By Gina Chirichella
I lived in Boston from 1982-1984. It was a highly eventful two years. The city adopted me from the very first day, that is until a fateful incident proved to be the beginning of the end.
I, along with my boyfriend Kent was working at a clothing store aptly named Jungle Jive. It was located in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood near the Dover Station “T” stop on the Orange Line in Roxbury. Not exactly Beacon Street.
We carried a pan-global stock of military costumes, aviator glasses, combat boots, harem-style baggies for the break dancers, Hawaiian shirts, long tweed coats, kimonos, jewelry, vintage dresses, and even camouflage design skirts and bags effortlessly custom made by our in-house seamstress, Kim.
A Vietnam veteran who had fallen in love with Vietnam and the Vietnamese people named Mike owned the shop, and he was a most generous boss. He treated us all like Family, and Kent, as the manager, was especially proud of our unique little place.
One early spring evening, just as we were preparing to lock up, Four black teenagers walked in together. They had nylons on their heads and pulled them down over their faces in a well choreographed move. They were each carrying a sawed off shotgun. “Get down on the floor”, the apparent leader screamed, “lay down, face down”. Frankie (another employee) and I were behind the counter. Kent and Kim were in the clothing aisles. It was difficult to “lay down, face down”. There simply wasn’t enough room, I had to lay in a fetal position.
“Where is the cash register?” he demanded. “We don’t own one, just this cash box” Frankie exclaimed, and reluctantly surrendered it. It contained a mere forty dollars. “That’s it? Everyone give me your wallets.” I had a small change purse in my cargo pants pocket, which was actually a rosary purse, unbeknownst to me at the time, with ten dollars inside. He grabbed the cash and threw it back to me. The others gave up their cash, too.
“We’re going to kill you.” After he made that threat it all seemed kind of surreal because the all-consuming fear and terror had taken complete command of my body and soul. “Where is the rest of the money?” I heard him ask, although by now I was in some sort of daze, like during airline turbulence, only far more intense. “That’s all we have, and can I get my wallet back? There is a phone number for a girl I like inside.” Frankie again. Did he really say that? Who would do something so foolhardy? Now we will be killed for sure. Although you couldn’t actually detect facial expressions through the nylon covering his face, his body language proved that Frankie’s request didn’t even phase him. He tossed the wallet back and all four unceremoniously exited.
None of us were injured, and the culprits never returned. This experience taught me why armed robbery is considered such a serious crime: to make people feel that they are powerless and threaten them with instant death is unbelievably cruel. I also secretly wished that rather than becoming paralyzed with fear, that I might keep my wits about me, as well, Frankie managed to do.
Kent and I moved back to Madison soon after. Actually he had no choice in the matter, as a few weeks later we were pulled over in Mike’s van for having expired license plates and Kent had no driver’s license. He attempted to give the officer a fake name, but the cop wasn’t buying it. Finally Kent gave me a look of resignation and stated his real name. He was extradited back to Wisconsin for an old bail-jumping charge. I always felt that subconsciously he was relieved at having to leave Jungle Jive and Boston after the robbery, because it had affected him more than he knew and the same went for me. I was forced to end my relationship with Kent soon after returning to Madison for many reasons. Would we have stayed in Boston had the robbery never taken place? I guess we’ll never know.
© Gina Chirichella, January 27, 2014
Gina attended the UW majoring in Theatre, and perform swith local Theatre groups. She’s new to writing, but enjoying it. She love swimming at beaches, skating, dancing, music (especially punk rock), reading and liberal politics.
Wow! What an intense experience. I had never thought about armed robbery from the victim’s point of view much less connected the sentence for robbery with the terror. Very well written. Dhyan
PS – I loved the pictures. It really gave a feel for the time and place. dhyan again
Loved the writing in this story, I could really feel the era, place, people. Photos were a great addition.
Hey, Gina! Great to see your story here after hearing it at the class, and I enjoyed it all over again. And thanks for posting the pictures as they were great too. Susan Daugherty
Gina, your writing sounds like you. That was quite an experience. Sarah B