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Bythetimeshewastwenty,shehadhadfourchildren,allborndead.Finallyshecametothe
conclusionthatherhusbandwasatfault.Itwasn'therfault.Hadn'tshestoppedskippingrope
afterthefirstchild?ShetoldJimthatshedidn'tcareforhimanymoresincenothingbutdeath
grewoutoftheirlove-making.Shetoldhimtoleaveher.Hearguedalittlebutwentfinally.At
firsthesenthermoneyfromtimetotime.SometimeswhenSissygotlonesomeforaman,
she'dwalkpastthefirehousewhereJimwouldbesittingoutsidewithhischairtiltedagainstthe
brickwall.She'dwalkslow,smilingandswayingherhips,andJimwouldtakeunauthorized
leave,runuptotheflatandthey'dbeveryhappytogetherforahalfhourorso.
EventuallySissymetanothermanwhowantedtomarryher.Whathisrealnamewasnobodyin
herfamilyknew,becauseshebegancallinghimJohnrightaway.Hersecondmarriagewas
arrangedverysimply.Divorcewascomplicatedandexpensive.BesidesshewasaCatholicand
didn'tbelieveindivorce.SheandJimhadbeenmarriedbyaclerkinCityHall.Shereasoned
thatithadn'tbeenachurch,orarealmarriagesowhyletitstandinherway?Usingher
marriagenameandsayingnothingaboutherpreviousmarriage,shewasmarriedagaininCity
Hallbutbyadifferentclerk.
Mary,hermother,wasdistressedbecauseSissyhadn'tmarriedinthechurch.Thissecond
marriageprovidedThomaswithanewimplementoftortureforhiswife.Heoftentoldherthathe
wasgoingtotellapolicemanandhaveSissyarrestedforbigamy.Butbeforehecouldget
aroundtoit,SissyandhersecondJohnhadbeenmarriedfouryears,shehadgivenbirthto
fourmorechildren,allborndead,andshehaddecidedthatthissecondJohnwasn'therman
either.
Shedissolvedthemarriageverysimplybytellingherhusband,aProtestant,thatsincethe
CatholicChurchdidn'trecognizehermarriage,shedidn'trecognizeiteitherandshenow
announcedherfreedom.
JohnTwotookitinhisstride.HelikedSissyandhadbeenfairlyhappywithher.Butshewas
likequicksilver.Inspiteofherterrifyingfranknessandoverwhelmingnaïveté,hereallyknew
nothingaboutherandhewastiredoflivingwithanenigma.Hedidn'tfeeltoobadaboutgoing
away.
Sissyattwenty-fourhadborneeightchildren,noneofwhomhadlived.ShedecidedthatGod
wasagainsthermarrying.Shegotajobinarubberfactorywhereshetoldeveryoneshewasan
oldmaid(whichnoonebelieved),andwenthometolivewithhermother.Betweenhersecond
andthirdmarriage,shehadasuccessionofloversallofwhomshecalledJohn.
Aftereachfutilebirth,herloveofchildrengrewstronger.Shehaddarkmoodsinwhichshe
thoughtshewouldgocrazyifshedidn'thaveachildtolove.Shepouredoutherfrustrated
maternityonthemenshesleptwith,onhertwosisters,EvyandKatie,andontheirchildren.
Francieadoredher.ShehadhearditwhisperedthatSissywasabadgirlbutshelovedher
fiercelyjustthesame.EvyandKatietriedtobemadattheirerringsisterbutshewassogoodto
themthattheycouldn'tholdoutagainsther.
SoonafterFranciewaseleven,SissymarriedforthethirdtimeatCityHall.ThethirdJohnwas
theonewhoworkedinthemagazinecompanyandthroughhimFranciehadthosefine,new
magazineseachmonth.Shehopedthethirdmarriagewouldendurebecauseofthemagazines.
Eliza,theseconddaughterofMaryandThomaslackedtheprettinessandfireofherthree
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sisters.Shewasplainanddullandindifferenttolife.Mary,wantingtogiveoneofherdaughters
tothechurch,decidedthatElizawastheone.Elizaenteredaconventatsixteen.Shechosea
veryrigidorderofnuns.Shewasneverpermittedtoleavetheconventwallsexceptonthe
occasionofherparents'death.ShetookthenameofUrsulaandasSisterUrsulashebecame
anunreallegendtoFrancie.
FranciesawheroncewhenshecameoutoftheconventtoattendThomasRommely'sfuneral.
Franciewasnineatthetime.Shehadjustmadeherfirstcommunionandhadgivenherselfso
whole-heartedlytothechurchthatshethoughtshemightliketobeanunwhenshegrewup.
SheawaitedSisterUrsula'scomingwithexcitement.Justthinkofit!Anauntwhowasanun!
Whatanhonor.ButwhenSisterUrsulastoopedtokissher,Franciesawthatshehadafine
fringeofhaironherupperlipandchin.ThisfrightenedFrancieintobelievingthathairgrewon
thefacesofallnunswhoenteredtheconventatatenderage.Franciedecidedagainst
sisterhood.
EvywasthethirdRommelygirl.She,too,hadmarriedyoung.ShemarriedWillieFlittman,a
handsome,black-hairedmanwithasilkymustacheandliquideyeslikeanItalian.Francie
thoughtthathehadaverycomicalnameandshelaughedtoherselfeverytimeshethoughtof
it.
Flittmanwasn'tmuchgood.Hewasn'texactlyabum,hewasjustaweakmanwhowhinedall
thetime.
But
heplayedtheguitar.ThoseRommelywomenhadaweaknessforanykindofman
whowasbywayofbeingacreatororaperformer.Anykindofmusical,artisticorstory-telling
talentwaswonderfultothemandtheyfeltittheirdutytonurtureandguardthesethings.
Evywastherefinedoneofthefamily.Shelivedinacheapbasementflatonthefringesofa
veryrefinedneighborhoodandstudiedherbetters.
Shewantedtobesomebody;wantedherchildrentohaveadvantagesshehadneverhad.She
hadthreechildren;aboynamedafterhisfather,agirlnamedBlossomandanotherboycalled
PaulJones.HerfirststeptowardsrefinementwastotakeherchildrenoutoftheCatholic
SundaySchoolandputthemintheEpiscopalSundaySchool.Shehadgottenitintoherhead
thattheProtestantsweremorerefinedthantheCatholics.
Evy,lovingtalentinmusicandlackingitherself,soughtforitavidlyinherchildren.Shehoped
thatBlossomwouldliketosingandthatPaulJoneswouldwanttoplaythefiddleandLittle
Williethepiano.Buttherewasnomusicinthechildren.Evytookthebullby thehorns.They
wouldhavetolovemusicwhethertheywantedtoornot.Iftalentwasn'tborninthem,maybeit
couldbeshovedinatsomuchperhour.Sheboughtasecond-handfiddleforPaulJonesand
negotiatedlessonsforhimatfiftycentsanhourfromamanwhocalledhimselfProfessor
Allegretto.HetaughtlittleFlittmanfearsomescrapingsandattheendoftheyeargavehimthe
piececalled"Humoresque."Evythoughtitwaswonderfulwhenhegotapiecetoplay.Itwas
betterthanplayingthescalesallthetime...well,alittlebetter.ThenEvygotmoreambitious.
"Beings,shesaidtoherhusband,"thatwe'vegotthefiddleforPaulJones,littleBlossomcould
takelessonstooandbothcouldpracticeonthesamefiddle."
"Atdifferenttimes,Ihope,"repliedherhusbandsourly.
"Whatdoyouthink,"sheansweredindignantly.
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SofiftycentsmoreaweekwasscrapedupandfoldedintoBlossom'sreluctanthandandshe
wassentofftotakefiddlelessons,too.
ItsohappenedthatProfessorAllegrettohadaveryslightpeculiarityconcerninghisgirlpupils.
Hemadethemtakeofftheirshoesandstockingsandstandintheirbarefeetonhisgreen
carpetwhiletheysawedaway.Insteadofbeatingtimeorcorrectingtheirfingering,hespentthe
hourinareveriestaringattheirfeet.
EvywaswatchingBlossomgettingreadyforalessononeday.Shenoticedthatthechild
removedhershoesandstockingsandwashedherfeetcarefully.Evythoughtthat
commendablebutalittlestrange.
"Andwhydoyouwashyourfeetnow?"
"Formyfiddlelessons."
"Youplaywithyourhands,notyourfeet."
"Ifeelashamedstandinginfrontoftheprofessorwithdirtyfeet."
"Hecanseethroughyourshoesmaybe?"
"Idon'tthinksobecausehealwaysmakesmetakemyshoesandstockingsoff."
ThismadeEvyjump.SheknewnothingofFreudandherscantyknowledgeofsexdidnot
includeanyofitsdeviations.ButhercommonsensetoldherthatProfessorAllegrettoshould
notchargefiftycentsanhourandnotattendtohiswork.Blossom'smusicaleducationwas
terminatedthenandthere.
Uponbeingquestioned,PaulJonessaidthathehadneverbeenaskedtotakeanythingoffbut
hishatwhenhewentforalesson.Hewasallowedtocontinue.Infiveyears,hecouldplaythe
fiddlealmostaswellashisfather,whohadnevertakenalessoninhislife,couldplaytheguitar.
Asidefromhismusic,UncleFlittmanwasadullman.Athome,hisonlytopicofconversation
wasthewayDrummer,themilkwagonhorse,treatedhim.Flittmanandthehorsehadbeen
feudingforfiveyearsandEvyhopedthatoneofthemwouldgetthedecisionsoon.
Evyreallylovedherhusbandalthoughshecouldnotresistmimickinghim.She'dstandinthe
Nolankitchenandpretendthatshewasthehorse,Drummer,andshe'dgiveagoodimitationof
UncleFlittmantryingtoputthefeedbagonthehorse.
"Thehorseisstandingatthecurblikethis,"Evyleanedoveruntilherheadwasdanglingather
knees."Willcomesalongwiththefeedbag.He'sjustabouttoputiton,whenupgoesthe
horse'shead."HereEvywouldjerkherheadhighandwhinnylikeahorse."Willwaits.The
horse'sheadgoesdownagain.You'dthinkhenevercouldgetitupintheair.Thehorsemakes
outlikehe'sgotnobones."Evy'sheadlolledalarmingly."ComesWillwiththefeedbag,upgoes
thehead."
"
Then
whathappens?"askedFrancie.
"
I
godownandputthefeedbagonthehorse.That'swhathappens."
"Doesheletyou?"
"Doesheletme,"EvyreportedtoKatie,thenturnedtoFrancie."Whyherunsuponthe
sidewalktomeetmeandstickshisheadinthefeedbagbeforeIcanliftitup,even.Doeshelet
me,"shemurmuredindignantly.SheturnedagaintoKatie."Youknow,Kate,sometimesIthink
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mymanisjealousthewaythehorse,Drummer,likesme."
Katiestaredatheramomentwithhermouthopen.Thenshestartedtolaugh.Evylaughedand
Francielaughed.ThetwoRommelygirlsandFranciewhowashalfaRommelystoodthere
laughingaboutasecrettheysharedconcerningtheweaknessofaman.
ThoseweretheRommelywomen:Mary,themother,Evy,Sissy,andKatie,herdaughters,and
Francie,whowouldgrowuptobeaRommelywomaneventhoughhernamewasNolan.They
wereallslender,frailcreatureswithwonderingeyesandsoftflutteryvoices.
Buttheyweremadeoutofthininvisiblesteel.
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VIII
THERommelysrantowomenofstrongpersonalities.TheNolansrantoweakandtalented
men.Johnny'sfamilywasdyingout.TheNolanmengrewhandsomer,weakerandmore
beguilingwitheachgeneration.Theyhadawayoffallinginlovebutofduckingmarriage.That
wasthemainreasonwhytheyweredyingout.
RuthieNolanhadcomefromIrelandwithherhandsomeyounghusbandsoonaftertheir
marriage.Theyhadfoursonsbornayearapart.ThenMickeydiedatthirtyandRuthiecarried
on.ShemanagedtogetAndy.Georgie,Frankie,andJohnnythroughthesixthgrade.Aseach
boyreachedtheageoftwelve,hehadtoleaveschooltogoouttoearnafewpennies.
Theboysgrewup,handsome,abletoplaymusic,todanceandtosingandwithallthegirls
crazyforthem.ThoughtheNolanslivedintheshabbiesthouseinIrishTown,theboyswerethe
dressiestintheneighborhood.Theironingboardwaskeptsetupinthekitchen.Oneorthe
otherwasalwayspressingpants,smoothingoutatieorironingashirt.Theyweretheprideof
Shantytown,thetall,blond,good-lookingNolanlads.Theyhadquickfeetinshoesthatwere
kepthighlypolished.Theirtrousershungjustsoandtheirhatssetjauntilyontheirhead.But
theywerealldeadbeforetheywerethirty-five-alldead,andofthefour,onlyJohnnyleft
children.
Andywastheeldestandthehandsomest.Hehadred-goldwavyhairandfinelymolded
features.Hehadconsumption,too.HewasengagedtoagirlnamedFrancieMelaney.They
keptputtingoffthemarriagewaitingforhimtogetbetter,onlyheneverdidgetbetter.
TheNolanboysweresingingwaiters.TheyhadbeentheNolanQuartetteuntilAndygottoo
sicktowork.TheybecametheNolanTriothen.Theydidn'tearnmuchandspentmostofthat
onliquorandhorse-racingbets.
WhenAndytooktohisbedforthelasttime,theboysboughthimagenuineswansdownpillow
thatcostsevendollars.Theywantedhimtohavealuxurybeforehedied.Andythoughtitwasa
wonderfulpillow.Andyusedittwodays,thentherewasalastgreatgushofbloodwhichstained
thefinenewpillowarustybrownandAndydied.Hismotherkeenedoverthebodyforthree
days.FrancieMelaneymadeavowthatshewouldnevermarry.ThethreeremainingNolan
boyssworethattheywouldneverleavetheirmother.
Sixmonthslater,JohnnymarriedKatie.RuthiehatedKatie.Shehadhopedtokeepallofher
fineboyshomewithheruntileithersheortheydied.Sofarallhadavoidedmarriage.Butthat
girl-thatgirl,KatieRommely!Shedidit!RuthiewassurethatJohnnyhadbeentrickedinto
marriage.
GeorgieandFrankielikedKatiebutthoughtitwasadirtytrickforJohnnytoskipoutandleave
themtotakecareoftheirmother.Theymadethebestofit,however.Theylookedaroundfora
weddingpresentanddecidedtogiveKatiethefinepillowtheyhadboughtforAndyandwhich
hehadusedsobriefly.Themothersewedanewtickingoverittohidetheuglystainthathad
beenthepastpartofAndy'slife.ThepillowthuspassedontoJohnnyandKatie.Itwas
consideredtoogoodforordinaryuseandonlybroughtoutwhenoneofthemwassick.Francie
calledit"thesickpillow."NeitherKatienorFrancieknewthatithadbeenadeathpillow.
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AboutayearafterJohnny'smarriage,Frankie,whommanythoughtevenhandsomerthanAndy,
waveredhomeafteradrinkingpartyonenightandstumbledoversometautwirethatabucolic
Brooklynitehadstrungaroundasquarefootofgrassbeforehishousestoop.Thewirewasheld
upby sharplittlesticks.AsFrankiestumbled,oneofthestickspiercedhisstomach.Hegotup
somehowandwenthome.Hediedduringthenight.Hediedaloneandwithoutthepriest'slast
absolutionforallofhissins.Fortherestofherdays,hismotherhadamasssaidonceamonth
forthereposeofhissoulwhichsheknewwanderedaboutinPurgatory.
Inlittlemorethanayear,RuthieNolanhadlostthreesons;twobydeathandonebymarriage.
Shegrievedforthethree.Georgie,whoneverlefther,diedthreeyearslaterwhenhewas
twenty-eight.Johnny,twenty-three,wastheonlyNolanboyleftatthetime.
TheseweretheNolanboys.Alldiedyoung.Alldiedsuddenorviolentdeathsbroughtonby
theirownrecklessnessortheirownbadwayofliving.Johnnywastheonlyonewholivedpast
histhirtiethbirthday.
Andthechild,FrancieNolan,wasofalltheRommelysandalltheNolans.Shehadtheviolent
weaknessesandpassionforbeautyoftheshantyNolans.Shewasamosaicofher
grandmotherRommely'smysticism,hertale-telling,hergreatbeliefineverythingandher
compassionfortheweakones.ShehadalotofhergrandfatherRommely'scruelwill.Shehad
someofherAuntEvy'stalentformimicking,someofRuthieNolan'spossessiveness.Shehad
AuntSissy'sloveforlifeandherloveforchildren.ShehadJohnny'ssentimentalitywithouthis
goodlooks.ShehadallofKatie'ssoftwaysandonlyhalfoftheinvisiblesteelofKatie.Shewas
madeupofallofthesegoodandthesebadthings.
Shewasmadeupofmore,too.Shewasthebooksshereadinthelibrary.Shewasofthe
flowerinthebrownbowl.Partofherlifewasmadefromthetreegrowingranklyintheyard.She
wasthebitterquarrelsshehadwithherbrotherwhomsheloveddearly.ShewasKatie'ssecret,
despairingweeping.Shewastheshameofherfatherstaggeringhomedrunk.
ShewasallofthesethingsandofsomethingmorethatdidnotcomefromtheRommelysnor
theNolans,thereading,theobserving,thelivingfromdaytoday.Itwassomethingthathad
beenbornintoherandheronly-thesomethingdifferentfromanyoneelseinthetwofamilies.It
waswhatGodorwhateverisHisequivalentputsintoeachsoulthatisgivenlife-theone
differentthingsuchasthatwhichmakesnotwofingerprintsonthefaceoftheearthalike.
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IX
JOHNNYandKatieweremarriedandwenttoliveonaquietsidestreetinWilliamsburgcalled
BogartStreet.Johnnychosethestreetbecauseitsnamehadathrillingdarksound.Theywere
veryhappytherethefirstyearoftheirmarriage.
KatiehadmarriedJohnnybecauseshelikedthewayhesanganddancedanddressed.
Womanlike,shesetaboutchangingallthosethingsinhimaftermarriage.Shepersuadedhim
togiveupthesingingwaiterbusiness.Hedidso,sincehewasinloveandanxioustoplease
her.Theygotajobtogethertakingcareofapublicschoolandtheylovedit.Theirdaystarted
whentherestoftheworldwenttobed.Aftersupper,Katieputonherblackcoatwiththebig
leg-o-muttonsleeves,lavishlytrimmedwithbraid-herlastlootfromthefactory-andthrewa
cherrywoolfascinatoroverherhead(a"noobie"shecalledit),andsheandJohnnysetofffor
work.
Theschoolwasoldandsmallandwarm.Theylookedforwardtospendingthenightthere.They
walkedarm-in-arm;heinhispatentleatherdancingshoesandsheinherhighlacedkidboots.
Sometimeswhenthenightwasfrostyandfullofstars,theyranalittle,skippedalittleand
laughedalot.Theyfeltveryimportantusingtheirprivatekeytogetintotheschool.Theschool
wastheirworldforanight.
Theyplayedgameswhiletheyworked.JohnnysatatoneofthedesksandKatiepretendedshe
wasateacher.Theywrotemessagestoeachotherontheblackboards.Theypulleddownthe
mapswhichrolleduplikeshadesandpointedoutforeigncountrieswiththerubber-tipped
pointer.Theywerefilledwithwonderatthethoughtofstrangelandsandunknownlanguages.
(Hewasnineteenandshewasseventeen.)
Theylikedbesttocleantheassemblyroom.Johnnydustedthepianoand,whiledoingso,ran
hisfingersoverthekeys.Hepickedoutsomecords.Katiesatinthefrontrowandaskedhimto
sing.Hesangtoher;sentimentalsongsofthetime:"SheMayHaveSeenBetterDays,"or"I'm
Wearin'MyHeartAwayForYou."Peoplelivingnearbywouldbecoaxedoutoftheirmidnight
sleepbythesinging.They'dlieintheirwarmbeds,listeningdrowsilyandmurmurtoeachother,
"Thatfeller,whoeverheis,islosingtime.He'slosingtime.Heoughttobeinashow."
SometimesJohnnywentintooneofhisdancesonthelittleplatformthathepretendedwasa
stage.Hewassogracefulandhandsome,soloving,sofullofthegrandnessofjustliving,that
Katie,watchinghim,thoughtshewoulddieofbeinghappy.
Attwo,theywentintotheteachers'lunchroomwheretherewasagasplate.Theymadecoffee.
Theykeptacanofcondensedmilkinthecupboard.Theyenjoyedtheboilinghotcoffeewhich
filledtheroomwithawonderfulsmell.Theirryebreadandbolognasandwichestastedgood.
Sometimesaftersupper,they'dgointotheteachers'restroomwheretherewasa
chintz-coveredcouchandliethereforawhilewiththeirarmsabouteachother.
Theyemptiedthewastebaskets,lastthing,andKatiesalvagedthelongerbitsofdiscarded
chalkandthepencilsthatwerenottoostubby.Shetookthemhomeandsavedtheminabox.
LaterwhenFranciewasgrowingup,shefeltveryrichhavingsomuchchalkandsomany
pencilstouse.
Atdawn,theylefttheschoolscrubbed,shiny,warmandreadyforthedaytimejanitor.They
walkedhomewatchingthestarsfadefromthesky.Theypassedthebaker'swherethesmellof
freshly-bakedrollscameuptothemfromthebakingroominthebasement.Johnnyrandown
andboughtanickel'sworthofbunshotfromtheoven.Arrivinghome,theyhadabreakfastof
hotcoffeeandwarmsweetbuns.ThenJohnnyranoutandgotthemorning
American
andread
thenewstoher,withrunningcomments,whileshecleaneduptheirrooms.Atnoon,theyhada
hotdinnerofpotroastandnoodlesorsomethinggoodlikethat.Afterdinnertheysleptuntilit
wastimetogetupforwork.
Theyearnedfiftydollarsamonthwhichwasgoodpayforpeopleoftheirclassinthosedays.
Theylivedcomfortablyanditwasagoodlifetheyhad...happyandfullofsmalladventures.
Andtheyweresoyoungandlovedeachothersomuch.
Inafewmonths,totheirinnocentamazementandconsternation,Katiefoundoutthatshewas
pregnant.ShetoldJohnnythatshewas"thatway."Johnnywasbewilderedandconfusedat
first.Hedidn'twanthertoworkattheschool.Shetoldhimshehadbeenthatwayforquitea
whilewithoutbeingsureandhadbeenworkingandhadnotsuffered.Whensheconvincedhim
thatitwasgoodforhertowork,hegavein.Shecontinuedworkinguntilshegottoounwieldyto
dustunderthedesks.Soonshecoulddolittlemorethangoalongwithhimforcompanyandlie
onthegaycouchnolongerusedforlove-making.Hedidalltheworknow.Attwointhemorning,
hemadeclumsysandwichesandover-boiledcoffeeforher.Theywerestillveryhappyalthough
Johnnywasgettingmoreandmoreworriedasthetimeworeon.
TowardstheendofafrostyDecembernight,herpainsstarted.Shelayonthecouch,holding
thembacknotwantingtotellJohnnyuntiltheworkwasfinished.Onthewayhome,therewasa
tearingpainthatshecouldn'tkeepback.ShemoanedandJohnnyknewthatthebabywason
theway.Hegotherhomeandputhertobedwithoutundressingher,andcoveredherwarmly.
HerandowntheblocktoMrs.Gindler,themidwifeandbeggedhertohurry.Thatgoodwoman
drovehimcrazyby takinghertime.
Shehadtotakedozensofcurlersoutofherhair.Shecouldn'tfindherteethandrefusedto
officiatewithoutthem.Johnnyhelpedhersearchandtheyfoundthematlastinaglassofwater
ontheledgeoutsidethewindow.Thewaterhadfrozenaroundtheteethandtheyhadtobe
thawedbeforeshecouldputthemin.Thatdone,shehadtogoaboutmakingacharmoutofa
pieceofblessedpalmtakenfromthealtaronPalmSunday.Tothis,sheaddedamedalofthe
BlessedMother,asmallbluebirdfeather,abrokenbladefromapenknifeandasprigofsome
herb.Thesethingsweretiedtogetherwithabitofdirtystringfromthecorsetofawomanwho
hadgivenbirthtotwinsafteronlytenminutesoflabor.Shesprinkledthewholebusinesswith
holywaterthatwassupposedtohavecomefromawellinJerusalemfromwhichitwassaid
thatJesushadoncequenchedHisthirst.Sheexplainedtothefranticboythatthischarmwould
cutthepainsandassurehimofafine,well-bornbaby.Lastlyshegrabbedhercrocodile
satchel-familiartoeveryoneintheneighborhoodandbelievedbyalltheyoungsterstobethe
satchelinwhichtheyhadbeendelivered,kicking,totheirmothers-andshewasreadytogo.
Katiewasscreaminginpainwhentheygottoher.Theflatwasfilledwithneighborwomenwho
stoodaroundprayingandreminiscingabouttheirownchild-bedexperiences.
"WhenIhadmyWincent,"saidone,"I…"
"Iwasevensmallerthanher,"saidanother,"andwhen…"
"Theydidn'texpectmetocomethroughit,"proudlydeclaredathird,"but..."
TheywelcomedthemidwifeandshooedJohnnyoutoftheplace.Hesatonthestoopand
trembledeachtimeKatiecriedout.Hewasconfused,ithadhappenedsosuddenly.Itwasnow
seveninthemorning.Herscreamskeptcomingtohimeventhoughthewindowswereclosed.
Menpassedontheirwaytowork,lookedatthewindowfrombehindwhichthescreamswere
comingandthenlookedatJohnnyhuddledonthestoopandasomberlookcameovertheir
faces.
KatiewasinlaborallthatdayandtherewasnothingthatJohnnycoulddo-nothingthathecould
do.Towardsnight,hecouldn'tstanditanylonger.Hewenttohismother'shouseforcomforting.
WhenhetoldherthatKatiewashavingababy,shenearlyraisedtheroofwithher
lamentations.
"Nowshe'sgotyougood,"shewailed."You'llneverbeabletocomebacktome."Shewould
notbeconsoled.
Johnnyhunteduphisbrother,Georgie,whowasworkingadance.Hesatdrinking,waitingfor
Georgietofinish,forgettingthathewassupposedtobeattheschool.WhenGeorgiewasfree
forthenight,theywenttoseveralall-nightsaloons,hadadrinkortwoateachplaceandtold
everyonewhatJohnnywasgoingthrough.Themenlistenedsympathetically,treatedJohnnyto
drinksandassuredhimthattheyhadbeenthroughthesamemill.Towardsdawn,theboys
wenttotheirmother'shousewhereJohnnyfellintoatroubledsleep.Atnine,hewokeupwitha
feelingofcomingtrouble.HerememberedKatieand,toolate,herememberedtheschool.He
washedanddressedandstartedforhome.Hepassedafruitstandwhichdisplayedavocados.
HeboughttwoforKatie.
Hehadnowayofknowingthatduringthenight,hiswifeingreatpain,andafternearly
twenty-fourhoursoflabor,gavebloodybirthtoafragilebabygirl.Theonlynotablethingabout
thebirthwasthattheinfantwasbornwithacaulwhichwassupposedtoindicatethatthechild
wassetaparttodogreatthingsintheworld.Themidwifesurreptitiouslyconfiscatedthecaul
andlatersoldittoasailorfromtheBrooklynNavyYardfortwodollars.Whoeverworeacaul
wouldnever.diebydrowning,itwassaid.Thesailorworeitinaflannelbagaroundhisneck.
Whilehedrankandsleptthenightaway,Johnnydidnotknowthatthenighthadturnedcold
andtheschoolfireswhichhewassupposedtotendhadgoneoutandthewaterpipeshadburst
andfloodedtheschoolbasementandthefirstfloor.
Whenhegothome,hefoundKatielyinginthedarkbedroom.Thebabywasbesideheron
Andy'spillow.Theflatwasscrupulouslyclean;,theneighborwomenhadattendedtothat.
TherewasafaintodorofcarbolicacidmixedwithMennen'stalcumpowder.Themidwifehad
goneaftersaying,"ThatwillbefivedollarsandyourhusbandknowswhereIlive."
SheleftandKatieturnedherfacetothewallandtriednottocry.Duringthenight,sheassured
herselfthatJohnnywasworkingattheschool.Shehadhopedthathewouldrunhomefora
momentduringthetwoo'clockeatingperiod.Nowitwaslatemorningandheshouldbehome.
Maybehehadgonetohismother'stosnatchsomesleepafterthenight'swork.Shemade
herselfbelievethatnomatterwhatJohnnywasdoing,itwasallrightandthathisexplanation
wouldsethermindatease.
Soonafterthemidwifeleft,Evycameover.Aneighbor'sboyhadbeensentforher.Evybrought
alongsomesweetbutterandapackageofsodacrackersandmadetea.Ittastedsogoodto
Katie.Evyexaminedthebabyandthoughtitdidn'tlooklikemuchbutshesaidnothingtoKatie.
WhenJohnnygothome,Evystartedtolecturehim.Butwhenshesawhowpaleandfrightened
helookedandwhensheconsideredhisage-justtwentyyearsold,shechokedupinside,kissed
hischeek,toldhimnottoworryandmadefreshcoffeeforhim.
Johnnyhardlylookedatthebaby.Stillclutchingtheavocados,hekneltbyKatie'sbedand
sobbedouthisfearandworry.Katiecriedwithhim.Duringthenight,shehadwantedhimwith
her.Nowshewishedshecouldhavehadthatbabysecretlyandgoneawaysomewhereand
whenitwasovercomebackandtellhimthateverythingwasfine.Shehadhadthepain;ithad
beenlikebeingboiledaliveinscaldingoilandnotbeingabletodietogetfreeofit.Shehadhad
thepain.DearGod!Wasn'tthatenough?Whydid
he
havetosuffer?
He
wasn'tputtogetherfor
sufferingbut
she
was.Shehadborneachildbuttwohoursago.Shewassoweakthatshe
couldn'tliftherheadaninchfromthepillow,yetitwasshewhocomfortedhimandtoldhimnot
toworry,thatshewouldtakecareofhim.
Johnnybegantofeelbetter.Hetoldherthatafterallitwasnothing;thathehadlearnedthata
lotofhusbandshadbeen"throughthemill."
"I'vebeenthroughthemill,now,too,"hesaid."AndnowI'maman."
Hemadeabigfussoverthebabythen.Athissuggestion,KatieagreedtonameherFrancie,
afterthegirl,FrancieMelaney,whohadnevermarriedhisbrother,Andy.Theythoughtitwould
helptomendherbrokenheartifsheweremadegodmother.Thechildwouldhavethename
she
wouldhavecarriedhadAndylived:FrancieNolan.
HefixedtheavocadoswithsweetoilandpickledvinegarandbroughtthesaladintoKatie.She
wasdisappointedattheflattaste.Johnnysaidyouhadtogetusedtoit,likeolives.Forhissake
andbecauseshewastouchedbyhisthinkingofher,Katieatethesalad.Evywasurgedtotry
some.Shedidandsaidthatshe'dsoonerhavetomatoes.
WhileJohnnywasinthekitchendrinkingcoffee,aboycamefromtheschoolwithanotefrom
theprincipalwhichsaidthatJohnnywasfiredbecauseofneglect.Hewastoldtocomearound
andgetwhatmoneywasduehim.ThenoteendedbytellingJohnnynottoaskfora
recommendation.Johnny'sfacegotpaleashereadit.Hegavethekidanickelforbringingthe
noteandamessagesayinghewouldbearound.Hedestroyedthenoteandsaidnothingabout
ittoKatie.
Johnnysawtheprincipalandtriedtoexplain.TheprincipaltoldJohnnythatsinceheknewthe
babywascoming,heshouldhavebeenmorecarefulofhisjob.Asakindlyafterthought,hetold
theboythathewouldn'thavetopaythedamagecausedbytheburstpipes;theBoardof
Educationwouldseetothat.Johnnythankedhim.Theprincipalpaidhimfromhisownpocket
afterJohnnyhadsignedavoucherturningoverthecomingpaychecktotheprincipal.Allinall,
theprincipaldidthebesthecouldaccordingtothewayhesawthings.
Johnnypaidthemidwifeandgavethelandlordthenextmonth'srent.Hegotalittlefrightened
whenherealizedthatnowtherewasababyandthatKatiewouldn'tbestrongenoughtodo
muchforquitesometime,andthattheywereoutofajob.Heconsoledhimselffinallywiththe
thoughtthattherentwaspaidandthattheyweresafeforthirtydays.Surelysomethingwould
turnupinthattime.
Intheafternoon,hewalkedovertotellMaryRommelyaboutthenewbaby.Onthewaythere,
hestoppedattherubberfactoryandaskedforSissy'sforeman.Heaskedthemantotellher
aboutthebabyandwouldshestopoverafterwork?Theforemansaidhewould,winked,poked
Johnnyintheribsandsaid,"Goodforyou,Mac."Johnnygrinnedandgavehimtencentswith
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