STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is sex between males. You have been warned!
Copyright 2001 by Nick Archer.
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By Nick Archer
For all its Middle American values, Chicago is a laid-back city socially. The official city motto is I Will but it might as well be Live and Let Live. At the turn of the last century, waves of immigrants came from all parts of Europe and settled in their own neighborhoods, formed their own clubs and established their own churches. For many of these immigrants, the church was the center of their social lives. Naturally, important ceremonies were performed at the church. Weddings, funerals, baptisms and coming-of-age rites provided structure and continuity to their lives as well as a link to the old country.
The result is that each ethnic group built its own church in their own neighborhood. In one neighborhood, there might be two Lutheran churches one German and the other Swedish. The Poles, Italians, Irish and Lithuanians all built their own Catholic churches, often with adjoining parochial schools, in close proximity. Later in the century, many of these European languages were replaced with Spanish.
In the first decades of this century, it was a scandal to marry someone outside ones ethnic group. An Irish man didnt marry a Polish woman. Eventually, this barricade eroded and the lumps of the American melting pot became more homogeneous. Still, many children of the next generation had at least one major ethnic group they could identify with. Some children were such an amalgam of ethnicity, decisions had to be made. Parents had to make decisions about religion, schooling, even group identity.
When this taboo began to falter, the next frontier was marriage between different religions. Jews began marrying Catholics, Lutherans married Buddhists, Church of God in Christ followers married Methodists.
The final frontier, and the part that Chicagoans are still working on, is interracial marriage.
The neighborhoods of Beverly, Morgan Park and the adjoining suburb of Evergreen Park represent a microcosm of this struggle. Beverly and Morgan Park are decidedly upscale enclaves. Often, many of the homes were owned by police officers and fire fighters who were required by city ordinance to live within city boundaries. The streets were heavily wooded and some of the lots were large indeed. Standing on some leafy streets, it was difficult to believe that the area was in a major city and not a pastoral suburb. During the seventies, many middle-class African Americans settled in the area trying to find a better life and still remain in the city. Many whites fled across Western Avenue to less upscale Evergreen Park.
For Patrick McGraw, it was home. He had grown up in Beverly, the son of a Chicago police captain. He knew the neighborhood like the back of his hand.
Even with all the intermarriage, many ethnic groups retained a core of pride. They ate their own foods, patronized stores and restaurants, and civic groups. Germans, Italians and Irish still had parades.
Of course, the Irish had their parade on St. Patricks Day. It was a major social event for the South Side Irish. The parade took place down Western Avenue; which was the dividing line between black Beverly and white Evergreen Park. The parade had become not only a show of ethnic pride, but a political statement. The Parade Committee had even discussed the possibility of moving the parade west to Kedzie Avenue. But, at this point, it was still scheduled to take place down Western Avenue from 95th Street to 127th Street.
The South Side Irish Parade was scheduled for the Sunday before St. Patricks Day, which fell on a Thursday this year. If the weather was lousy, which it often could be in mid-March, the parade could be rescheduled for the following Sunday.
The parade went off without a hitch. Patrick reveled in watching the marching bands, the fire equipment, the bagpipes and the Irish Dancers thread their way down the street. Among the Irish Dancers was Michael Flatley. He would earn worldwide acclaim within a few years with his dancing troupe. And he was a native son of the South Side. At the very end of the parade was a group of gay Irish Americans. They called themselves the Lavender Shamrocks. Their request to join the parade had created a huge controversy within the community. But, some behind-the-scenes arm-twisting by the gay friendly Mayor Daley had resulted in their inclusion in the parade albeit at the end. Patrick watched them prance with admiration at their boldness, jealously at their freedom, and a faint look of disgust.
After the parade, Patrick had been invited to a friends house on Artesian Street, which was the next street west of Western. He had gone to high school with the former Marilyn Mohan, now Marilyn Murphy. She had been Homecoming Queen and quite a beauty in her day. Now, she was a single mother with a thirteen-year-old son. Patrick knew the friendship was just platonic, but he could open up to her like no other person. It was a symbiotic relationship. Marilyn had supported him through his divorce. Patrick provided a much-needed male role model for her son. Marilyn fed him home-cooked meals, and Patrick lectured her about her drinking.
Marilyn Murphy was an alcoholic. She had tried several times to stop, but the lure of the bottle always pulled her back in. She started soon after her last son, Ryan, was born twelve years ago. Her husband had just left her, her older son was in trouble with the law, and her daughter had just gotten pregnant by her greasy, unemployed boyfriend.
Patrick had come over to the house early, as much to spent time with Ryan as to monitor Marilyns drinking. He had planned to make a birdhouse with Ryan, then watch the parade, and maybe do a little imbibing himself at Foxs Pub.
"Hey, Patrick, come in," she greeted him with a friendly kiss. He could smell alcohol on her breath already. Inside the house, the delicious smell of pot roast made his stomach growl.
"Spare me the temperance lecture. Its St. Patricks Day!"
"In his room, listening to those God damned show tunes again. I dont know what to do with that boy. He wont go out and play. He doesnt have any friends. All he does is watch old movies and play Nintendo." They moved their conversation into the cozy kitchen. "Beer?"
"So, you have some sort of project for him?
"I thought wed make a birdhouse. I bought a kit at Franks."
"Thats a good idea. He can be good with his hands." She sighed. "Sometimes, I wish hed simply be a boy. I wish hed run and get dirty and sweaty and roll on the grass. While the other mothers were trading tips to get grass stains out of their boys Little League uniforms, I was searching through the music stores for a tape of the original soundtrack of The Sound of Music. Hes always been different." She rose unsteadily out of her chair, stood at the kitchen door and bellowed, "Ryan! Uncle Patrick is here!"
Within seconds, they heard footsteps on the stairs. "Uncle Patrick!"
With unselfconscious adoration, he sat in Patricks lap and put an arm around his shoulders. "Im glad youre here. This must be your day."
Patrick smiled at him. "What do you mean?"
"St. Patricks Day."
He chuckled. "Yeah, I guess it is. Actually, it is my day. My birthday is March 16th. I was born at Little Company of Mary Hospital."
Ryans eyes widened. "You mean right over here on 95th Street?"
"I didnt know it even existed back in the Stone Age."
Patrick grinned and playfully poked him in the ribs. "Thats enough out of you, young man." Ryan squirmed and giggled. Marilyn looked on with a wide smile. "Anyway, I was born late at night, almost at midnight. The story goes that when the nun brought me into the room she asked my mother what she was going to name me. My mother told her she was considering Michael, David and Patrick. You see, I was the third boy in a row and they were hoping for a girl. They had all the girls names picked out, but no boys names. According to my parents, the nun said," here Patrick did his best Irish brogue, "Well, of course, Patrick would be fittin for a good Irish boy. Tomorrow is St. Patricks Day. Actually, St. Paddys Day begins in a few minutes. And the name stuck. Patrick it was, and thats what they wrote on my birth certificate. My middle name they got from the nun who brought me into the room. Well, actually a variation of her name."
"Whats your middle name?"
"Promise you wont laugh?"
Ryan held up three fingers like a Boy Scout. "Promise."
"Well, the nuns name was Sister Mary Francis."
"So its Francis?" Marilyn asked.
"No," Patrick reddened slightly. "Marion."
Marilyn and Ryan screamed with laughter.
"Hey," he said in a mock-hurt voice, "you promised you wouldnt laugh."
Ryan hugged him. "Were laughing with you, Uncle Patrick."
But, Patrick couldnt help but smile. Ryan was such a handsome boy. Perhaps handsome didnt do him justice. He was beautiful. He had light-blond hair cut in the fashion of the young; shaved at the sides and longer on the top and sides with a distinct line between the two. His facial features were delicate still boyish but in a pretty way.
Patrick often wondered about the boy. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he was gay, but he resisted sharing this insight with Marilyn. Patrick disliked effeminate men, and stayed away from them as a rule, but there was something special about the boy. It was a huge ego boost to have someone adore and idolize you the way Ryan looked up to Patrick. In Ryans eyes, he could do no wrong. Patrick was the only man who took the time to talk to him, explain things to him. Ryan could sing and do all sorts of voices and imitations. Many times his impressions of teachers, priests, even TV news anchors had sent them in gales of laughter. He was a natural actor.
Patrick wondered what it would have been like to raise a son like him. What would he have done if Tim or Kevin had refused to take an interest in construction and sports? How would he have acted? It was easy to tell Marilyn to let the boy be. He didnt have to live with him. He didnt have to comfort him when he came home from school crying. He didnt have to mend his clothes when the other boys ripped them, or bandage his cuts and ice his bruises when they beat him. He didnt have to listen to Ryan cry himself to sleep at night.
Marilyn had dragged him between counselors and psychologists, trying to find an answer. He was a perfect child he rarely disobeyed, he was inevitably on the Honor Roll at school, he was clean and neat, always polite and respectful toward adults. That was the problem. Ryan got along too well with adults. Marilyn wished he would find friends his own age.
But Marilyn was at the end of the proverbial rope with Ryan. She had given up trying to change him. And she drowned her resignation in alcohol, along with the rest of her problems.
"Lets go downstairs and put this birdfeeder together," Patrick suggested.
Marilyn opened the oven to check on her pot roast. "Let me know if you need anything."
One of the things Patrick had done for Marilyn was to make minor repairs around the house for her. For in the basement, she had a complete workshop that her husband had left behind when he ran off with the pretty-but-stupid secretary. Patrick always intended on coming over and cleaning and organizing the space, but never found the time. It was like Miss Havershams dining room, without the rats and rancid wedding cake. There were spider webs everywhere. A layer of dust covered the idle tools. Most of them were Craftsman brand tools from the Sears store in Oak Ridge Mall. Ryans father had nailed the lids of jars to the joists and screwed the jars into them. They held all sizes of nails and fasteners, nuts and bolts, rubber bands, tacks and screws. They all had a thin veil of dust on them. On two walls, his father had attached pegboard and here he hung hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers T-squares, and yardsticks. Patrick thought it was such a shame to let all these tools go to waste. But Marilyns husband had never come back to claim his tools, and she didnt have the heart to sell them at a garage sale.
"The first thing to do in any project is to read the directions," Patrick said, pulling his reading glasses out of his shirt pocket.
Ryan grinned at him. He thought that Patrick even looked handsome in glasses. Shortly, Ryan was assembling the birdhouse himself, as the tip of his tongue curled over his upper lip in concentration.
"Does that help?" Patrick said, playfully touching his tongue with his fingertip.
"Does what help?"
"Does sticking your tongue help you concentrate?"
"Oh, Patrick!" In a half-hour, they had completed the birdhouse and left it on the bench to allow the glue to dry. Ryan had done most of the work, and it had come out beautifully.
Marilyn called them upstairs for dinner. "I hope you dont mind that its not corned beef and cabbage."
"Thats OK. I love pot roast. And cabbage makes me fart."
As they ate their meal, they chatted easily, as if they had been friends for a long time. Ryans eyes glowed with the presence of Patrick at their usually somber table.
Ryan disappeared right after the meal. Patrick helped Marilyn put away the leftovers and load the dishwasher.
"Thanks so much for coming over. If you only knew how much it means to Ryan."
"Its my pleasure, Marilyn. Hes really a nice boy. Hell find his way."
"I hope so."
"Im going to hit the road, Marilyn. I think Im going to stop at Foxs and see if any of the old gang is there."
"Ryan! Uncle Patrick is leaving!"
He appeared carrying a sheet of typing paper folded in half. "I made you a card for your birthday. Happy birthday!"
On the cover, he had drawn a shamrock with markers. He printed the words "Happy Birthday to Uncle Patrick. He is like a Saint, except for...." and when Patrick opened the card, he spotted his middle name printed in huge block letters. "....the middle name MARION! Love, Ryan."
Patricks eyes brimmed with tears. "I love it. Its the best birthday card Ive ever gotten." He reached down and hugged Ryan, lifting his feet off the floor. "Thank you, son."
"I love you, Uncle Patrick," the boy whispered in the mans ear.
Marilyns house was less than three blocks from Foxs Beverly Restaurant at 9956 S. Western. Foxs was about four blocks from Evergreen Plaza. It was known for its St. Patricks Day bashes and throughout the year for its delicious pizza. The thin crust was as crispy as a saltine cracker and topped with their tangy sauce and real Italian sausage.
The number of cars jammed in the tiny parking lot and lining the streets told the whole story. Almost the entire neighborhood was jammed in the pub. Surely, they were breaking some sort of Fire Department occupancy laws. But the Fire and Police Departments were looking the other way on this holiday. Live and Let Live.
Almost the moment he walked into the door, he had a mug of green beer in his hand. Several old friends from high school greeted him boisterously.
"Patrick! You old son-of-a-bitch! Where the hell have you been?" It was Archie, who had been a good friend and teammate in high school. He appeared with other men he had grown up with; Kenny, Rich, Liam, and Bob. He shook hands heartily with them all. They started talking about their wives, their children, their jobs. It was all lighthearted and fun.
"Hey, Patrick, I might have a job for you. The wife wants to remodel the upstairs bathroom," Liam said.
"Call Mary Rose tomorrow to set up an estimate." Mary Rose was his secretary. In truth, she almost ran the company.
Patrick overheard a snippet of conversation. "I cant believe Richard J. Daley, one of our own, let those faggots into the parade! Ruined the whole goddamned thing!"
"Fucking faggots," Someone else agreed.
"Hey," Patrick said with a nervous smile. "They were OK."
"They didnt belong. Nobody wanted them. Theyre not part of our community."
Patrick was starting to get angry. "Now, Bob, youre not telling me you still believe in the stork?"
"What do you mean?"
"What I mean is, they are someones sons and daughters. They didnt just appear. Someone had to raise them, send them to school."
"But did they have to raise them to be fags?"
Patrick tried the calm approach. "I cant believe what Im hearing. Who are you to decide who belongs and who doesnt? If theyre Irish, they can march."
Rich knocked on Patricks head. "Hello? Anybody home? Maybe I forgot most of the birds and bees, but I think I remember that two guys cant make a baby."
"And thank God," Kenny added.
They all laughed. But Patrick didnt find it funny. He had had enough of their bigoted talk. Deep in his heart, he knew they were talking about him, and his son, and Matt. Patrick knew he was about to loose control. He had had several beers at Marilyns, and a few more here. It was time to go.
"Fuck all of you," he said calmly, and pushed his way toward the door. He would never see most of them again.
It took several tries to get the key in the door of his pickup truck. Patrick hadnt realized how drunk he really was. Carefully, carefully, now. Whats that white car? Its only a Caprice. Calm down, Patrick. You can hop on I-57 and be home in twenty minutes. Dont blow it.
But, in his caution, Patrick was in reality driving way too slow. His overly-cautious driving caught the attention of Chicagos finest.
Patricks heart began to sink when he saw the flashing blue lights behind him. He pulled to the curb right near Graceland Cemetery.
"Whats wrong, Ossifer?" Patrick knew it was the wrong thing to say at the wrong time. The handsome Chicago Police officer frowned. He had a DUI on his hands. He knew this was the day of the St. Patricks Parade, and more than a few motorists had had a drink or two. But this man was clearly drunk and a danger to himself and other drivers. Live and let live. Except if youre really drunk and attempting to drive.
The officer was alone. His usual partner was sick, and there was no one to replace her. Patrick presented his drivers license and proof of insurance.
Patrick had never seen such a handsome man before. He had brown hair and blue eyes and a dimple in his chin. The uniform only added to his allure. He was big and bulky, but not fat in any way. He was just built. Just the way I like them.
The officer administered a sobriety test, and determined that Patrick was over the legal limit. "Im afraid, Mr. McGraw, I have to arrest you for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. Put your hands on the car and spread your legs, please."
Patrick did as he was told.
Was he imagining it, or had the officer grabbed his dick as he patted him down? There! He did it again! By this time, Patrick had a raging erection.
It took more than two hours for Tim to appear at the 22nd District Police Station at 1830 W. Monterey. He paid the bond, and his father was released. There are no bail bondsmen in Illinois. All bonds are paid directly to the police or the courts.
Officer Nick Santoro shook Tims hand. "I think your father was celebrating a bit too hard today."
"Thanks, Officer. Ill take him right home."
Santoro turned to Patrick and shook his hand. "No hard feelings?"
Patrick managed a smile. "Not yet." When he removed his hand, Jim had slipped him a tiny piece of paper.
When Patrick got in Tims Jeep, he finally got a chance to look at what was written on the paper.
It was Officer Nick Santoros home phone number.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. I read and respond to all email (even if it takes a few days) Just click on one of the links below. And don't forget to check out my website (Chapters are always posted there earlier than here) and my other story here on Nifty, Pocketful of Stars, in the Young Friends section.
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