THE SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL IN GARY, INDIANA (1971-1978)
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."