Back in Chicago

The Everly apartment in Chicago. 1943.

Margaret is frantic. “Phil! Phil! Where is my baby? Oh, my lord, where is my baby?”

Devil Don is sitting at a small table in the kitchen area of the family’s efficiency apartment. He looks out the window at a Handmaiden standing on the sidewalk three stories below. She is pointing an index finger upward. “I think he is on the roof, Mama,” Devil Don says calmly, redirecting his attention to a drawing of a horse he is making on a brown paper grocery bag. He is using St. Phil’s favorite red crayon.

“Don’t be ridiculous. How could he get on the roof? He’s too little to climb all those stairs.”

“Mama, he flew up there. He thinks he’s in trouble, and he won’t come back until you’re worried enough to forgive him.”

Margaret glares at Devil Don. “What have you done with your poor brother? Did you take him up there?”

“How would I get him up there, Mama? He can fly. I can’t.”

“You stay right here, you understand? I’m going to the roof to get him.” Margaret has her hand on the doorknob, but she halts when Devil Don speaks again.

“If you go up there, he’ll just fly to another rooftop.”

Margaret suspects that this is the truth. She wrings her hands and looks around helplessly. “How could such a sweet child think I would be angry at anything he could do? What’s the problem?”

“He flew our tap shoes a couple blocks away and threw them in a garbage can. He doesn’t like to dance.”

“WHAT? Did you put him up to that? Do you know how many ration coupons I traded for those shoes?”

Devil Don doesn’t know. Rationing and all that sort of stuff are adult subjects, like the war and how babies are made. Once, when he asked why they couldn’t take St. Phil to the hospital where they bought him and exchange him for a girl, one of his teenaged Handmaidens explained about babies. But nobody explained the war or rationing.

“Mama, I like to dance. I said I wanted to keep my shoes, but Phil said you’d just make us share them, and we’d each have to dance on one foot.”


“I still think it was your idea.”


“It was bad. My baby doesn’t do bad things.”

The Handmaidens are changing shifts and stop to whisper to each other. One of the new pair, who are identical twins, kisses Devil Don on the top of his head. “Hey, Curly, Gina and I will take turns giving you piggyback rides up the stairs if you think you can convince him to come back with us.”

Devil Don indicates that he is agreeable, so Gina addresses Margaret. “You can come along and wait on the stairs so that you can carry your baby back down.”

Margaret always preferred to be the one giving directions. “Coming down is easier than going up. Couldn’t you two each carry one of the boys back down?”

The Handmaidens reply in unison. “No.” 

Everyone sets off for the stairwell, although Margaret lags behind a step to lock the door to the efficiency apartment. Maria has Devil Don on her back, and the sisters and their charge are singing a Neapolitan song. As they reach the roof, Gina looks back to remind Margaret to keep her distance.

They find St. Phil sunning himself on the roof. He is barefoot, his sandals on his lap. In one hand, he is twirling his halo. When he realizes he has company, he quickly stubs out his Marlboro. “How mad is Mama?” he asks.

“Could be a lot worse,” Devil Don replies. “She’s trying to figure out how to pin it on me. But Ike is playing a honky tonk tonight, and I am going to have spaghetti with the twins, so you will have Mama to yourself. Just sing really, really sweet to her, and you’ve got it made. Come on. She’s a sucker for you in that stupid dress.”

“It’s a robe, like in the pictures at church.”

Gina kneels so that Devil Don can climb on her back.

“Hey,” St. Phil begins, looking at Maria.

“Not a chance,” Maria responds, pointing to the door. “But your mother is on the stairs. She can carry you.”

St. Phil thinks it over. “Tell her I’ll be home in fifteen minutes, and tell her to open the window.”