Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

THERE WAS A KNOCK ON THE FRONT DOOR. “How are ya, Jimmy?” Billy said.
I ran over to the screen door and out to the porch. We sat on the top step and Billy asked, “Is your mother home?”
“No, she went out,” I said. “Good.” He reached in a shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of Lucky Strikes and a flat, silver-colored lighter. “Wow! When did you start smoking?” “A couple of weeks ago.” He tapped out a cigarette from the pack and held it between the first two fingers of his right hand. In his other hand he held the lighter. He tapped the tip of the cigarette on the lighter a couple of times.
“You have to pack down the tobacco before you light it,” he explained. “Why?” He looked annoyed.
“You just do, that’s all.” He raised the cigarette to his lips and flipped open the lighter. When he thumbed the round key on the side, a flame shot out the top. He stuck the tip of the cigarette into the fire, inhaled, and snapped the lighter closed. Then suddenly, he was blowing smoke rings! “Wow! Let me have some of that.” He passed the cigarette to me and I raised it to my lips and took a drag. He said, “Breath in,” and I did. My lungs must have filled and I spit the smoke back out. I coughed furiously for a minute and then I went dizzy.
“Are you okay?” I nodded my head between coughs. “Wow!”
“It’s kind of different in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it.” “Different isn’t the word. Wow! Am I dizzy! Is this what it feels like to get high on beer?” “Not really. But there’s nothing in the world like a cigarette with your beer.”
“Give me another drag of that smoke,” I said. Again I coughed and got dizzy.
“Watch it! Here comes Mrs. Rusher. Cup it,” Billy warned me. I took the cigarette and flew it behind me on the porch. Mrs. Rusher stopped and asked if we’d seen Jimmy Joe.
“I saw him playing over by the railroad tracks a little while ago,” Billy said. Mrs. Rusher’s already red face became even redder and she headed across the street for the tracks. We both laughed as we watched her walk down the alley, arms pumping, calling “Jimmy Joe! Jimmy Joe!” “Did you really see Jimmy Joe over by the tracks?”
“No,” Billy laughed. “But I did see him about an hour ago hitting the back porches stealing pop bottles. He told me that if I saw his mother, I should send her the other way.” Collecting pop bottles, which in those days could be returned to the store for a refund, was one of the ways kids in the neighbor- hood earned spending money. Jimmy Joe was not the only neighborhood kid who’d figured out alternative ways to “collect.” Billy resumed puffing on his cigarette.
“What about the party? Will they let you come?”
“I don’t know. The jury is still out, but it doesn’t matter because I’m going no matter what.”
“Uh oh! It sounds like we have big heapum trouble coming!”
“It sounds like you’ve been watching cowboy and Indian shows!” I laughed. “Ah have, mister,” he drawled. “How are you going to escape this here fort?” “you know how people can only do one thing at a time?”
He looked confused. “The party is at five o’clock, right?”
“So?” “That’s when Whiskey Hour starts around here. While my mother’s concentrating on that, I’m going to sneak out to Little Frankie’s.”
“What about your father?”
“He has to work Saturday night. Inventory count.” “Won’t your mom be pissed when she finds out you’re gone?”
“She thinks I should be able to go, so she won’t rat me out.” “You’re getting out the next Monday anyway, so why risk it? If you get caught, your summer really will be gone!” “I’m going to that party, Billy.”
“There’s nothing you can do about Bobbi going out with David.” “We’ll see about that. Over the next couple days, all scores will be settled,” I said. He nodded, reached for another cigarette and as he smoked, time drifted by.

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