West Side Stories | Essay | Chicago Reader

West Side Stories 

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My father always knew where to get it. There were many bootleggers around the neighborhood.

One day a neighbor woman came running into our house and said, "Mrs. Ryan, I don't know what I'm going to do. I have Patrick's still in my basement. They're expecting a raid over there."

They had moved Patrick's still across the street to her basement, and she was panic-stricken. She said, "What am I going to do? My husband's a policeman."

Ma just said, "I'm glad I don't have those worries."

Later the son of the bootlegger married the daughter of the policeman, and one of her sisters said, "I never thought the outlaws would become our in-laws."

The people next door made it, but I don't think my father ever bought from them.

We had Joe, who was Italian. He made wine. He would come in with a bottle to give my father, and my mother would say, "Joe, he doesn't need that."

He'd say, "Mrs. Ryan, the Lord made wine. He wanted us to drink it."

The people next door, their house was on the back by the alley. So the customers would walk down this long gangway alongside our house. They'd go in the front door and go out the back into the alley.

One day I was on my way home for lunch, and there was one of their cousins passed out in a snowdrift. So I pulled him out of the snow and said, "Come on, you know where you're going." I was sure he was going to freeze to death.

I practically carried him down the street, and then in front of our house he fell in another pile of snow. I said, "Get up. You know where it is." And he got up and went in.

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