Door to the River

ROY READ IN A SCIENCE BOOK about a parasite that lives in water and enters the skin of human beings, goes to the head, and causes loss of sight. This condition, Roy learned, was sometimes called river blindness. Soon after he’d read this, Roy was taken on a Friday night by his cousin Ray to Rita’s Can’t Take It With You, a blues club on the West Side. Ray was twenty-two, six years older than Roy. Ray had recently enlisted in the navy and wanted to celebrate before leaving for boot camp the following Monday. The cousins were accompanied to Rita’s by Ray’s friend Marvin Kitna, an accordionist in a polka band who had been to the club several times before.

“The Wolf’s playing tonight,” Kitna told Roy and Ray. “He’s gettin’ up there, but he’s still the best.”

Roy, Ray, and Marvin Kitna were the only white patrons that night in Rita’s Can’t Take It With You. Kitna seemed to know almost everybody there, from the two bartenders, Earl and Lee, to many of the customers, as well as the two off-duty Chicago cops, Malcolm and Durrell, who were paid to provide security.

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