Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

Guys from all over the city affiliated with various not-quite-on-the-level organizations would drop by to look over the goods and make deals right in the middle of the apartment scam.
He also kept trying to raise my salary but I held my ground, figuring that the law would be knocking on the door any minute. But nothing happened. The cops never showed.
Meanwhile, my organizational ability was costing a lot of innocent people a lot of money. The guilt was starting to eat at my gut.
Nick’s last move was to burn the advertising outlets. To increase the take, he ran up huge bills for ads promoting our “service.” He pacified the ad departments with token payments and the promise to pay the rest of the invoice next month.
Then one day Bob turned over the twenty-three hundred he was holding for me, and it was over. A rental truck pulled up to the back door that night and we loaded all the office equipment. Nick asked one more time if I’d come along.
I said no one more time.
Then POOF! He was gone, as quickly as if someone had flipped a switch.
“Now what am I going to do?” I asked the empty alley. The Answer Man had zero. Not a one. It was fumble, bumble time. I’d never had a straight job, and certainly had never been financially responsible. Suddenly the twenty-three hundred in my pocket seemed real important.
I gave myself the usual line about starting a new life and get- ting a real job, but I had my doubts. I’d never been able to stick to anything but this time, I had to try.
The first thing I did was find a little apartment out in one of the south suburbs. Next, I went job hunting. I filled out applications but had to leave the “prior employment” sections blank. Once during an interview, a personnel secretary suggested I just write down that I’d been in jail. She was trying to be helpful; they had a special program for ex-convicts.
“But I haven’t been in prison,” I told her.
“What have you been doing since high school?” she asked.
“A little of this and a little of that.”
Closing her file, she smiled and said, “We’ll let you know.”
So I went back to day labor, working for three dollars an hour, but it wasn’t enough. After food and necessities, it was gone. I slid into a funk. No one in the whole world had any use for me.
My drinking got worse. At least once a week I’d go out and spend money I didn’t have, playing the big shot I wanted to be. The next morning I’d be crazy with remorse over what I had done. When I got down to my last five hundred, I decided to put in an application at the factory where my father was a supervisor. He had gotten Joe in, so why not me?
I walked into the plant’s employment office and quietly told the receptionist my name and asked if they were hiring. She was pleasant and called upstairs to my father.
It was a short conversation. She came back from the phone and whispered through the personnel window. “your father says you can’t work here. I’m sorry.” From the look on her face, I could tell she was embarrassed to have to tell me this.
I felt like a fool for letting myself be blind-sided. I should have known, after twenty-four years of the same kind of treatment, that he’d want nothing to do with me. Why didn’t I get it? It was always the same. The rejection and humiliation were constant, and devastating, and yet I always went back for more. It was like a mental sickness.
Walking down the hallway to my apartment, I could hear the phone ringing. Maybe it was one of the places I had applied!
“Jimmy, it’s Fred.”
“Hey! How you doing?”
“Jimmy, some of the guys are getting together for a few drinks tonight.”
Just then I heard a click on the line, as if somebody had picked up an extension phone.
“Fred, how many phones you got where you’re calling from?”
“Just one,” he replied.

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