Ancient dreams, dreamed-Children Of Darkness- Magical Realism 101
“Hey, Peter Paul you’re going to cover me while I “clip” that onyx ring for Sheila the one I told you about yesterday that I saw in Sam’s Jewelry Store, okay?”, slyly whispered one Billie Bradley (not Billy, no way, not some billy goat name, not for Billie Bradley, no way), the king hell king of the Adamsville projects, junior division, junior division being twelve and under in that fast grow up project small time thief night. And later that day, that hot drawn out summer day, a day heaven-make for larcenies, big and small, Peter Paul, if for no other reason that he was just then in thrall to the prospects of the free and easy small- time hood night, stood his guard eyeing Sam, Sam James, owner of Sam’s Jewelry up the Square to see if he was looking Billie’s way. He wasn’t and Billie, once again, made the “clip” like he did a million times before, or at least that is the number he gave Peter Paul any time he asked. Probably inflated, Billie inflated, but not by much.
Up the Square for those not in the know by the way was (is) nothing but hokey old Adamsville Square, heart of the old time granite city (from the massive quarries, now depleted, that gave work and shelter to many working men and their hard-scrabble families back in the day), city of presidents, some guys named Adams that were presidents, big time United States presidents if you want to know back when they just hung out in Washington and did a little of this and a little of that. Not small time grifters like Billie and he from what Peter Paul remembered. But maybe they didn’t need to grift, or maybe they didn’t have some lady friend who needed an onyx ring (and as it later turned out on further Billie inspection an onyx ring with a diamond chip in the center).
Funny thing is that Shelia, Shelia McCabe for those who are also not in the know about who was foxy and who was not, junior division, twelve and under in that same fast growing Adamsville projects girl night, could have cared less about onyx rings, even onyx rings that turned out to have diamond chips in the center. She was, let me use a coy word here, smitten, smitten to hell and back by one Billie Bradley, king hell king of the junior varsity night from day one a few months back when she arrived here from poor town somewhere, oh ya, Peter Paul remembered, Lowell up the other end of Massachusetts from Adamsville. If you can believe this she just wanted him, well, to herself. See Billie and don’t take this the wrong way, was nothing but a girl trap and the other reason besides thralldom that Peter Paul Markin, late of trusted friend guard duty up the Square, hung with and on Billie was that maybe, just maybe one of his “rejects” would notice this awkward boy that Billie has taken pity on in order to learn the “trade.” The trade for those not in the know, well you already know what the trade is from what happened above.
What Sheila didn’t know, and for that matter neither did Peter Paul, was that Billie was, well let me be coy again, smitten with Sheila and found that in his little larcenous heart he had to shower her with things or else she would up and leave him for another guy. And Billie, king hell king of the night or not, was not a guy who would take to being “given the air” by any frail (his, Billie’s word, his ever-using word picked up from watching too many double feature 1940s crime noir repeats at the old Stand Theater on Saturday afternoons after a fit of off-hand larceny to pay for the ticket.
So about once a week or so, Billie got the “urge,” and he and some confederate moved out of the safety of the projects and headed for where the jewels were. It used to be George H, then Ronnie B., then Slim P., and now Peter Paul ( Peter Paul, not Peter, or damn, not, P.P. , like his mother called him. I am, by the way, using no last names on those earlier confederates just in case the coppers are still looking for “fall guys” for those up the Square capers, I ain’t no snitch, no way.). And Billie, kind of superstitious like a lot of sneaky guys, professional sneaky guys not just guys who are sneaky to be sneaky, always took the same route (or that is what he told Peter Paul once) through the marshes up to C Street, then cross to Main and then on to Adams (ya, the town is hoopy for naming everything for those old guys, those present guys) until he and his pal of the moment got to the square proper.
From there it was nothing but stealthy and shadow box moves, no stopping for fear that someone who swore they saw someone just like Billie coming out of (or going into it did not matter) some store and coming out with stuff (no better description that that), might yell copper, and make it stick. And then where would our boy have been, more importantly, where would he stand then in Sheila’s eyes. His creep work was made easier by the set-up of the square all, no trespass standing, low-slung granite buildings everywhere, granite steps leading to granite doors leading to granite gee-gad counters,
I told you already about the granite that made the city work so you shouldn’t be surprised.
Then when Billie had “selected” his target of the day he went silent (and his confederate had better not have said anything either, or else). Then Billie’s eyes, deep pool blue eyes that some of the older girls, not the junior division girls, not even Sheila, called “bedroom eyes” went stone cold like the granite that was found everywhere as he built up some imaginary hatred for some misbegotten small shop owner who was made to pay for society’s giving Billie, or rather Billie, Senior a raw deal and life in the projects. Yes, that hatred, no name hatred, low-head hatred, drove Billie once he made his move, after waiting slyly, standing back on heels, for the right moment . The, in a flash, going in furtively, hand signals driving the moves to his partner in crime, coming out ditto, presto coming out with a gold nugget jewel.
All this madness for some no carat, no russkie Sputnik panel glitter for his efforts. Such is the grab of young lumpen crime, project distorted values, no value, no look, just grab, grab hard, grab fast, grab get yours before the getting is over, or before the dark, dark night comes, the dark pitched-night when the world no longer is young, and dreamed dream make no more sense that this bodily theft. And Peter Paul for that minute before he ditched that life (although not Billie, or Billie friendship, no that would takes many long, long days) of silly crime for crime book, or just books loved every minute, every moves just because it was Billie who made those moves, made the cheap glitter dance.
And Shelia, or rather Sheila and her family. Well, one week-end when Billie was away visiting some distant grandmother, they, not having paid rent from about day one, just flew the coop without a word. And Billie never heard from her again. But get this she left that onyx ring, that onyx ring complete with diamond chip in the center, with Peter Paul to give back to Billie, and with a kiss. See, as she explained to Peter Paul, she really was smitten with Billie, just Billie. And Peter Paul knew exactly what she meant.
Labels: growing up absurd in the 1950s