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thegunBurtsaid,
"Letmeknowifyoucatchthebastard."
"I'lldothat,"promisedJohnny.
"Yeah.Solong."
"Solong,Burt."
Johnnygatheredhisfamilyaroundhimandexplainedaboutthegun.HewarnedFrancieand
Neeleynottotouchit."Thislittlecylinderholdsdeathforfivepeopleinit,"heexplained
dramatically.
Franciethoughttherevolverlookedlikeagrotesquebeckoningfinger,afingerthatbeckonedto
deathandmadeitcomerunning.Shewasgladwhenpapaputitoutofsightunderhispillow.
ThegunlayunderJohnny's,pillowforamonthandwasnevertouched.Therewerenofurther
outragesintheneighborhood.Itseemedthatthefiendhadmovedon.Mothersbegantorelax.
Afew,however,likeKatie,continuedtowatchindoororhallwaywhentheyknewthechildren
wereduehomefromschool.Itwasthekiller'shabittolurkindarkhallwaysforhisvictims.Katie
feltthatitcostnothingtobecareful.
Whenmostofthepeoplewerelulledintoafeelingofsecurity,thepervertstruckagain.
Oneafternoon,Katiewascleaninginthehallsofthesecondhouseawayfromherown.She
heardchildreninthestreetandknewthatschoolwasout.Shewonderedwhetheritwas
necessarytogobackandwaitintheirhallwayforFrancieasshehadbeendoingsincethe
murder.Franciewasnearlyfourteenandoldenoughtotakecareofherself.Besidesthekiller
usuallyattackedlittlegirlsofsixorseven.Maybehehadbeencaughtinsomeother
neighborhoodandwassafeinjail.Still....Shehesitated,thendecidedtogohome.She'dbe
needingafreshbarofsoapwithinthehourandcouldkilltwobirdswithonestoneifshegotit
now.
Shelookedupanddownthestreetandgrewuneasywhenshedidn'tseeFrancieamongthe
children.ThensherememberedthatFranciewentfurthertoschoolandcamehomeabitlater.
Onceintheflat,Katiedecidedtoheatthecoffeeandhaveacupful.Bythattime,Francieshould
behome,andhermindwouldbeatpeace.Shewentintothebedroomtoseeifthegunwasstill
underthepillow.Ofcourseitwasandshefeltfoolishforlooking.Shedrankthecoffee,tookher
barofyellowsoapandstartedbackforwork.
Franciegothomeatherusualtime.Sheopenedthehalldoor,staredupanddownthelong
narrowhall,sawnothingandclosedthesolidwooddoorbehindher.Nowthehallwasdarkened.
Shewalkedtheshortlengthofhalltowardsthestairs.Assheputherfootonthefirststep,she
sawhim.
Hesteppedoutfromasmallrecessunderthestairsthathadanentrancetothecellar.He
walkedsoftlybutwithlungingsteps.Hewasthinandundersizedandworeashabbydarksuit
withacollarlessandtielessshirt.Histhickbushyhairgrewdownonhisforeheadalmosttohis
eyebrows.Hehadabeakednoseandhismouthwasathincrookedline.Eveninthe
semi-darkness,Franciewasawareofhiswet-lookingeyes.Shetookanotherstep,then,asshe
gotabetterlookathim,herlegsturnedintocement.Shecouldn'tliftthemtotakethenextstep!
Herhandsclutchedtwobanisterspokesandsheclungtothem.Whathypnotizedherintobeing
unabletomovewasthefactthatthemanwascomingtowardsherwithhislowergarments
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opened.Franciestaredattheexposedpartofhisbodyinparalyzedhorror.Itwaswormywhite
contrastedwiththeuglydarksallownessofhisfaceandhands.Shefeltthesamekindof
nauseashehadoncefeltwhenshesawaswarmoffatwhitemaggotscrawlingovertheputrid
carcassofarat.Shetriedtoscream"mama"butherthroatclosedoverandonlyaircameout.It
waslikeahorribledreamwhereyoutriedtoscreambutnosoundcame.Shecouldn'tmove!
Shecouldn'tmove!Herhandshurtfromgrippingthebanisterspokes.Irrelevantly,she
wonderedwhytheydidn'tsnapoffinhertightgrasp.Andnowhewascomingtowardsherand
shecouldn'truntShecouldn'truntPleaseGod,sheprayed,letsometenantcomealong.
Atthismoment,Katiewaswalkingdownthestairsquietlywiththebarofyellowsoapinher
hand.Whenshecametothetopofthelastflight,shelookeddownandsawthemancomingat
FrancieandsawthatFranciewasfrozentothebanisterspokes.Katiemadenosound.Neither
onesawher.Sheturnedquietlyandranupthetwoflightstoherflat.Herhandwassteadyas
shetookthekeyfromunderthematandopenedthedoor.Shetookprecioustime,notawareof
whatshewasdoing,tosetthecakeofyellowsoaponthewashtubcover.Shegotthegunfrom
underthepillow,aimedit,andkeepingitaimed,putitunderherapron.Nowherhandwas
trembling.Sheputherotherhandunderherapronandsteadiedthegunwithhertwohands.
Holdingtheguninthisway,sherandownthestairs.
Themurdererreachedthefootofthestairs,roundedit,leapedupthetwosteps,and,quickasa
cat,threwonearmaboutFrancie'sneckandpressedhispalmtohermouthtopreventher
screaming.Heputhisotherarmaroundherwaistandstartedtopullheraway.Heslippedand
theexposedpartofhisbodytouchedherbareleg.Thelegjerkedasthoughaliveflamehad
beenputtoit.Herlegscameoutoftheparalysisthenandshekickedandstruggled.Atthat,the
pervertpressedhisbodyclosetohers,pinningheragainstthebanister.Hebeganundoingher
clenchedfingers,onebyone.Hegotonehandfree,forceditbehindherbackandleanedhard
againstitwhilehestartedtoworkonherotherhand.
Therewasasound.Francielookedupandsawhermotherrunningdownthatlastflightofstairs.
Katiewasrunningawkwardly,notbalancingwellonaccountofhavingbothhandsclutched
underherapron.Themansawher.Hecouldn'tseethatshehadagun.Reluctantly,heloosed
hisholdandbackeddownthetwostepskeepinghisweteyesonKatie.Franciestoodthere,
onehandstillgrippingthebanisterspoke.Shecouldn'tgetherhandopened.Themangotoff
thesteps,pressedhisbacktothewallandstartedslidingagainstittothecellardoor.Katie
stopped,kneltonastep,pushedherapronbulgebetweentwobanisterspokes,staredatthe
exposedpartofhisbodyandpulledthetrigger.
TherewasaloudexplosionandthesmellofburntclothastheholeinKatie'sapronsmoldered.
Thepervert'slipcurledbacktoshowbrokendirtyteeth.Heputbothhandsonhisstomachand
fell.Hishandscameawayashehitthefloorandbloodwasalloverthatpartofhimthathad
beenworm-white.Thenarrowhallwasfullofsmoke.
Womenscreamed.Doorsbangedopen.Therewasthesoundofrunningfeetinthehalls.
Peopleinthestreetsstartedpouringintothehall.Inasecond,thedoorwaywasjammedandno
onecouldgetinorout.
KatiegrabbedFrancie'shandandtriedtopullherupthestairs,butthechild'shandwasfrozen
tothespoke.Shecouldn'topenherfingers.Indesperation,KatiehitFrancie'swristwiththegun
buttandthenumbfingersrelaxedatlast.Katiepulledherupthestepsandthroughthehalls.
Shekeptmeetingwomencomingoutoftheirflats.
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"What'sthematter?What'sthematter?"theyscreamed.
"It'sallrightnow.It'sallrightnow,"Katietoldthem.
Franciekeptstumblingandgoingtoherknees.Katiehadtodragheronherkneesthelengthof
thelasthall.Shegotherintotheflatandontothecouchinthekitchen.Thensheputthechain
boltonthedoor.Assheputthegundowncarefullynexttothebarofyellowsoap,herhand
accidentallytouchedthemuzzle.Shewasfrightenedwhenshefounditwarm.Katieknew
nothingaboutguns;shehadnevershotonebefore.Nowshethoughttheheatmightmakethe
gungooffbyitself.Sheopenedthewashtubcoverandthrewthegunintothewaterinwhich
somesoiledclothesweresoaking.Becausethebarofyellowsoapwasmixedupwiththewhole
thing,shethrewthatinafterthegun.ShewenttoFrancie.
"Didhehurtyou,Francie?"
"No,Mama,"shemoaned."Onlyhe...his...Imeanit...touchedmyleg."
"Where?"
Franciepointedtoaspotaboveherbluesock.Theskinwaswhiteandunharmed.Francie
lookedatitinsurprise.Shehadanideathattheskinwouldbeeatenawaythere.
"There'snothingthematterwithit,"mamasaid.
"ButIcanstillfeelwhereittouched."Shemoanedandcriedoutinsanely,"Iwantmylegcut
off."
Peoplepoundedonthedoordemandingtoknowwhathadhappened.Katieignoredthemand
keptthedoorbolted.ShemadeFrancieswallowacupofscaldinghotblackcoffee.Thenshe
walkedupanddowntheroom.Shewastremblingnow.Shedidn'tknowwhattodonext.
Neeleyhadbeenloiteringonthestreetwhentheshotsounded.Whenhesawpeoplecrowding
intothehallway,he,too,workedhiswayin.Hegotuponthestairsandlookedoverthe
banisters.Thepervertwashuddledwherehehadfallen.Thecrowdofwomenhadtornthe
trousersfromhisbodyandallwhocouldgetnearweregrindingtheirheelsintohisflesh.Others
werekickingathimandspittingonhim.Allwereshriekingobscenitiesathim.Neeleyheardhis
sister'sname.
"FrancieNolan?"
"Yeah.FrancieNolan."
"Yousure?FrancieNolan?"
"ItellyouIseen."
"Hermotherwentand..."
"FrancieNolan!"
Heheardtheambulancegong.HethoughtFranciehadbeenkilled.Heracedupthestairs
sobbing.Hepoundedonthedoor,screaming,"Letmein,Mama!Letmein!"
Katielethimin.WhenhesawFrancielyingonthecouch,hebawledlouder.NowFrancie
startedtobawl."Stopit!Stopit!"Katiescreamed.SheshookNeeleyuntilhedidn'thaveasob
leftinhim.
"Runandgetyourfather.Lookalloveruntilyoufindhim."
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NeeleyfoundpapainMcGarrity'ssaloon.Johnnywasjustabouttosettledowntoalong
afternoonofslowdrinking.WhenheheardNeeley'sstory,hedroppedhisglassandranout
withhim.Theycouldn'tgetbackintothehouse.Theambulancewasatthedoorandfour
policemenwerefightingawaythroughthecrowdtryingtogettheambulancedoctorin.
JohnnyandNeeleywentthroughthenextdoorcellarintotheyard,helpedeachotheroverthe
boardfenceintotheirownyardandclimbeduponthefireescape.WhenKatiesawJohnny's
derbyloomingupoutsidethewindow,shescreamedandranaroundfranticallylookingforthe
gun.FortunatelyforJohnny,shehadforgottenwhereshehadthrownit.
JohnnyrantoFrancie,and,bigasshewas,hepickedherupinhisarmsasthoughshewerea
baby.Herockedherandtoldhertogotosleep.Franciekeptinsistingthatshewantedherleg
cutoff.
"Didhegether?"askedJohnny.
"No,butIgothim,"Katiesaidgrimly.
"Didyoushoothimwiththepistol?"
"Withwhatelse?"Sheshowedhimtheholeinherapron.
"Didyoushoothimgood?"
"AsgoodasIcould.Butshekeepstalkingaboutherleg.His..."hereyesslidtowardsNeeley,
"...well,you.know,touchedherleg."Shepointedtothespot.Johnnylookedbuthesaw
nothing."That'stoobadithadtohappentoher,"Katiesaid."She'ssuchaoneforremembering.
Shemightnevergetmarried,remembering."
"We'llfixthatleg,"promisedpapa.
HeputFranciebackonthecouch,gotthecarbolicacidandswabbedthespotwiththestrong
rawstuff.Franciewelcomedtheburningpainoftheacid.Shefeltthattheeviloftheman's
touchwasbeingsearedaway.
Someonepoundedatthedoor.Theyremainedquietandunanswering.Theywantedno
outsidersintheirhomeatthistime.AstrongIrishvoicecalled.
"Openupthedoor.'Tisthelaw,now."
Katieopenedthedoor.Apolicemanwalkedinfollowedbyanambulanceinterncarryingabag.
ThecoppointedtoFrancie.
"Thisthekidhetriedtoget?"
"Yes."
"Doc,here,hastomakeanexamination."
"Iwon'tallowit,"protestedKatie.
"It'sthelaw,"heansweredquietly.
SoKatieandtheinterntookFrancieintothebedroomandtheterrifiedchildhadtosubmittothe
indignityofanexamination.Thejauntyinternmadeaquickandcarefulexamination.He
straightenedupandstartedtoputhisinstrumentsbackintothebag.Hesaid,
"She'sokay.Henevergotnearher."Hetookherswollenwristinhishand."Howdidthis
happen?"
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"Ihadtohitherwiththeguntomakeherletgoofthebanister,"Katieexplained.Henoticedher
bruisedknee.
"What'sthis?"
"That'swhereIhadtodragheralongthehall."Thenhegottotheangryburnjustaboveher
ankle."AndwhatinthenameofGodisthis?"
"That'swhereherfatherwashedherlegwithcarbolicacidwherethatmantouchedher."
"MyGod!"explodedtheintern."Youtryingtogiveherthirddegreeburns?"Heopenedthebag
again,putcoolingsalveontheburnandbandageditneatly."MyGod!"hesaidagain,"between
thetwoofyou,youdidmoredamagethanthecriminal."HesmootheddownFrancie'sdress,
pattedhercheekandsaid,"You'llbeallright,girlie.I'mgoingtogiveyousomethingtoputyou
tosleep.Whenyouwakeup,justrememberthatyouhadabaddream.That'sallitwas;abad
dream.Hear?"
"Yes,sir,"saidFranciegratefully.Againshesawapoisedneedle.Sherememberedsomething
fromalongtimeago.Sheworried.Washerarmclean?Wouldhesay…
That'sabravegirl,"hesaidastheneedlejabbed.
"Why,he'sonmyside,"thoughtFranciehazily.Shewenttosleepimmediatelyafterthe
hypodermic.
Katieandthedoctorcameoutintothekitchen.Johnnyandthecopweresittingatthetable.The
cophadabitofpencilclutchedinhisbigpawandhewaspainfullymakingsmallnotesina
smallnotebook.
"Kidallright?"askedthecop.
"Fine,"theinterntoldhim,"justsufferingfromshockandparentinitus."Hewinkedatthecop.
"Whenshewakesup,"hesaidtoKatie,"remembertokeeptellingherthatshehadabaddream.
Don'ttalkaboutitotherwise."
"WhatdoIoweyou,Doc?"askedJohnny.
"Nothing,Mac.Thisisonthecity."
"Thankyou,"whisperedJohnny.
TheinternnoticedJohnny'stremblinghands.Hepulledapintflaskfromhishippocketand
thrustitatJohnny."Here!"Johnnylookedupathim."Goahead,Mac,"insistedtheintern.
Gratefully,Johnnytookalongswallow.TheinternpassedtheflasktoKatie."Youtoo,Lady.
Youlookasifyouneedit."Katietookabigdrink.Thecopspokeup.
"Whatdoyoutakemefor?Aorphan?"
Whentheinterngottheflaskbackfromthecop,therewasonlyan.inchleftinit.Hesighedand
emptiedthebottle.Thecopsighed,too,andturnedtoJohnny.
"Now.Wheredoyoukeepthegun?"
"Undermypillow."
"Getit.Igottotakeitovertothestationhouse."
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pillow.Shecameback,lookingworried.
"Why,it'snotthere!"
Thecoplaughed."Naturally.Youtookitouttoshootthelouse."
IttookKatiealongtimetorememberthatshehadthrownitintothewashtub.Shefisheditout.
Thecopwipeditoffandtookoutthebullets.HeaskedJohnnyaquestion.
"Yougotapermitforthis,Mac?"
"No."
"That'stough."
"It'snotmygun."
"Whogaveittoyou?"
"No-Nobody."Johnny'didn'twanttogetthewatchmanintrouble.
"How'dyougetitthen?"
"Ifoundit.Yes,Ifounditinthegutter."
"Alloiledandloaded?"
"Honest."
"Andthat'syourstory?"
"That'smystory."
"It'sokayby me,Mac.Seethatyousticktoit."
Theambulancedriverholleredfromthehallthathewasbackfromtakingthemantothe
hospitalandwasDocreadytoleave.
"Hospital?"Katieasked."ThenIdidn'tkillhim."
"Notquite,"saidtheintern."We'llgethimonhisfeetso'shecanwalktotheelectricchairby
himself."
"I'msorry,"saidKatie."Imeanttokillhim."
"Igotastatementfromhimbeforehepassedout,"saidthecop."Thatlittlekiddowntheblock:
hekilledher.Hewasresponsiblefortwootherjobs,too.Igothisstatement,signedand
witnessed."Hepattedhispocket."Iwouldn'tbesurprisedifIgotapromotionoutofthiswhen
theCommissionerhears."
"Ihopeso,"saidKatiebleakly."Ihopesomebodygetssomegoodoutofit."
WhenFranciewokethenextmorning,papawastheretotellherthatitwasalladream.Andas
timepasseditdidn'tseemlikeadreamtoFrancie.Itleftnouglinessinhermemories.Her
physicalterrorhadbluntedheremotionalperceptions.Theterroronthestairshadbeenbrief-a
barethreeminutesintime-andterrorhadservedasananesthetic.Theeventsfollowingwere
hazyinhermindonaccountoftheunaccustomedhypodermic.Eventhehearingincourtwhere
shehadtotellherstoryseemedlikeapartinanunrealplayinwhichherlineswerebrief.
Therewasahearing,butKatiewastoldbeforehandthatitwasatechnicality.Francie
rememberedlittleofitexceptthatshetoldherstoryandKatietoldhers.Fewwordswere
needed.
"Iwascominghomefromschool,"testifiedFrancie,"andwhenIgotinthehall,thismancame
outandgrabbedmebeforeIcouldscream.Whilehewastryingtodragmeoffthestairs,my
mothercamedown."
Katiesaid:"Icamedownthestairsandsawhimtherepullingmydaughter.Iranupandgotthe
gun(itdidn'ttakelong)andIrandownandshothimwhilehewastryingtosneakdownthe
cellar."
Franciewonderedwhethermamawouldbearrestedforshootingaman.Butno,itendedup
withthejudgeshakingmama'shandandherstoo.
Aluckythinghappenedaboutthenewspapers.Asousedreporter,goingthroughhisnightly
routineofcallingupthestationhousesforpoliceblotternews,gotthefactsofthestorybut
confusetheNolannamewiththenameofthepolicemanonthecase.Therewasahalfcolumn
iteminaBrooklynpaperwhichsaidthatMrs.O'LearyofWilliamsburghadshotaprowlerinthe
hallwayofherhome.Thenextday,twooftheNewYorknewspapersgaveittwoinchesin
whichtheystatedthatMrs.O'LearyofWilliamsburghadbeenshotby aprowlerinthehallway
ofherhome.
Eventually,thewholeaffairfadedawayintothebackground.Katiewasaneighborhoodheroine
forawhilebutastimepassed,theneighborhoodforgotthemurderingpervert.They
rememberedonlythatKatieNolanhadshotaman.Andinspeakingofher,theysaidthatshe's
notonetogetintoafightwith.Whyshe'dshootapersonjustassoonaslookatthem.
ThescarfromthecarbolicacidneverleftFrancie'slegbutitdwindleddowntothesizeofa
dime.Franciegotusedtoitintimeandasshegrewolder,sheseldomnoticeditanymore.
AsforJohnny,theyfinedhimfivedollarsforviolatingtheSullivanLaw-havingagunwithouta
permit.And,oh,yes!Thewatchman'syoung,wifeeventuallyranawaywithanItalianalittle
nearerherownage.
SomedayslaterSergeantMcShanecameoverlookingforKatie.Hesawherluggingacanof
ashesouttothecurbandhisheartturnedoverwithpity.Hegaveherahandwiththeashcan.
Katiethankedhimandlookedupathim.ShehadseenhimoncesincetheMattieMahony
outing,thedayhehadaskedFranciewasshehermother.Theothertimewaswhenhehad
broughtJohnnyhome,thetimewhenJohnnycouldn'tgethimselfhome.Katiehadheardthat
Mrs.McShanewasnowinasanatoriumforincurabletuberculosispatients.Shewasnot
expectedtolivelong."Wouldhemarryagain-afterwards?"Katiewondered."Ofcoursehewill,"
sheansweredherownquestion."Heisafine-looking,upstandingmanwithagoodjoband
somewomanwillsnaphimup."Hetookoffhishatwhilehespoketoher.
"Mrs.Nolan,theboysdownatthestationhouseandmyselfdobethankin'youforhelpin'usout
inthecatchin'ofthemurtherer."
"You'rewelcome,"saidKatieconventionally.
"Andtoshowtheirappreciation,whatdidtheboysdobutpassthehatforyou!"Heextendedan
envelope.
"Money?"sheasked.
"Itisthat."
"Keepit!"
"Sureyou'llbeneedin'itwithyourmannotworkin'steadyandthechildthernneedin'thisand
that."
"That'snoneofyourbusiness,SergeantMcShane.YoucanseethatIworkhardandwedon't
needanythingfromnobody."
"Justasyousay."
Heputtheenvelopebackintohispocket,lookingathersteadilyallthewhile."Here'sa
woman,"hethought,"withatrimfigureonherandaprettywhite-facedskinandblackcurling
hair.Andshe'sgotcourageenoughandprideforsixlikeher.I'mamiddle-agedmanof
forty-five,"histhoughtswenton,"andshe'sbutaslipofagirl."(Katiewasthirty-onebutlooked
muchyounger.)"We'vebothhadhardluckwhenitcametomarryin'.Thatwedid."McShane
knewallaboutJohnnyandknewthathewouldn'tlastlongthewayhewasgoingon.Hehad
nothingbutpityforJohnny;hehadnothingbutpityforMolly,hiswife.Hewouldn'thaveharmed
eitherofthem.Hehadneveronceconsideredbeingphysicallyunfaithfultohissicklywife."But
ishopinginmyheartharmingeitheroneofthem?"heaskedhimself."Ofcourse,there'llbethe
waitin'.Howmanyyears?Two?Five?Ah,well,I'vewaitedalongtimewithouthopeof
happiness.SureandIcanwaitabitlonger,now."
Hethankedheragainandsaidgoodbyeformally.Asheheldherhandinthehandclasp,he
thought,"She'llbemywife,someday,Godandshewillin'."
Katiecouldnotknowwhathewasthinking.(Orcouldshe?)Maybe.Becausesomething
promptedhertocallafterhim.
"Ihopethatsomedayyou'llbeashappyasyoudeservetobe,SergeantMcShane."
XXXIV
WHENFrancieheardAuntSissytellmamathatshewasgoingto
get
ababy,shewondered
whySissydidn'tsay
have
ababy,likeotherwomensaid.Shefoundouttherewasareasonwhy
Sissysaid
get
insteadof
have
.
Sissyhadhadthreehusbands.ThereweretentinyheadstonesinasmallplotinSt.John's
CemeteryinCypressHills,belongingtoSissy.Andoneachstone,thedateofdeathwasthe
sameasthedateofbirth.Sissywasthirty-five,now,anddesperateaboutnothavingchildren.
KatieandJohnnyoftentalkeditoverandKatiewasafraidthatSissywouldkidnapachild
someday.
Sissywantedtoadoptachild,butherJohnwouldn'thearofit.
"I'llnotsupportanotherman'sbastard,see?"washiswayofputtingit.
"Don'tyoulikechildren,Lover?"sheaskedwheedlingly.
"SureIlikechildren.Buttheygottobemyownandnotsomeotherbum's,"heanswered,
unintentionallyinsultinghimself.
Inmostthings,herJohnwaslikesoftdoughinSissy'shands.Butinthisonething,herefused
toallowhimselftobekneadedherway.Iftherewastobeachild,hekeptinsisting,itwould
havetobehisandnootherman's.Sissyknewhemeantit.Sheevenhadakindofrespectfor
hisattitude.Butshe
had
tohavealivingbaby.
Bychance,Sissyfoundoutthatabeautifulsixteen-year-oldgirloutinMaspethhadgotteninto
troublewithamarriedmanandwasgoingtohaveababy.Herparents,Sicilianslatelycome
overfromtheotherside,hadshutupthegirlinadarkroomsothattheneighborscouldnotsee
hershameincrease.Herfatherkeptheronadietofbreadandwater.Hehadatheorythatthis
wouldweakenhersothatsheandherchildwoulddieinchildbirth.Lestthekind-heartedmother
feedLuciaduringhisabsence,thefatherleftnomoneyinthehousewhenhewenttoworkin
themornings.Hebroughtabagfulofgrocerieseachnightwhenhereturnedhomeandwatched
thatnofoodwassneakedoutandsetasideforthegirl.Afterthefamilyhadeaten,hegavethe
girlherdailyrationofhalfaloafofbreadandajugofwater.
Sissywasshockedwhensheheardthisstoryofstarvationandcruelty.Shethoughtoutaplan.
Feelingastheydid,shethoughtthefamilymightbegladtogiveawaythebabywhenitwas
born.Shedecidedtohavealookatthepeople.Iftheyseemednormalandhealthy,she'doffer
totakethebaby.
Themotherwouldn'tletherintothehousewhenshecalled.Sissycamebackthenextdaywith
abadgepinnedtohercoat.Sheknockedonthedoor.Whenitwasopenedacrack,shepointed
tothebadgeandsternlydemandedadmittance.Thefrightenedmother,thinkingSissywasfrom
theimmigrationdepartment,letherin.Themothercouldnotreadelseshewouldhaveseen
thatthebadgesaid"ChickenInspector."
Sissytookcharge.Themother-to-bewasfrightenedanddefiantandalsoverythinfromthe
starvationdiet.Sissythreatenedthegirl'smotherwitharrestifshedidn'ttreatthegirlbetter.
WithmanytearsandinbadlybrokenEnglish,themothertoldofthedisgraceandofthefather's
plantostarvethegirlandtheunbornchildtodeath.Sissyhadaday-longtalkwiththemother
andLucia,thedaughter.Itwasmostlyinpantomime.AtlastSissymadeitunderstoodthatshe
waswillingtotakethechildofftheirhandsassoonasitwasborn.Whenthemotherunderstood
finally,shecoveredSissy'shandwithgratefulkisses.Fromthatday,Sissybecametheadored
andtrustedfriendofthefamily.
AfterherJohnleftforworkinthemorning,Sissycleanedupherflat,cookedapotfuloffoodfor
LuciaandtookitovertotheItalianhome.ShefedLuciawellonacombinationIrish-German
diet.Shehadatheorythatifthechildabsorbedsuchfoodbeforebirth,itwouldn'tbesomuchof
anItalian.
SissytookgoodcareofLucia.Onnicedays,shetookherouttotheparkandmadehersitin
thesun.Duringthetimeoftheirunusualrelationship,Sissywasadevotedfriendandagay
companiontothegirl.LuciaadoredSissywhowastheonlyoneinthisnewworldwhohad
treatedherkindly.Thewholefamily(exceptthefather,whodidn'tknowofherexistence)loved
Sissy.Themotherandotherchildrengladlyenteredintoaconspiracytokeepthefatherin
ignorance.TheylockedLuciaupinherdarkroomagainwhentheyheardthefather'sstepon
thestairs.
Thefamilycouldn'tspeakmuchEnglishandSissyknewnoItalianbutasthemonthspassed,
theylearnedsomeEnglishfromherandshelearnedItalianfromthemandtheywereableto
talktogether.Sissynevertoldhernamesotheycalledher"Statch'Lib'ty"aftertheladywiththe
torchwhichhadbeenthefirstthingtheysawofAmerica.
SissytookoverLucia,herunbornchildandthefamily.Wheneverythingwassettledandagreed
upon,Sissyannouncedtoherfriendsandfamilythatshewasstartinganotherbaby.Noone
paidanyattention.Sissywasalwaysstartingbabies.
Shefoundanobscuremidwifeandpaidherinadvanceforthedelivery.Shegaveherapaper
onwhichshehadaskedKatietowritehername,herJohn'snameandSissy'smaidenname.
ShetoldthemidwifethatthepaperwastobeturnedovertotheBoardofHealthimmediately
afterthebirth.Theignorantwoman,whocouldnotspeakItalian(Sissyhadmadesureofthat
whenshehiredher)assumedthatthenameshandedherwerethenamesofthemotherand
father.Sissywantedthebirthcertificatetobeinorder.
Sissywassorealisticaboutherpregnancybyproxythatshesimulatedmorningsicknessinthe
beginningweeks.WhenLuciaannouncedthatshefeltlife,Sissytoldherhusbandthat
she
felt
life.
OntheafternoonthatLucia'slaborpainsstarted,Sissywenthomeandgotintobed.Whenher
Johncamehomefromwork,shetoldhimthebabywasstartingtocome.Helookedather.She
wasastrimasaballetdancer.Heargued,butshewassoinsistent,thathewentandgother
mother.MaryRommelylookedatSissyandsaidshecouldn'tpossiblybehavingababy.For
answer,Sissyletoutablood-curdlingyellandsaidthatherpainswerekillingher.Marylooked
atherthoughtfully.Shedidn'tknowwhatSissyhadinmindbutshedidknowitwasuselessto
arguewithher.IfSissysaidshewasgoingtohaveababy,shewasgoingtohaveababy,and
that'salltherewastoit.HerJohnprotested.
"Butlookhowskinnysheis.There'snobabyinthatbelly,see?"
"Maybeitwillcomefromherhead.That'sbigenoughasonemaysee,"saidMaryRommely.
"Aw,theredon'tgivesuchthings,"saidtheJohn.
"Whoareyoutosay?"demandedSissy."Didn'ttheVirginMaryherselfgetababywithouta
man?Ifshecoulddoit,I'msureIcoulddoiteasier,being'sI'mmarriedandhaveaman."
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Documents you may be interested