Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, ONCE A QUIET, working-class area, had become a battleground. There were fights between the older guys in our group and gangs from other neighborhoods. Blacks were moving into our previously all-white area, and the whites were fleeing to the suburbs. Cars were being vandalized, gas stations and grocery stores were being robbed. The parish rectory sat on Stony Island Avenue, a main thoroughfare into and out of Chicago for travelers from the South. The street was filled with tiny motels where tourists would stop overnight before continuing on. But the motels’ clientele was changing, too. Pimps replaced the travelers and the rooms rented by the hour instead of the night. The Castaways Motel was across the alley from the convent where the Dominican sisters from St. Ailbe’s lived at the time. The Sisters had always planted a flower garden along the back fence, but because the fence bordered the Castaway’s parking lot, there was a lot of activity they’d rather not observe. This summer the Sisters hadn’t put in any flowers. I thought the cops should be more concerned about real crime than with stupid Larry’s stupid rings. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got, especially about the Sisters not being able to plant their flowers. My dad hated what was happening to the neighborhood, too. He’d believe I wasn’t a thief. For the first time I felt we were on the same side, but that quickly vanished when I remembered the whole situation. What about Larry molesting me? Did they know about John? Was Larry going to be at the police station?
“WE, Jimmy! You were here too! WE stole the rings. No matter what, you have to say we were never here. They’d put us both in jail. Besides, with what he did to you, he’ll never report it.” Larry must have reported it after all.
I went back in the house and looked at my dad sitting in his chair drinking a whiskey-and-Seven. I thought about saying something, but Larry’s voice came into my head: “You’re here because you want to be here, Jimmy. It’s your fault. Your parents will blame you and your father will only love Joe more.”
I noticed Joe staring at me. I made a face at him. I wanted to tell him what was going on, but I didn’t trust him. I thought about what Larry said. Everyone in the neighborhood probably knew that my parents pitted us kids against one another.

I WOKE UP SUNDAY MORNING to bright sunshine and the sound of birds chirping outside. When I went downstairs, I saw Joe sitting in an armchair reading the Sunday funnies. I wondered what it was like to be my father’s favorite and not have to carry such a heavy load. Joe started teasing me about the shirt I was wearing, so I hit him. We were wrestling on the living room floor when my dad came in. He grabbed me by the back of the shirt, flung me against the wall, and wagged his finger in my face. “You’re in enough trouble, mister. It’s time to go.”
Behind him, Joe made a face.
THE DRIVE TO THE POLICE STATION was unbearably quiet. I wanted to say it was not my fault it happened, but in my head I heard the same voices. John:
“We, Jimmy. You were here, too. They’ll put us in jail.”
My father:“It’s a mistake. You were never there.”
Larry: “It’s your fault. They’ll blame you and your father will love your brother Joe more.”
I looked over at my father. He was deep in thought. I firmed up. you’re going to survive this, I told myself.
“Let’s go,” my father said quietly after we parked the car.
Inside the main door to the police station, we climbed high, wide steps to the main floor. At the top of the stairs, I looked back toward the wooden door at the foot and had to fight the urge to run back down to freedom. We were in a large room that bustled with people in uniforms. We stood for a moment to get our bearings. Behind a long high counter across the aisle sat a tall, fat policeman. He glanced up from the papers he was shuffling.

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