Johnathon was the leader of our little crew of art major weed heads. In high school we'd always come into the city and go to our buddy Paul's Uncle, who sold weed and ran a sleazy bar and the game store. They were joined by a door. On one side all us kids were smoking weed and playing d and d, on the other-side, in the bar's perpetual dimness, neighborhood drunks sat around drinking.
Wicker Park was a fairly rough neighborhood back then -- at least there were a lot of druggies and muggers and gang bangers. We were suburban kids and missed most of the gritty side of the streets. We just came in on the el train, got off at our stop, traveled down the metal stairs -- which always stank of urine and sometimes even worse, walked the half bloke to the game store and settled in for the night in the back room, where there were comfortable chairs, barroom snacks like potato chips and beef jerky and all the pop we wanted and even blankets and a couple couches for crashers.
The day Johnathon went away, we were on our way home, making the short walk from Uncle Paul's game store, trying to catch the blue line to ride the loud, sparking rails back home. Around 4:00 am on a Saturday night and the bars were all letting out; people were walking here and there toward their cars or their houses. The gang bangers, mexican kids, came walking down the sidewalk toward us and Jimmy was talking on about something and didn't notice that they were taking up the whole sidewalk and slammed right into them. The rest of us had to kind of step off the sidewalk when we saw these guys because they were all wearing red bandana's and had the air of being dangerously shit-faced, talking loud in mexican about something or another that had pissed them off.
Jimmy just kind of muttered, "Excuse me," and kept walking and talking about a painting that he was working on, like he had been for the last twenty minutes non-stop with the ferverish energy that earned him his nickname -- Cassidy, as in Neal, the Kerouc muse who used speed to chatter on all night long in On The Road.
The banger who grabbed Jimmy was about 5 nine and barrel chested, muscular dude, had tattoos all up his arm, the amatuer india ink ones that you see on a lot of ex-cons. The only one I remember was 'mom.' There was no fight in Jimmy. He kind of blocked the punch and ran toward the el', yelling at the rest of us, "Come on." The rest of us reacted slower. I kind got ready to defend myself. I had boxed for a few years and worked out with weights and kind of looked at fighting as dangerous and fun-seeming. Up to then, I had won the few fights I was in without getting hurt.
Johnathon first started running with the others, then came back when he saw
all three of them attacking me. Two were trying to get my arms while the other one was throwing punches. Johnathon ran up and just slammed his body into them as hard as he could, knocking them off me.
I had room to throw a punch then and slammed a round house to a guy a head shorter than me, putting him down. Then a gun came out. The air changed. Everything was moving slow and deliberate and was drenched in meaning. Serious. More serious than any of us had ever had to be.
Johnathon surprised the guy by just turning to him and grabbing the arm with the gun. ThE drunken banger dropped the gun and Johnathon let go of him and caught it before it could hit the ground, a black metal .38.
The two who were still standing jumped on Johnathon, knocking him down onto the sidewalk. As they started trying to kick him, he laid there on his back aiming up at them. He actually took a couple kicks before he fired again. This time one of the mexican's necks exploded with blood. The artery was torn through, pumping out red in great squirts as he stumbled back into a car dumbstruck. The next bullet hit the othr kid in the heart, instantly killing Juan Arthur Fuentes, age seventeen.
12 years later, when Johnathon came home from Marion Penetentiary, Uncle Paulie had died and Paulie jr. had inhereited the corner property, complete with two apartments up stairs and a thriving weed business. We were all living together at the time, in a studion/loft that was way small for us and all the animals, and just kind of quit paying our rent and moved into Uncle Paulie's apartment and kept the guy who was renting the other, a retired drunk who spent his days in the bar.