Monday, July 07, 2008

2,925 Words

Getting Even
Tom Chmura

It was a hot humid July day on Chicago’s lower West Side Known as the Pilsen area. This story starts under the “El” tracks of the C.T.A. The “El” ran thru the neighborhood paralleling Paulina street going North and South; then turning West just past Cullerton. The structure was about 25 feet high with massive riveted girders. The ground beneath the structure was cinder. On the South side of 19th Street where the “El” crossed perpedicular to 19th street was a gray flat roofed building that ran from the side walk to almost the alley This building started a city block of garages running west. The garages were about 4 feet apart. Some roofs were flat some, some gabled, some hipped and some slanted. Between each garage was a door from the alley that accessed a gangway. Some had stairs leading down to ground level . The alleys were filled up to a 6 foot height as were the streets at the turn of the century because this area was a swamp at that time.
Back to the gray garage. The garage paralleled the “El” tracks. The front with a double door was on 19th street. The east side faced the “El” tracksand the back with another double door faced the alley. The distance from the back of the garage to the alley was 25 feet. This area provided a place not easily seen from the side walk and all but invisible at night. The building was once a black smith shop. Then an auto repair shop. It lay vacant for years. Then one early summer day two hillbillies from Georgia took occupancy. The only reason they were in Chicago is probably because the state of Georgia didn’t want them. Neither did Kentucky nor did Indiana. They were the most arrogant. Egotistical, crudest, rudest, meanest tobacco chewing son-of-bitches that ever set forth from the great state of Georgia.
On hot summer nights they and some of their friends would have a dice game going while drinking white lightening and raising Hell.
The neighborhood’s attitude was live and let live. As long as the didn’t bothe any of the neighbors the neighbors didn’t bother them. The only person that could walk thru that area after dark was my uncle Pat.One big bone breaking Irishman. But I wasn’t a mean bone breaking Irishman. I was just a skinny 12 year old kid. Kind of big for my age but skinny as a rail .My partner in this episode was my cousin Dennis, 13 years old skinny and small. We would never attempt to walk past these bad-assed hillbillies after dark. But in broad day light we felt safe. We would walk past with craning necks to try to see the nude calendar they had hanging on the wall in the garage. Sometimes we saw it. Wow! Sometimes we were met by one of the skinny hillbillies. Unshaven, bare chested, Levis and work boots. They were usually chewing tobacco and spitting. Tobacco juice dribbling down their chins and sometimes dripping onto their chests. Along with their unkempt hair and mean looks from the both of them sent chills down my spine. We heard that they were good with knives and wouldn’t hesitate to cut somebody. The thought of a confrontation between a 25- year -old hillbilly and a 12 year old kid didn’t seem likely. However.
Dennis and I were walking down 19 street, came to the “El” tracks and decided to take a short cut under the el tracks to the alley passing the gray garage. When they left the side walk their feet crunched on the cinders. As they passed the garage they saw an old Harley-Davidson three wheeled motorcycle They stopped to look at it. I said, “Wow. Hey Dennis if we could buy that bike we could fix it up and have our own wheels.” Dennis was older so he approached one of the hillbillies.
“Excuse me”
“What you want Polak” One of the hillbillies answered.
“You want to sell that motorcycle”
The hillbilly answered,”Hit got ta blowed hole inna piston. Hain’t worth nothin’.”
“We’ll give you a fin for the bike.” Dennis said.
The other hillbilly came into the sunlight, looked at us, spat tobacco juice and said “Get yo’ asses outta here. Hey Bobby don’ spen no time on dem smart-assed Polak punks.” “Hey” I said. “We’re just asking about the motorcycle.” “ You skinny shit get yo’ ass outta here ,now!” “What did I do?” “I’m gonna kick your ass , punk.” I was to scared to run and to scared to stand still. I was almost as big as that hillbilly but still no match for him.
“ I said, beat it and ah hain’t gonna tell ya agin.”
I was still to scared to move but slowly my feet started to move. All of a sudden something hit me in the forehead.
It was tobacco juice. The taller hillbilly spat tobacco juice at me and hit me in the forehead. The juice mixed with the sweat of a hot summer day and slowly leaked down between my eyes and along side my nose. Dennis looked at the skinny hillbilly called Bob and hollered, “You bastard”
“Bastard!? Am I,boy.”
As I turned around , the hillbilly Bob spat again. This time a big blob of spittle and tobacco juice landed on my bare shoulder. Dennis and I were terrified but we still walked away. After about 100 feet we yelled together” You hillbilly sons-of bitches eat shit.” We took off running and hollered over our shoulders “We’ll get you, we’ll get even.”
“You stupid D.P. Polaks you go ahead and try.” The hillbillies both broke out laughing. Them little bastards. Next time we see’em lets jes slap the livin’ mule shit outa ‘em.”
Dennis and I ran to the park where they had a wading pool for small children. It was hardly ever used because of the dogs that used the pool. I washed off the tobacco juice
.We couldn’t tell our parents because at our age we were expected to handle our own problems. Besides the idea of revenge was becoming more exciting at every minute. We spent the rest of the afternoon hatching our plan. The first step was to return to the gray garage in the early morning at 7:a.m. We knew that the hillbillies didn’t get up until noon especially after a night of drinking and shooting dice. Every morning I would climb onto the garage roof 4 doors from the gray garage. Dennis would throw up to me 1/2 pieces of brick and broken cinder block. Dennis would then climb onto the roof. We would then jump from roof to roof with the bricks until we came to the flat roofed gray garage.We would then creep quietly across to the far edge over looking where the dice games took place. A parapet about 2 feet high ran around the roof. We stashed our ammunition against the parapet until we had enough ammunition for a few seconds of heavy fire. This chore took several days of patient roof walking.. Their plan was quickly taking shape. Deviously simple and exceptionally brutal.Especially for a couple of young teen-agers.

The timing had to be perfect. We had watched a lot of war movies and we learned that when a fighter plane attacked with the sun behind him, the enemy ‘s vision was blinded. We would be running from roof to roof heading west into the sun. We checked the angle of the sun every evening and found that at 7:30 p.m. would be perfect. Just enough to impair their vision but not enough to blind them.We wanted to slow them down. We wanted to be seen and followed. The time was set for Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. Usually at that time the two hillbillies would be sitting on an old couch outside the garage. They would be alone.
We reviewed out plan. Thursday at 6;45 p.m. we told our parents that we were going to Ronnie’s house.At 7;00 p.m. we would climb up to a roof that was 5 doors down from the gray garage,. We could easily climb or jump from roof to roof. Eventho all the roofs were different they all had one thing in common.They were joined by a variety of doors and fences. All at least 8 feet high. Made out of 4 by 4’s and 2 by 12 planks.Easily walked tight rope style from garage to garage. Some simply could be jumped.
Time to execute the plan. We got to the prescribed roof on time. Made an easy climb to the roof and then, from roof to roof until we were on the gray garage roof . We crept quietly across the roof to the parapet over looking the cinders underneath the”El” tracks. Almost below them sat the hillbillies sipping beer and chewing tobaccoand spitting. I looked at my cheap watch; 7;20. Nearly zero hour or minute anyway. Now that the time was close we started to breath heavily, more from fear that exertion. But our courage was resolved. Especially when we heard the hillbillies talking.
“Lordy how I hate them damned Polaks.”
“Specially them two skinny punks.”
“Which two?”
“Member the one ya’ll spit on.”
“Yeah. Iffen ah was him ah’d come back and do something dreadful ta me.”
“Yeah. Them Polaks and Micks are all pukes. No balls.”
“Yeah. Besides we’d have to kick the mule shit outta all of ‘em.”
“Ya know .I think the next time ah sees them punks am’m gonna slap the shit outta them anyhow.”
“ Yeah. We’re used ta punchin’ out bitches so whats a couple a punk kids.”
“Hey. Polaks and Micks don’t count as people. Ya ony count them as piles of shit.”
As Dennis and I sat , our blood began to boil. Fear and courage disappeared. A fierce hatred developed as the time neared.
7:29, only one more minute to go. We had lined up our ammo. First a barrage of half bricks then the chunks of cinder blocks. This was going to be easier than we thought. This evening was exceptionally hot and humid so in order to keep in the shade earlier the hillbillies had moved the couches from under the “El” tracks to up against the wall of the garage. Now instead of throwing the missles about 25 feet the enemy was directly below us.
7:30 p.m. Zero hour had approached.We looked at each other; both very scared but committed. Now was the time. We opened fire. First the half bricks then the cinder block. We couldn’t see any thing but we knew we had hits when the hillbillies started screaming
“You son-of-bitches”
“ Ow! Yeow! We’uns gonna kill yall ya little bartards.” When we ran out of ammo, we started phase two of our attack. Now was the time for a strategical retreat.When we saw the hillbillies, we saw blood streaming down their faces then we saw the knives in their hands. Adrenalin flowing we started moving across the garage roofs. The urge to panic was ever present; to just take off and forget about phase two. But without phase two we would be in serious trouble. The hillbillies started chasing us, partly blinded by the sun.
“You fuckers are gone run out of garages. Then we got ya and we’re gonna cut botha ya”
Across the garages, jump down onto the adjoining fence, scramble back up onto the next roof. Go,go go. Only six more garages to go until Crazy Tony. The oldest, meanest, craziest Dago on the world. Tony; old and short but he had a massive body, pure mean muscle. Then there were his two mean Dobermans.
So far so good. Roof to roof. The hillbillies lagging by one garage. We seemed to be flying when we would jump some of the garages that were closer together. One more to go. Down off the last garage onto an eight foot fence then jump down onto the railings. We momentarily stopped and threw some rocks at the back basement windows of Crazy Tony. The Dobermans started barking and lunging at their chains. Crazy Tony looked out. Just at that time the hillbillies saw where we jumped off the fence. From their side it looked like we jumped into the yard. They didn’t know about Crazy Tony or his dogs. After working the slide bolt back they burst threw the door. We quickly grabbed a low hanging tree branch and climbed back up on the roof We doubled back jumped onto the fence and than swung down into the alley. We ran up to the door I slid the slide bolt back thus locking the door. The slid bolt had a big iron loop in it. After the bolt was locked in position Dennis shoved a strategically placed broom handle thru the loop and against the door jambs, locking the hillbillies in the yard.
When the hillbillies saw the doge they stopped dead in their tracks. Crazy Tony opened the back door and unleashed the dogs and commanded, “Sic’em.” The hillbillies had time to make the door but we had it locked from the outside. Crazy Tony was quickly approaching with a pick handle in his beefy hands.The dogs attacked the hillbillies before they could try to climb out or break the broom handle. They cut one of the dogs then Crazy Tony caught up with them.
At first we could hear snarling, growling and biting dogs. Then the thud of Crazy Tony’s pick handle against skulls, muscle and bone. After about five minutes all we could hear was the moans and groans of the beat up hillbillies.
We peeked thru a crack in the fence and heard Crazy Tony command the dogs; “Watch, keep”.
The dogs had their lips pulled back over their teeth, foam forming in their drool. The hillbillies were not only thourghly beat up they were also petrified.
When Crazy Tony started walking back to his house to call the cops, I wanted to climb the fence and spit on the hillbilliy that had spit on me.
Dennis said; “Let’s get out of here.”
I looked at my watch. 7:45 p.m. The whole operation had taken only 15 minutes. When we arrived back at our house we were both breathless and covered with sweat.
Dennis’s Dad said; “You guys back already.”
“Yeah, Ronnie wasn’t home.” We said together.
In the distance we heard police sirens. Dennis’s Dad looked at both of us suspiciously.
“How come you guys are so sweaty and out of breath. What you been up to.”
I replied: “It’s hot out Uncle Pat and we were running.”
Uncle Pat looked at the both of us, bent an ear to the police sirens and gave us a dirty look.
Come on .Get upstairs and get cleaned up.”
We laid low for awhile. We wouldn’t go on 19th street or close to Paulina or for that matter anywhere near at least 2 blocks away from the gray garage. Every corner we took we looked around carefully. We were terrified of the hillbillies and their knives. After 2 days we had heard nothing about the incident. So Saturday morning we screwed up our courage and walked past the gray garage.We knew that these hicks never got up before 11:00 a.m. and it was 8:30 a.m.. So with a certain amount of safety firgred in time we decided to walk past the garage. As we neared the garage our hearts beat faster, the adrenalin was flowing and we were ready for flight. As we approached the double doors our hearts froze. The doors were opened. The bastards were awake. We’re fucked. As we turned to run we heard soft singing in Spanish. They looked in and saw Mr. Munoz.
Dennis spoke first in a shaky voice. “Good morning Mr. Munoz.”
Mr. Munoz was a local scrap dealer. A quiet easy going man who respected everyone and he got everyone’s respect in return. Even the kids and Crazy Tony.
I asked;”How come your’re taking all the iron. Those hillbillies are gonna be pissed.”
Mr. Munoz replied ;”Don’t swear. The landlord called me up and told me to clean out the garage. Those fellows won’t be back.”
“How come?” Dennis asked.
“Well some people saw them chasing some kids with knives. They must have been Senor Tony’s grandkids because the kids ran into Senor Tony’s yard and when they saw Senor Tony come out they attacked him.. Senor Tony’s dogs came out to help him. Those bad guys cut one of the dogs and cut Senor Tony sometimes more than once. But the dogs and Senor Tony beat those guys up bad. There’re still in the jail hospital. The police arrested them.”
I asked ; “What about Crazy Tony’s grandkids.”
“Hey, boys. Show some respect. It’s Senor Tony. The grandkids ran home. They’re O.K. I tink.At least that what everybody says.”
“Thank you Mr. Munoz.”
“Yeah, thank you Mr. Munoz.”
“ O.K. boys. Have a good day.You boys O.K. You don’t cause no trouble”
We looked at each other and smiled. Success.
At Church that Sunday the sermon , co-incidently was about revenge The sermon started out with the Priest bellowing that;” Revenge is mine sayeth the Lord. Revenge is only reserved for the Lord.”
We knew better. Revenge is sweet especially when dealt so secretely and successful. And besides, what’s wrong with being an instrument for the Lord.

You create a powerful, palpable atmosphere, Lloyd.
2,925 words is a long story. Being too busy, reading this took a while. I read this like a banana split. I came back to read the other half this morning. Nice story w/ moral lesson about revenge.
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