Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

“Who’s he?” “He’s okay,” Billy responded. He looked me up and down. “I don’t know. He looks awful young. How old are you, kid?”
“I’m going on twelve,” I muttered.
“you look like you’re seven.” He went back to looking at the ground. Billy broke in, “If you buy for us, we’ll buy you what you want.” “It’s going to cost you a bottle of wine. That’s about two dollars.”
“We’ve got it,” Billy replied. The old man looked at me again. “you’re too young to be drinking, kid. Go home and play in your sandbox.” I stood motionless, looking the other way. This was creepy.
“What do you want this time?” Lucas finally asked Tommy.
“Six six-packs of Old Milwaukee.” Tommy gave Lucas the money and Lucas told us to wait around the corner. He was walking away, head down, when I finally found the courage to call out,
“Hey, Lucas! What are you looking for?” He stopped, turned around, and looked me right in the eyes again. “Kid, I started drinking when I was about your age and I haven’t been able to stop since. I’m forty-five but I look seventy and I’ve been living on the street for years. I look down because I’m hoping to find some money that fell out of someone’s pocket. It started out like you, just for fun, and then I began to need it. you should really think twice about what you’re about to do. you could end up like me.” He turned and walked slowly across the street, head down, looking for money even in the intersection. The three of us headed around the corner to wait for our delivery.
While we were waiting, I asked Tommy,
“How’d you meet Lucas?” “He’s been buying for my brothers and their friends for years,” Billy said. “Man, that’s the first time I’ve seen anyone like him up close. He’s pretty scary.” “Don’t let Lucas bother you with that speech,” Tommy said. “He gives it to everyone the first time. He must think it’s his civil duty.” “That’s civic duty,” Billy said.
“Civic what?” “you said civil duty. It’s civic duty.”
“Okay, professor, whatever,” Tommy said. Finally he surfaced, beer piled so high you could hardly see his face. His bag of wine was on top. We unloaded him, then each grabbed two six-packs and headed for the beach, cutting through a couple of alleys and crossing South Shore Drive. We walked along some bushes in the park until we came to a fence with a small gate that opened onto the beach. Since my only other visit to the beach had been at night, this was my first real look at Lake Michigan. I was over- whelmed by both the number of people milling about and by the sheer size of the lake. you couldn’t even see across to the other side! The water was a deep blue. White clouds hung overhead like fluffy pillows. It was a lot different from the pool at Palmer Park in Roseland, where we usually hung out in summer. Cars were pulling in and out of the parking lot, radios going loudly. There were girls everywhere. I looked around and said to Dave, “It’s okay that Bobbi is your girl. There are plenty more around here.” Tommy pointed to the beer. “We’ll hide this in the bushes in case the cops come around.” We stashed most of the six-packs and then each grabbed a can and walked back out to the clearing, popping the tops. I took a sip of mine. It didn’t taste very good.
“I think it’s going to take some time to get used to this,” I told Billy. “you’ll get used to it.” I forced another swig down my throat, then another and another, until I started to feel a little lightheaded. I looked over at Billy and said, “Give me one of those Lucky cigarettes.” Billy laughed and asked,
“What did you call them?” “Cigarettes,” I replied, slurring the words. He corrected me, saying, “That’s cigarettes, Jimmy, not cigarettes.” “What? It’s your job to correct everyone’s English today? I’m going to get another beer and a cigarette that you told me would be so good together, William.” He winced.
“My name is Billy.”
“yeah, yeah,” I yelled as I leaned over, grabbed another beer, popped the top and took a gigantic gulp. We stood in a circle, each of us holding our beer, and told old stories: football stories, baseball stories, girl stories, fight stories. They never seemed to end. I felt euphoric after my lonely summer. Here I was out with my best friends, telling stories, getting high, smoking cigarettes. I wish this could go on forever, I thought. The wind blew green through the trees and blue over the lake and the July sun poured gold over the moment. From behind us I heard a familiar hello. Bobbi, Janet, Marie, and a couple of other girls from our neighborhood were walking toward us. Bobbi seemed awkward and stood next to Dave. My anger resurfaced and I decided to go through with my plan. I walked up to the rocks and looked for the No Diving sign. A kid had been killed here the previous summer when he dove into water that was too shallow and hit the rocks on the bottom. I knew from my earlier visit that the stone marked in black indicated where the safe-to-dive zone ended. I stepped to the not-safe-to-dive side, took three steps forward, and stripped off my shirt.

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