Sloshing through the dirty snow on the mean streets of Chicago...
He walked for miles, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth.
He walked erect, proud, with a purpose.
All who observed his gait, knew that he had meaning in his step.
He pressed on through all the shit that life had in store for him.
He worked crummy factory jobs.
He sweat in the steel mills on the southeast side.
For a while, he drove a beer truck for Al Capone.
His route included designated spekeasies in Joliet, Illinois.
He tended bar in cesspools, where tough guys hung out.
He knew dirty, smoky rooms.
He knew rooms which harbored lost souls.
The dregs, the kegs...
Were his for the taking.
So were the women.
He was dapper.
He was a dancer.
He was a lady's man, who loved to play the horses.
He sat at card games in Cicero, Illinois...two-or-three days at a stretch.
His three-day benders, were fueled by Seagram's VO and Chesterfield cigarettes.
He knew the jockeys.
He knew the bookmakers.
He knew the hookers, the politicians, the attorneys...
And the union business agents.
He gave his old suits, ties, shoes, and jewelry to old black men...
Who washed dishes or slung hash in kitchens...
Or in backrooms of bars where he worked.
He never thought he was above any other man.
He had no unique qualities or aspirations.
He loved to laugh.
He was well liked by his friends, and acquaintances.
He love to drink and dance.
Often, he fell asleep with his head down on a bar.
His drinking lost him many a job, but he always managed to find another one.
His family feared being put out on the street...but the old man always came through...
In the pinch.
He and his wife raised two sons and a daughter.
He never raised a hand to any of them.
He was partial to his little girl.
She was his little angel.
He taught his boys to box.
He taught them the rules men had to learn to exist on the street.
He was a 'terrier', a street tough, who expected no less from his sons.
He had a reputation.
He could be a vicious man if he was crossed.
He worked till he could no longer stand on his feet.
He lost both legs to diabetes...
He never complained.
He was cut from some rugged cloth...
This old man.
He had a horrible toothache one day.
He dispatched his youngest son to bring him a fifth of VO...
A clean towel, and a pair of pliers were also needed for the task.
The old man drank half of the whiskey...
And when properly anesthetized, he began wiggling the bad tooth with the pliers.
He sat in his chair...
Watching a White Sox game,
With a towel tucked under his chin.
He finally worked the rotten tooth out of his head.
He went to the bathroom and rinsed his mouth out...
With warm saltwater.
He held the towel to the wound until the bleeding stopped.
He finished watching the ballgame, and the rest of the fifth.
He packed some gauze in his bleeding gum.
He went into his bedroom and set his alarm clock.
He hugged his little boy and said,
"Well son, I better get some sleep. I have to tend bar tonight."
"Tell Mom, I'll see her at dinner time."
The little boy smiled in amazement at his dad.
He hugged the old man tightly.
They both smiled broadly at one another.
I was the little boy.
He was my 'old man'.
from: Chicago Stories and Other Thoughts form a Working Class Guy...available on Amazon.com