© Shirley Benson
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Through the glass door
Click! The pistol glinted in the sunlight as he cocked the hammer.
‘Sit you down there now Paddy’ the menacing voice pierced the room. ‘Have a seat and we’ll have a chat’
He drew up a chair and sat himself down opposite Paddy who reluctantly sat down.
‘What the f….’
Bang! The bullet whizzed across the room. Paddy howled as the bullet struck his kneecap. Blood splattered the wall and he grabbed his knee and squeezed it tight.
‘What’s that you say there Paddy? What was that for? Confused? Well let me tell you Paddy that one was for Little Pat. You know the one; the little fella you used to kick around the room like a football any time you were drunk. He’s the one that’s a bit soft in the head now, needs help to get things done. Yea, that one was for him’ and he held up a snapshot of a little boy clutching a teddy bear to his chest.
He took a deep breath to steady his nerves.
Bang! Another bullet lodges itself in the other kneecap. Paddy howls again and blood streams down his leg.
‘And will you tell me what that one was for, he says? Sure it was for my wee sister, the one you kicked to death in me Ma’s tummy. You remember - those nights, when she refused you and you wanted your oats’
The blood was splattered on the couch beside Paddy and he moaned with the intensity of the pain.
He made as if to move towards the couch but the gun went off again. Crack, straight into his left elbow. The impact of the bullet pushed him back into the chair and he screamed in agony.
‘Now this one is for little Danny. Do you remember little Danny? Course you do. That little guy that you woke up with a kick in the arse and tell him to go get you some smokes. And don’t come back without some or you’ll be sorry. So the poor little guy had to go and rip off some bodega or store just to get you your smokes’. This time he held up a snapshot of a boy blowing out candles on a birthday cake.
He stood up and pulled his chair closer to the blood stained mess in front of him.
‘Now, watch this. This one is for poor wee Derry, the little fella you doped up to the eyeballs so he could do what you wanted him to do, remember him?’ He waved the pistol next to Paddy’s cheek and then aimed down his body and bang, another bullet lodged itself in Paddy’s other elbow. The bone shattered and blood squirted from the artery. It showered the wall beside them and Paddy shit himself.
‘Ah poor daddy, did you have an accident in your pants?’ he asked him. ‘Do you know how many times I had an accident in my pants and me Ma sent me to school covered in shit because she couldn’t be bothered to clean me up? Most especially I remember those mornings when the snow was thick on the ground and youse two threw us small ones out so you could ride away to your hearts content. Shit in me pants, me brothers starving and you and her sitting at home eating eggs and bacon and drinking beer at 8am. Huh, remember that Paddy?’
He paused for effect, and to take a deep breath ‘Coz I do, I remember that, I’ll never forget it’
He wiped the sweat from his upper lip determined to go on.
‘As long as Paddy got what he was entitled to, that’s all that mattered, right Paddy?’ He held up another snapshot and this time it showed a teenage boy seated in a hospital bed with bloody bandages wrapped around his head.
The smell of fear mingled with the acrid smell of blood in the room. He waved the pistol in the air, clicked open the chambers and showed Paddy the remaining bullet inside.
‘You don’t deserve it eh? Didn’t do anything, never made anyone suffer, don’t know what I’m talking about?’ he hissed.
He waved the gun watching the sunlight glint on the metal, making sure Paddy was able to absorb his intent.
‘But nobody will ever suffer at your hands ever again. Want to know how I know?’
He cocked the hammer again and leaned menacingly close to his father.
‘I know for sure because of this last bullet. This one here is definitely for you though’ he points to the last live round in the chamber. He rubbed the barrel of the gun against his cheek.
‘Why? I hear you ask, whatever for?’
He swung one leg over the other and leaned closer.
‘I’m not sure which of your favourite sayings covers this one. Is it your favourite saying number one: It’s not for what you have done, but it’s for what you MIGHT do? Could that be the reason for the last bullet, the bullet that I am going to put right here?’
He tapped the gun to his father’s forehead, right between the eyebrows.
‘Yup, right here is where this bullet is going to go. You always warned me to tell you everything so I’m telling you this. It’s a fact. This Bullet is going right there’. He paused for effect and to garner up the nerve, took a deep breath and began again.
‘But I don’t think favourite saying number one will do it, I think it will have to be your favourite saying number two’.
Paddy’s eyes opened and he held his breath, knowing what was coming.
He tried to say something but the words wouldn’t come out.
‘What’s that? Something to say there Paddy? I can’t hear you, I CANT HEAR YOU’ he hissed at his father.
‘Want to say you’re sorry? Want to beg for forgiveness? Want to tell me it wasn’t your fault? I don’t think so’
The click of the gun.
He reached forward and placed the barrel of the gun on his father’s forehead.
‘Oh yes, this one is definitely favourite saying number two – it’s gotta be the one’.
‘Remember this one Da? I know you do.
You’re favourite is my favourite and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life - so enjoy’
‘BECAUSE I CAN’
Christ it was hot outside. The mercury was way over 100º outside and the room sweltered. The air-conditioner hummed but it was fighting a loosing battle. He had tried to sleep but the heat was making it impossible. He was dreaming and it was waking him up. He thought had seen that face as he drove up 5th Avenue and it made his heart race in his chest. It had been a long time since he had seen it, but it was a face he would not and could not ever forget. He got up and went to the fridge and reached inside.
Get me a beer you little bastard he heard the voice in his head as he reached for a cool one. His hands trembled as he twisted the top. Taking a deep slug of the beer he let the alcohol do its job. Wiping the sweat from his upper lip, he lay down on the couch. 4.30 in the afternoon and it was a bit early for beer, but the shock he had gotten this morning made it ok. There were so many things in his life to be thankful for, but there were so many things that were so fucked up in his past that every now and then they made an appearance, preventing him from closing the door.
This was one of them.
So many things could trigger an image in his mind and then it sometimes took him days to clear his brain and go back to normal life.
The phone beeped on the coffee table and he picked it up and scanned the screen. It was Meghan.
'I’ve got food so don’t start cooking. I’m bringing cold cuts and salad with fresh rolls, will you fire up the barbeque because I’ve also got some hot dogs?’
He wasn’t in the mood for company but he knew he couldn’t avoid her; she was already on the way. They had a standing date every Friday evening and to be honest, he probably needed to have her over. Then he could focus on something else, anything other than the face he thought he had seen in the crowd.
'No problem, I’ve got the coals heating as we speak, see you soon’ he replied to her text and went out to the balcony to do as he had just said. It was a bit cooler out here as the balcony was partially shaded from the sun. He dragged out the garden chairs and took the cushions from the closet and tied them on. Meghan hated sitting on a hard wooden seat and it would please her that he had made the effort. He went back inside and began to gather up the rest of the things they would need; plates, knives and forks, mayo and ketchup, bowls for the salad, wine glasses and an ice box for the ice cubes.
He was doing normal things that anyone would do on a normal day. But this was not a normal day.
Nothing was normal now if he really had seen that face as he casually drove up 5th Avenue on his way home. He had hoped never to see it again but in the back of his mind he had always somehow wondered where he was and what happened to him.
Well, now he knew the time may have come.
Meghan arrived fifteen minutes later and she carried the food straight through to the balcony.
‘Oh you’re brilliant’ she smiled at him and reached up to kiss his cheek. ‘I’ll just put the salad in the big bowl and get the rolls prepared. Here you take the packet of dogs and get them on the heat’.
She was a happy friendly girl and this was what had drawn him to her in the first place. She was always smiling; in fact he didn’t think he had ever seen her unhappy. Everything she did was positive and she told him he should always try to see the good in everything around him. Her reasoning was that from every dark moment there should be light moments to counterbalance it. Light and Shade she called it and any time she noticed he was a little bit on the quiet or sad side, she would do everything she could to bring him out of it.
Generally it worked and for the past year of their relationship he had been so glad to have her in his life. She brightened up his days and heated up his nights. Best thing that had ever happened to him and he knew it!
He never told her about his childhood. It was too painful for him to even remember it himself, let alone repeat the horror to his girlfriend. It’s bad enough that now and then his past pushed itself into his dreams, but he could never show her his past.
The past he saw through the eyes of a little boy.
A searing pain ripped through his little bottom. His eyes snapped open. The force of the kick sent him sliding off the mattress.
‘Get up you good for nothing little shite’ another kick, ‘get up and go to the shop, your Ma needs some groceries’
Danny hopped up even though the pain ripped up through him from his bum. He could barely walk from the pain in his backside.
His Ma handed him a list. ‘Go to Mr Gonzales. Tell him that I’ll pay him next week. Go on now and hurry back. Don’t be late if you know what’s good for you’ and just for good measure she clipped him across his face.
Danny grabbed the piece of paper and with the searing pain making walking difficult he made his way towards the door.
‘Hey, come back, take that one with you’ his father gestured towards Little Pat who was sitting in his own filth, rocking back and forth.
‘Can I clean him up a bit Ma?’ little Danny asked, ‘Mr Gonzales won’t let me inside if he smells again’
‘Well, leave him outside. For Gods sake, what kind of an ejit have you got there Kathleen?’
‘Go on with you, get off to the shop’ she rolled her eyes in agreement with her husband and waved the tea towel at them, ‘don’t be long mind’ she reminded him.
Danny grabbed Pat by the arm and dragged him outside into the hallway. Pat was three years older than him, but he acted like a baby. With agonizing slowness he managed to drag himself and Pat to the elevator. When they got down to the ground floor, Danny pulled Pat into the hallway where the homeless guy slept. He sneaked a few sheets of newspaper under which he slept and as best as he could, he wiped the shite from his brother’s backside. Gathering up the paper, he stuffed them into the garbage can, pulled up his pants and dragged his brother outside.
It was freezing and neither of them had shoes on. The pavement was slippery with snow and ice. His pain was receding somewhat now so they trotted along as best as they could manage and soon were at the corner shop. Mr Gonzales spotted them and came over straight away.
‘What’s this, no shoes?’ he queried, ‘why did your mother let you out with no shoes in this weather. You’ll get frostbite’ he told them.
‘It’s not her fault, I took off so fast she didn’t know I hadn’t put our shoes on’ Danny quickly told him, ‘please don’t tell her I did it, I’ll be killed’.
It wasn’t the first time these poor little mites had come to his shop without shoes, but he wasn’t about to point it out to Mrs Kelly if he was to see her. The last time he had made a comment, she had hauled out and slapped little Pat for drawing attention to himself.
‘What have you got here’ he pointed to the list.
‘Me Ma says will you give her the stuff and she’ll pay you when she gets her Giro’
‘I’ve heard that one before’ Mr Gonzales told Danny.
Danny’s heart almost stopped. ‘Please Mr Gonzales, Me Da is home again and if I don’t bring the stuff, he’ll be awful mad’
‘He’s awful mad anyway’ Mr Gonzales muttered under his breath.
‘Let me have a look and I’ll see what I can do’ he told the two little boys.
Danny was 6 years old and his brother Pat was 9. Danny had to look after Pat because he was a little daft. He had the mental ability of a two year old. Danny was very good with him and Mr Gonzales felt sorry for the two little mites. Life was very hard for them, it was plain to see.
‘I’ll tell you what’ he told them, ‘I’ll give you the stuff for your Ma, but you tell her that you’ll have to come here to the shop for the next two days to help me with some chores. She owes me for the last bag of groceries so you have to make good on it. Either that or she comes back tomorrow to pay for the lot? Got it?’
‘Yes Mr Gonzales, I’ll tell her, and thanks a bunch’ Danny was so thankful to this man. Coming home with the food would make sure that he didn’t get a beating, maybe. Going to the shop for two days would take him out from under his father’s feet, literally.
‘Bring Pat with you, I can get stuff for him to do as well’ he told Danny as he handed him the groceries.
‘Be here at 8am tomorrow morning and don’t be late’ he instructed Danny.
‘I’ll tell me Ma and I’ll do me best and thanks a bunch Mr G, you’re the greatest’ Danny answered him and took Pat by the hand. As he made his way home the two blocks to the apartment building, Danny prayed like he had never prayed before.
'Dear God if you’re there atall will you let us go to Gonzales tomorrow, for pity’s sake'.
When they arrived back at the apartment, Danny opened the front door as quietly as he could. He could hear sounds coming from the bedroom and he sneaked Pat in and shut the door.
They had a large mattress on the floor in the living room and he brought Pat over and sat him down.
‘Sit here and don’t open your mouth’ he instructed him, ‘wait for me and I’ll be over to you as soon as I can but don’t move from this spot’
He carried the groceries in to the kitchen and as he passed the bedroom door he could hear groans and moans.
‘Go on you bitch you’ he could hear the moans getting louder and more intense. The squeaking of the bed got faster and faster, and he heard his father again ‘Go on, go on, move it’ and the squeaking and moaning increased in tempo.
Suddenly a loud shout and a few more squeaks and it was all over. He heard a match being struck and got the smell of cigarette smoke.
‘Oh Kathleen, you’ve got the greatest little Irish box in New York’ he heard his father’s voice. ‘You better not be spreading it around when I’m not here’
‘Paddy, I’d never do a thing like that’ he heard his mother reply, ‘sure nobody could even dream of coming near Paddy Kelly’s wife. They’d be shit afraid of you to even think about it’
‘That’s me girl, and don’t you forget it’ Danny heard a stinging slap.
‘Oh Paddy, I love the things you do’
Danny couldn’t really understand what he was hearing, but he did know after his Ma and Paddy spent time in the bedroom, they would both come out starving and looking for something to eat.
He quickly turned on the broiler and got out the two steaks Mr Gonzales had put in the bag.
He grabbed 9 or 10 potatoes and rinsed them under the tap. The saucepan was in the sink and he put them inside, filled it with water and set it on the hob. He turned it up to the highest so it would cook faster. There were some carrots in the bag so he washed them all and put them into the second pot. When both of these were on the heat, he put his attention to the table.
The stack of dishes was there from the evening before when his parents had eaten their evening meal. Pat and Danny hadn’t got anything to eat and Derry their older brother hadn’t come home yet. There was still some mashed potatoes left on one of the plates and some gravy in the bowl. Danny removed the cigarette stubbed out in the mash and threw it in the bin. He scraped the ash from the potato. He drizzled it with the congealed gravy and mashed it all together. Taking the plate over to where Pat sat, he played the game with him.
‘One for you, one for me, come on Pat, play the game quickly now’ he told his brother as he proceeded to spoon the cold potatoes into his brothers mouth.
All in all they got about 3 spoons of mash each and as Danny brought the plate to the sink, he licked it clean.
The hot water from the faucet was burning his hands but he had to get the dishes done before his mother came out from the bedroom. He’d feel the back of her hand if it wasn’t done.
He heard the door opening and quick as a flash, he managed to get himself back over on to the mattress with Pat.
‘Is that food ready yet?’ she asked him as she made her way into the kitchen.
‘The steaks just need a few more minutes’ Danny answered, ‘I can have it ready…’
‘Shut it’ his mother hissed at him.
‘Yes Paddy, it’ll be ready in a few minutes’ she called back to the bedroom ‘why don’t you have a quick wash and I’ll call you when it’s on the plate’.
His father made a reply that Danny couldn’t hear and whatever he had said it made his mother smile.
She checked the potatoes and vegetables a few minutes later and they must have been done, because she turned off the heat.
Piling up the two plates, she took them to the table.
‘Cover your bloody heads’ she told the two little boys, ‘I don’t want to see your ugly mugs watching us while we eat ’.
Danny grabbed the blanket and pulled it over both his and Pat’s heads.
His father and mother sat at the kitchen table eating their meal. Danny’s mouth was salivating at the thought of what was on their plates, but he knew dreaming was all he would be doing. Just then he heard the apartment door open and his brother’s voice.
‘Da, I’m back’ it was Derry.
‘What the hell took you so bloody long?’ his father snapped at him.
‘Da, they came home and I couldn’t get out’ his brother replied, ‘I had to hide in the basement until they left’
‘Well, you better have something good after all that’ was all his father replied.
‘I got some silver spoons and stuff, there are a few necklaces here and a couple of rings. I found a wallet and there is $20 inside with some loose change. I took the lot’.
Paddy grabbed the stash that Derry had carried in a pillowcase. He spilled the lot out on to the kitchen table.
‘Huh, it’s better than nothing I guess’ he rifled through it. ‘I would have thought they would have more stuff in the house. I guess we’ll just have to make do’
He slapped Kathleen on the rump. ‘Get your glad rags on Mrs Kelly, we are on our way to the bar. And be quick about it’.
Within minutes they were off out the door and Danny breathed a sigh of relief when he heard them clatter down the stairs.
Checking the window of the apartment, he only felt calm when he saw them trot off down the street to the local.
They wouldn’t be back for hours, until all the money was gone. The boys would have some peace for a short time at least.
‘Danny come here’ Derry called to him. From under his shirt he pulled out a small plastic bag. He reached in and pulled out three small packages. Inside were a bologna sandwich each and a small pack of potato chips. Danny couldn’t believe their luck. He pulled Pat to the table and they sat down and gobbled up their feast. It was the first meal they had had since their father had come home three days before.
‘Thanks bro’ Danny sucked on his fingers, reluctant to let the taste of the potato chips go. ‘Are you ok?’
‘I’m fine I think’ Derry answered him, ‘the stuff he gave me made me too woozy and I wasn’t able to get out of the house until it wore off’.
‘Can you not tell him that the stuff makes you sick?’ Danny asked his brother.
‘Danny when you are older I’ll explain about this stuff. If I don’t take it when Paddy says to take it, he’ll just stick the needle into my arm and give it to me whether I want it or not. It’s easier to just go along with him. Anyway, he’ll be gone again in a few days and things will go back to normal’
‘How do you know how long he’ll be here?’ Pat asked
‘Well, Ma has got credit from all the usual suspects so she won’t be able to give him food after this lot. He won’t stick around long once that happens’.
‘Derry, Mr Gonzales said that we have to go to the store in the morning to work for him to pay for the last lot of groceries she didn’t pay for. I didn’t get the chance to tell her. We have to be there for 8am.
‘Don’t worry, Dan, I’ll tell them when they get back. They’ll be out until the money runs out, so we have the day to ourselves’.
‘What will we do all day? Pat asked his brother.
Derry reached out to his brother and put his arms around Pat’s thin shoulders. ‘Happy Days should be coming on soon, we’ll watch that and The Brady Bunch. Once they are over we might even go out for a walk, see what’s going on outside. How does my plan sound to you guys?’
‘I love you Derry’ his brother said and Derry replied, ‘and I love you too Pat’
Pat went back to his mattress and sat down facing the television set.
‘Derry, did you forget? Paddy kicked the screen in the other night; we won’t be able to watch anything’.
‘Now Danny Kelly, what do we do when we are up against it? Derry asked.
‘We do the best we can with the little we’ve got’ Danny rhymed back to his big brother.
‘Yes, we Kelly’s know how to get on’.
‘Will I be Richie and you can be The Fonz? Danny asked his brother.
‘Yea, you’re a big sissy so you might as well be Richie’ his brother poked him in the shoulder.
‘Get on with you’ Danny laughed and grabbed the teacloth and tied it around his head.
‘Waaa, waaaa, waaaa Fonzie help , I’m in trouble again’.
The following morning, Danny got up as quietly as a mouse. He had rinsed out Pat’s shorts and pants and hidden them in the hallway by hanging them behind the radiator and pulling a box in front of them. If his mother caught him washing Pat’s clothing, he’d be in for it. She’d say what do you think the neighbours would say if they thought you were washing stuff for your brother and he would get a slap around his head.
She’d rather let him go out covered in shit than give to say that a six year old boy washed his pants.
They were almost dry, only barely damp so he quietly woke Pat and putting his finger to his lips he signed to him to pull them on and to be quiet. Then they silently as possible sneaked out the front door.
The snow was falling quite heavily but Danny was prepared this time. He had seen the snow while he was getting ready and he had a plan.
‘Sit down on the stoop’ he instructed his brother and he proceeded to wrap Pat’s feet with rags he had got from Mrs G.
He did the same to himself and helped Pat to stand up.
‘Now, hold on to my arm and take your time’ he told him, ‘it’s slippery but at least we won’t be standing on the cold’.
When they got to the store, Mrs Gonzales was waiting for them. Her heart broke to see the two little boys struggling to walk with the rags on their feet. She would have rushed out and bought them new shoes, but she knew better. The last time she had done that, Mrs Kelly had sold the shoes for a bottle of whiskey and given the two boys a sound beating for accepting charity.
This time she knew the only way to help these children was by giving them something their mother couldn’t do anything about.
‘Come in, come in boys’ she called out to them and she led them through the back to the kitchen.
‘I’ve got left over porridge that Mr Gonzales couldn’t quite manage; do you think you boys might be interested in helping me out getting rid of it?’
Danny’s ears pricked up at the thought of hot food.
‘If we can be of help Mrs G, we’ll gladly take it off your hands’ Danny answered her, eyeing up the two bowls of steaming porridge at the table.
‘Hop up here then’ she showed them, ‘and I’ll just sort it out for you. Would you like some cream and sugar?’
‘I ain’t never had no porridge with no cream and sugar inside’ Pat told her, ‘we put salt in it if we have it’.
‘That’s the Irish way’ she told them, ‘different people do different things with porridge. Now let’s dig in before it gets cold. I’ll make a cup of tea to go with it’.
‘I spect she’s going to ask us do we want cream and sugar in our tea’ Pat whispered to Danny.
‘Shut up and eat what you’ve got’ Danny pulled the bowl towards his brother and pushed the seat as close to the table as he could manage.
‘Don’t spill any and hurry up before she changes her mind’
Mrs Gonzales stood in the back area listening to the two boys. Poor dears, she would love to be able to somehow do something to help their plight. For the past few years she had observed the atrocious way they lived. Many times she had called in Child Protective Services but they had so many cases on their books that her complaints got lost in the system. Yesterday she had contacted the local precinct and asked for the local Community Officer to call by the store today while the boys were working there. Hopefully Officer Duffy would show up. He was familiar with the two boys and their mother. Trouble was there were so many children like this in the system and it took something awful to happen before the courts could intervene and take the children into protective care. Still Officer Duffy would catalogue every incident in his record book. Hopefully they would gather enough that the judge might sit up and take notice.
The boys toiled in the back of the shop for the rest of the day. It was mainly Danny who toiled; Pat sat on the couch and watched Danny as he worked. He wasn’t able to do much although Danny gave him small jobs like putting the prices on the cans. He started off fine but the repetitive nature of the job took over his poor brain and he gave up the job and just took a nap. Danny spotted him sleeping with his arms on the table in front of him and smiled. Poor Pat, he tried his best. Danny finished the pricing and all the other jobs he had been assigned and before long it was time for lunch.
Mr Gonzales came into the back at noon and called the boys to sit with him. Danny woke Pat quickly worried in case Mr G got upset with him. Javier appeared to not have noticed his sleeping employee!
‘I’m having some cold spicy wraps for lunch’ he told them, ‘Mrs Gonzales made too many for me, will you have one each?’
‘I ain’t sure what they are, but if there’s too many, maybe I could help you out by eating them’ Danny told him. ‘Do you think there might be an extra one that I could take home for Derry?’
‘Of course you can lad’ Mr Gonzales told him, ‘I’ll get the wife to pack them into a small bag for you and you can carry it inside your shirt when you go home’
After the first tentative bite, Danny found that he quite liked the spicy flavour of the food. He didn’t know what was inside, but it tasted real good and it made his mouth hot and made his lips tingle.
Danny swept floors and tidied shelves for the rest of the day. He put all the cans together on the shelves in the right order and he sorted through bags of vegetables. While he was working away Officer Duffy arrived and Mrs Gonzales showed him the children. It was the height of winter in New York and these boys had threadbare shirts and trousers. Their feet were bare and they had no coats or scarves. Most people were wrapped up warmly as they trudged through the sludge left by the recent snow fall.
‘You can see their shoulder blades through the shirt and their ribcage also’ she pointed out to him. ‘The older one Pat said that they hadn’t had food for a few days’
Her eyes filled with tears ‘Officer Duffy, their mother has gotten food from every store in the area and she has fed herself and that feckless husband of hers. They spend every night drinking at Molly Moggs on the corner and yet the children are frozen and starving. Surely there’s something we can do to help the poor mites?’
Officer Duffy shook his head. He knew well about the predicament of the children and it wasn’t much different to a lot of other children’s lives that he came across on his beat.
‘I’ve made a note of the other things you have told me about and drafted a report for the Child Protection Team. They are under terrible pressure so I don’t know when they will get around to looking at the paperwork, if ever’.
‘I suppose all I can do is to keep on supporting the three boys whenever I can then?’
‘At least with you watching out for them they have some hope of getting a bite of food inside them’ he agreed with her.
‘You have my number in case things deteriorate further’ he reminded her, ‘and I’ll drop by tomorrow as you’ve said they are going to be here again helping out. Just to let you know that I’ve told the Serg and he knows all about the Kelly boys’.
Rosa blinked back the tears at his kindness. ‘Sergeant O’Malley is great too trying to help and I appreciate everything you both are trying to do for them’.
Rosa thanked Officer Duffy and let him out of the store. She returned to the back storage room where Danny was just finishing up sweeping the pathway of snow.
‘When you come tomorrow, I will get you to fill the boxes of vegetables to go out into the front display area of the store. If there are any wonky ones you can take them home with you’.
As they were leaving, she gave them two sandwiches to eat along the way and the packet to keep inside his shirt for Derry.
‘Be sure to eat those sandwiches before you get off the block’ she instructed, ‘I’ll know if you keep them for later’
Mrs Gonzales knew that if they arrived home with the sandwiches their mother would eat them herself.
Danny was feeling a bit sick to be honest. He had eaten so much food already today that he couldn’t eat another bite. His tummy was so used to being empty except for water that when he ate more than a little he couldn’t handle it. He planned to hide the food away somewhere safe for another time. But he was so grateful to Mrs Gonzales for her kindness.
She also handed Danny a small pack of smokes. ‘Give that to your father with my good wishes’ she told him.
When they arrived back at the apartment Danny listened at the door to see what was going on inside. It was very quiet as he opened the door. His mother was seated at the kitchen table and his father was laying on the bed.
‘Who the hell said you could go out all day?’ his mother took a swipe at the two of them with her hand.
‘Did Derry not tell you what Mr Gonzales told me about the groceries?’
‘He did, but you didn’t have to work the full day for that Spik Bastard. There was hardly anything in that bag, certainly not enough for two of ye to be working for the full day’.
‘We have to go back again tomorrow’ Danny whispered ducking out of the way of her hand again.
‘Does he think we’ve nothing better to be doing than cleaning his shit of a shop?’ she asked.
‘He said if we don’t come back he’ll charge you for the groceries you owe him from the last time you were short and charge you extra for this lot if we don’t come back’
‘Ha, that bastard has you well sussed’ his father gloated, ‘You’ll have no choice but to send them back or you can kiss any credit goodbye with that shite’.
Danny made his way towards his father and held out his hand with the packet of tobacco in it.
‘Mrs Gonzales said to give you this with her best wishes’.
His father reached out and took the packet of cigarettes from his son. He studied it for a few seconds turning it over in his hands. Suddenly he lashed out and slapped the boy across his face with such force that Danny went flying into the wall. His face was stinging with pain and his eye hurt. As he slid down along the wall and landed in a heap on the ground Danny was confused as to what he had done wrong. He had thought by giving his father the smokes that he would be happy. His father came to where he had landed and bent down. He grabbed him by the hair of his little head and stuck his face close to his and said ‘now that was not for what you did, but for what you might do, and don’t you ever forget it.
‘If you bring them down on me again, I’ll flay you so hard you won’t be able to sit down for a month’ his mother lashed out at Pat. Danny jumped in front of him and begged her to leave Pat alone.
‘Ma, it’s not his fault’ he told her, ‘Mrs Madison asked him questions when I was gone to the bathroom and he couldn’t answer her. I warned him not to say anything if anyone asked him questions and he was only doing what I told him’.
‘Well it’s your fault then’ and she lashed out at Danny, catching him on the chin with her fist.
‘It says here that there’s an official coming to the apartment this Friday to do an inspection. What the hell does that mean?’ The last thing she wanted was some nosy school officials coming around looking into her business.
Smack! Another blow across his face. Danny didn’t see it coming this time and he was seeing stars for a few minutes.
‘Don’t you talk back to me! You better get this shithole cleaned up’ she instructed him. ‘It better be spotless when they get here or else you’ll know all about it’.
She walked away, lighting a smoke. Paddy had been gone for a week already, and they knew all about it.
Kathleen knew it too; she just couldn’t do anything about it. Her money came in at the end of the month. Sometimes it was enough to bring him back to her and it was great to have him around. She was sick to the teeth of nothing but children around. When Paddy came back she had sex and fun, and someone to go to the bars with.
When he went away, she was stuck in the apartment with these brats.
Danny set about tidying up. Mostly she didn’t examine too closely what he did, but sometimes she was alert enough to check, and he didn’t want to draw her on him. He wanted to keep the place as quiet as possible for his brother’s sake. Pat was sitting in the corner staring at the television screen even though it wasn’t working. It was Derry he was most concerned about.
Derry was asleep on the mattress so Danny moved quietly so as not to disturb him. He’d been out all night working and was exhausted.
Danny was dead tired himself. He had been out all night working the bars. He was a good looking child: bright blue eyes and bleach blonde hair. All the old men loved him and the ladies thought that he was the cutest thing they had ever seen. He had a lovely voice so every night he made his way around all the bars in the neighbourhood and sang them whatever they wanted to hear. Sometimes it was an Irish Lullaby and sometimes it was a Patsy Clyne country and western tune, or even Frank Sinatra; old Frankie blue-eyes was always good for a dime or two. ‘Danny give us a bar of the Star of the County Down’
Some nights he made as much as $5 and it made his mother smile. Now she had money for smokes and a few bottles of cheap beer. She could even call to the Deli on the next street and treat herself to a good old slap up meal.
Everyone needs a good feed now and then!