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— How’d they meet?
— They were townies. They met being townies together.
My mother and I stayed silent for a bit.
— Where’d he even come from?
— Ireland. He came at a young age after his dad was killed by the I.R.A. in 1980-something. I don’t really remember. Why?
I was wondering what gave him his shape.
— Rough parents—parent—I guess. It was definitely passed on.
— I mean—when I was still in college, I lived close enough to home that I’d come back for family dinners every Sunday. My mom would cook this elaborate dinner, usually with chicken paprikash—either that or gnocchi—and my dad would play records and we would sit listening to Frank Sinatra with the whole family around. I specifically remember, though, one dinner when she didn’t show up at all. We were all really confused because she told us that she was coming. It was rush hour, though, and she lived a few miles down the highway so we assumed she was just in traffic and we started to eat. Just as we started, though, my sister burst in the door—trying to act casual, like nothing had happened—but we noticed that she had bruises and cuts all over her face. Sure, she insisted that she ‘fell in the shower,’ but we all knew that that wasn’t the truth. My dad said nothing—he had no reason to suspect the man of anything.
I paused for a minute to absorb the information before responding.
— So she was abused?
— I don’t think so. I don’t want to think about it.
— You turn here on Pleasant.
The whole car jolted.
— But you don’t know for sure, right?
— Well, during one of the family dinners, he burst in the door with a knife, screaming about how we ‘all owed him.’ He made a beeline for Dad, who was old at that point—in his sixties—and couldn’t move fast enough out of the way. Dad had to be taken to the E.R. I don’t really want to talk about it—brings back bad memories.
My younger sister was in the car, too:
— Before I was born I was getting my Love Degree in Heaven I was the cutest little thing lemme tell you I would go to my house and sit back and relaaaaax all day and I could see you from there Aloysius
— I’m glad we could meet the kids tonight, though. I feel bad, but I admit I know almost nothing about my own sister’s children. We should’ve caught up with them.
— But we can just ask next time. Or call.
— They can’t afford phones.
— Does he not work?
— He’s in a halfway home, and she can’t function on her own.
The car jolted again.
and as we turned down our long lonely barren winding alley as the car finally slowed to a halt i opened the car door and stepped outside gave my thoughts and gaze to the allencompassing cerulean sky specked with the long dying wispy orange grasps of the imploding celestial being through the newlyjoltedopened perspective viewed all this with a rather more critical lens than previously and i basked both in my upbringing and fate’s immutability.