Visit our Bookstore
Home | Fiction | Nonfiction | Novels | |
Innisfree Poetry | Enskyment Journal | International | FACEBOOK | Poetry Scams | Stars & Squadrons | Newsletter




St. Nick's Outlaws

By Jim Colombo


Click here to send comments

Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques

Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo


Chapter 33 


It was Ash Wednesday, March 15th, 1963. The students attended mass in the


gym and received ashes on their foreheads. It rained that day and was windy. The


students missed old St. Mary’s but it was nice being inside. During breakfast they


heard that Brother Raymond was leaving Friday afternoon for a weekend retreat at


Mount La Salle. It was rumored that Brother Raymond was going to visit an old friend


who was a Regent. The war with Brother Chicken Shit was growing. Everyone knew


what was happening but Brother Justin. The students could understand why Brother


Justin didn’t appreciating St. Nick’s traditions, but to cut back on education, science


labs, and sports wasn’t fair. Each October the student body had a fund-raising drive.


Every year each home room exceeded their goal. The students weren’t sure if the


problem was Brother Justin or if it was the Regents. Hopefully, Brother Raymond would


clarify the Regents’ position.


Jim stopped at Henry’s drugstore to buy some cold medication for a cold he had


been fighting for two days. He left the drugstore and walked across the street to visit Pete


at the smoke shop. He hadn’t seen Pete in a while, and wanted to say hello. He was


walking in when Jack Clark, Brown, and Balliet were walking out after buying cigarettes.


"Hey man, how ya’ doing?" asked Clark. Brown and Balliet were bodyguards and


never spoke, they would just nod.


"Okay. How’s things with you?" asked Jim.


"We’ve had a few run-ins with the Barts since we last met at the MD dance. We’re


going to rumble next Friday night and I need every man I can get. I’m not asking, I’m telling


ya to be there, the corner of Vicksburg and 23rd at eight o’clock. I got guys from 18th &


Collingwood, the Alley, the Yard, Upper Douglas and you guys from 23rd Street better


show, or I’m gonna come looking for you guys. You dig?" said Clark.


"Yeah, sure, I’ll be there, "said Jim. The reality of what he had agreed to was


starting to sink in--- a rumble next Friday night.


"Catch ya later, man," said Clark.  He shook Jim’s hand to confirm his request. 


They began to walk away almost in slow motion. Balliet and Brown followed Clark.


BANG-BANG-BANG. Three rifle shots went off in rapid fire, Clark was hit first, and


collapsed to a sitting position, then fell backward. He had been shot in the left side of his


head. The bullet exploded on impact, leaving a spray of blood that splattered Pete’s


display window. Balliet had turned when he heard the first shot. The second bullet hit him


with a thud in the forehead. He spun around and hit the sidewalk face first. His body


twitched in spasms. Balliet was on the street side and had shielded Brown. Brown and Jim


turned to run back inside Pete’s smoke shop when the third bullet was fired. It missed


Brown and hit the display window, exploding into tiny flying pieces of glass fragments that


sprayed Brown and Jim on their face and arms.


Brown and Jim heard the sound of burning rubber as the station wagon accelerated


in first and second gear. White smoke escaped from the open rear window of the getaway


car.  The shooter had used a hunting rifle with a clip of six thirty-odd-six hollow point


bullets with magnum loads.


 When Pete approached Brown and Jim they were covered with blood. They looked


bad, but only suffered small cuts. Henry saw everything from the drugstore across the


street, and called the police. He brought his first aid kit to help Brown and Jim.  Jack Clark


and Mike Balliet lay in pools of blood, dead at seventeen. The police arrived quickly with


sirens on and flashing red lights. The Police sealed the area in front of Pete’s smoke


shop. An ambulance arrived and examined Brown and Jim. They were taken to St. Luke’s


Hospital. On the way Brown asked Jim what he had seen. “I thought he saw a gray


Chevrolet station wagon. The shots sounded like they came from a hunting rifle.”


 Brown agreed.


Jim’s mother was preparing dinner when Henry arrived at their home. He told


Mary what had happened and that Jim was okay, but at St. Luke’s Hospital. 


"How can he be okay, if he is at St. Luke’s?" Mary asked hysterically.


"I saw him. Trust me, he’s okay. He wasn’t shot. I’ll drive you there," said Henry.


When Mary and Henry arrived at St. Luke’s hospital, a doctor and a nurse were


attending to Jim. The nurse had washed his face.  He looked better than before.  He


had a few minor cuts on his face and arms. Brown had a few stitches on his face and


minor cuts on his arms. When Mary saw the towels with blood she began to cry. Jim


told her that he was fine. She asked what had happened. He explained that he was at


the wrong place at the wrong time. He told his mother that he wasn’t a member of the


Courts. Henry drove Jim and his mother home. They thanked Henry and he drove back


to the drugstore. Joe arrived at the same time and asked what had happened. Jim told the


same story to his dad that he had told his mother.  He saw that his mother was getting


emotional again and he assured them that it was just bad timing. Jim knew that Lupe and


her mom watched the five o’clock news. It was a couple of minutes after five. He called her


and she was crying. He told her what happened. “I ‘m okay,” he said.  Lupe said that when


she heard the story on television, she became scared.  “I want to see you. I need you.”


 Before Jim could answer her, she  said, "I’ll be right over."


 "No, I will come and see you. I am OK."


"Please hurry." said Lupe.


Mary was too shook up to finish cooking dinner. Jim said that he wasn’t hungry.  He


wanted to see Lupe, and reassure her that all was well. Jim’s father called Toto’s Pizza


and ordered a large combination. Joe sat with Mary and tried to comfort her.  Mary had a


prescription for tranquilizers and took one. Joe had a healthy shot of Old Crow whiskey.


Jim hugged and kissed his parents and said, "I’ll be back in a couple of hours."


Jim began walking up Sanchez Street hill and realized that he had kissed his


father. Jim knew that his father loved him, but they rarely showed affection to one


another. Typically they shook hands. Since Jim knew Lupe, he was more affectionate


to his parents. Jim started to think about what had happened. Jack Clark was dead. For


sure there will be a rumble Friday night. He thought, "Should I go? What would I tell


Lupe and my parents if something happened to me? If I don't go, I’ll be labeled as


chicken shit." The Barts had jumped him twice, and he wanted revenge. The Barts were


starting to move up to Dolores and Guerrero streets. Lupe lived on the border of Bart


turf on Liberty and Guerrero.


Jim knocked on Lupe’s door, and heard her run to answer the door. She opened


the door and began to cry when she saw him. "I’m okay," he said.


"What were you doing there?"


"I went to visit Pete at the smoke shop, and ran into Clark and the others. I am


not a member of their gang. They weren’t shooting at me."


"On the news they said two were dead, and two were seriously wounded. They


showed the two body bags. It was awful."


It upset Jim that his parents and Lupe were exposed to the tragedy.  He


imagined what tomorrow would be like at school.  Rosa approached Jim and held


the crucifix in her hand. She kissed it and said in Spanish, "Thank you Jesus."


"See. I told you the cross will protect you," said Lupe.


Jim didn’t want to argue with fate. He didn’t appreciate the notoriety that he had


received. He was trying to think how he could explain Friday night to Lupe. Any way that


he tried to explain it to her would upset her. If he didn’t explain it to her and if he got hurt,


how could he explain that to her and his parents?  Part of him said, "Don’t go." A big part


of him said, "Go." If he didn’t go, how could he face Papas and the guys in the Alley or the


Yard? Jim figured that some day the Barts would challenge him. He and Lupe went to


Mission Street often. He wouldn’t want to be challenged with her present.


The next day at school everyone knew what had happened to Jim. He had to


report to Brother Justin, and explained that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.


He wasn’t a gang member. Brother Justin seemed more concerned about the image of


St, Nick’s. Jim asked if Brother Justin wasn’t concerned about him, then why did he want


to see him?


"You see, James, next month is placement testing. Do you have any idea how


many students may not apply to St. Nick’s because of this incident? Do I make myself


clear, James?"


Jim gave  Brother Chicken Shit a cold stare, "I’m sorry about the bad timing, and I


am sure that the two dead gang members are also sorry. The next time they have a


shooting, I’ll make sure that I’m not there. May I go?"


"Why do you have such resentment of authority?  Why are you so sarcastic?"


"Maybe it is who I am after eleven years of Catholic education."


"That’s enough. I will not tolerate your attitude. Maybe a week in jug might improve


your attitude."


Jim looked eye to eye with Brother Chicken Shit with no emotion. He wouldn’t give


him the satisfaction of fear and intimidation. There was a moment of silence, then Brother


Justin replied, " Do you hate me that much?"


"No Brother."


Brother Justin got up close to Jim and said, " If you don’t hate me, then why are


so sarcastic with your reply?"


 “I thought that I was being honest.”  


"I don’t like you Ciaffi. Your on my list.  You may go."


Jim turned a opened the door to leave the office.


"One more thing Ciaffi, you should thank God that he spared you. Instead of a week


in jug, you will spend an hour a day for the rest of the week in the Brother’s chapel praying


for forgiveness. You will meet Brother Raymond here at 2:30. He will take you to the


chapel and return in one hour."


"Thank you, Brother Justin."  Jim went to Algebra class.


While Jim walked back to class he thought, "How could a God of love allow


tragedies to happen all of the time. How could a benevolent father create mankind, and


at will create suffering and tragedy. Jim felt very uncomfortable saying thank you to God


for taking Clark and Balliet, and sparing him. The Brothers had too many flaws in their


logic. Jim listened to his conscience, and his beliefs . The love Jim received from Lupe was


true. The feeling he had when he followed his conscience was good. Was there really a


God or was Lupe’s love as good as it gets.  He had more question with no answers.


Jim spent his one-hour of prayer for the week. Then he went to visit Lupe at home. 


He said that he was sorry for not meeting her at Mission Dolores and explained that he


had to spend an hour in chapel. He asked her to walk with him to the park. He had


something that he had to tell her. As they walked to the park, Lupe’s became concerned


about what Jim had to say. They sat on a bench and Lupe couldn’t look at Jim.  “Friday


night I’ll be going with Papas to the funeral for Clark.


Lupe raised her head,  “I understand. I  heard about a rumble Friday night on


Vicksburg Street.  You’re going, aren’t you?"  Her look of concern turned to tears.


"I could lie to you today and hope that you wouldn’t find out. I am being honest


with you. Yes, I’m going with Papas, and the guys from the Alley. It is a matter of honor."


Lupe was mad, and said in a loud voice  "You're crazy,"  She wiped away her tears


with her hand.


"No I’m not. Do you remember how we met, a fight at MD? I have been hurt more


playing football than the times I was jumped by Barts. I have to do this. I love you very


much. You have to trust me. Remember, I have the crucifix. I will call you Friday night


from the mortuary." 


It bothered Jim to see her cry, and said he was sorry.  Lupe hugged him and


gradually stopped crying.


She rubbed her eyes and said, "I loved you very much. Some times I think I love


too much. I love you more than you love me. You are the sunshine in my day, (she paused


to wipe away a tear) the happiness in my life, and I thank God each day that I know you."


"I may not express my love to you as well as you do. I may not show my love to


you as much as you do. Believe this, I love you very much. You are my soul. Without


you, I am lost."


"You guys are going to fight, and then go to the funeral? I don’t understand."


“Right or wrong It has to be done.  This is one of those times when it is neither.”


  Friday during school Jim kept wondering if he was doing the right thing. On the


way home he saw Papas get on the J Church. They sat in the back of the bus. Papas


asked, "Are going tonight?"




"Stay close to me. We will watch each other’s back. They are going to come with


knives, chains, and baseball bats."


"They’re chicken shit assholes," said Jim, recalling the times he was jumped by




"Cool it, man. We’re not going there to crack skulls; just think of it as playing


football on defense."


They sat in silence the rest of the way. Before Papas got off the bus he said,


"Meet me at the Alley, seven-thirty."


"Okay. I’ll be there."


Jim knew that his parents would find out about the fight on Vicksburg Street.


There were no secrets in Noe Valley. Like Papas said, it would be like playing defense.


Jim told his parents that he was going to the wake for Clark and Balliet at Brennen’s


Mortuary on 19th and Dolores Streets. Later he would see Lupe, and get home about ten.


Jim was dressed for a funeral.  He had a change of grub clothes in a brown paper


bag hid in the bushes by Mrs. Fox’s home.  Papas and the guys from the Alley were there


when Jim arrived. He changed into his grub clothes and put the good clothes in the bag


alongside the other bags of clothes.


Webber was the leader of the Courts now. He sent Vilatore to get the guys from


the Alley. Behind Vicksburg is an alley called Blanche. The Courts would be on one side


of Vicksburg Street and the Barts would lined up on the other side. The Barts hated the


Courts, so they brought another rival gang called the Shoes. They wore white shoes, and


were a combination of Puerto Rican and Filipino.  Typically the Barts and Shoes weren’t


allies, but this wasn’t typical. There was about seventy-five Barts in black pants and Shoes


wearing white shoes, and about fifty Courts. Words were exchanged and Weber led the


charge. The Barts ran to the middle of the street to kick ass. Then forty more Courts came


from Blanche Street and circled the Barts and the Shoes. Some of the Barts had knives


and waved them challenging the Courts to fight. Webber and the first wave of guys kicked


ass and cut up some of the Barts. The Barts leader was slashed three times by Webber.


The Courts didn’t bring knives or chains. They took what the Barts and Shoes had.


Papas and Jim stood side by side.  A Bart came after Papas with a baseball bat.


He missed and Papas wrestled the bat away from the Bart and bashed his right knee. The


Bart hit the ground in pain. Jim shoved off a couple of Barts. Then one guy came after Jim


with a chain. The Bart swung and missed. Jim tackled the Bart to the ground. He grabbed


the Barts hand and took the chain away. Jim swung the chain at the Barts' knees and


yanked it. The Bart fell to the ground in pain.  He tried to get up, but couldn’t.  Papas had


said, "Don’t to look into their eyes, they’re faceless punks." Jim saw the look of pain in


the Barts eyes.


The fight was a crowd of bodies getting bashed and clubbed, stepping on guys that


had fallen. The circle became smaller and the Barts and Shoes were dropping fast. Papas


and Jim did not pursue the crowd. They stood and watched the Courts maintain their


vicious reputation.  Webber personally beat the shit out of their leader, and two others. The


fight lasted about ten minutes until a neighbor yelled, "I’ve called the cops."


The Courts left the Barts and Shoes lying on Vicksburg street. The police came and


called for ambulances. The Barts shouldn't  have brought baseball bats. After the fight all


of the guys met at Edison schoolyard. Webber personally thanked each guy.


"All of you guys are Courts now. All of you guys will be respected and feared as


one of us. We’re no longer rival gangs. We’re one gang now. I know each of you. Thanks


for helping us tonight," said Weber.


Jim looked at Papas, and they wondered if this was reward or punishment. It would


be a while before the Barts would take on the Courts again.


"Now let’s go and pay our respects to Jack and Mike," said Webber.


Papas and Jim went back to the Alley and changed their clothes. Weber and the


others did not care that they looked like hell after the fight. When Jim arrived at the


mortuary, he called Lupe.  "I’m not hurt. It did not last long. I will see you in half an


hour." Lupe did not say a word and hung up the phone. Papas and Jim followed the


Courts to the caskets.  Clark’s and Balliet’s families were dressed in black. The men sat


stoically. The women cried. The caskets were closed. Webber leaned close to Jack’s


casket and whispered, "We kicked their asses, Jack. I got Valdez. We’ll catch ya later."


Papas and Jim gave their condolences to each family and left.


"We’re ya going?" asked Papas.


"I’m going to see Lupe.”


"She knows about tonight?"


"Yeah, she knows."


"You got a hell of a woman, Jim. See you later." 


"Thanks. See you later."


Jim spent a few minutes with Lupe to assure her that he was okay.  It was late and


he kissed her good night. Jim walked home.


The Saturday morning newspaper had a story on page one about a gang war.


Jim’s parents asked him about the story. Jim asked, "Did it say who the gangs were?"


"Yeah, the local gang here,  and a gang from lower Mission. Were you there?"


asked Joe.


"I was at the mortuary with Papas. If I had been in a fight my clothes would be


ripped and I would look beat-up," said Jim.


Jim’s father continued to read the newspaper, and Mary washed the breakfast


dishes. The subject was forgotten.


The week ended and so did Jim’s notoriety. He went to school Monday as just


one of the guys. Jim passed Brother Justin in the hall while going to History class. He


asked, "How was the attendance for registration for the placement test?" Brother Justin


ignored Jim. Jim wondered how Brother Raymond’s meeting went with his old friend.






More next week...