Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

AT LAST, THE WAIT WAS OVER. The prison gates would open for me and I’d walk out into the neighborhood a free man.
“Mom, can I go out now?” I called, sticking my head inside my parents’ bedroom.
“What time is it?” she muttered. I looked over at the alarm clock. It read seven-thirty.
“Ten o’clock.” One of her eyes opened and she turned her head to peer at the clock. Half asleep, she asked again. My voice rose.
“Ten o’clock?” “Then how come it says seven-thirty?”
“That’s what I said, it’s going on seven-thirty.” “I thought you said it was ten o’clock.” “No, Mom, I wouldn’t do that. you’re dreaming.”
“Oh.” She closed her eyes again and I decided to chance it. I walked quietly out of the bedroom, grabbed my shoes and had started to put them on when I heard her get out of bed. I quickly hid my shoes by the side of the chair as she came storming out of the bedroom. “It’s too early for you to be going out,” she said.
“I know that.”
“And another thing, you’re turning into a real smart aleck If you’re not careful you’re going to be grounded for the rest of your natural life.”
“I think I would like that, Mom.”
I could see I was pushing with that last remark, so I backed down by explaining I was just having a hard time waiting. I’d been waiting for six weeks. The fire settled down in her eyes. “It’s just a few more hours. you’ll make it.” She went back into her bedroom and I clicked on the television. She stuck her head back out of the bedroom. “Leave that thing off! everyone else is sleeping.” I sat in the chair and wondered what the day would bring. I had only been to the beach once before. We had gone as a family on a hot and humid night. Some older guys and their girlfriends walked by us, all with cans of beer in their hands. My father tensed up as they walked by us but I wasn’t sure if he was afraid of them or he just didn’t want us to see them. I don’t know why he’d try to protect us from the sight of people drinking; it was an everyday occurrence in the Heaney house. Without the option of Tv, my thoughts turned to food. I began my daily morning ritual of eating toast until I was stuffed. When I couldn’t eat anymore, I became sleepy and crawled back into my bed. I woke to the sound of my brothers in the kitchen eating their breakfast. My eyes darted to the clock. Nine-forty! Just twenty minutes left in captivity. I jumped out of bed and ran to the front porch to see if there was any action in the neighborhood. The smell of freedom was in the air.
Across the street, girls were playing jump rope. I ran back upstairs and put on my white Converse high-tops and grabbed Joe’s shirt from the closet. I combed my hair and brushed my teeth in the bathroom, leaving the shirt there so Joe wouldn’t see it. I made a pass through the kitchen in order to be seen, said hello, and returned to the bathroom for the shirt. It wasn’t quite ten o’clock, but it was close enough so I bolted out the front door, flew down the steps and started running up Black- stone toward the field. As I ran I noticed a familiar tree branch hanging over the sidewalk. My routine was to pick up speed and jump high in the air and try to touch it. This time I noticed that
I barely left the ground. I also noticed that my stomach jiggled a little from the weight I had put on, so I buttoned my shirt to cover the fat. The thought of the guys picking on me made me wince. As I turned left on Ninety-first and saw the guys gathered at the field, my heart exploded with joy. I broke into a trot. Billy pointed toward me and the rest of the guys turned to watch me coming toward them. “Well, look who’s here!” Tommy said. I stood in the middle of all my pals and they were all glad to see me, including David.
“What are we going to do today?” I asked. “We’re heading for the beach, just like you wanted,” Billy said.
“We’ve been hanging out there a lot lately because of the situa- tion here with all the blacks.”
“How do we get there?” I asked. “Hitchhike. It’s not hard. People from all over Chicago go there and someone always picks us up.” As we walked toward Stony Island Avenue, I noticed Billy was right. even in the short amount of time I’d been incarcerated, a lot more blacks had moved into the neighborhood.
“The neighborhood really is changing, huh?” “yeah. My parents have been looking for a new house in the south suburbs,” Billy said. I felt a surge of fear; he had been my pal my whole life.
“you guys go hide behind the fence,” he directed. “When a car stops to pick me up, the rest of you come running and jump in.” This was all new to me, and very exciting. We stood in a huddle and put our hands on top of one another’s.
“All for one and one for all,” Tommy said. I glanced over at David and smiled as a plan started forming in my mind. We broke the huddle. Billy went for the street and the rest of us hid behind the fence. We crouched down low and peered between the wooden slats to watch as Billy stood on the curb, thumb stuck out.

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