What Everybody Tells You
and You're Sure to Get Screwed
Moe Minsky Tale
Written By Al Geto
Malloy lived in one of the nicer two-story houses in the Bushwick section
around the corner and a trot up the street from the elevated lines.
Her father was a politico who was perennially mixed up in local elections.
He was active in the sponsorship of benefit affairs and didn't mind
explaining why policemen's balls were bigger than firemen's balls: they
sold more tickets. A free spender, the endless flow of political cigars
from his inside pocket kept his tobacco vendor in bowties and moustache
wax. Malloy was the last man on the block after the War to End All Wars
who sported handlebars. Bridget did business with his tobacconist too,
in sub rosa purchases of cigarettes. She had a long, pale face, glittering
dark eyes, a demanding expression about her mouth and had selected Michael
Connelly for her future mate, although he knew nothing of it.
bonny lad of nineteen from the church orphanage, always ready to lend
a hand, Michael had been given employment as assistant caretaker at
the church itself. With searching blue eyes and a mop of sandy hair,
his randy manner with young ladies often brought reprimands from his
superiors. It was Bridget Malloy's father with all his contacts who
had been approached as a possible source of a new job for him.
having graduated the year before, retained her special friends, younger
girls still in school, as leader of the clique. They were magnetized
by her easy-going style, her treats, her uncoerced opinions and rude
behavior. She used makeup, but secretly. One of her bunch, Patricia
Boyle, a plump girl whose baby fat had taken possession of her like
a piece of real estate, sang in the school glee club, often off-key
to annoy the teacher, Mr. Ferguson. That had been suggested to Patricia
by Bridget, who hated Mr. Ferguson for not having admitted her into
the chorus, though Mr. Ferguson, an altogether decent man, had taken
on Grace Houlihan, a green-eyed girl with acute acne and a nasal twang,
the third of the inner trio of Bridget's entourage. He felt sorry for
her acne and her status as a social outcast. Besides the acne her nose
ran and she seldom had a handkerchief. Bridget, Patricia, and Grace
had cut classes together, stolen rides on trolleys, and on one occasion,
drank beer in the cellar. Natural gossips, they invented scurrilous
tales about anybody at all.
wouldn't surprise me if Mr. Ferguson was after that new Miss Himmelmacher,
with her huge bust," Bridget told Patricia and Grace as they sat
around her parlor with its heavy mahogany furniture, upright piano,
and crank victrola. "I saw him on his knees to her through a crack
in the teacher's room door.'
Proposin'?" Patricia screamed.
tying her shoelace," Bridget replied sarcastically.
don't believe it," Grace said, sniffing. "You're pullin' our
right. I am. That's not what he was doing at all," Bridget said.
what was he doin'?" Patricia demanded.
to look up her skirt," Bridget revealed. Howls of disbelief came
from the others. These howls only represented shock at the reprehensible
Mr. Ferguson, but behind them was little conception of what Mr. Ferguson
might do to follow up his perfidy. Bridget's henchwomen had not yet
become privy to the full information, including the mysterious rites
that took place behind the closed doors of their parents' bedrooms.
However, their contempt for the ignorance of immigrants, like the latest
newcomer, Agnes Delaney, demonstrated how much credit they took for
the little they did know, incomplete as it was. Agnes Delaney had arrived
in America but a few months before. She came from a remote village in
the old country and had been shipped over when her mother died, to stay
with her aunt, a lone, pious, uneducated soul supported hand to mouth
by a nephew in Chicago who sent just enough to keep her alive for a
aunt could not afford a church school and Agnes, painfully shy, with
her soft red hair and scattering of freckles, was registered in the
public school, a bewildering zoo to her simple mind. The only talent
she had was her voice, and Patricia brought her to the glee club, trembling
and against her will. Which is where Michael Connelly discovered her.
Michael was Mr. Ferguson's cousin, and Mr. Ferguson had induced him
to fill in when he was short of male voices.
tries to have a word with her but she runs off," Patricia reported
to Bridget about Michael Connelly and Agnes at rehearsals. Bridget had
to see this rival. She arranged for Agnes to join them though it took
both Patricia and Grace some time to get her to come. Agnes tended to
stay home in the miserable little flat that faced the elevated line,
track to window, rather than test her own fears out in the world. When
she first appeared in the Malloy parlor she was overwhelmed by the bizarre
atmosphere of Bridget's brigade and thoroughly hypnotized by it. On
her third visit they brought out the lipstick and smeared it on themselves.
'Tis a sin, that is," Agnes said. "I have to go now."
you off to?" Grace asked.
One of my aunt's neighbors is expectin' the stork."
stork?" Bridget said
stork is that?" Bridget asked.
stork as brings the babies, of course," Agnes replied.
you seen it?" Bridget inquired, glancing at Grace and Patricia.
auntie has. Many times," Agnes answered, gravely.
Agnes left, they sat looking at each other and grinning. Actually, only
Bridget knew the details of what replaced the stork. The others had
uncorroborated visions, though too uncomfortable to ask each other to
pin them down. One thing they were all sure of, however, was that the
stork was out.
old is she?" Bridget asked.
be fifteen in March," Patricia said.
is not going to take Michael Connelly from me, that little shit!"
cried Bridget, banging her hand down on the piano keys.
Bridget!" Grace gasped at the forbidden word.
hardly know him," Patricia said.
I do! I do so! I been to parties where he was there. I did ask you,
Patricia Boyle, talk of me to him at the glee club, and did you? No,
you did not!"
did, too!" shouted Patricia. "I tried for you. But he didn't
care about it."
he will! She's the cause of it, with her sheep's face and stupid country
look about her. Well, I'll get rid of her, all right, I will, that shanty
biddy. Back to Ireland with her in two shakes of a lamb's tail once
I see my way! Little shit!"
can't do nothin' Bridget," Patricia called. "You can scream
from now until Saint Patrick's Day and all you'll get is a dose of green
paint on your behind."
Mary, that's it!" cried Bridget.
it?" asked Grace, attacking her acne.
I'll see who my real friends are!" Bridget exclaimed. "She's
a stupid, red-headed little rat. When she finds out about the painting
of the green she'll run out of here like a bloody blast!"
won't believe that old malarkey! You're crazy, Bridget!"
believes in the stork, don't she?" Bridget demanded an answer.
"Don't she?" The silence and expressions of the two girls
conceded that. "She's no better than them other country fools who
want to know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Just make
sure she comes here tomorrow. We'll have it all fixed up. Now, sit down
and you'll learn something."
was the first to arrive late the next afternoon. She again reported
Michael having approached Agnes following the glee club rehearsal, and
while Agnes didn't remain for any length of time, she gazed at him with
a craving look, as Patricia described it. Bridget, standing at the window,
warned, "She's coming up the stoop now. And there's Grace waiting
across the street." The bell rang. Patricia answered the door.
Agnes came into the parlor she at once sensed something unusual in the
air. Bridget and Patricia whispered their greetings.
the stork come?" asked Bridget.
yet," Agnes said, not having been invited to sit down.
it's lucky you could come. Grace is late. But we can't wait any more.
We have something very private to tell you, and remember, we're friends
and will give you all the help you need. "
sort of help?" Agnes asked, puzzled. "Don't you have a birthday coming
you know countries have their different customs and ways of doing things,
especially around holidays. I mean, you know what Thanksgiving isŠ"
I've heard about it, yes," Agnes said, smiling. "Turkeys."
more than that. They throw sweet potatoes at each other until one or
another gives up."
never heard that," Agnes said.
uncle almost got killed by a sweet potato," Patricia said. "It hadn't
Halloween, it's murder," Bridget continued. "They scare the bejesus
out of you. While on St. Patrick's well, I suppose you know all about
that one by now."
I don't," Agnes said.
there's celebrations. All kinds. Some weird ones."
weird enough," Patricia said. "Don't I know it!"
girls who are here the first year and whose birthdays fall in March,
they're the ones," Bridget warned her.
can't get away with it, either," Patricia assured her.
is it? What are you talking about?" Agnes asked, becoming alarmed.
painting of the green," Bridget said. "You've never heard of the painting
of the green?"
is it?" Agnes demanded, annoyed.
if it's the first year you came and your birthday is in March, you must
go to church and have your ass painted green in the vestry before noon."
of God," Agnes whispered.
must be Grace." Bridget said, and went to the door.
had it myself," Patricia said. "It's the rule. Got to be done."
came in followed by Bridget. "Are you all right?" Grace asked Agnes.
"You look awful."
upset by the painting of the green. We just told her."
only your behind," Grace said. "I think you get a certificate. To prove
you had it. Unless you could swear on the bible you've had it..."
couldn't do that! I was born on St. Patrick's itself!"
exclamation of shocked surprise came from the others followed by loud
shouts of amazement.
the very day!" cried Bridget, with feigned horror.
mother of us all, you can't escape it now!" Grace cried.
could look at it as the road to becomin' a woman," Patricia said, helpfully.
shaken, cried, "I won't be there! I'm not going to do it!"
they'll come for you," Bridget said. "They know where you are. You can't
get away with it unless you beat it, leave town, go someplace else where
they don't know you."
will! I will! Oh, holy Mother! I'm goin'! I have a cousin in Canada!"
She grabbed her cloak and ran out the door into the night.
her agitated state, she tripped on the top step of the stoop, tumbled
down it, bruised herself, scrambled up and ran. As she turned the corner
in the darkness she slammed into someone hastening from the other direction.
She fell to the sidewalk, weeping. He reached down.
he said, surprised. "I'm so sorry!" He tried to help her up. She wouldn't
rise. He knelt on one knee beside her. "What happened? Let me help you."
for the love of God!" she sobbed. "If you could, if you only could!
can I if you don't tell me? What is it?"
Patrick's," she sobbed.
about St. Patrick's?"
birthday, in March. On the very day. You know, they have the celebrations.
And I, just arrived..."
it be grand though? Bein' your birthday's on the very day, you'll be
at the center of it all!"
no, Michael! I want nothin' to do with it. You can help me, Michael!
You work in the church. You know how it's all done, where everything
is. Patricia said it was like becomin' a woman. Well, I want to do it
before. There's no other way for me. Can you do it to me, Michael? Will
you? Tonight? Somewhere in the dark? Do you have a place we can go?
Do you have a man's courage?"
don't want to talk about it. I just want to do it. You have a place
we can do it? Now?"
to tell you the truth, I been thinkin' about that ever since I laid
eyes on you. I love you entirely. But sooner or later we would have
to get married, you know."
I wouldn't do it, not to you, seein' you that way and all, naked, even
in the dark, without we would be husband and wife sooner or later."
I will marry you, Michael, if I must."
helped her to her feet slowly. They walked in an embrace around the
block to the back of the church to the small stone building where the
tools and extras were kept. He unlocked it.
this where they keep the green paint for St. Patrick's?" she asked as
they entered. There was an old double mattress on the floor and shelves
of equipment. A small bulb dimly lit the area.
aye," said Michael. "Everything. Paint, brushes, nails, tools."
promised me, in the dark," she said.
switched off the light. "You can take off your clothes now," he whispered.
"Lie down on the mattress." He quickly removed his own things and joined
her. He gathered her into his arms.
Michael!" she cried out. But before she knew what was happening she
cried out again and again, and melted into his embrace entirely as if
it was the most natural thing in the world.
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