Monday, February 13, 2006


In Which A New Saint is Canonized...

My other favorite tale from the Irish wake after my grandfather's funeral comes from Johnny.

In the late 1930s, my grandfather, then a young man, found Johnny sleeping in a crate in an alley in South Boston. The boy was an orphan. His father killed himself after the stock market crash and his mother had just died of pneumonia. Papa got him a place to stay, either in the basement of the rectory or at the Boy's Club (after half a bottle of whiskey, Johnny himself was hazy on this point), but he spent most of his time at Papa's house, where he was fed and clothed and generally doted on by my great-grandmother and great-aunt Helen.

After high school, Johnny went into the service and saw combat in Korea. When he came home, the only person who met him at the train station was Papa, who also got him a job tending bar where he worked. They worked side-by-side for almost 30 years and had many adventures together, but Johnny's favorite story about his "big brutha Jimmy" was one my grandfather never really wanted him to tell:

Oh Jesus let me think. This was in the 70s. Mebbe 75 or 6. You and your brother were still little anyway. Jim and I were working nights at the bar. And they had this parking garage next to the hotel, fairly new, but not well-lit. Lotta dark corners, you know, and it became a good place for a lotta riff-raff--druggies and vagrants and such--to hang out and sleep or what-not.

Then a couple of the girls who worked in housekeeping got mugged. And the hotel, they got some extra security guys to patrol the garage, but that was a joke. These guys were ex-cops doing strictly day-shift stuff, and all the crime was happening at night.

Well, Jim didn't want any of the bar or wait staff going home alone so he worked out this schedule so that someone--either me or one of the big fellas that worked in the back--could walk the girls to their cars at night. Some nights he did it himself. Jim was a real gentleman like that. Always looking out for his own. And you know? None of our people got mugged after that.

So things had quieted down after a while and one night Jim and I closed up and headed out to the garage. My car was in the shop and he was giving me a ride home. We took the elevator down because he was parked below street level. And the lower floors were really dark.

We get off the elevator and there's three guys there, looked like they was waiting for the elevator. All pretty well dressed--not in suits or anything, but you know, they didn't look like vagrants. One guy was huge--taller than Jim and he was a big man--and very polite. All "good evening" and "how ya doin'" and what-not.

So they go to get on the elevator and we start walking to the car, when one of the guys says to Jim, "Hey, buddy, gotta light?" I was already halfway to the car when he called out. Jim was a step or two behind me, closer to the elevators. One of the guys was holding the elevator doors open and the other was standing next to the big guy.

The guy next to the big fella, he's got a hand in his pocket, like he's fishing for his pack of smokes. Or something. But none of 'em is actually holding a cigarette

Jim said later that's what he noticed. He was a very sharp guy, your grandfather. Grew up on the streets of Southie, you know, got into a lotta fights. We all did. And you got street-wise, growing up like that. But that man, he had a sixth sense. Swear to God.

Anyway, Jim looks at him. Guy asks again. "Gotta light?"

Then Jim smiles and says, "Sure." He walks over to the guy and takes his hand out of his car coat.

Only Jim hasn't got a lighter.

He's got a sap.

You know what that is? It's like a little leather sock with a lead weight in it. It's like a little club. And Jim, he was, what? Almost 60 years old back then, but he was a fackin' blur. All I saw was a wave of his hand and you could hear the thud when he hit the guy. Jim went for the big guy first--always take down the biggest one first--caught him just above his temple, wonder Jim didn't kill him. That big facka never knew what hit him. Dropped like a stone.

The guy in the elevator, he jumps in and lets the door close and he's gone, leaving the little shit with his hand in his pocket. And Jim says, "Donchoo fackin' try it!" But I guess the guy did something Jim didn't like, because he swings the sap at this guy, nails him in the elbow. Guy starts screaming like a girl. He starts to run but Jim grabs him by the pant-leg and pulls, knocks him down and steps on the guy's neck. Guy tries to grab Jim's foot, twist him off but Jim yells "Move a gawddamned muscle and I'll crush ya fackin' windpipe!" Guy's laying there, choking. But he stops moving real quick.

By this time, I'm running back, you know, saying, like, "What the fack you doin' Jim?" I mean, these were well-dressed guys, could have been guests at the hotel for all I knew. But Jim tells me to empty the little shit's pockets.

Guy has a switchblade on him.

And three wallets, and a lady's money purse, you know, like she might have in her handbag? And I'm saying, "Jesus Jim, you caught the fackin' muggers!" And he has me go through the pockets of the big guy. That fella has a knife, too, and a wad of money as big as a fist.

So I'm holding these knives and all this money and saying, "Facrissakes Jim, we gotta call the cops."

And he says, "Fahget it! I'm not getting' involved with the fackin' Filth. Money'd end up linin' their pockets. I got a different idea!"

Well Jim didn't say nothing to him but when the little shit hears this, he gets the idea that Jim is just gonna put his weight down on that foot and kill him and he starts begging, "Don't kill me! Don't kill me!"

And Jim says, "You fackin' pieceashit I evah see you near this place again, I WILL fackin' kill ya and you'll nevah see it comin'!" And he kind of grinds his foot a little bit, making the little shit gag. Then he lets him go. I never saw anybody run so fast.

And we never saw any of those guys again.

Then Jim grabs me and we run to his car, leaving the big guy out cold on the concrete. And this was before security cameras and what-not so nobody saw anything.

So we get out on the boulevard and drive a few blocks, then Jim pulls over and says, "Let's have a look."

Because I'm still holding the knives and the money.

Jim looks through the wallets. All but one of em has ID--driver's licenses, one of the wallets had a paycheck in it. No money in any of them.

We count out the wad of cash. Close to a thousand dollars. It was like we hit the sweepstakes. I thought he was gonna keep it, but when I say this he looks at me and says, "Hellzamattah with ya, Johnny? I'm not gonna keep gawdamned blood money." He has me get rid of the knives and put the wallet with no ID in the incinerator when I get home.

So you know what he does with the money?

He puts about a hundred bucks in each of the wallets that had an ID or address with it and next day he put em in some big envelopes and mailed em back to the victims--no return address. Paid the postage himself.

The rest of the cash--still hadda be over 500 bucks--he slipped into the collection plate at Sunday Mass. I was sitting across the aisle and saw him do it, and he just turned and gave me a wink.

He wouldn't let me tell people for years. He didn't want any credit or attention. I tell ya, a thousand dollars was a lot of money back then. Hell, it's still a good piece of change. If it had been me, I might have kept it.

But not your grandfather.

There's a lotta men in this town that are tough and can take on a fella that attacks him, but not many would take on three guys and then have the character or what-not to mug the muggers and give back the money they stole. He was like Robin Hood, you know?

Nah, he was better than that.

Man was a fackin' saint, is what he was.

Amen to that, Johnny. Amen to that.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Excuse me, but Johnny Mahoney told me that story. You were just eavedropping. Papa called that sap his "little billy club." I know, because he gave it to me a few years back.

It's actualy more like a bag of buckshot than one big lead pellet. It's like the world's deadliest beanbag. It's old. Probaby don't make em anymore. And I think it's highly illegal as concealed weapons go.

But it still works pretty good. Doesn't it, ass-wipe? You oughtta know firsthand.

(This is why he never asks me to write a guest-blog, folks).

What Heather said.

BB - ROTFLMFAO. Do tell.
That sounds like you all over. Well, maybe not the beating part, but the money part.

And oh I think a little BB guest-blogging would be just the ticket. Or maybe he should just get his own... :)
My Dad used to have one of those, from when he worked as a guard at Charles Street. One day, when I was a little kid, I picked it up from off of his dresser and sort of slapped it into the palm of my opposite hand. OUCH! My hand was sore for a couple days. I can imagine the whallop it would pack if used with all of your force.
So now you have to tell us the story of your firsthand account with the sap. Or maybe your brother should tell it. I'm sure it's priceless.
I just had a flash of Father Magazine Man teaching Sunday School, telling this story to the kids. I will certainly retell it to my children.
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