“Many times man lives and dies
Between these two eternities-
That of race and that of soul"
The smell of baking potatoes wakes her up.
On the corner, someone is crossing herself as she passes the Walsh’s Marystone. Old people do this after 10 o'clock mass every day. Strangers do it; people you won’t see again, you might just remember them crossing themselves on the corner.
Down the gleaming wet stripe of pavement in the middle of the street come two of the boys from the class ahead of Ally’s at school.
‘fuck you think you’re doing?!...’
The fat one scrambles away, leaving the other to claw a handful of dusty, pissy snow out of the neck of his sweatshirt.
Ally is 14. In her neighborhood she knows one thing; she is in her neighborhood.
The smell of blood, rosemary and salt comes up to the open window beside her bed.
Murphy is going to miss St. Patrick’s Day supper. Shouldn’t have gone to Public school. You get what you ask for.
Aer lingus goes over. It’s just taken off from Logan and is still low enough she can see the shamrock on the side of the jet. She is not a hundred percent Irish. Mom had said “well, what’s so great about being a hundred percent Irish? Irish people aren’t any better than anyone else”. That one kid had called her a WASP.
On the way down the stairs she touches the faces of JFK and John Paul II.
The passenger seat of Dad’s Buick is plush in steel. The car goes as if it knows its own way through side streets, takes the left at Saint Elizabeth’s, careens, windows open, past Lamberts, sew-fisticated, Bradlee’s, the pizza shop, the gas stations and Linda Mae’s. On the other side of the 4-lane, used car lots, pointed colored flags snapping in the wind.
Dorchester Bay. The gas tanks. Whitecaps. Now Dad is gunning it past Carson Beach.
“You know, Ally, that’s the last place I was happy. 20 years ago”.
Maybe that’s his idea of a joke. Now he’s saying something about responsibility. She’s not listening because she doesn’t want to hear it.
Mary Ellen McCormick projects. Old Colony. Some black kids her age eating cheetos on a cement stoop. She ducks her head so they won’t see her.
Dad parks the Buick in Uncle Mike’s driveway. They walk through the dense crowd of green, drunkenness, noise. Spectator yuppies. Belligerence. Cops in Kilts playing bagpipes are on the march.
Ally overheard Mom one time saying something about when Dad had an affair. While she was pregnant with Murphy, Ally thinks that was the story anyway, but dad doesn’t seem like such a bad guy.. The flannel shirt, the jeans, he seems normal, just like everyone else’s dad. Maybe nicer, though, most of the time. Well, not to Murphy, but to her. Maureen’s dad, now that guy is a jerk. Calls the pancakes her mom makes burnt, even when they’re not, just so he can throw them out.
What does Lucky mean, she wants to know. They say ‘luck of the Irish’, like now, on Saint Patrick’s day, everyone is saying how lucky they are, but she knows a lot of people who call themselves Irish and not that many of them seem to think they’re lucky. Not anytime other than on Saint Patrick’s day when they’re wearing a shirt that says it.
“Eddie! What the fuck is up, brother?” Some guy comes from the crowd with a clear plastic cup of green beer sloshing in his hand. He elbows past a bunch of people until he gets to dad, and then awkwardly tries to shake dad’s hand with his left, even though he’s obviously a rightie, which is why he’s holding the green beer in his right. It’s kind of embarrassing and Ally tries not to look at him.
“Hey, Mattie, this is my kid. Al, say hi to Matt- he’s a plumber.”
Hi, Matt the plumber, she thinks. She nods in his direction, then looks away again. Matt starts into a rant about how the union told him he can’t take his retirement for another ten years, the sons of bitches. Ally sees a Mexican guy go by selling cotton candy, which is kind of funny. That’s how it is at the Dorchester day parade, too. The Vietnamese people who live in half of Dorchester and you see every other day in Savin Hill don’t show up, no floats, no Vietnamese dragons or anything, and the Mexican guy is there selling cotton candy even though there’s no Mexican people in Dorchester, at least not this part, not that she’s seen, except when there’s a parade.