Next day half a dozen of them came, Al included, and I told him what happened. He called Guzik over to him. "What do you mean treating the Kid here like that?" Guzik said—I'll never forget it, of all the dumb alibis!—he said: "The Kid gave me a bum steer." Al moved in closer, scowling. "Why ask a boy? You're a grown man, ain't you? Besides, you never paid him. Pay him now." So Guzik pulled out his wallet and took $1 from it. "I said pay him!" Al shouted in his fat face, and he grabbed the wallet, removed two $10 bills, handed them to me, and threw the wallet at Guzik's feet. Guzik picked it up and waddled away without a word.
They all carried hip flasks and kept swigging as they went along.
When they got high, there'd be some pretty wild clowning. They'd play
leapfrog, turn somersaults, walk on their hands. There was a crazy
game Al called Blind Robin. One guy would stretch out flat on his
back, shut his eyes tight, and let the others tee off from his chin.
They used a putter and swung slow and careful. Otherwise they would
have smashed the guy's face. On the putting greens they'd throw down
their pistol holders—clunk—and hold a wrestling match. I kept
busy picking up the stuff that dropped out of their pockets—flasks,
cigars, bills and change. They made an awful mess of the greens,
digging up the grass with their knees and elbows. But there was never
a peep out of the management. As soon as they left, the maintenance
crew would head for the damaged area with wheelbarrows full of sod.
During a match the drunker they got the more they cheated and the
more they caught each other at it. One time when Burke tried to sneak
a better lie he and McGurn fought about the bloodiest fight I ever
saw in or out of the prize ring. None of the gang tried to stop them.
They just made a circle around them, laughing and cheering. A big
crowd of golfers gathered, too, but they didn't make a sound. They
seemed hypnotized. I got the feeling they were scared that if they
said or did anything the gang would turn on them. It lasted about
half an hour. Burke knocked McGurn off his feet a couple of times,
but he came up quick. He'd been a prizefighter in his younger days
and Burke was no match for him. Pretty soon the Killer had blood
streaming from his nose, turning his white sport shirt red. One of
his eyes closed completely. McGurn knocked him down 10, maybe 12
times, and at last he stayed down. I figured he might be dead. Banjo
Eyes threw a pail of water over him. It had no effect. There happened
to be a doctor in the crowd who finally brought Burke around. "Don't
talk," he warned him. "Some of your teeth are loose, but
you'll be all right after you see a dentist." Burke tried
getting up by himself, but he couldn't stand. The boys made a
stretcher with their hands and carried him to the clubhouse.
Besides Capone and Guzik that one time, the only other gangster I
ever caddied for was Burke. When he played golf, the course looked
like some farmer had plowed it—divots as big as your hand wherever
he had taken a swipe at the ball. He was usually in the company of a
peroxide blonde. She didn't play. She just walked along beside him.
One time, after they'd emptied his flask, they disappeared behind a
bunker. They were gone about 10 minutes and when they came back the
blonde's dress had grass stains all over it. I was 10 at the time and
I couldn't figure out what they'd been up to.
I learned the facts of life before I was too much older from Al
and his boys. One afternoon on the links they kept talking about some
kind of party they were going to throw at the clubhouse that night.
An orgy, they called it. I'd never heard the word before and I was
burning with curiosity. So after supper I went back to the clubhouse.
The bouncer at the door laughed fit to bust when I asked to join Al's
party. "Better go home and get your diapers changed," he
said. I pretended to go but instead sneaked around to the back of the
building. I was wearing tennis shoes that gave me enough traction to
climb up to the second story where there was a little balcony and a
window. I looked through and saw about 20 couples, most of them
naked. Not Al, though. He just stood on the sidelines, watching and
laughing. I found out then what an orgy was. When I got home, I
avoided Mom. I felt too ashamed.
I was still shining shoes at the Arrowhead when who should hop up
onto my stand one evening before the show but the star entertainer,
Gilda Gray—remember, the queen of the shimmy? She was short, and
wore a tight, beaded dress. When she sat, the dress rode halfway up
her thighs and I saw she didn't have a stitch on underneath. I
started polishing like crazy, my head bent way down, trying hard not
to look up, but she saw I was red in the face and just sat there,
hiking her skirt higher and ragging me. "Where did you get that
curly hair? And those long black lashes?"
The next time I caddied for Al I described my meeting with Gilda
Gray. I told him I never wanted to shine her shoes again. He laughed
so hard the players ahead of us turned around to see what was so
funny. "In a couple of years you'll feel different," Al
assured me. "You'll want a dame like her."
He played until early afternoon, then motioned for me to wait on a
bench and walked away toward the clubhouse. He came back with two
triple-decker sandwiches, a bottle of beer for himself, andsome soda
pop for me. We ate the sandwiches sitting side by side. I felt very
close to Al. Suddenly I heard myself asking, "Can I join the
gang when I'm bigger?" He smiled and rumpled my hair. "You're
part of it now, ain't you? You're my caddie." "I mean for
real," I said, "and carry a gun like the other guys."
He shook his head. "Nothing doing, Kid. I want you around a long
time all in one piece. You might get hurt. Most guys in my line of
business do. So stay just like you are, O.K.?"
Looking back on it, I guess if he'd said yes, I would have ended
up like the rest of them—in jail or dead. I'm grateful to him now
for turning me down. But at the time the danger and the glamour of it
all was the most thrilling life I could imagine.