Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney



THE LAST THING I REMEMBERED before falling asleep the night before was my mom saying, once again, that a paper route was a good way to learn responsibility.
Even though it was just once a week, I hated the whole idea because I had to get up so early when it was still dark. I just knew monsters were hiding outside, waiting to get me.
My father was already up. Soon he’d be driving the station wagon across town to his job at American Can Company. I’d told him I was scared to go out so early in the morning.
“you’re making a big deal out of nothing,” he’d snapped.
“Get used to it.”
I stayed in the bedroom until I heard him slam the front door on his way out. In the quiet that followed, I stood motion- less, listening for those little sounds you hear when you’re alone. I peered out the window down into the gangway between our house and the Fiorios’ next door. There was enough light to see the sidewalk. I felt a little better and slowly began to dress.
In the middle of the wooden porch floor sat a stack of news- papers, bound together with three-quarter-inch wire, the sharp ends still twisted tightly together. My heart sank. My father had promised to cut the wire before he left, but he must have forgot- ten. I knew from experience that trying to use my father’s wire cutter would be useless. I’d just turned ten, but my hands were still too small to squeeze hard enough to snap the wire.
I stepped out on the porch and quietly closed the door behind me. The early morning chill brushed my face and curled softly around my body. The air was the only thing moving on the street, for which I was thankful. It was too early even for monsters. I untwisted the wire by hand and managed not to cut myself.
My route was different from my older brother’s. Joe delivered the Chicago American, which was heavy, but he only had to deliver to the houses of subscribers. I delivered the Goldblatt’s Department Store ad paper. It was just a few pages of newsprint, but a copy had to go to every address in my delivery zone, about eight hundred copies if you included the apartment houses on Black- stone Avenue. My newspaper bag held only about seventy-five copies, so I had to come back to the porch again and again for refills. A wagon would have made the job a lot easier but the last time I’d asked for one, I’d gotten yelled at.
It was way too early for the apartment buildings. I had to walk the hallways to deliver, and it was still too dark for that. Some- one—or something—could grab me. I’d do Blackstone last, when it was fully light outside. But Dante Avenue was a street of single-family houses like ours, narrow pre-World War II city houses sided with brown asphalt shingles and separated from each other by narrow gangways. I felt safer there.
Heading left, throwing papers onto porches, I felt better because I was in the open and could run. I was fast. even the older kids couldn’t catch me once I started zigzagging.
I turned east on Ninety-first Street, which had only a few houses and ended on the railroad tracks. I came around the turn of the alley and—
Oh my God! Someone was blocking the sidewalk.
I froze. My heart raced and my breathing stuttered. The man was tall and very fat, much bigger than my father. He had short, oily black hair. He wore work clothes everyone called “factory greens.” I saw the word “Larry” sewn in white cursive writing on his shirt. He stared at me, and I noticed that one eye drooped and a scar ran from the eyelid to the top of his cheek.

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