Monday, September 1, 2014

Joseph S. Pete


The first Saturday Night Special I ever saw I first felt.
The tall man jabbed a .38 snub nose revolver into my back,
pricked the valley between my angular shoulder blades with the cold barrel,
while I was collecting money on the paper route I pedaled before every sunrise.
He shoved me down to the sidewalk, drove his steel toe into my ribs a few times,
stomped the flat of his sole into the back of my head, knocked out my front teeth.
If I moved I died, he snarled.
For minutes, maybe hours, I hugged the sidewalk, expecting a bullet in my back
the first time I flinched, any second now.
He made away with $26, which came out of my pocket.
That was last time I rode that newspaper route or biked through Glen Park.
The second time I saw a Saturday Night Special, a few years later.
My high school self had been swilling skunky Old Style in a corner tavern
with a fake ID I bought in shop class.
Dank-breathed, swimming in a beer buzz,
I stumbled out into the alley, beelined to my car.
A darting foot stopped the door from closing, a pistol poked in.
A hand snatched my shoulder, and I was rolling out on the pavement.
"Gimme your money!" he screamed.
The next day, I found my forsaken wallet forlorn in the alley,
missing the few crumpled bills that remained after a night of revelry.
The third Saturday Night Special I saw was thrust right between my eyes
while I was cashiering at a service station on Broadway
down by Merrillville,
where all the union steelworkers fled to as the city hollowed out.
The cash register rang.
I grabbed all the bills—crisp, wrinkled, even torn—and tossed them up in the air.
When he hunched to gather them, I ran out the door and into the dark starry moonlit night.
I ran and ran, shedding my polo shirt with the gas station logo embroidered on the chest.
I ran all the way to a nearby rural town with few residents,
fewer crimes and an annual pork festival.
The fourth Saturday Night Special I ever saw I bought from a gun store
where the men were rumpled, unshaven, reeking of stale cigarette smoke, in baseball caps,
unmolested by higher education.
The piece sat untouched in a box in my hall closet for decades.
The last Saturday Night Special I ever saw was buried in a lonely shoebox.

Joseph reads "The Saturday Night Special in Gary, Indiana":

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Joseph confesses: "This poem was inspired by an anecdote I came across in Indiana University Northwest’s Steel Shavings magazine, which reminded me of when my aunt was mugged at a school bus stop, an incident that drove my family out of Gary after three generations were raised there."

JOSEPH S. PETE is an Iraq War veteran, a Peter Lisagor Award-winning journalist and a runner-up in the poetry category of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Art Contest. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Defenestration, Dogzplot, Flying Island, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Modern Drunkard, Paragraph Planet, Postcard Shorts and Yankee Pot Roast, among others. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father all lived in Gary, but his family fled along with so many others. He still lives in Northwest Indiana, a barnacle on Chicago's hull, as Jean Shepherd put it. He once won a calculator in a circus raffle.

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