Redemption-Part 2

A couple times I seen Cheech with a black eye or split lip. Cheech is a big kid—only one way that could happen. One day I heard Cheech’s mom tell my mom George had this way about him. All day he’d lay there looking at the ceiling, listening to ball games on the radio or the street sounds from outside—like he was waiting for something.

Back in those days, once in a while, I’d see George hangin out in the lobby of the Wright Park Housing Authority—where everybody went to pay their rent or complain about the rats and the garbage that never got picked up on time. He’d be pitchin pennies with some other bums or just standin there watchin the traffic go by on Floyd Ave. and yeah—it was like he was looking or waiting for something.

He’d always have on that Marine Corp field jacket—and sometimes combat boots—and was always carryin a set of dog tags in his hand or clickin them together in his pocket.

Cheech told me after his dad came back from prison he carried them with him wherever he went. One day, Cheech looks at the dog tags while his dad’s asleep and sees the tags aren’t his dad’s—they had some other guy’s name on them. So Cheech asks his old man who the guy on the tags was and his dad got this crazy look in his eyes and starts cryin. Cheech said he’d never seen his dad cry—said it scared the hell out of him. George doesn’t say anything—just walks out of the house and doesn’t come back for almost a week. Cheech and his mom never did learn where he went.

After that George didn’t drink cheap beer any more—he drank cheap whiskey—like it was Kool-Aid. He stopped goin down to the housing authority to hang out. He just lay on the couch and stayed drunk 24-7—only went out to get booze. I seen him one day comin back from the liquor store—the bottle in one hand—dog tags in the other. It was everything Cheech’s mom could do to get him to eat anything and take a bath once in a while.

***

One morning just after school started back I’m getting off the school bus. Cheech is behind me and all of a sudden he gives me this real hard shove—knocks me down the bus steps on my face. He steps over me and kicks my books across the parking lot then stands there laughin this goofy laugh—like he wants to look like a crazy asshole.

I couldn’t believe it—I didn’t know what had happened. Cheech & I were never like best friends or anything but we always got along good. He always was a big kid but over the summer he grow a foot and suddenly he’s the biggest kid in the school—even bigger than kids 2 or 3 grades ahead of him. He turns into this bully and next thing you know he’s got this gang of punk wanna-bees following him around like he was the boss.

Now I gotta tell you about Dirty Annie.

Like I said, she didn’t talk much—she usually just sat on her stoop or Mrs. Depyster’s stoop, watchin the street—not talkin to anybody—just watchin. Sometimes she’d have this funny little expression on her face—the kind people get when they know something nobody else knows but there’s no way to explain it to them. She didn’t have any friends—everybody thought she was a little crazy. I used to talk to her once in a while—I could tell she wasn’t crazy—kinda strange maybe but not crazy.

Everybody called her dirty Annie because she didn’t take a bath very often—she usually smelled. One Saturday I saw her standing out in the rain—just standin there in the street with it pouring down and her not even tryin to go inside. She told me later her mom told her to do it so she didn’t stink so bad.

Most people ignored Annie—or treated her like a dog.

Everybody in Wright Park knew Dirty Annie’s mom didn’t pay her water or electric bill so she had no power or water—she’d fill buckets at the housing authority and use their bathrooms. She was Italian and her English was bad. I heard George used to shack up with Dirty Annie’s mom back before the war. My dad said she was a drunk and a whore—lotta guys shacked up with her. That was before she got fat. I heard back then she paid the water & electric cause George and other guys gave her money. She used to be respectable mom said—an opera singer in Europe or some other foreign place—Philadelphia maybe. But after she gained all that weight she couldn’t even make it as whore any more—she was just a fat drunk. I remember whenever people talked about Annie’s mom some of the old Italian ladies would hiss or spit and say stuff in Italian that sounded nasty.

End part 2

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