Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

They both stood looking and remarked how well they fit, but while my brothers tried on their pants, I kept drifting over to the rack with the green pair. My grandfather gave in. On the way home in the car, I kept pulling my pair out of the bag and admiring the color and the crease down the middle of the leg. “Dad is going to kill you,” Joe whispered. “you know you were supposed to get blue.” But when we got home, my father just shook his head. “He can’t even wear them to school. The only time he could wear them would be to church on Sunday. you’ll just have to take them back.” “We can’t,” my grandfather said.
“They were on sale.”

DURING THE WEEKEND I kept trying them on when no one was around. Over and over, I would put them on to admire how neatly the creases fell onto my dress shoes. By the time Monday rolled around, I decided wearing them to school would be worth getting in trouble over. I would show the guys that my pants could fit and that I looked good in them, too. Bobbi Sawicki would like me even more because of the way I looked. It was definitely worth the risk. We had won our weekend football game, so Monday would be a great day all around. What better way to strut our victory than in a brand new pair of green pants with creases down each leg? The only problem was getting back in the house wearing them. Going to school was easy because my mother wouldn’t be up. Coming home for lunch was a problem, however. I’d have to get back into the house without getting caught. I decided to leave my blue pair in the basement, and slip into the basement first to change. Couldn’t be simpler. I went down to the basement and stuffed my blue pair into a drawer before I headed for school, leaving the basement door unlocked. When I got to the playground, all the guys from the football team were there. Tommy looked at my pants and said,
“Aren’t they nice!”
“Wait until Sister John sees them,” Billy said. “She’s not going to think they’re so nice.” The school bell rang so we all headed for the doors. I kept looking down at my pants and the beautiful, exact crease in my leg. As I walked, the bottom tip would bounce out and hit my shoe. We huddled through the doors and into our classrooms. I slid into my seat undetected. So far so good, I thought. During the morning classes, I would look down at my lap and admire the way my pants looked. At lunch time, I headed home for a sandwich and a glass of milk. Approaching the house, I remembered that taking my usual route down the alley meant I’d have to go through the back yard to get to the basement door. If my mother was in the kitchen, she would see me. I decided I’d go down Blackstone instead. That way I would approach the house from the front, slip into the gangway and go around to the basement door unnoticed. I walked past the alley and turned, making my way toward our house when suddenly our front door flew open and my mother came out to pick up the newspaper from the front porch. I stepped dead in my tracks. She saw me and sensed I was doing something wrong. “Come here right this minute,” she called, an angry scowl on her face. I walked by the last house and climbed the stairs. When I reached the top, she grabbed my arm and dragged me into the house.
“What were you doing? What are you sneaking around for? Were you letting some queer play with you?” She pushed me into the bathroom.
“Take your pants down.”
“No!” I screamed. “Don’t say no to me,” she yelled back. She hit me with the hairbrush on my arms and through my pants, over and over.
“No!” I repeated.
“It’s just that I’m wearing the pants Grandpa bought me.” She stopped hitting me and looked at them.
“What are you wearing them for?”
With tears rolling down my face, I sputtered, “Because they fit me.” “Get your school pants on this minute!”
I ran down into the basement and pulled them out of the drawer. As I slipped them on, I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. It was months after the visit to the police station, and suddenly she brought up Larry the Monster. That meant they knew what happened, and they blamed me. And if they blamed me, then it must have been my fault after all. I had always been taught to believe what adults told me, even if I didn’t understand. Instinctively, however, I rejected the idea it was my fault. How could I be to blame when I hadn’t wanted the paper route in the first place? I hadn’t been looking for a way to meet up with a creep like Larry.
Getting out of bed and leaving the house when it was still dark outside, with only my fear to accompany me—none of it had been my idea. I used this logic on them one day after they sang their favorite song, “It’s All your Fault.” They were almost out of earshot when I said “I didn’t even want the paper route.”
But it didn’t work. They whirled around, stunned that I had the nerve to counter their position, and they re-sang the song even louder. They wouldn’t admit they had been wrong to force it on me. So even though it was risky to cross them, I felt like I’d lose my soul if I didn’t fight back. I realized I needed to protect myself because they refused that responsibility. That’s when I started thinking on my own. I had to avoid the traps my parents laid for me, traps created by the twisted logic of their addictions.
But how? I was already worried they didn’t love me because of what happened with Larry—if I stopped listening to them altogether, things would get worse. How could I figure out what guidance to listen to and what to ignore? In time, I found other adults who cared enough to help me, especially people at St. Ailbe’s, especially some of the staff at St. Ailbe church and school. It would take years, and I’d stumble often, but by using what they taught me as a compass, I would find my way out of the dark forest where my parents had emotionally abandoned me.

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