he grabs a cab to the east side, hoping to find something before it is too late...
the cab sped on down the boulevard.
there were no other cars in sight, but they started to pass some buildings again. like the ones they had passed earlier, they all looked empty or closed.
“you know, ” terry said, “i could probably find another flower shop for you between here and the east side.”
“that’s all right, ” jerry told her. “i know about this one, so let’s just go there.”
“yes, i’m sure.”
they passed a man wearing a sombrero sitting on the sidewalk. a little further on, a little boy bouncing a basketball.
other than that, no signs of life. jerry wondered where the other flower shops would be, because he did not see any shops of any kind that looked open. but he did not say anything.
“does this take us all the way to the east side?” jerry finally asked.
“it sure does. why, did you want a more scenic route?”
“no, i was just asking.”
“don’t worry, we are almost there.”
they passed a long building that seemed to go on for blocks. there were no lights on in it.
“do you know what’s in that building?’ jerry asked.
“it’s probably empty.”
“what was in it before it was empty? there must have been something.”
“something secret. something they didn’t want you to know about.”
“oh. that explains that.”
“why, do you want to know about stuff they don’t want you to know about?”
“not me. say, can i ask you something?”
“where is everybody?”
“where is everybody? where do you think they are?”
“i don’t know, that’s why i’m asking.”
“i guess you really have been away.”
“yes, i’ve been away. so where is everybody?”
“it’s fight night. it’s the big fight.”
jerry didn’t know what to say to that.
“everybody’s watching the big fight,” terry continued.
“watching it where?”
“well, mostly on their televisions - or some in bars - ones who couldn’t get tickets.”
something stirred in jerry’s brain. a big fight. wouldn’t packy miller - or red fuller or whoever else had been in packy’s gang - be likely to be at such an event?
“must be a really big fight,” he finally said. “i remember fights, i don’t remember any fight that everybody watched.”
terry laughed. “you really don’t know, do you ? i know you been away but - i would have thought you would know wherever you was - especially being an old chicago boy and all.”
jerry was getting a little tired of this, but he wanted to know if red fuller might be at the fight, so he just said, “but i don’t know.”
“chicago jimmy kelly is fighting the chihuahua kid!”
“oh. uh - i guess chicago jimmy kelly is a local boy.”
“ha ha! wow, that is perspicacity at its most audacious! yes, he’s a local boy, and he is undefeated.”
“bully for him.”
“but that isn’t all.”
“what is all?” jerry asked.
“he is just about the prettiest boy in the whole world. not a mark on him after twenty-two fights, twenty won by knockouts. every dame in the universe between 8 and 108 would fight alligators to get at him.”
“sounds like he’s got the world in his pocket. and the chihuahua kid - he’s not so pretty?”
“the chihuahua kid looks like he crawled out of the bottom of satan’s own barbecue pit. but that ain’t the worst thing he got going against him.”
“but what is?”
“he’s managed by mac blackbird!”
the name sounded vaguely familiar to jerry. “so who is the favorite? in the betting, i mean.”
“now that’s a good question,” terry answered. “naturally everybody in chicago likes jimmy. but last i heard it was even money.”
they had finally turned off the boulevard and on to a narrow street of bars, pawn shops, pool halls, and drug stores. some of the bars and a couple of the pawn shops looked open.
jerry did not know what street they were on - he had hardly ever ventured on to the east side, before he joined the space corps.
no sign of a flower shop. they stopped at a red light.
“so,” he asked terry. “if everybody in the city is watching the fight, how come you are not? especially as you seem so enthusiastic.”
“hey, somebody’s got to mind the store. keep the wheels greased.”
the light turned green, and they crossed the intersection. but instead of continuing down the street, terry pulled over beside a dark building.
jerry could barely make out a sign on the building - o’ brien’s funeral home.
terry turned and faced jerry directly.
“you really want to know why i ain’t watching the fight like everybody else?”
“sure. tell me.”
“you think i’m enthusiastic about him, do you? oh, no. because i know - i’m one of the three or four people in the world who knows - what chicago jimmy kelly is really like. what he’s like under that rosy cheeked baby face exterior.”
“and what is he like?”
“he’s nothing but a cheap punk and a mama’s boy. and a rat. you couldn’t trust him not to steal ice cubes at the north pole. and soft. scratch him and nothing would come out but vanilla seltzer water - and air.” terry glared at jerry as if daring him to contradict her. “i’d like nothing better than to bet my life savings on the chihuahua kid, but the fix might be in.”
“that’s all very interesting,” jerry replied. “but - uh - can we get to the flower shop? it’s getting late.”
“oh, yeah, sure.” terry turned back to the wheel. “it’s right around the corner.”
and sure enough it was around the corner. miller’s florist, with a big green sign, the only building on the block taking up taking up the space of two storefronts.
and looking very closed.
“it looks closed,” jerry said.
‘yeah, i could have told you that.” terry looked back at jerry with the hint of a smile. “but you never did ask.”
jerry took a deep breath. “tell me, do you think red fuller and his boys are at the fight?”
“where else would they be?”
“and where exactly is the fight? somewhere here in town?”
“no, it’s in stalingrad.”
“stalingrad,” jerry repeated.
“yeah, all the big fights are in stalingrad these days. or singapore or monte carlo. where the action is.”
jerry looked at the storefront. “so there’s not likely to be anybody inside?’
“oh no, there might be. george the gimp sleeps in the back. he’s always there. maybe he’s listening to the fight on the radio.” terry paused. “but i don’t hear anything. he’s probably asleep.”
“we could wake him up.”
“we could. you must want those flowers real bad.”
“let’s wake him up,” jerry told her.
“you sure? he might not take kindly to it. at all.”
“maybe he’s having a bad dream,” said jerry. “and he will be happy to be woke up.”