, and begin to dash southward themselves, sprinting as much as middle-aged men can run, to head the march off. The marchers tramp south on LaSalle and most turn west on North Avenue, creating a monstrous traffic jam. They pound their palms on idling cars’ hoods and trunks, inviting motorists to honk their horns for peace, for the young, for revolution, and for the hell of it.

A smaller group continues south on LaSalle, aiming to surround the Conrad Hilton south of the Loop but, Anthony will learn later since he remains with the larger group, are trapped on the Michigan Avenue bridge where another brigade of cops pound their heads in.

Convention Week 1968

Ambush On The Michigan Avenue Bridge

The cops here somehow get ahead of the marchers on North Avenue, reconstituting themselves into an attack line and steer the freaks north on Wells, past the Earl of Old Town, the Second City, Piper’s Alley, and all the other Chicago tourist meccas of the New Generation, the Now Generation.

The VC flag kid screams, “Pigs off the streets!”

Other marchers take up the refrain, “The streets are for the people!”

Everyone’s pace now quickens. They wind up again at the trinagle of land formed by the split of LaSalle and Clark. And — wouldn’t you know it? — with the VC flag kid shouting “Revolution!” continually behind him, the tall, thin freak urges the marches to go back into the park.

The march, having no known destination from its onset, has come full circle.

Lincoln Park fills back up with several thousand freaks. The VC flag kid has heard a few freaks boasting among themselves that Lincoln Park should now be renamed after Che Guevara, so he screams to the multitude, “Welcome to Chay-go-vera National Park!”

He has, Anthony concludes, absolutely no idea who Che Guevara is. But the lightbulb flashes on over Anthony’s head: “Yeah,” he whispers under his breath, “I know that kid!” He is Jimmie Finnin, the Jungle Man. Anthony thinks: He’s no freak. He’s a greaser! And a second lightbulb goes on above Anthony’s head: Jimmie Finnin, the Jungle Man, is a plant.

Now the two sides face off against each other in the exact spot where they would have faced off had the freaks not taken their circular stroll. The two sides stand facing each other in the slight hollow between the rises of Stockton Drive and Clark Street. Freaks and cops gaze into each others’ eyes from a distance of, at best, five yards. Who, both sides wonder, will blink?

Freaks behind the freak front line taunt the cops, shouting “Pig!” and “Oink!”

And so what? The cops themselves have adopted the pejorative as their own nickname for each other. They’re proud to be pigs!

The game of chicken goes on for a few long moments until someone in the very front line of the freaks — that someone, Anthony is now sure, being Jimmie the Jungle Man Finnin — shouts at the cops, “Your mother sucks cock!”

Magic words, these. The police skirmish line moves forward, the cops’ nightsticks held two-handed like the handles of push mowers to shove the freak mass up the rise leading to Stockton Drive.

Panic. The cops are pushing the freaks into the darkest part of the park, not out of it. This is not to be a dispersal; it will be a massacre. And, like that, the battle begins.

Freaks, and medics, and squarish lefties, and Jean Genet, and Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, and Terry Southern, and Norman Mailer, and Tom Hayden, and clergymen, and nuns, and — Wait, Anthony thinks, where’s that Finnin kid? He’s gone! Gone! — all of them scatter and run. The cops, their eyes gleaming, their teeth bared, their badges and nameplates nowhere to be seen, give chase.

The battle will last for a good six hours, petering out only with the first light of dawn over the lake in the east. The theater of battle will range from Armitage Avenue to Division Street, a city mile south.

The cops collectively defend their mothers against the charge of fellatio by beating anyone and everyone they can reach. The categories of the beaten include:

  • Freaks
  • Newspaper reporters
  • Passersby
  • Men in suits
  • Old ladies
  • People sitting on their stoops
  • People inside their homes
  • Press photographers (with the added bonus that their cameras are destroyed)
  • Medics

Convention Week 1968

A favorite spot for summary corporal punishment, for justice at the business end of a billy club, turns out to be the confined space between two parked cars. Not only is the receiver of the clubbing prevented from any means of escape, but passersby and those photographers fortunate enough to still have their cameras will be unable to actually see the repeated impacts of hard oak on ribs and skulls.

Tom Hayden climbs the front steps of a walk-up on Clark Street, surveying a small slice of the scene. A radio reporter asks Hayden what he thinks but Hayden refuses to comment. Instead, he asks the radio reporter, “Man, what’s going on out there?” indicating the streets to the south, out of his sight. The radio reporter replies, simply, “The same thing that’s going on everywhere.”

Near dawn, Anthony makes his way to The Theater on Wells Street. It serves as the emergency hospital for the wounded. Medics have wrapped dozens, no, hundreds of bloody heads with gauze bandages. The flat roof of the The Theater building serves as a crash pad for dozens of freaks. Anthony can’t sleep, though. He volunteers to help guard the front doors of the place. Each time someone bangs on that front door, likely as not bleeding profusely from a scalp wound or hunched over with a broken rib, the guards crack the door open a few millimeters, just enough to make a snap judgement that the banger is not a plain clothes cop.

At one point, the guards begin to allow in none other than the kid who had been carrying the Viet Cong flag. Or, as Anthony now knows, Jimmie the Jungle Man Finnin. Anthony leaps forward and slams his weight against the door, coming thisclose to severing the Jungle Man’s strong fingers.

“No way, man,” Anthony tells his surprised comrades, “that guy’s not one of us!”

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

Episode 30: Theater

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

BC Archives Link III

Thirty —

Neither Anna nor Anthony will have control over any of the things that will happen to their respective bodies over the next 72 hours, from Sunday evening through late Wednesday night.

Their bodies are mere props in performances whose casts include, in the case of Anthony, several thousand screaming, shrieking, taunting, surging, swinging, weeping, wretching, sobbing, aching, throbbing actors whose every tic, spasm, and reflexive paroxysm is being memorized, recorded, noted, and taped as it happens, will be the subject of a federal investigation, and will change the course of American political history.

Anna’s drama, equally emotive, wrenching, and with enough physical pain to nicely balance that experienced by Anthony and his stage-mates, is a one woman show. Whereas Anthony’s catharsis develops before the glaring lights of television videotape cameras, with the collective creative talents of countless diarists, lyricists, novelists, poets, historians, liars and other arbiters of live, unscripted spectacle interpreting the performance, Anna’s takes place in the utter privacy of her living room, her bathroom, her kitchen, the back seat of Al Dudek’s 1968 Buick Electra 225, and the delivery room of St. Anne’s hospital.

Comedy & Tragedy

Anthony and his co-actors are improvising, playing parts never before attempted on a stage defined by new technology, a war that is not a war, the vagaries of politics, culture, counter-culture, and the relationships between groups of humans with differently-hued skin and whose memberships are defined largely by their relative proximity to the ends of their lives. Anna’s part has been played billions of times before under the proscenium of human history. Nevertheless, she’d never attempted it before and so is also treading in uncharted territory.

Both productions, by the way, will play out under the aegis of Melpomene, the muse of Tragedy. The theme: loss. The denouement for Anthony will come this November, for Anna a few years after that.

Comedy’s Thalia is taking the week off.

Sunday evening. Hundreds of freaks, pacifists, rebels, radicals, and hangers-on wait in the darkness of Lincoln Park, hard by the shore of Lake Michigan to the east, gazed upon by the curious gentry through their luxury highrise windows to the south, hemmed in by hundreds of crimson-eared, blue-helmeted Chicago policemen to the north and the west.

One woman sits on her sofa and feels the joints of her body seem to want to come apart, the result of a flood of the hormone relaxin, released by the corpus luteum of her ovary for the purpose of softening the cartilage holding her hips together so that she might more easily pass an infant’s head through her pelvic inlet. Anna Claudia Pontone [nee Dudek] feels like the rubber-limbed Ray Bolger, flipping and flopping down the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz.

Except the Scarecrow only ever had to fret about the absence of a brain, not the passage of a watermelon-sized creature through the cervix, pelvis, and vaginal canal he did not possess. Anna does possess those structures and they will be strained beyond her belief soon, very soon.

Her body is ready, no matter that she is not.

Anna’s got her TV and she’s got eyes. She knows things are going on in the world even though now and again it feels as if all the world is nothing more than the medicine ball protruding from her abdomen.

She knows, for instance, that the Vietnam War this month has become the longest in American history. She knows Richard Nixon has been nominated by the Republicans to be their nominee for president. She knows Paris is only now getting back to normal after tens of thousands of French university students have battled police on the streets. She knows Russian tanks right now are rolling through the streets of Prague. She knows that the Chicago police have shot and killed a South Dakota Sioux teenager in town early for the protests.

Paris 1968

Paris, 1968

Here’s what she doesn’t know: in a couple of little straw hut villages in South Vietnam called My Lai and My Khe, U.S. Army soldiers have burned down every single structure and for good measure, they’ve lined up all the unlucky villagers who hadn’t run away before the troops came in, shot them all in the head, good and Nazi-style, and let their lifeless bodies tumble into mass graves. She doesn’t know that some five hundred people have in this way been murdered but not before many of them were gang raped, tortured, and mutilated. She doesn’t know that many of the bodies had the words “C Company” carved into their chests. She wouldn’t know that one of those American soldiers would later tell investigators, “I would say that most people in our company didn’t consider the Vietnamese human.” She wouldn’t learn about any of these things at least until November.

She also doesn’t know that the Army would stand on its head to cover up the massacre, that facts would be ignored, that the number of women and teenagers and little children killed would be falsified, that the investigation into it would be tightly controlled. She wouldn’t know that The Man has other things, more important things, to investigate. She wouldn’t know for years that J. Edgar Hoover thinks it of utmost importance to run a secret program to spy on, sabotage, and plant agents provocateurs in anti-war groups and civil rights organizations. Had she known any of this she would have felt even less optimistic than she did already about bringing this baby into this world.

As it is, Anna often rubs her bulging belly and feels progressively worse about the future. “I hate this place,” Anna says time and again. At these times, she wishes the little living person could stay safe inside her forever. Then again, on other occasions, she rubs her belly and whispers, “You’re gonna be beautiful. You’re gonna change the world.” At these times, she wishes her beautiful little world-changer would decide to emerge at this very moment, especially when her back throbs and her bladder can hardly hold a teaspoon of water.

Anna is now a war widow. Anthony hasn’t been home since since Monday, almost a week ago. She can use a little help around the house. The vacuuming hasn’t been done in weeks. No one’s scrubbed the bathtub and toilet since July. She gets to the pile of dishes in the sink every two or three days. Thank goodness for Daddy and his secret back alley visits. He brings salamis and cheeses, bread and tomatoes, along with his customary spare tens and twenties. Not that she has anyplace to spend the cash; Anna hasn’t left the house in fourteen days. She’s going to feel like an ass when she tells Daddy this tonight: she’s running out of toilet paper. Guaranteed, Daddy’s going to say for the dozenth time, “Where the hell is Anth?” The truth is, Anna couldn’t care less where he is, only that he’s not here..

The Smothers Brothers is going to start in a few minutes. That’s good, Anna thinks as she points the clicker at the Admiral and switches it to Channel 2. I need to laugh. She wants to see Pat Paulsen. Can you believe it? He’s running for president and he might be serious! It’s gonna feel good to laugh. Anna picks up a months-old TV Guide and fans herself with it. It’s already 9:05. The show has started. I hope, Anna thinks, I haven’t missed Pat Paulsen.

But what’s this? Cronkite? What’s he doing on now? Oh shit, don’t tell me it’s more bad news.

No, it’s only CBS’s pre-convention coverage. Blah, blah, blah, delegates, marchers, McCarthy, McGovern, Hubert Humphrey — Aw shit, it’s hot. Anna fans herself more vigorously with the old TV Guide, the exertion only making her feel more sweaty. Damn, damn, damn, come baby! Come out now! Let’s go!

Cronkite says some live footage is just coming in from this afternoon’s events at Grant Park, across Michigan Avenue from the Conrad Hilton. The delegates are staying at the Hilton. The MOBE staged a Meet the Delegates march, those rascals. And — wouldn’t you know it? — some of the delegates indeed did come down from their hotel rooms to mingle with the thousand or so protesters. Anna scans the screen carefully — There! Isn’t that Anthony? I think so…, no. No, it isn’t.

Lincoln Park Aug 25, 68

Practicing Self-Defense Moves In Lincoln Park

Wait, there’s more film from Lincoln Park, taken later in the afternoon. Five thousand protesters there — That should make Anthony happy. The police blocked a flatbed truck from coming into the park. Apparently it was going to be used as a stage for the speakers and the music. There was a fight. The cops started swinging their billy clubs. Lots of blood. Oh God! Is that Anthony? No, it isn’t. Good…, I mean, I’m sorry for the person with the gash in his forehead, but I’d hate for it to be Anthony.

Anna clicks the TV off for a moment. She needs a break from it because she found herself thinking she’d rather club Anthony on the head than have some fat cop do it. At least she has a valid reason.

Now she clicks the Admiral back on. Cronkite says there’s hundreds of protesters in the park, just north of the St. Gaudens’ Lincoln statue where she and Anthony first made out a million years ago, last September. More film. The cops are lined up, shoulder to shoulder, their billy clubs at the ready. Wait, is that that jerk cop, Sal, from down the block? Yes! I think it is!

Cronkite says the cops have announced that the park must be cleared out by eleven. Behind the cops’ advance skirmish line is a row of them holding shotguns and tear gas launchers. Then there are squad cars with barbed-wire riot cages affixed to their front ends. And finally, the meat wagons. Please, please, just leave. Come home. They’ve got shotguns, you fool!

The cops look antsy. The protesters are huddled together in  a clearing, a row of trees and Lake Shore Drive behind them, a fat blue line in front. Anna begins to cry. It’s too dark now for her to make out individual faces among the crowd. But she knows Anthony is there.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

Episode 29: It’s Not A Pig; It’s A Principle

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

BC Archives Link III

Twenty-Nine —

[It’s Friday, August 23, 1968, the week before the Convention. Protesters already are arriving in Chicago. And the trouble is only beginning. Welcome to the latest installment of the serial e-novel, “Black Comedy.”]

It’s been an unusually cool summer in the Midwest. For weeks at a time the temperature has scarcely hit 70. But now at the end of August, the heat takes over.

The gang’s all here: Abbie and his wife, Jerry and his girlfriend, Phil Ochs, Paul Krassner, Stewie Albert and his girlfriend — the entire Yippie! establishment. Anthony Pontone, too. They’re here in the shadow of City Hall on the Civic Center plaza, late in the afternoon, for the opening act of the Festival of Life, the Yippie! alternative to the Democratic National Convention. Abbie and Jerry, trying to hold on to a grunting, kicking pig, pose for photographers. They’re smiling — Abbie and Jerry, that is, not the pig. Hell, yesterday she was rolling around in the slop on some little farm up north toward the Wisconsin state line. Now she’s in the smoggy, raucous, traffic-snarled Chicago Loop in the clutches of a couple of grinning freak political pitchmen.

Anthony’s amazed at how Abbie and Jerry can put the face on for the press. For all the nation’s news reporters and cameramen know, Abbie and Jerry are brothers, baby, peas in a pod, tight as soldiers in a foxhole, thick as thieves. Anthony knows better. He was with them last night when they came this close to strangling each other.

It had all begun after everybody had agreed that they should go out, buy a pig from some farmer, bring it into Chicago, and announce it is Yippie!’s candidate for president. Perfect, right? Straight out of Animal Farm. George Wallace and Tricky Dick Nixon, that bullshitter Hubert and the porcine Mayor Daley, all of them, they’ll say, are nothing more than hogs, at least in the metaphorical sense. Why not drop the pretense and just put up a real live porker for president?

Daley

Even Anthony had to laugh. The idea was born of the promotional genius of both Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. The whole bunch was practically falling off their chairs howling about the pig idea. You could tell by Jerry’s eyes — flashing and darting — that his mind was churning out ideas faster almost than he could articulate them. First, we’re gonna demand Secret Service protection for the pig, he said. Then we’re gonna get daily National Security briefings. Third, we’re gonna call for everybody in the world to vote in the November election because, well, America rules the world so, damn it, the world should be able to vote for its leader, right?

Oh, it was rich! Anthony noticed, though, amid all the roaring laughter, that Jerry was serious. As the laughter died down, Abbie started talking about what kind of pig they should buy. He was of the opinion that the pig should be small so it’d be easy to carry as well as, well, cute.

“No, no, no, no,” Jerry said in a loud voice. The room got quiet. “The pig has to be huge and ugly, just like Daley,” he said. “It’s gotta be disgusting. It’s gotta smell like pig shit, man!”

“C’mon, man,” Abbie said. “Somebody’s gotta go get this pig. Somebody’s gotta carry it. It’s a pig, dig? Everybody’ll get the point.”

Jerry shook his head violently. “No, no, no, no! This isn’t The Wonderful World of Disney. We don’t want Porky Pig. The politicians are disgusting so the pig has to be disgusting.”

“Aw, man, lighten up! For Christ’s sake, the pig isn’t the star of the show, we are,” Abbie said.

“That’s your problem, man,” Jerry said, wagging his finger not six inches from Abbie’s face.

Abbie jumped up and got close to Jerry. “What’s my problem, man?”

“You,” Jerry yelled back. “You’re the problem! Everything’s you!”

Rubin

Jerry Rubin

“Fuck you, man!”

“Fuck you! People are getting sick of you running this show — as you so aptly put it.”

“You mean you’re getting sick of it, right?”

“Yeah. I’m sick of it. You’re trying to turn this whole thing into your ego trip.”

“Come down off your high horse, dude,” Abbie said, turning away and waving dismissively.

“Uh uh. This has to be said: You’re an ego-tripper, man!”

“So what?”

“So this: the people coming to Chicago have to know who you are and what you’re all about. Y’know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna print up mimeos, man, I’m gonna pass them out at Lincoln Park. I’m gonna tell everybody just what you said, that you’re the star of the show. The people have a right to know.” Jerry raised his hands, palms out, and spread them wide like an advertising agency executive imagining a billboard. He said, “‘Abbie Hoffman — Ego Tripper.”

Abbie took a step toward Jerry. Krassner jumped up and stood between them. “Hey man, let’s settle down. What are we fighting about? It’s a pig!”

“It’s a principle,” Jerry shot back.

Jerry wasn’t going to back down. In fact, he clearly was ready to fight for his pig. “Fuck this,” Abbie said. He gestured to his wife. “C’mon, Anita, we’ve got work to do. We haven’t got time for this bullshit.” And they left, along with Krassner.

Hoffman

Abbie Hoffman

So it was left to Jerry and the rest to go out to find the ugliest stinking pig in Illinois. That is, one who wasn’t otherwise occupied running the nation’s second largest city. They found one. They called it Pigasus.

And now Abbie and Jerry and Pigasus are standing amid the crowd on the Civic Center plaza, turning this way and that, smiling for photographers, telling reporters about Pigasus’ political platform. But now a phalanx of Chicago cops elbows through the crowd. The cops arrest Jerry and all the others who’d gone up to the farm to buy the pig. Abbie and Anthony, too. Oh, and the pig. Abbie and Jerry are thrilled. This is precisely what they want. The cameras roll as the cops take Pigasus into custody. The quintessential Yippie! moment.

Chicago 1968

They’re all put in a holding cell at police headquarters at 11th and State. All except Pigasus, of course. No one knows what the cops will do with Pigasus, although they do have a giddy time posing with her for the photographers. It’s a little after dinner time. The turnkey brings a tray of sandwiches, bologna on Wonder Bread, into the cell. His keys and handcuffs and baton jingle and rattle with each step he takes. He’s pink and potbellied. Jerry and Anthony exchange glances, neither has to say it: the cop looks like, well, a pig.

But he’s a funny pig. “I got bad news for youse,” he says as he lays the tray down on the wooden bench. “The pig squealed.”

Meanwhile, in another police station some six miles to the northwest, Sal Sanfillipo stands in his boss’s office, enduring yet another chewing out, seething. This one is different, though. The Shakespeare District commander tells Sal the punk kid he kicked the crap out of on the corner of Armitage and California last night turns out to be the son of one of the ward’s top Puerto Rican precinct captains. “You screwed up,” the commander says. “This is bad. City Hall’s coming down hard on me. I got no choice now. My hands are tied. You’re going on suspension.”

“Aw, Commander, you gotta be kiddin’ me!” Sal says.

“Whoa, watch yourself, son. Remember your place. Remember who you’re talking to!”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry, Commander,” Sal says. “But with all due respect, we got the Convention next week. I’m all ready to do my duty. I gotta tell you, I’m lookin’ forward to it.”

The commander shakes his head. “I know. This isn’t what I want to do right now. I need every man on duty; twelve-hour shifts start Sunday at oh-three hundred. But there’s no way out, son. Go and sin no more.”

Sal salutes, spins on his heel, and exits his commander’s office. He walks directly to the Burglary room where he picks up a phone and dials a number handwritten on a slip of paper he’s carried in his wallet for a few weeks. A woman answers: “36th Ward.”

“Is the alderman there?”

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“Just tell ‘im it’s a friend.”

“I’m sorry, sir, the alderman is unavailable at this time. May I take a message?”

“Look honey,” Sal says, “tell ‘im his good pal from Ma Barker’s is calling, y’got it?”

“I’m sorry, sir….”

“Whoa! You tell ‘im just what I said. Believe me, sweetheart, he’ll wanna hear it.”

The receptionist emits an annoyed sigh. “Hold on,” she says icily.

Ten seconds later an agitated man’s voice comes on the line. “Who is this?” the man says.

“C’mon. You know. I’m your pal from Ma Barker’s.”

“What the hell is the matter with you?” the man hisses into the phone. “What the hell do you have to tell my secretary about Ma Barker’s for?”

“I didn’t tell her nothin’.”

“Officer, I know who you are. Listen to me. Do not mention Ma Barker’s to anybody anymore, cabeesh? That was a mistake, okay? I thank you for what you did for me that night. You did the right thing, okay?”

“Yeah, I know it was a mistake. And I know I did the right t’ing. That’s why I’m callin’ you. Now maybe you can do the right t’ing for me.”

So for the next two minutes, Alderman Rocco Bianco listens as Sal tells him about being suspended. The two men end their phone conversation cordially. Sal hangs up and leans back in his chair. He thumbs through a Sun-Times he finds on the desk. Not five minutes after his call to Alderman Bianco, Sal hears the Shakespeare District commander’s voice come over the crackly PA system: “Patrolman Sanfillipo to the office immediately.” Sal closes the newspaper and places it back precisely where he’d found it. He has a smug smirk on his face for he knows his commander will soon inform him his suspension has been rescinded.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

Episode 28: Yippie!

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

BC Archives Link III

Twenty-eight —

Sal Sanfillipo’s kid, Ronnie, is playing pinners out in the street with some other kids from over on Nashville Avenue. He’s at bat. That is, it’s his turn to throw the pinkie against the curb, attempting to hit it precisely at the curb’s vertex, producing the perfect bounce that will send the little ball flying toward the other side of the street.

Ronnie kicks his left leg and grimaces a bit just like Sal Maglie. Sal the Barber, the master of close shaves, whom Sal the Cop has informed him was the finest pitcher of all time, what with his propensity to bust his fastball as close to a batter’s chin as is physically possible. And if it occasionally hit the batter, broke his jaw, say, well, it’s a tough world, ain’t it? Oh, Sal the Barber was as hard as nails, Sal the Cop would tell his son time and again. “Too bad you ain’t never seen ‘im,” Sal said once. “D’ose femmes that play ball now ain’t got nothin’ on old Sal the Barber. I want you to be just like Sal the Barber was — hit ’em before d’ey hit you.”

Sal the Cop also stressed the fact that Sal the Barber was a Daig. “Doan never forget your own kind,” Sal the Cop would say. “Y’gotta stick wit’ your own. Y’gotta be loyal to your own. Sal Maglie was a Daig. He’s one of us.”

“Pa,” Ronnie asked, “what’s a Daig?”

“That’s you,” Sal the Cop replied. “That’s me. That’s Sal. Our kind. Dagos.”

So with the inherent responsibility of upholding the honor and pride of the entire Italian race, Ronnie lets fly the pinkie and sure enough catches the vertex of the curb, sending the ball on a high arc, so lofty it actually clips a few leaves off the oak tree in front of the Sanfillipo house.

The two kids on the opposing team, playing the field, converge on the spot where they expect the pinkie to come down to Earth, but they are, unfortunately, among the worst fielders in all Galewood — which is why Ronnie is playing alone against them, for he knows he can beat them even if they were four. The two kids from Nashville reach high for the long fly and it comes down into their tangle of arms and hands and fingers. Naturally, the ball bounces off their fingertips and flies even farther, onto the front lawn across the street, a home run.

Ronnie leaps into the air, pumping his arms as if he’s won the championship of the whole wide world. “Hey, hey!” he yells again and again. “Hey, hey!” Just like Jack Brickhouse on the Cubs game when Santo hits another three-run blast. Man, the Dagos are the best!

At that moment, a little after nine in the morning, Anthony Pontone has just arrived home after another all night meeting with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin’s people. There’d been a contentious phone call from Dave Dellinger of the MOBE* at three in the morning. Dellinger was a scold, as usual, telling Jerry that his and Abbie’s street theater tactics weren’t going to do anybody any good, that the people coming to Chicago had a war to end, not an orgy or a rock concert to stage. And what was this about dumping LSD in the city’s water supply and public sex fests?

“What do you mean by ’sex fests’?” Jerry asked Dellinger, clearly enjoying making the older, more prudish man blush. “Do you mean ‘public fucking’?”

“You know very well what I mean,” Dellinger’d said.

“Why can’t you say the word?” Jerry said. “Go ahead. Just say it. It feels good. Fucking. See. I feel better already!”

Dellinger had to laugh in spite of himself. “I don’t need to say it,” he said, “You and Abbie say it enough for all of us.”

Hoffman/Dellinger/Rubin

Abbie, Dellinger, And Jerry

But then Dellinger got serious again. All these rumors floating around, the ones that Mayor Daley and his cops believed with all their hearts no matter how ridiculous and which turned their stomachs to boot might be a lot of fun, sure. “But,” Dellinger warned, “they just might hurt us all in the long run.” He pointed out to Jerry and the crew in Chicago that Mayor Daley had promised just that afternoon that the city wouldn’t be taken over by any “hippies, Yippies*, or dippies.” That got a big laugh from the reporters taking notes but, Dellinger pointed out, Daley himself wasn’t laughing.

Already, Dellinger added, groups and individuals were begging off coming to Chicago. They were afraid of what Daley’s police might do. “There aren’t going to be any hundred thousand protesters now,” Dellinger said, sadly.

“C’mon, man, it’s all bullshit,” Jerry told Dellinger. “We’re just fuckin’ with their heads. Wait’ll you see what we have planned for Friday!”

“Perhaps,” Dellinger said, “but if you keep it up, Daley’s policemen may make things awfully unpleasant for us.”

“No way, baby,” Jerry said, laughing joylessly. “Daley’s never going to let his cops embarrass him while the whole world watches.”

“We’ll see,” Dellinger said. “What’s this about Friday?”

“You’ll see,” Jerry said.

Anthony’s has been working for more than six months now with both Abbie and Jerry from Yippie! as well as the MOBE’s point people in Chicago, Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis. By now, a week before the Convention, the Yippie! people and the MOBE people aren’t even talking with each other. The kindest thing Jerry can say about the MOBE people is that they’re “a bunch of pipe-smoking ideologues, small ‘c’ communists, coffee-house navel-gazers.” As for Abbie, whenever someone brings up the MOBE, he simply says, “Fuck them.”

Yippie Button

Since this work began back in the winter, Anthony’s thrill about collaborating with Abbie Hoffman has petered out. Abbie Hoffman, Anthony has discovered, is a brilliant, charismatic, and energetic man. When he walks into a room, he owns it. And the chicks! Man, Abbie can have his pick of any chick. But, as far as Anthony is now concerned, Abbie isn’t really serious about a thing in this world except Abbie. Oh yeah, his heart is in the right place. He has dedicated his life to fighting the power, to righting wrongs, to the plight of the poor man and the black man. But deep down, Abbie is truly happy only when there’s a newspaper reporter with a notebook in front of him. He’s giddy when there’s a radio newsman with a microphone nearby. He’s downright delirious when a TV cameraman points his lens at him.

Anthony does his best to hide it because he has to work with all the disparate parties to pull these Convention week events together but he’s sick and tired of Abbie and Jerry. What he really wants, Anthony concludes, is to move out east and work with serious people like Dellinger and Hayden and Rennie Davis.

Anthony’s thinking about all this as he walks from the garage through the gangway next to the house, out toward the front near where the kids playing pinners in the street. Anthony played pinners when he was a kid. He wishes he could chuck it all now and just jump out there and throw the pinkie against the curb. Then he could be Ernie Banks all over again. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about trying to keep the peace between Yippie! and the MOBE. Maybe these kids’ll let him take a few turns at bat.

He emerges from the gangway and stands next to the stairs leading up to his front porch. The sun is gleaming through the oak trees. It’s going to be another hot one today but this early in the morning it’s still tolerable out. Anthony is exhausted. He thinks he’ll be able to get three or four hours of sleep and then head out to City Hall this afternoon where he and Hayden and Rennie can try again to get those permits to march. Daley’s playing this one awfully smart, stalling the permit process. Dellinger’s right — with all the confusion, the lack of permits, the tough talk and all, a lot of people who’d promised to come to Chicago are now canceling.

A hundred thousand, hah! Anthony thinks. We’ll be lucky if we can get ten thousand people now.

With all this on his mind, Anthony stares at the kid throwing the pinkie against the curb. This kid’s good. The ball hardly makes a sound as it hits the vertex of the curb, not the clunky thwop that a sloppy miss makes, but a clean doonk that signals a perfect strike. Sure enough, the ball flies across the street and the kids grab for it but it bounces off their fingers and onto to opposite lawn for a homer. And the kid who hit it, that Sanfillipo kid, the cop’s boy, he’s hollering and bouncing around like Muhammad Ali after a knock down.

“Hey, hey,” the kid hollers. He emits a long, piercing wail, like an air raid siren. He pirouettes and lands facing Anthony. Their eyes meet. Anthony thinks, He’s got his Dad’s eyes. They’re an eerie reminder of that Saturday afternoon back in April, when Anthony looked into the eyes of the eyes of the cop, Sal Sanfillipo, who was kicking the shit out of him in front of the Kroch’s & Brentano’s on Wabash.

That incident now is as much a part of the Sanfillipo’s family lore as it is of Anthony’s nightmares. Sal the Cop never wastes an opportunity to boast — very privately, of course — about how he bloodied up Tony the Fist Pontone’s hippie fag kid. As far as Ronnie is concerned, it’s only his Dad who stands between the pinkos and the perverts and the rest of us. Sometimes Ronnie wonders why his Dad didn’t just unholster his service revolver and shoot the queer and be done with it.

Basking in the glow of his triumphant home run blast, Ronnie lands, facing that hippie queer. Ronnie smirks. He begins to jump up and down again. “Grand slam!” he shouts. “Yippie! Yippie! Yippie! You guys suck!”
He directs his voice toward his opponents, the lousy pinners players from Nashville Avenue. But his message is intended for Anthony.

Anthony’s shoulders sag. Nope, he thinks, I’m not gonna be Ernie Banks today.

He slowly climbs his front stairs, inserts his key in the lock, and opens the front door. Anna’s sitting on the sofa, as always, sleeping. Her hands rest on the medicine ball that is her abdomen. Jesus Christ, Anthony thinks, she’s just a cow. He hopes he doesn’t wake her — not because he cares but because he has nothing to say to her. Unfortunately, he closes the door a bit more loudly than he’d wanted. Anna jumps in her seat. She turns to Anthony and stares at him, wide-eyed.

After a long few moments, she recognizes her husband. “Oh,” she says finally, dully. “It’s you.”

* A Helpful Glossary

  • The MOBE: National Mobilization Committee to End the War, a loose, umbrella organization attempting to coordinate antiwar protests, run by a small group of pacifists and intellectuals.
  • Yippie!: The Youth International Party, formed on New Year’s Eve, 1967, as the anarchist, attention-grabbing antithesis to what its founders considered to be the stodgy old lefties running the antiwar movement at the time. Really not a formal organization at all but an ongoing prank, often referring to themselves as “Groucho Marxists.”

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

Episode 27: A Hill Of Beans

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

Twenty-seven —

[Life is so unfair. All Anthony wants to do is Change the World — and he knows he can do it the week of August 26th when the Democrats come to town to nominate their presidential candidate. There’s so much to do, so many people to call, so many plans to make. Abbie’s depending on him to take care of logistics in Chicago, man. This is important stuff, people! So why’s Anna bugging him? Here’s today’s episode of the serial e-novel, “Black Comedy.”]

BC Archives Link Final

“You owe me,” Anna says. “You owe our child. You owe us. And you know it.”

“I don’t know any such thing,” Anthony says. “Here’s what I know: you’re selfish. All you can think of is your needs. Y’know Casablanca? Where Bogie goes ‘Our problems are just a hill of beans in this sick world’?”

“Please, don’t start quoting movies at me.”

“No, no. Don’t tell me what to do. I’m making a point here.”

From "Casablanca"

The Point

“Anthony…,” Anna says.

“Do not interrupt. Our having a kid is just a hill of beans when there’s an imperialist war going on. Changing diapers, giving the baby a bottle — none of it means anything in the scheme of things. We’re on the brink of civil war! The brothers are rising up against The Man!”

“Anthony…,” Anna says.

“What did I say? Do not interrupt. Those are the important things. If I ignore them, I’m just as guilty as Lyndon Johnson or George Wallace. Don’t saddle me with that suburban fatherhood bullshit. This ain’t Pleasant Valley Sunday, man. I’ve got a calling here on this Earth. This is the time for all good men…, y’know what I mean?”

Anthony Pontone is pacing in the living room. Anna sits, uncomfortably, in her usual place, upright on the sofa. The due date is in two weeks. Dr. Francona says it’ll be August 28th. Anna’s sick and tired of carrying a medicine ball in her abdomen. She’s tired of a lot of things, although she really can’t articulate what they all are just now. It’ll have to suffice for her to ascribe all her angst and discomfort to being a fat brood sow.

“Are you finished, Anthony? Can I speak now?”

“I may be.”

“Okay. All I’m saying is please promise you’ll be with me when I go into the hospital on the twenty-eighth, or the twenty-seventh, or whatever. I know the Convention’ll be here and the marches’ll be going on but I really think it can all go on without you just for one day. I’m not asking you to join the Establishment! I’m not asking you to crush the black man! I’m not asking you to drop napalm on little Vietnamese girls!”

Vietnam

Anthony is aghast. “Oh, so it’s all a big joke to you, huh?”

“No, no. Please listen to me….”

“I won’t listen to this bullshit, man! I’ve got responsibilities….”

“Yes! Yes you do!”

“No, no, not your responsibilities. You don’t define my life.”

“Anthony — my God! — don’t make this anything more than it is. We’re having a baby! Just be there with me!”

“I can’t reason with you,” Anthony says. “You think like a woman!”

He stomps out of the house and into the middle of the night. Anna hears him open the garage door and get into the old Plymouth. She hears him try to start it.

He got the thing a couple of weeks ago from some old dude in Bridgeport. “It runs like new,” he told her over the phone from the old dude’s house. The house was only a couple of blocks east of the Amphitheater where Anthony’d been spending the last few days scoping out the area, trying to figure out where to stage the hundred thousand or so protesters that were going to come to Chicago. “It’s a 1963 Plymouth Sport Fury. Blue with white trim. You won’t believe the deal I got on it — a hundred and fifty bucks!” Anna could imagine the big grin on his face but still….

Plymouth

“We don’t have two hundred and fifty dollars,” she said quietly.

“No,” Anthony said, “not right now.”

But the guy was cool. He trusted Anthony. He said Anthony could pay him whenever he got the money. Anna thought, Hmm, let’s see. When will that ever be? She even considered actually saying that over the phone but decided against it. Anthony seems to be growing less and less tolerant of her negativity these days. Instead, after she hung up, Anna wondered if she really was being negative these days and, if so, why.

So Anna sits upright in the sofa, uncomfortable as always, and listens for ten minutes as Anthony tries to crank the engine. He tries at least twenty times. Twice he interrupts his efforts to shout “God damn it!” and “Piece of shit!” She hopes the neighbors don’t hear him even though she should know better.

Curtains are parting ever so slightly halfway down the block, almost as far as the Dudek house.

Finally, Anthony gets the thing started. The Plymouth chugs down the alley sounding like Oliver Douglas’s beaten-up old farm tractor on Green Acres. Anna’s not watching, of course, but she just knows it has to be spewing out blue smoke. She says a silent prayer that the old dude from Bridgeport won’t start calling the house tomorrow and asking where his money is.

As this very moment, Tree stands at her living room window, smoking Pall Malls and staring at Anna and Anthony’s place.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

Episode 26: Go And Sin No More

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

Twenty-six —

[The 1968 Democratic National Convention is coming closer by the day. Anthony Pontone will be there. So will Sal Sanfillipo. This is the latest installment of the serial e-novel, “Black Comedy.” Read on, babies!]

The cop Sal Sanfillipo, despite being considered a fine and honorable public servant by the commander of the corrupt Austin District police station, is less esteemed by his own commander at the Shakespeare District. That commander is sick and tired of answering brutality charges leveled against Sal by Puerto Ricans, whom Sal views as only a shade higher on the evolutionary ladder than the fat rats that infest their shithouse apartments.

Not that the Shakespeare commander thinks the Puerto Ricans in his district deserve to be treated like human beings — clearly they don’t — but, Jeez, Sal Sanfillipo never knows when to stop. There was the time he shoved some fourteen year-old punk’s head through the bars of the basement lockup. For chrissakes, they had to call in an iron worker in the middle of the night to come out and blowtorch one of the bars off to get the little fucker out. Then, not six months later, Sal broke both bones in his right forearm — they snapped like dried twigs, one of the other cops who’d been there later said, making a similar sound to boot — on a Latin King’s cranium, again in the lockup. While other patrolmen gathered around Sal to help minister to his bent arm, the Latin King lay on the cold concrete floor with a five-inch long depression in his skull. When they finally got around to tending to the Puerto Rican, the hematoma in his brain had already caused him to fall into a deep coma. Figuring the little jag was gonna die anyway, the patrolmen simply picked up his limp body, brought him up to the second floor, dumped him out the window and then called his mother to break the bad news that her son had died trying to escape.

And there was no way to count how many Puerto Ricans were walking around the district with missing teeth, misshapen noses, and punctured eardrums, thanks to Patrolman Sal Sanfillipo, his nightstick, and his kid leather-gloved fists and palms.

Shoot, the Shakespeare commander figures he could hire a part-time secretary just to fill out the paperwork on all of Sal’s brutality complaints. The commander has had at least a half dozen serious sit-downs with Sal, each time threatening him with disciplinary action, none of which has penetrated that thick skull of his.

BC Archives Link Final

So now the Shakespeare commander holds a memo from the area deputy chief ordering him to assign two patrolmen to a special duty next week, Friday. The commander understands he’s not being asked to send two of his best men; rather, he’ll dispatch two of his biggest pains in the ass. One of them will be Sal Sanfillipo. See, the special operation will take place around Clark and Diversey — Clark and Perversity, as it’s known throughout the force — home of the Mary boys. Every year or so, area central likes to stage a nice bust at some fruit bar. Naturally, no self-respecting patrolman wants to come within twenty yards of those queers so the task falls to officers on the various district commanders’ shit lists.

The commander calls Sal in to tell him the news.

“Commander, wit’ all due respect, that ain’t no place I wanna go. Can’t I get outta this in any way?”

“Sal, whaddya want me to do?” the commander says. “I tole you time and again, watch yer step. Watch whatchyer doin’. Take it easy. How many times, huh? How many times?”

“Yeah, but I been doin’ my best. I’m tryin’, Commander. Honest. Look whaddya want me to do? I’ll do anything to get outta this detail.”

“It’s too late, Sal. You’re in no position to bargain with me anymore. Go report to Captain Kelleher at the 23rd at midnight Friday. That’s it. Now go and sin no more.”

“Yes sir,” Sal says, snapping a half-assed salute, baffled as to why his commander has this hard-on for him.

So, Friday midnight arrives. Sal drives up to 23, also known as the Town Hall station, at Halsted and Addison, three blocks east of Wrigley Field. There he meets three dozen other shit-listers. They’re inspected, given instructions, and then most of them are loaded into two personnel vans. Captain Kelleher’s special duty force is sent off in waves. First, four unmarked cars go out. One car will park directly in front of the fruit bar, a second in the alley behind it. The other two cars will be positioned at either end of the block on Clark Street between Surf and Diversey, effectively closing it off. Next a half dozen blue and white squadrols will descend upon the area. Two patrolmen from each car will gather in front of the joint and then enter it en masse. Once the detail sergeant radios in that the place has been secured, the two personnel vans are to pull up. They contain the two dozen cops who’ll do the dirty work — as in, they’ll actually have to touch the queers.

Chicago Police

Fruit Bust

Sal Sanfillipo sits on the metal bench of one of the personnel vans, shifting from ass cheek to ass cheek as the vehicle bounces over potholes. Sal’s getting more pissed by the second. Some fag motherfucker’s gonna pay for this shit.

The van stops and Sal and his colleagues pour out. This stretch of Clark Street, normally pretty busy at 12:45am, is flat-out deserted. The fruits and the normal citizens who live around here have seen these raids before. They know the moment they see the advance unmarked cars squeal up to get the hell off the street — hell, nobody wants to get caught up in a mess of pissed-off Chicago cops forced to do a fruit bar raid. Bystanders, nearby restaurant proprietors, hell, anybody with a heartbeat unfortunate enough to be within reach of a cop gets swept up. Once even a couple of nuns out for a walk got pinched.

Sal looks up at the sign hanging over sidewalk. Ma Barker’s Bistro. Fuckin’ fag name. He marches into the place with his mates. It’s dark and smoky. Smells of cologne and gin. Not a broad in the place, the sick fucks. The original dozen cops who went in already have lined the employees and patrons up against the bar and the opposite wall. Looks like about fifty or so people with their hands against the wall, their feet shoulder width apart. “Alright, ladies,” the detail sergeant shouts, “drop ‘em.”
The fifty or so exchange glances. “C’mon, c’mon! Take down your panties!”

One of the fifty — looks like the manager of the place, the den mother — says: “Why?”

The sergeant looks at him as if he’s smeared with dog shit. “Because I say so, Dolores.” Sal and the rest of the guys from the personnel vans now line up behind the men with their hands on the walls. The sergeant adds, “We wanna make sure none a’ you sweetie-pies are carryin’ any pep pills or goofballs. You all look hopped up on somethin’.” With that he clacks his nightstick across the manager’s teeth, three of which are spit in a bloody glob on the floor.

Sal and the boys have been given no specific instructions on how to search the men. They take this to mean they may use their discretion. Nothing makes a certain breed of cop happier. Sal’s breed.
The two dozen cops move in and get to work. Sal’s guy is a blondie with a spit curl. He’s thin as a rail and pale. The piece of shit is soft like a schoolgirl. Never did an honest day’s work in his friggin’ life. Probably got some sugar daddy who puts him up and keeps clothes on his back. Sal feels sick to his stomach.

Sal jabs the pale blondie in the small of his back with his nightstick. By the way, this is his old, nicked-up nightstick. He’s never gonna use it again after tonight’s work. The blondie grimaces and utters a high-pitched moan.

“Sa’matter, you can’t take it, girlie?” Sal says. “Doan worry about my little bat here. This is my contraband probe. Gonna see if you got somethin’ hidden up your ass. You’ll like that, wontchya?” He jabs the blondie again. And again the blondie emits a girl’s moan. “Too much for you, huh?” Sal says. “Your old high school pals over in ‘Nam are gettin’ their legs blown off every day and you’re cryin’ about a tap in the kidneys? By the way, how many of ’em did you blow in the locker room? All of ’em?”

“Please stop,” the blondie whispers.

Sal leans in close. “Huh?” he says. “What’s that? Oh, I’ll stop.” Sal cracks the blondie across the side of his head with his kid-gloved right hand, making sure his palm covers the fruit’s earhole. Perfect shot. The blondie yells in pain. Pop goes the eardrum.

The blondie falls against the fruit next to him. The other fruit turns his head in surprise. Sal thinks: I seen this prick somewheres before. The man makes eye contact with Sal, wordlessly pleading with him. Oh yeah, Sal thinks, I know d’is guy! Da fuck’s he doin’ here?

“Please,” the fruit says. “This is a big mistake. I just walked in here. I didn’t know what kind of place this is. You know me — we’re neighbors.”

Sal does know him. Sal also knows the guy’s full of shit. Three drained highball glasses sit on the bar in front of him, along with his change, his pack of Raleighs, and a gold-plated lighter with his initials etched into it — RB. Rocco Bianco. The alderman. Jesus H. Christ in heaven. Y’stay in this fuckin’ job long enough, Sal thinks, y’see everything!

“Come wit’ me,” Sal says, grasping the alderman’s elbow. He pulls Rocco away from the wall and leads him toward the rear door. “Honest to God,” Rocco says. “What is this, a homo joint?” Sal doesn’t answer. Still, Rocco keeps talking. “This is all a big mistake. Really, it is. You believe me, don’t you?”

“Yeah, yeah. Sure. I believe you. Just shut up and get the fuck outta here,” Sal says as he pushes Rocco through the service entrance door. Rocco stumbles a little. He turns toward Sal. “I owe you one, buddy,” he says. He turns on his heel and walks quickly into the shadows of the alley.

“I know it,” Sal says.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

Episode 25: They Would Change The World

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

Twenty-five —

[Early June, 1968. The world outside Anna’s door continues to spin out of control. Where’s Anthony? Oh, you know, he’s out trying to fix that world. Anna is alone, save for her imagination. There must be a place of hope. Anna hopes Bobby can lead her — and the nation — there. Reality gets in the way.]

More than anything in the world right now, Anna wants to cry but she can’t let herself. She knows it’s ridiculous but she can’t shake the old warning her mother and aunts and Nonna Luisa always bestowed upon pregnant girls who were on the verge of tears: Don’t cry or else you’ll dry up your milk.

I mean, honestly, Anna thinks. I read Dr. Spock. This is the 1960s for God’s sake. We should be way past those old wives tales.

But, still, Anna won’t succumb.

That’s why she tries her best not to think about that delicious fantasy she’s been having for months. It started back around March, even before the wedding. Anthony hasn’t touched her since late winter. No, not even on their wedding night. She thought at first, Well, marriage is for life so there’ll be plenty of time, y’know, for that kind of stuff.

So far, though, nothing.

Of course, it’s her fault. Anthony says so. The more her pregnancy has progressed, the fatter a cow she has become. Anthony doesn’t even want to see her unclothed. She has to change in the bathroom, out of his eyesight, unless she wants to hear him piss and moan about how gross she looks.

So Anna’s mind began to wander. It landed upon Bobby and why not? So good-looking. So exciting. So… valiant. That little tuft of hair that always falls over his forehead, the one he always has to brush back. He even did it at the microphone in L.A. after he said, “… and now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there.”

Los Angeles, June 5th, 1968

The Dream

This is…, was, Anna’s fantasy: She’d be walking through the halls of the Conrad Hilton. Just walking, you know, because Anthony was outside, of course, screaming up at delegates’ rooms along with the hundred thousand or one million or ten million other protesters, the ones he’s had a hell of a lot more time for than her these days.

The door of one of the rooms would open, and there, a vision, as near to a messiah as Anna would let herself believe, would be Bobby. He’d be tying his tie, his hair mussed from his shower.

“Oh,” he’d say, “pardon me. Is everything alright.”

Anna’d smile shyly and say, “Yes. Sure.”

“You look lost,” Bobby would say.

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Please, come in.”

Bobby would run his fingers through his hair. He’d offer her orange juice and maybe an English muffin.

“What is it?” he’d say as Anna sat on the sofa. “What’s bothering you?”

“Oh, you’ve got too much to think about,” Anna’d say. “Don’t worry about me.”

“But I am worried about you.”

And then it would all pour out of Anna. Ma cutting her off. Daddy having to sneak around in back just to see her occasionally and slip her a ten or twenty because…, well, because there isn’t much money in gonzo radical journalism. Anthony being disgusted by her enormous weight. “God in heaven, I think I’ve gained a ton,” she’d say. “Fifteen pounds at least!”

“But,” Bobby would say, “you’re beautiful.”

“I am?”

“Yes you are. Actually, you’re radiant.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Bobby would place his hand on her basketball bulge. He’d gently and innocently caress her belly. “There’s nothing on this Earth more beautiful than a pregnant woman,” Bobby’d say. “My mother always told me that.”

Pregnant

… Nothing On This Earth More Beautiful….

At that point, Anna would be totally and incontrovertibly his. He’d kiss her cheek gently and she’d crave more. He’d tell her there was a place for a sensible, sensitive, intelligent young woman like her. He’d bring her to the White House with him, and they would Change The World.

War — ended. Poverty — addressed. Racism — eliminated. She, Anna Claudia Pontone, would stand next to him every step of the way. And, of course, there’d be the fabulous, almost unimaginably good, spiritual sex. For the past three months, Anna had brought herself to climax a time or two or several dozen without even touching herself — well, not every time — thinking such things.

The fantasy was so good, so realistic, that Anna already knew what Bobby’s neck smelled like.
Only right now she can’t allow herself to think about the smell of his neck — otherwise she’ll cry.

And she doesn’t want to cry. You know, because of Ma, her aunts, and her Nonna Luisa, damn them.

Anna hasn’t turned the TV off since yesterday morning when, at a little past three thirty, the bulletin first flashed that there’d been a shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Bobby Kennedy’s California primary campaign headquarters. She hasn’t left the house since. Nor has she had any company; Anthony has been out, somewhere, doing whatever it is he’s doing for the Convention in August.

Associated Press Image

The Dream Lay Dying

Her emotions rise and fall with the continuing news reports. Before breakfast, Walter Cronkite says that the gunman shot Bobby with a .22 caliber pistol. That’s good news because even though Anna knows only a little bit about guns, she is aware that a .22 is rather small, not like the hunting round that tore a fist-sized hole in Martin Luther King’s neck.

Prior to lunch, Bobby comes out of surgery to remove the bullet and bone fragments from his brain. Anna experiences a feeling that can almost be described as glee, for Bobby’s still alive.

Just before dinner time, Bobby’s spokesman Frank Mankiewicz says the doctors are awfully worried; the Senator is showing no improvement at all. Later comes the report that Bobby’s sisters and even Jackie Kennedy have come to the hospital to be at his side. Now Anna begins to mourn. It is a death watch.

It’s almost four in the morning. Mankiewicz appears on the screen again. The words at the bottom of the screen read, “Live from Good Samaritan Hospital.” She can only catch the last words of Mankiewicz’s statement: “… he was, uh, 42 years old.”

Finally, to hell with Ma and her sisters and Nonna Luisa, to hell with everybody in this goddamned rotten world, to hell with her milk — she can bottle feed her baby — Anna lets go. She cries. Deeply. So deeply she must force herself to stop every now and then so she can breathe. The fantasy — the fantasies — are no more. That tuft of hair, that innocent peck on the cheek, the lovemaking, the world changed. Gone.

Now all that’s left is the life inside her womb. And all Anna wants from Anthony is a little help.

To be continued

BC Archives Link Final

Join us Thursday for Episode 26 of the serial e-novel, “Black Comedy.”

Episode 24: You Sound Just Like My Dad

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

Twenty-four —

Nobody knows it but Tree often sits at the front window in the middle of the night and stares at the old Mondi house across the street and down the block. Anna and Anthony’s new house. She’s got her excuse lined up in case she’s caught: “I thought I heard something.”

It might even work if the person who happens upon her neglects to notice the ashtray full of crushed out Pall Mall butts on the end table next to her.

Tonight, like every other night, Anna and Anthony’s front room lights are on. All the other houses on the block are dark. Weeks ago Tree learned to ignore the “curtains” on her daughter and new son-in-law’s front windows. The big picture window is covered by a tie-dyed drape. The smaller French windows on either side of it are curtained by, on the right, one of those American flags with a peace sign in the corner rather than the fifty stars and, on the left, a red and black silhouette-ish image of Che Guevera, although Tree has no idea who the young man with the scraggly beard and the rakish black beret is.

Che

Tree can’t see into Anna and Anthony’s living room but, still, she stares at the windows as if through sheer maternal superpower she can penetrate those damned “curtains.”

Anna sits upright on the sofa. Her basketball-sized belly now extends three-quarters of the way across her lap. The baby is due in late August. She’s got the first issue of the Whole Earth Catalog in her lap, as well as a copy of Life magazine and Tom Hayden’s book, Rebellion in Newark, which Anthony has been pestering her to read since he brought it home a month ago. She has sat on the sofa with that book on her shrinking lap for four weeks now and has yet to crack it once. She doesn’t know precisely why she hasn’t opened it, only that every time Anthony bugs her to read it, she becomes less likely to do so. What she does have opened in front of her is The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock.

BC Archives Link Final

“You know, Mr. Brown,” she says, “a father should kiss his child every single day, no matter if it’s a boy or a girl.” She’s feeling cozy tonight, that’s why she uses her old nickname for Anthony. “I know my Dad loved me but I don’t ever remember him kissing me except at things like graduations or…,” she pauses here, a distant look in her eye, “…at the wedding.”

Anthony sits across the room in the old La-Z-Boy from Al and Tree’s basement, the one Al had given to him before the wedding. He’s got a yellow legal pad in front of him. He’s taking notes on a phone conversation he had earlier this evening with Abbie Hoffman. Man, it’s amazing how far Anthony has come since that day last fall when he first saw Abbie on Wells Street in Old Town, which was, by the way, the day he re-met Anna. He grunts in response to Anna’s comment.

Anna flips a page. She asks, “Did your dad kiss you?”

Anthony doesn’t even look up from his legal pad.

“Mr. Brown, can you hear me?”

Still nothing.

“Mr. Brown?” Anna now glares at him. “Anthony!”

“What? What’s wrong? You having pains already?”

“No, Anthony. I’m trying to have a conversation with you.”

“Hey, I’ve got important stuff to do here. What is it you want?”

“I just want to know if your father kissed you,” Anna says.

“When?”

“I don’t know when. Ever. Did he kiss you?”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because he’d want you to know he loved you.”

“Again, why would he do that? He was my father — I assume he liked me.”

“Not like — love.”

“Yeah, I guess he loved me,” Anthony says, shrugging. “Loves me, I should say. Even though he hates me right now,”

“Are you going to kiss our baby?”

“When?”

“I don’t know when, Anthony! Just are you going to kiss him?”

“Listen, Anna, I’ve got important work to do, okay? Do you realize how hard it is to get a hundred thousand people into the city? The convention’s only two months away. We haven’t even gotten our permits from the city yet. Daley’s guys are stalling us. They hope we’ll go away. We aren’t gonna let those fat old creeps win.”

Daley et al

Mayor Daley And Some Of His Guys

“Yes, I understand how important your work is,” Anna says. “Raising our child is important too.”

“But that’s your job.”

“What? What’s my job? I didn’t know I had a job. I thought it was our job.”

“I mean it’s your job to kiss the baby. A man has to go out into the world.”

“You know something? You sound just like our dads.”

There is silence. Anthony speaks after a few long moments: “Don’t you ever say that to me again.”

To be continued

Episode 23: One Long Hot Summer

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

Twenty-three —

[The battle lines have been drawn. The armies are marching inexorably toward each other. And this isn’t even Vietnam; it’s Chicago. Here’s the latest episode of the serial e-novel, “Black Comedy.”]

Sal Sanfillippo pops the top of a Hamm’s beer can, his seventh of the young afternoon. Usually taciturn, he is made expansive by all that Hamm’s. “Lookit this,” he says, fishing the six other pull tabs out of his Sansabelt pocket. “This is what the kids do wit’ these things.” He clips the pull tabs together, finger rings to aluminum tabs, which he folds over to lock on to the next pull tab in line, creating a chain of them.

“The hippies,” he explains. “They make necklaces outta these things. The friggin’ jimokes.” Now he dangles his short necklace. “See?”

Sal and his neighbors are gathered in the Dudek backyard for Al’s annual Memorial Day cookout. Al’s got his chef’s apron on, tending to his grill, a gift from the 36th Ward Streets and San boss. It is a shiny black 55-gallon drum, cut neatly in half lengthwise, hinges attached so that one half becomes a lid, a gleaming metal grate screwed on to the bottom half to create a cooking surface, and sturdy legs welded on. Either end of the contraption has “Roberto V. ‘Bob’ Vittori, 36th Ward Superintendent” neatly stenciled in white on it.

Bob Vittori is here, as is the usual gang — Mickey Finnin, Tony the Fist Pontone, Eddie Halloran, and Rocco Bianco — plus two vice presidents of St. Paul Federal Savings & Loan, the owner of the Diplomat House, the restaurant and lounge catercorner from Al’s home on Natchez, the commander of the Austin District police station and Lennie LaFemina, a hotshot young lawyer in the city’s corporation counsel’s office who lives up the block. Lennie’s the son of Artie LaFemina, boss of the Jewish Far North Side 50th Ward Democratic organization (Lennie’s grandmother was a Jew — he called her bubbe). The joke down at City Hall is the kid has such a bright future the rest of the city lawyers have to put on RayBans when he walks into the office. In fact, people already are talking about him running for office, maybe as soon as 1972.

City Hall

Lennie LaFemina Has A Bright Future At City Hall

There are nearly as many Chicago cops, firemen, garbagemen, real estate agents, bakery owners, shopkeepers, auto dealers, city inspectors, and proprietors of hot dog stands and Italian beef shacks as can be found at any precinct captain rally the week before a big election. There are, too, a couple of juice loan operators, a numbers game underboss, two or three Teamsters union stewards, and a trio of guys whose vocations are unknown and wisely not asked about — it’s enough to know they drive Caddies and have that Sicilian stare down cold.

Mobster

The Sicilian Stare

Many of them mill around Al’s grill, the smoke swirling around them so strong that it almost overpowers their combined scents of Aqua Velva, Aramis, Brut, Old Spice, Brylcreem, Score, Right Guard, and Listerine. Al puts out his best meats for his Memorial Day barbecue. He takes care of everybody — Italian sausage, polska kielbasa, thick T-Bones, lamb chops, tenderloins, and pork chop slabs as thick as the unread Bible on a stand in his front entrance. Inside, the cold cut plates — Genoa salami, capicola, sopresatta, mortadella, prosciutto, honey ham, baked ham, and Polish ham. Next to them, the cheese plates — Mozzarella di Bufala in whey, chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, eye-watering provolone, asiago fresco, and gorgonzola dolce.

Al loves his Memorial Day cookouts. The wives are gabbing in the house, the kids are running around all over the yard and out onto Natchez Avenue which has been kindly barricaded at either end by a couple of Bob Vittori’s garbage trucks. Memorial Day as a rule is just about the happiest day of Al’s year. Except this year, for Anna and her new husband are missing. Al’s trying not to think about it and he succeeds except for a brief lapse every twenty-three seconds or so.

Ever since he arrived, Sal Sanfillipo has been dying to tell everybody how much ass he beat at that anti-war rally last month. But that hippie piece of dirt he and a couple of other cops kicked the shit out of in front of the Kroch’s & Brentano’s on Wabash looked just like Al’s new son-in-law (and Tony the Fist’s son). Now Sal is on his eighth Hamm’s. At this point he doesn’t care whose kid that little fuck was.

“Lemme tell you somethin’” Sal says. “If we doan do somethin’ about these hippie fucks, they’re gonna turn this country over to the Russians.”

Sal takes a bite of his sandwich. “Ay Al, yer salsiccia’s d’a best, I’m tellin’ ya. Anyway, I seen enough a’these hippies for the rest of my life. The little fucks. They wanna take over the Loop, right? The commanders at roll call, they tole us, doan take no shit from ‘em, doan let ‘em get away with nothin’. Do whatchyu gotta do. And doan nobody gotta know yer birt’day, y’know what I mean?’” Sal places his hand over his heart where his nameplate would be.

“We kept ‘em in line, I’m tellin ya. I broke two nightsticks on ‘em!” Sal grins. “We caught this one little jag over by Wabash Avenue. He wanted to run into this bookstore or somethin’. I go, ‘No way, Jose. Get d’a fuck outta there.’ Me ‘n a couple of the guys, we got ‘im surrounded, right? Whaddya think he does? He takes a run at us, this crazy little prick!

“I tell ya, I hit ‘im so hard I hadda break his skull. I could hear it, like a watermelon crackin’! He’s grabbin’ and clawin’ at us like a little girl. He tore my shirt. Goddamn it, I pay six ninety five apiece for ‘em down at Kale’s Uniform and this kid tears it. Oh, I was hot!

“I started kickin’ this kid and I couldn’t stop. I thought I was gonna wear out my shoes on ‘im. My partners hadda pull me away. I think I woulda killed him.

“Wouldn’t a made any difference — one less hippie in the world, who cares? I doan give a shit.”

BC Archives Link Final

Mickey Finnin glances over at the Austin District commander who is listening to Sal very intently. Sallie ain’t a bad guy, Mickey thinks, he just tends to brag a lot when he’s got a few in him. Mickey figures about half of what Sal says is true. The other half is just Sal. Anyway, Mickey wants to save Sal from himself, just in case the commander is getting a little sensitive to all this police brutality bullshit that the newspapers are crying about.

“Ay,” Mickey says, “what the hell’s goin’ on with them Cubs? They gonna do anything or what?”

“That Santo’s eating too much of his own pizza,” Tony the Fist says.

“D’at’s right,” Rocco Bianco says. He adds, “Well, at least they’re doin’ better than the Sox. The Sox stink.”

“You’re goddamn right, there,” Sal says. The men, relieved that he seems to getting off his own dicey topic, all turn to him as if he’s now an oracle. “Lemme tell ya what’s wrong with the Sox,” Sal says.

The men lean another inch closer to him.

“The Sox,” Sal announces, “they got too many niggers.”

Rocco hands Sal a piece of Gonnella bread in lieu of black coffee. “Here,” he says.

“Naw,” Sal says. “D’a fuck am I gonna do with this? So, look, who gives a shit about the Sox? I mean it, we got more important things to worry about. This is gonna be one long hot summer, y’know what I mean? We got the convention comin’, these hippies and yippies, this Abbie Hoffman Jew prick puttin’ LSD in the water….”

Mickey glances at Lennie LaFemina. The kid doesn’t even bat an eye after Sal says Jew prick. This kid’s got poise; he’s going far. Still, Mickey’d like to put a lid on Sal.

“Awright,” Mickey says with a phony laugh. “That’s enough, now, eh? No more current events.”

“Whah?” Sal says. “I ain’t even started on the niggers yet!”

Mickey’s a practical man. He hopes the commander isn’t one of those straight arrows. Mickey thinks: I hope he understands that Sal’s had a little bit too much to drink.

Now the commander approaches Sal. Mickey instinctively moves closer to them; perhaps he can keep the commander from nailing Sallie. The commander introduces himself to Sal. The two shake hands.

“What’s your name, son?” the commander asks.

Oh shit, Mickey thinks, Sallie’s dead.

“Where do you work out of?” the commander says.

Mickey wonders: Have I got anything for Sal in Streets & San or the Forestry Bureau?

“I want you to call Captain O’Malley down at Austin,” the commander says. “He takes care of my transfers. We’ve got a place for you, if you want.”

Sal has just won the lottery. Every cop and half the citizens of Chicago know that, outside of the Loop, the Austin District is the department’s most corrupt station house. Hell, the weekly nut alone can amount to $200 for the vets. Mickey smiles for his neighbor.

CPD

The Kinkiest Station House In Town

Al, though, isn’t smiling. In fact, he’s thinking about Anna and her husband. Sure, he’s pissed at them. But, damn, he’d hate to think of his poor son of a bitch son in law’s skull being dented by Sal Sanfillipo’s nightstick. That could have been Anthony getting the hell kicked out of him on Wabash Avenue, the damn fool.

Now Al’s stuck in his own head: I wonder what Anna’s doing right now.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

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