It was a respectable Irish working class neighborhood. In the blistering
summer of 1955 the O’Sullivans had kids spilling out of every door and window.
Pat was my age, maybe five or six years old. We came upon one of his little
brothers sitting in the dirt at the base of a tree. He had a handful of green
caterpillars. When he looked up and smiled at us, it was manifestly clear he had
been eating them.
“Well, why didn’t you stop him!” I heard his mother howl in exasperation
when Pat went in to tell her.
After she had swooped the baby off to get cleaned up, a very cool
teenager bounced down the stairs from the second floor apartment. He was
parked at the same tree. We knew who he was from the neighborhood, but
had never spoken with him. We were wide-eyed at his pink and black Mercury
and its blinding chrome. He had tight black pants with a thin silver belt. His
pompadour dropped a few stylish curls as he bent over to say hi to us.
“Wow, that’s a cool car. I bet it goes real fast.”
“You bet it does”, he said.
Just to prove it, he jumped in and revved the engine a few times. His
“laker” pipes rumbled like angry dogs. We were suitably impressed. After asking
our names, he looked us over appraisingly.
“You guys scared of anything?”
“Well, I been looking for a couple of guys I could trust. I got a big job
coming up tonight. I need some small fellas to go in a window at the back of a
store and open the door for me. You boys ready to go on a big job and make
some big dough?”
“Sure,” I said but Pat didn’t answer.
“Johnny, I know where you live”, he said, pointing to our tenement. “Now,
you sleep close to the window. I’ll come up the fire escape and tap on it.”
“Oh, OK.” I said as the proposition started to sound scary.
“Now you be ready,” he said in a stern tone, “Don’t let me down. I’ll be
there at 9 PM sharp”. His last words drifted from the car window as he roared off.
The summer night shimmered with humidity. Our tenement was a sweatbox as I
lay in bed in my underwear.
“Mom, can’t we shut that window?”
“Don’t be silly Johnny; you’d suffocate in this heat.”
I listened nervously for his footsteps and tapping until I couldn’t
keep my eyes opened any more.
John is a retired gallery owner. He is writing a memoir. He is an alum of the 2014 and 2015 Yale Writers Workshop. He has had five stories published on the Akashic Books site and others, He has two excerpts coming out in print anthologies this fall.