Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

The everyday drinking was her inside-the-house secret, and she was terrified of being found out. She panicked if anyone came to the door unexpectedly. Dad’s solution was for her to quit, but she was the best woman he’d ever met and because he was afraid she would leave him, he let her run his life and everybody else’s. He was her backer and enforcer, the one who broke my brothers’ spirits one by one—or so he thought. My father had his own problems. He had been an only child. His father gambled and his mother had walked out on the family many times when he was young. He grew up thinking his mother had abandoned him because he was unlovable, a notion my grandfather had encouraged.
By the time he was an adult, only booze made up for the self-hatred. It also was a way to get back at my mom. He had his own special drink, a brew named whiskey-and-rage. Sober, my father was a quiet man. Drunk, he was vicious. By the time the next Wednesday rolled around, I decided to skip Larry’s part of the route, then I worried The Newspaper Inspector would find out, then it occurred to me that he might be spying on me when I delivered to Larry’s house. I was saved! As I trudged down Blackstone Avenue, fear washed over me like the morning breeze. The Newspaper Inspector was nowhere in sight. I walked slower and slower, but he didn’t show up. As I continued around the corner onto Ninety-first Street, I wondered if The Newspaper Inspector had an inspector who was inspecting him. I hoped he would be caught not doing his job like he caught me last week. I came to the alley where I had first seen Larry. No alleys for me today; I’d stay in the middle of the sidewalk. When I threw the paper up onto Larry’s porch, I saw no movement in the windows, heard no sounds. He wasn’t home. I delivered the rest of the Ninety-first Street papers very fast. It was pure agony, because every house needed a paper and if I missed an address, I knew I would be reported, and if that happened, I’d be punished again. I didn’t want to get into any more trouble so I delivered all the papers that day like a good boy.
That night as we ate dinner, nothing was said about the paper route. I guess they figured there wasn’t any reason to congratulate me for something I was supposed to do.



TIME WENT BY. I don’t know how long it took, but eventually, it felt as if I was breaking inside. I needed to tell someone. John was an older kid in the neighborhood, tall for his age, with long brown hair that trailed across his forehead. He always wore knit shirts, khaki pants, and leather boots with thick heels that made him look tough. He even played ball in these clothes. everyone else wore shorts, T-shirts, and gym shoes to the field, but John always showed up in his tough-guy uniform. In hot weather, he’d take off his outer shirt and play in his dago-T, the neighbor- hood slang for a tank-style T-shirt. He was respected by all of the kids and practically none of the parents, who correctly considered him a Bad Influence. John liked me. When he organized a pick-up game, he would usually choose me for his team. I seemed to play better on John’s team, probably because he paid attention to me and encouraged me. During a game, he’d often send me to buy him a bottle of Coke. He would drink most of it but sometimes let me finish it. The first time he asked me if I wanted the rest of his Coke, I didn’t know what he meant.
“you want bottoms?” “What’s a bottom?” I asked. He laughed. “Bottoms are the bottom of the bottle.”
“Sure,” I said. Billy told me John just picked me because I’d do the Coke run.
“So what?” I said.
“I’m playing, aren’t I?” One day I was hanging around the field waiting for the rest of the guys to show up. I was busting inside—I needed to tell someone about Larry the Monster and I thought I could trust John. I was standing there with John, when all of a sudden, it just came out.
“John, there’s this man on my paper route who touched me.” He took a pull on his Lucky Strike and looked at me long and hard as he exhaled a cloud of smoke.
“What do you mean by that?” “He grabbed me and made me take my pants off and touched me down there.”
“Have you told anyone else?” he asked.
“Who is it?”
“Larry, that fat guy who lives over on Ninety-first.” John became very quiet. Finally he said,
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll fix him.” The next day, John asked if Larry worked the day shift.
“I don’t think so.”
“Good! We’re going to talk to him.” My horror must have been obvious because he said, “you don’t have to be afraid. Nothing bad is going to happen. We’ll just talk to him.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Don’t worry.” As we approached Larry’s block, I got scared but I trusted John so I continued to follow him. We walked through the alley right up to his back door. John knocked.
“All you have to do is keep him busy,” John said, “while I look around his bedroom.”
“What?!” John smiled.
“All the good stuff is in the bedroom.” The back door swung open before I could ask what he meant. “We’d like to talk to you, Larry,” John said.

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