CERMAK, NEAR CHINATOWN - ALEC CIZAK
Donny’s been gone for two days now. One thing I know, one thing I can tell you, is that worthless douchebag better not be holding out. He scored something big, something to make noise about, he better get himself right the hell back here or I’ll beat a nice cavity into the side of his face. You can put half your paycheck on that, bubba.
Hard to believe this shit started with a Bears game. You ain’t from Chicago, you might be asking just what the hell would we be thinking, putting down hard-earned money for tickets to watch a bunch of losers get their asses kicked in their own backyard. Sometimes I might agree with you. But we were Bears fans. We grew up watching Sweetness and heard the legends of Gayle Sayers and Willie Galimore and our dads and their dads passed the worthless myths on to us. We had season tickets since the time we could afford them. Our wives begged us to spend our paychecks on things more useful, like new shoes for the kids and what not, but this was Da’ Bears, for Christ’s sake, you didn’t breathe before you sacrificed for those bums.
So we were sitting in our seats, way up where all the other working joes drown themselves in beer and twist their arteries into knots with brats and pizza and all that other crap we’d been raised on.
Donny and me, we worked construction. Roofers. It was hard to get jobs these days, mostly because the greedy contractors were hiring illegals for less than half of what they once paid us. If we made any kind of stink over it, they’d give us that old line, “You’re not willing to work for eight dollars an hour, you must not need the work.”
I won’t lie to you. I can’t get gigs with a few contractors because I punch them in their grill the moment they dribble shit like that. There was a time a man could work six months and make enough to support his family the entire year. But twenty an hour, well, that’s just too much for the heartless bastards in charge of the world these days.
The gist of it all, the reason I’m bitchin’ and moanin’ at this point, is because Donny and me occasionally took to rollin’ rich folks for their money. Times are fucking hard, bubba, let them that ain’t got fur on their palms be the first to chuck stones. I know what I am and I know what I need and sometimes that requires taking from someone else. You got a problem with it, stick your head in a toilet and gargle. You ain’t fucking Saint Peter.
So we were sitting there, minding our own business, when this rooty-tooty lookin’ sonofabitch crawls up to our section with a Browns jersey on. A Jim Brown throwback. Expensive, trust me. Sweet Jesus. If there’s anything more pathetic than being a Bears fan, it’s tossing your hard-earned dough into bigger pockets for Cleveland’s lousy club. They’ve lost two more games than we have. But I regress. So this uppity chump, he sat there all quiet, didn’t even cheer when those douchebags ended up beating the Bears.
Donny’s level of agg’ergation expanded as the game went on and the Bears played worse and worse. “Who the hell travels to watch the Browns?” he kept asking me. I told him I didn’t know and I didn’t care. “If you got money to fly from Cleveland to Chicago,” he said, “why the hell wouldn’t you have the cash to sit with the rest of them silver spoons?” Then he shook his fist at the rich folks, sitting twelve miles below, the seats you didn’t need binoculars to watch the game with.
“Good question,” I said, and took another drink of my nine dollar beer served in a fancy plastic cup with Budweiser printed on the side of it.
Then, can you believe it, when the slaughter was finished, Mr. Cleveland turned around and offered to shake our hands.
“Nice game,” he said.
Donny stuck his right middle finger in his nose, scraped out a heap of snot and let the guy decide if he really wanted to be so gesticural and such.
He didn’t. He looked at me.
“Get the hell outta here,” I told him. “This is Chicago, not fancy fucking Cleveland.”
The guy chuckled and walked away.
I guess it was that laugh that pulled the final plug. “You see that?” Donny asked.
“Hell,” Donny said, “he’s got money to fly to Chicago, he’s got money to help me pay my rent.”
We pushed our way through the crowd to make sure we followed him just close enough to keep an eye on him. I assumed he had rented a car and figured we’d grab him in the parking lot, beat him unconscious and take his damn wallet.
We walked through the old part of Soldier Field, dodging folks in every direction, pushing people this way and that to make sure we didn’t lose sight of him. Other Browns fans were shouting and whooping it up with each other, sounding like a bunch of animals looking for some Saturday Night Action, if you get my gist. Then I saw the guy duck out an exit opposite the direction of Lake Shore Drive.
We followed him on the walkway towards the city. He veered right and headed for the lake.
“The hell’s the matter with this douchebag?” I asked Donny.
“Don’t know,” he said, “guess they ain’t got water in Cleveland.”
We had ourselves a healthy laugh. We needed it. The Bears lost big. Thirty-seven to ten. Thirty-seven points given up to the worst team in the NFL. Pathetic.
Then he turned around and saw us.
“Hey buddy,” I said, picking up the pace. Donny did the same. “We feel real bad about the way we acted back there.”
The guy didn’t say anything.
I saw that we were closing in on a small patch of trees just off the lake. I looked at Donny and knew he was thinking the same damn thing. As soon as we were within arm’s reach, we both grabbed the sonofabitch and forced him into the brush. We took turns bashing our fists into his face, mostly his nose, until it was clear he was knocked out. I let go of him, Donny did so, too, and the stranger dropped to the ground.
That’s when I noticed the stench. The smell of a man who pissed in public for a living. A genuine bum. Donny grabbed his nose and winced.
“Jesus,” he said, “the guy smells like my neighbor Whitey did when they found him dead in his apartment.”
“Well,” I spoke through clenched nostrils, “he got into the game somehow.” I examined his pockets without actually feeling them. I turned him over with my foot and saw that he had something in his back pocket. I closed my eyes, as if that would protect me from any airborne diseases, and pulled out a fat clip of money with a few credit cards and three different driver’s licenses attached to it.
Donny’s eyes were on the cash. “Is it bunk?”
I flipped through the bills. Mostly twenties and a dozen Franklins. “You weren’t lying about the rent,” I said. Then I looked at the first driver’s license. It was from Florida. The name said ‘Roman Delvecchio.’ The picture didn’t look anything like the guy on the ground. The next license was from California. The man on it looked like Roman Delvecchio, but had a different name. The final one was from Ohio. It belonged to a man called Carter Gore who looked exactly like the old fart on the other two.
“Donny,” I said, “I think we just robbed a thief who must have just knocked over a guy who can’t decide what his name is or where he lives.”
He shrugged. “Big deal. Let’s get to the ‘L and get the hell out of here.”
We took the train back to Hegewisch, smiling. Some urgent monetary issues would be settled.
When we got to my place, we shut ourselves into my shitty garage out back and divided the goods. The money added up to thirteen hundred and forty dollars. I took seven and gave Donny the rest. He squawked a bit, so I let him have the credit cards. They all had different names on them as well. There was no telling what kind of fun a man could have with them as long as nobody checked his ID. Donny seemed happy enough. The six would cover his rent. If he was smart, he’d buy his wife and kids some shiny junk and stupid toys with the plastic.
Then we went inside and watched the Sunday Night game. Dallas at Washington. Why the hell they put those douchebags on primetime was beyond me. The Bears were more important than both those teams combined. But I digest. The Sunday night news came on Channel 9 and our friend Carter Gore’s picture was there, just like on his license. Seemed somebody robbed him and pushed him in front of the train.
The story went on. This Carter Gore character was wanted by a lot of interesting people. The FBI. The mob in Cleveland. Prosecutors all across the country were getting weepy ’cause they wanted to put him in jail and now they wouldn’t get the chance. Then a spokesperson for Mr. Gore’s family, some guy named Johnny Rio, looked into the camera like he was gonna try to sell it a used car and promised a huge reward for anyone with half a clue as to how old Carter got snuffed on a casual trip to Chicago to see his beloved Cleveland Browns.
“Mr. Gore had been a fan of the Browns since before they were part of the NFL,” said the made-up broad reporting the story.
“Serves him right,” I said. “Anybody follows the Cleveland Browns for that long should be pushed in front of a train.”
Donny’s little eyes were bright like the Christmas trees at the Museum of Science and Industry. There was some thinking going on upstairs.
Once I heard his idea, I wanted to reject it. Something lurking in my own attic, something you fancy folks might call ‘common sense’ told me we should keep our mouths closed from then on.
Donny insisted he knew better. “That homeless fucker has to sleep at one of them shelters along the shore. They never wander too far from where they mooch.”
I shook my head. “Ain’t a free month’s rent good enough for you?”
“You saw that bastard on television. His family’s loaded.”
I let out a long, dramatic sigh. I looked concerned, mostly because I thought that’s what I should do.
He waved it off. “I seen it in the movies. Gangsters always have money. We show ’em the piece of shit who killed their granddaddy, we’ll be set for, hell, I bet at least two or three more months.”
“Alright,” I said, “but you do the work.”
And then he called the number flashed on the screen and made the deal. Whoever he talked to, Johnny Rio, or whoever, told him to meet him Monday at ten at the warehouse on Lumbert, off Cermak, near Chinatown.
Well, bubba, it’s Wednesday, and I’m starting to think I’m gonna have to get on the train and head north. Make sure that sonofabitch don’t try to disappear with my share of the reward.
BIO: Alec Cizak is a writer from Indianapolis.
Friday's Forgotten Books, February 12, 2016
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