25 comments

Coming of Age American Fiction

“Jimmy Dean Jackson, where do you think you’re going?


“None-a-yer-business, Rosey Mae!”


“If you get us both into trouble again, it’ll be my business!”


“I’ll let you know when I need you, little sister.”


Little sister? I’m almost two years older than you! I know you just turned nine, but you know good and well that I will be eleven at the end of the month, little brother.”


“I don’t need you taggin’ along. I’m big enough to take care of myself.”


“You better not be headed off to go hang out with Stanton Burkhart. Uncle Bob and them haven’t lived up here as long as us. Stanton has already started running with those older, mean kids at school. They’re all two years older than me. He doesn’t know them like I do.


“Maw, don’t care. Stan’s our cousin.


“Where do you think you’re going?”


 . . . Wherever I want to go. . . . Don’t follow me . . . . Beat it, Rosey Cheeks, now!. . . . I mean it . . . . quit following me!”


“Mama said if you get into trouble again that she’s going to send you back to Kentucky this summer to stay with Poppy and Mamaw. You’ll be down there all summer workin’ in the heat in the garden, sloppin’ the hogs, and tendin’ baccer.”


“Well, Pap said we may be moving back down there anyway sometime before the end of the year, so what does it matter if I get into trouble or not? Maybe I want to go back to Kentucky. Maybe I’d rather be runnin’ around in the woods instead of bein’ beat up on the streets here in Cicero. Besides, it ain’t none of your beeswax where I’m going or what I’m doing.”


“I don’t want to get a whoopin because of you.”


“If you leave me alone, you won’t have to worry about it.”


“I worry about everything.”


“I know.”


“Mama said I needed to look out for you.”


“You mean, you just want to see what I’m doing so you can go and be a big tattle-tale.”


“No.”


“Uh-huh.”


“Nuh-uh!”


“You’re cruisin for a bruisin.”


“You better not hit me. Mama will tan your hide.”


“All right then, see you later, gator . . . ”


“You better not . . . . Stop! Hey . . . . Come back here . . . . Quit running . . . . Slow down . . . . Don’t you dare run out into that traffic . . . . Deany! Look out! . . . . Gee whiz . . . . I’m telling Mama.”


“You better not say a word to Maw . . . . you big baby . . . . you won’t catch me now, Rosey Cheeks!”


“Whoa there, little fella. Where do you think you’re goin’? Wow, you almost got hit by that Buick, you big dummy! You shouldn't try to take on a tank like that.”


“Ah, Stan the Man. I sure am glad to see you. Where you headed?”


“I was comin’ to find you, Cuz. The guys are gettin’ a game together down here at the lot. If we ain’t got enough guys, maybe they’ll let you play.”


“Stan, you guys may be like twelve and stuff, but I can play ball just as good as any of you. I ain’t got a glove with me, and I don’t want to go back to the apartment. Maw will flip her lid and make me stay home if Rosey gets back to her before I do.”


“It’s all right, little man. We can trade out if we are on different sides. We can put you in the outfield, you may not even need a glove.”


“Hey, you wanna stop by the drug store and get a Coke? I got twenty cents.”


“Where’d you get twenty cents? I thought your old man had disappeared again?”


“He ain’t been around for a few days. I’ve been pitchin' pennies with the drunks upstairs in the alley by The Magic Lounge. Since March, I’ve managed to save up almost five bucks.”


“Five bucks? Man, you’re rich.”


“Sometimes those drunks don’t know what they’ve got. I’ve managed to get a few twenty-five cent bar tokens. I’ll trade them for a dime or even fifteen cents. I’ve been lucky a few times and just found a few layin’ around in the alley. Sometimes, Pap don’t remember what he’s got in his pants pockets, so I slip some pennies or tokens if I think I can manage it.”


“You sure are slick, J.D.”


“Yeah, Maw don’t always see it that way. She said Jesus sees what I do, even if she don’t.”


“More like your sister sees you and rats you out.”


“That’s what I say. I try to sneak out after she falls asleep. Because the El train is right behind our apartment, I can climb out the window sometimes without anybody hearing me.”


“You do have it all figured out, don’t you, J.D.?”


“I try. Hey, let’s slip in here to the drug store and get us a Coke.”


“Okay, the guys have probably already started anyway. They’ll let us cut in on the game, especially if they don’t have enough.”


“Mornin, Mr. Baczek.”


“Well, if it isn’t Little James Dean and Stan The Man. How are you two young gentlemen doing on this fine May morning? James Dean, does your father really let you run around with that Elvis haircut?”


“He don’t care. He ain’t really been around that much lately. Working all the time. He’s got two jobs.”


“Yeah, your father stays busy. I haven’t seen him around in a few weeks.”


“Yes, sir. Give me two cokes and two packs of baseball cards.”


“Getting an allowance now? Your father must be doing pretty good for himself. You're still running around with Little Stan Musial here, I see.”


“I’d rather be Ernie Banks. You know he won MVP last year.”


“I know, I know, but my money is on Nellie Fox for league MVP this year. I’ve always been a White Sox guy myself. We’ll see how old Ernie does against Stan The Man today and tomorrow in St. Louis. Besides, son, you know Banks is a negro right? I would of thought that two little hillbilly boys wouldn’t root for a negro. Baseball sure is changing since they let Jackie Robinson in the majors. We’ve managed to keep a lot of that riff-raff out of here in Cicero, especially since they took care of that Clark family back in ‘51.”


“We’re kind of in a hurry, Mr. Baczek. Here’s twenty cents.”


“You need me to open those Cokes for you?”


“Sure. Yes, sir.”


“Okay, kid. Stay out of trouble. You know what happened to James Dean, right? And say hello to your father for me when he’s around.”


“Yes, sir. Sure will. Take it easy, Mr. Baczek.”


“Man, J.D., I can’t believe that old man likes The White Sox. And the way he put down Ernie Banks?”


“He’s just a stupid, old man. Pap likes Ernie Banks. He said he was a veteran, so was Jackie Robinson. You know Pap gives respect to anybody who served in The War.”


“My old man don’t talk much about The War. I know he was in Europe sometime after D-Day. That’s about it.”


“Pap was in the Navy. He was in the Pacific when they dropped The Bomb. He never saw no action. He got to go to China and Korea though. Said he smuggled a Jap rifle all the way back to San Diego, and some stupid officer confiscated it. Stole it more or less. He hitchhiked all the way back to Kentucky.”


“Ain’t that a bite. Man, this Coke is so good. I ain’t had one in a while. Thanks.”


“No problem, Cuz.”


“Ain’t you gonna open those baseball cards?”


“Nah, I’ll wait until I get home. I don’t want to lose any of them. I need to be careful not to damage them when we play today.”


“Geez, won’t you look at that! I don’t think we’re going to get to play today. Looks like Joe Dodd is getting the snot beat out of him. I didn’t think there would be fist fights this early in the game. We better not go down there.”


“We should help, Joe.”


“No, J.D., there’s too many of them from over on West 24th. I don’t know why they’re over here instead of playing down there in Morton Park. C’mon, let’s get out of here.”


“What are we going to do now? I really wanted to play today.”


“I know, J.D. Let’s just go up the street to sit and finish our Cokes.”


“Man. I love Coke. You know what would be great? To have a Coke and a hotdog and watch Ernie Banks at Wrigley Field. Pap used to go watch the Cubs all the time. You know, we only lived seven blocks from the ballpark? Of course, I was too little to go to a game then. I barely remember living in Chicago. 


“Guess what?”


“What?”


“Cincinnati is in town next week.”


“I know.”


“Hey, we could go back over to your place and roll the drunks at The Magic Lounge. You’ve been doin’ pretty good making dough pitchin’ pennies with them.”


“I don’t know. If Rosey Mae catches us, Maw will give me the belt.”


“C’mon, chicken. With the money you’ve got, and what we could get today from those old winos, we could go see the Cubs play Cincinnati next week.”


“But the game’s on Wednesday and Thursday.”


“So?”


“What about school? Pap would tan my hide if I was to skip school. You know Rosey Mae would rat me out.”


“Look, your old man ain’t been around for a few days, who knows if he’ll be back by then. Maybe you could bribe Rosey Mae with some of the money?”


“Maybe. She’s a tough cookie, especially if she thinks she can get me in trouble.”


“My old man won’t care. We could say he needs some help with something around the house, and you have to stay the night with me. We could catch the El and ride it into the city and catch the game on Wednesday or Thursday. Man, don’t chicken out on me now. What about the hotdogs, the popcorn, and the Cokes? Don’t you want to see Ernie Banks play?”


“Yeah, I do. Let me think about it. Maw can read me like a book if I ain’t careful. And we definitely can’t let Rosey Mae in on the plan if we can help it. I just need a couple more dollars. I think we can work something out at The Magic Lounge today, since it’s Saturday.”


“All right, let’s go,”


“Okay, we can get our deposits back from these empty bottles. I can’t guarantee how much we’ll make today off those old drunks, I can usually trade money for beer tokens if they got any. They like pitchin’ those because they know I can’t spend them, but they haven’t figured out that I can sell them for half price.”


“Good. Ain’t The Magic Lounge owned by Johnny Paul?”


“Yeah.”


“Have you ever seen him do magic there? I hear he is the king of card tricks.”


“No. Maw don’t like me hanging out around the lounge.”


“How can you help it? You live in the basement for God’s sake!”


“I know, but it ain’t Maw’s choice. She hates it there. She had to go upstairs one time and ask Pap for some money to get some groceries, and she came back crying. I don’t like to see Maw sad.”


“Don’t they have naked dancers there?”


“I’ve heard that.”


“Ever see a naked woman? I bet they go around with their titties out all the time.”


“I ain’t never seen any, but one night, I heard some weird noise behind the lounge. I looked out the window and saw a man and a woman gruntin’ and rubbin’ up against each other. I think they were doing back seat bingo without the back seat.”


“Really? Was she naked?”


“No, she had her dress yanked up, but I couldn’t see nothin’ because the guy was in front of her. Maw must’ve heard it too, because she yelled out her window at them. She told them to go away because she had kids living with her. The woman screamed, the man cussed Maw, and they moved on.”


“Jimmy Paul is really famous, you know. He's on TV. You ever see him on TV?”


“No. All we got is a radio. Pap likes to listen to The Opry, and baseball games, sometimes boxing. Maw listens to Soap Operas sometimes. I listen to The Lone Ranger.”


“High-Ho, Silver!”


“Away!”


“Catch me, Tonto!”


“Stan, wait for me . . . . Don’t run so fast . . . . Make sure Rosey Mae or Maw don’t see you . . . . I’ll catch up . . . .


“You are so slow . . . . Hey, watch out kid! Outta my way . . . . Next stop, The Magic Lounge . . . . It’s about time you got here.


“No fair, man. You’re older and faster.


“Never stopped you before. Where do we start?”


“Okay, Step back here in the alley. The way we play it is that we usually start with five pennies, then move up to five nickels, five dimes, and then five quarters. I’ll dig a hole with a ring around it. Whoever has the most coins in the hole at the end of the round wins the round. If no coins are in the hole at the end of the round, first coin in the hole of the second round wins everything in the ring, then we start over with whatever round we’re on. I usually try to lose the penny round, sometimes the nickel round, but I start taking them on the dimes and quarters. Sometimes we don’t get to quarters.”


“Good. I’ve got the hang of this. Sounds a lot like marbles. I’m pretty good at marbles too.”


“Until you lost all your marbles!”


“Oh, you think you’re so funny, J.D. Use this stick to draw the circle and dig the hole.”


“You and me will start, then I’ll go complain to one of the regulars about how you're taking all of my money. He’ll come to win it back, then I’ll try to get one or two more to pitch with, then we’ll clean them out and go home.”


“Sounds like a plan. I’ve got the pennies.”


“I’ve got a little bit more. While you’re playing with them, I’ll sneak into the apartment and get some more change. You start.”


“Look at that! First two right in the hole.”


“Don’t be too good to start out with. You got to make them think they’ll beat you, after all, you’re just a kid. Yeah, that’s better. Now we’ll switch to nickels. Got it?”


“Yeah, I got it.”


“Be practicing while I go get somebody.”


“Okay. I think I’m going to get pretty good at this . . . . ”


“Hey, J.D. What’s wrong, little man?”


“Hey, Roy Boy. I was pitchin’ with this older kid in the alley, and he took all my money. Maw gave me some grocery money to buy us a few things, and I lost it all.”


“Your dad around?”


“No sir. I ain’t seen him for a few days. My maw is going to tan my hide with a belt.”


“Don’t you worry, I’ll get your money back.”


“Listen, don’t hurt that kid. It’s okay. I’ll think of something.”


“Huh, you know how good I am at pitchin’. I’ll have it back in three shakes of a lamb’s tail, kid.”


“You ain’t been drinkin’ have you?”


“Nah, I just had a few beers. I’m good.”


“I’ve got to go get something out of our apartment. I’ll be right back . . . .”


###


“Wow, J.D., you were right. That’s some of the fastest money I ever made. Let’s split it. Four dollars and sixty cents. That’s enough to get us into Wrigley, plus the money you said you'd saved up.”


“Told you.”


“Deany! What are you doing? You’re not supposed to be hanging out with Stanton! Where did you get all that money? Have you been bumming money off of those drunks again?”


“I’ve gotta split. Talk to you tomorrow, J.D.”


“Mama and me have been looking all over the neighborhood for you. She was supposed to go to the pantry down at the Catholic church because we were completely out of food. All we had was the mustard and saltines we ate for dinner last night. She got there too late because she was looking for you. There wasn’t any food left at the pantry.”


“Where is she now?”


“She’s over in the park, crying her eyes out.”


“I can buy us some food. I’ve got a couple of dollars and some beer tokens, I’ll need to trade them for money somewhere.”


“Come over here . . . . Right now! . . . . Throw those beer tokens here in the storm drain. That’s The Devil’s money!”


“That’s Maw talking.”


“I don’t care. You’re going to do it, or I’ll tell mama what you were doing and that Stan was in on it.”


“Okay. Okay. There. I hope you’re happy.”


“Stick that tongue back in your mouth and don’t get smart with me. We’re going to tell Mama that you have been running errands for Mr. Baczek all week, and he gave you enough money to buy peanut butter, bread, milk, and some eggs. Now come on. Let’s get those groceries and surprise mama. She’s cried enough lately.”


“I’m doing this for Maw, not for you, Rosey Cheeks.”


“Fine.”


“Fine.”

February 24, 2023 15:19

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

25 comments

Glenda Toews
22:25 Jun 08, 2023

Was it difficult to write in this style? I think one would have to think long and hard to pull this off as well as you did. Where the holly heck was your dad and why did you have no food? I realize this was before your time, so why did your family have no food? Strangely I've been reading 'The Pale Face Lie' by David Crow and I had to shake my head to remind myself that JD and Rosey belong to you... David's story skids up beside this one and both are wiggling through the same things. If he can publish... so can you ;P Well Done David. I'm ...

Reply

David Sweet
00:22 Jun 09, 2023

Thank you. My dad, unfortunately, was an alcoholic and would disappear for days, even weeks at a time. My mom didn't work, so she was there with my oldest sister and brother. My mom was a woman of tremendous faith and love. The Magic Lounge, I think, was also a strip club (not 100 percent sure), but they lived in a basement apartment below the club. My mom would sometimes have to go into the club to ask my dad for money to buy food before he drank it all the way. I'm sure in your experience, you have seen too much of that. Well, long story-s...

Reply

Show 0 replies
David Sweet
00:28 Jun 09, 2023

Thank you for your encouragement. Having been a HS theatre director for 21 years (retired last year), I was used to reading just dialogue. It was challenging and fun. Just last week I turned "Cicero '59" into a one act play to submit to a play festival later this year (re-named 'The Magic Lounge.") I am also going to go back and fill in some blanks when I turn it I to a regular short story. In the play, I added additional dialogue. I almost included a scene that would have had my mom going off on my dad for his indiscretions. I was going to ...

Reply

Glenda Toews
01:03 Jun 09, 2023

You're right, I do know a lot about you now :P When you read Spinning on a Barstool, you will know way more than you ever needed to know about me... I'll leave it at that lol. Publishing now a days is fairly easy. Because I wanted to stay as true to my voice with complete control I just self-published, but I did use a company Tellwell, to sort through all the stuff I didn't want to learn. The process was informative and fairly easy. They charge according to word count and offer an month payment. I has worked very well for me. I may use the...

Reply

David Sweet
01:24 Jun 09, 2023

That is good to know about self-publishing. I had a friend who recently self-published, and he could have really benefited from an editor! It did inspire me to write a few things and to look more closely at my own writing. I see you've started a website. I thought about doing that as well, but wasn't sure until I had something worth selling. I am submitting poetry to literary magazines, and also short stories, but I can't submit to most if the short story appears on a website or on something like Reedsy. They consider that as published, whi...

Reply

Glenda Toews
02:30 Jun 09, 2023

Hahaha, I'm sorry about your friend... I wouldn't ever dream about publishing without an editor. Mine was amazing, I felt sorry for her, auto-correct didn't do half the job :P Interesting what you've found out re literary magazines. I expect that each one would desire to have something uniquely for them. I place a 'short story link' on my web page, of course, crediting Reedsy and the prompt for the stories I've contributed there. I think a book of short stories, your family shorts would be particularly amazing for your family...when you n...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
12:37 Apr 24, 2023

Wow, it was fun to read. Great story.

Reply

David Sweet
13:19 Apr 24, 2023

Thank you very much. It was a labor of love for my oldest brother and sister.

Reply

12:03 Apr 26, 2023

Oh great

Reply

12:04 Apr 26, 2023

If only we could be friends I would give my stories to you for editing, because I am not all that good when it comes to English. But I have the idea

Reply

David Sweet
13:17 Apr 26, 2023

I am on social media. On Facebook.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Murray Burns
20:10 Apr 02, 2023

Great story, great dialogue. And the memories! Coke for a dime, deposit on returns, diggin' a hole for marbles, Ernie Banks...I'm guessing you were in the Wrigley Field area. I grew up in the area of Milwaukee...those crazy high school years...believe it or not, we would drive down to Wrigley for a game...mostly to be able to drink beer in the bleachers...if you were old enough to hold a cup, they'd serve you...very nice story

Reply

David Sweet
20:30 Apr 02, 2023

Wow! My mom and Dad and oldest two siblings lived in Chicago and Cicero. The story has truth in it. He did roll drunks for change and my sister made Hon throw it in the sewer. I grew up my whole life in Kentucky. As a kid, I roamed our farm and surrounding hills and river valley. Didn't attend a MLB game until I was an adult.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
KT George
14:39 Mar 26, 2023

The accents were the star of this show for me. I could see this acted out as a screenplay or stage play. I could easily follow all the characters that came in and out of each scene. Fun read.

Reply

David Sweet
15:03 Mar 26, 2023

Thank you so much. I have considered it as a short play for a 10-minute play contest.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Lisa Sweet
01:57 Mar 03, 2023

I really enjoyed reading your story. The dialogue didn't just tell us about the characters; the dialogue fit with the kind of person they are and how they are feeling in that particular moment. I can easily see this performed as a play. I look forward to reading more stories!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Carina Caccia
07:33 Mar 02, 2023

Hi David, I thought I'd return the favour and leave you some feedback, or my interpretation at least. I think your voices are all authentic and the sentences read very smoothly. Well done! At times, however, the dialogue seems to be telling, not showing. An example of this is the sentence explaining their age. This could be incorporated more smoothly or come up in conversation organically. I would also like to be more engaged, but there wasn't any space for me to figure out anything due to the constant explaining. This may just be a differen...

Reply

David Sweet
13:25 Mar 02, 2023

Thank you for your feedback. I will look at ways to do that more organically. It was difficult due to the prompt. I plan to expand this story beyond its current prompt state, so your comments are helpful.

Reply

Carina Caccia
13:28 Mar 02, 2023

That made it all the more fun to write and read! I'm glad. I enjoyed the exchange.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
J. D. Lair
01:35 Feb 27, 2023

This prompt was daunting to me, so I didn’t even try with it, but props to you for doing it well! Dialogue is not my strong suit lol. I read the whole thing with a southern accent in my head and that made it real fun! The story flowed without feeling forced being strictly constrained to dialogue. It was easy to tell when scenes switched and different people entered the story. Definitely enjoyed it. Thanks for writing!

Reply

David Sweet
01:54 Feb 27, 2023

Thank you so much. I have a background in theater, and I think that helped me because I have read so many scripts, and have written a couple. I appreciate you picking up on the dialect. It was an interesting time for my family. This is a story about my oldest brother and sister. My brother passed in January and I wrote it as an homage to him. I grew up in Kentucky. They moved here @1960. I had a completely different life being 17 years younger than him and 19 years younger than my sister. There was a total of six of us.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Viga Boland
23:26 Feb 26, 2023

Hey David…decided to make reading your a priority instead of my overdue book review. Glad I did. I can really sense your theatre background in this, totally see all of this taking place on stage. How wonderful you can make us see all that in a short story. And those backwoods accents…so well done.Love the humour too.

Reply

David Sweet
23:47 Feb 26, 2023

Thank you for your time and attention. This was based on a story my oldest brother used to tell about growing up in Cicero. He passed away in Jan., so I wrote it as an homage to him. I am thinking about turning it into a short play and/or a coventional short story with all the description, etc. I have been working on a series of short stories about my dad when he was a kid. My short story that actually won a Reedsy contest (Southbound) is about my parents.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Timothy Rennels
17:45 Feb 26, 2023

Your dialogue flowed so smoothly that it made me feel like I was right there with them. Cub fan here so the story was even more endearing to me.

Reply

David Sweet
18:01 Feb 26, 2023

Thank you very much. This is a story to honor my oldest brother who passed away in January. It's pieced together from stories he told over the years. It's also connected to my story, "Southbound" which is also posted on my Reedsy page. Thanks for reading.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply