Category Archives: Harry Reynolds

Lester, My IRA Hero

 

Harry Reynolds

It was the spring of 1935, or was it the autumn, when my uncle Lester, bachelor brother of my father,  tenant by sufferance in our Lower East Side cold water flat, despised for his drinking by my deaf mother, made me a member of the Irish Republican Army.

I was proud of it all, all of it, the rifles Lester said he stored in my uncle Charlie’s pigeon loft around the corner, the escape map  he drew for me, tied round by a rosary, on which he had me hurriedly swear an oath against England on the steps of St Brigid’s Church across the way from Tompkins Square Park. I inhaled the purity of the adventure of it all. I was eight and the magic of the new and unexpected had its hold on me.

Unlike my friends in parochial school, who didn’t seem to have uncles, Lester took me everywhere. Regularly on Wednesdays we went to  Esther’s apartment on Avenue C where he gave her catechism lessons that took a good twenty minutes with me sitting alone in the kitchen reading  comic books he bought me, while Esther giggled in the next room, once calling  out “Oh my Jesus”, a sign to me that Lester was converting Esther, and then we would traipse over to Vazac’s Club for an hour with me sitting in the rear booth with Heshie Horowitz, our numbers man, waiting for the 3 p. m. numbers call, and  then across the way to Berkowitz’s Bakery where with three Irishmen, Lester, his elegant vest thrown on a post and his sleeves rolled up,  would help to unload cases from a covered truck all the way from New Jersey while Berkowitz kept a lookout for robbers, Lester said, and with that done and a  fistful of money he would call a cab and go to Times Square to a real theater, not a movie, where I would sit in the  backrow and watch  girls dancing in lines, chewing gum and kissing Lester’s face as he dramatically chose one of them to meet him “in church”, he said, with all the girls laughing away and poking at his fat stomach, and then we would walk fast to St Patrick’s where Lester would take  holy cards from a rack and we would rush down the steps to a cab and back to the Lower East Side where Lester would run up to Charlie’s pigeon coop and  take a swig out of a bottle stashed in a feed bag. Then he would comb my hair and take me home around the corner, giving me to my startled  mother as I handed her the St Patrick holy cards. Sticking  a five dollar bill in my knickers, he would turn and run down the steps to an emergency IRA meeting,  telling  me with a wagging finger to answer all my mother’s questions but to say nothing because she was Russian and not one of us in the IRA.

Then, late at night, when all were asleep in the flat, Lester would tip toe into our bedroom , kiss the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hanging on the wall above my head, and slip next to me in bed, whispering  me to be quiet as he told me of the English freighter he had just left, soon to leave port with something, he couldn’t say what, set to go off when she was at sea.

With that, I fell contentedly asleep as did Lester, the red candle light in front of the picture of Jesus sending us off to sleep in a grand soft light that aureoled the room.

Copyright 2016

Harry Reynolds

A Spring Evening in 1957

A Spring Evening in 1957

By Harry Reynolds

On a spring evening in 1957, I walked down the steps of the U.S. Courthouse in Foley Square, where, having recently graduated from NYU Law School, I was clerk to a judge. On impulse, I decided not to take the bus but to walk to my Lower East Side home. When I reached Chinatown, I stopped at a traffic intersection and while waiting for the light to change I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and saw a 6 foot 4 vagrant standing at an angle to the pavement, obviously in an alcoholic mist. He had very long hair of a style not yet popular. Indeed, he looked like someone who had just trudged out of the Kentucky woods. To avoid disclosure, I will call him “Eddie’’.

I had known Eddie, a sad Irish lad, when we were boys in a Lower East Side parochial school, but I had not seen him for years. In school he had told everyone that I was his older brother. As he stood there, seeming as defenseless as he seemed as a boy, I saw that he didn’t recognize me.

“Eddie”, I said, “what are you doing here?” He said, drunkenly, that he needed money “to gas up” his imaginary car. I took out my wallet and gave him all the money that I had. I was stunned. He turned and staggered into the passing crowd.

Several months later, I received a call from Eddie. He said that he believed he had seen me on the Bowery. Was that true? I said yes. He said he was calling from a VA hospital. A few weeks after meeting me he was found by a foot patrolman at night lying on a pavement in the Bowery. He had been thrown off a roof. The police officer examined him and concluded that he was dead. The officer called for an ambulance. It arrived and an attendant leapt out and quickly examined Eddie whom he, too determined was dead. He called for the morgue van. On its arrival, a body bag was drawn out, Eddie was slid into the bag, the bag was heaved into the van, and the van drove off for the morgue at Bellevue Hospital. There the bag was heaved onto the loading platform.

Shortly thereafter, Eddie slowly started to become conscious. He smelled the natural rubber that lined the body bag and began to panic, terrified at his broken and bloody condition inside the darkness of that bag. He tried frantically to find an opening and, after feeling the metal underlining of the bag’s long zipper, he found a space at its top. There he inserted his finger and pulled down hard, for it resisted his pull on it. Nevertheless, he succeeded in drawing it down and, looking up, he saw . .the face of a doctor who had suddenly looked down at Eddie’s face and shouted, “Jesus Christ! This guy’s got bubbles coming out of his mouth! He’s alive!” He took Eddie’s hand and laughingly pulled him up as if he were the doctor’s creation. There was laughter and a clapping of hands among the morgue attendants as the doctor, his arms extended towards Eddie’s swaying body, slowly walked around him.

Eddie soon found himself in a V.A. hospital battling for his life. Unknown to Eddie, a young man who had been in a car crash and had been assigned the same doctor as Eddie, was dying on an upper floor as Eddie’s doctor strove to save that young man’s life. After death took that young man, who left a wife and children, the doctor told Eddie that, given Eddie’s history and lack of promise, if the choice of who would die were in his hands, he would have let Eddie die. Though Eddie did not tell me how it came about, Eddie met and married the dead man’s wife, a story I would not believe but for the fact that I later learned that it was true. When Eddie told me of the VA doctor’s cruel statement to him, I was quick to judge the doctor harshly. Eddie cautioned me against quick judgments. He said that he gradually became friends with the doctor and learned that the doctor was actually a kind man who, like Eddie,  had a monkey on his back. The doctor, said Eddie, was an alcoholic.

Though Eddie had been drinking heavily since he was sixteen, and had continued to do so in the Merchant Marine and in the Marine Corps, he never drank again. He became for decades a devoted member of AA, obtained a high school certificate, and became a senior vice-president of a substantial company.

Sometimes at night he calls me and we nudge one another in a play of words, “caffling” they call it in Ireland, a kind of jabbing in the ribs, nothing unusual for us to do, for we were like brothers in that grim parochial school, and I was the elder one.

 

Harry Reynolds

Copyright 2015

Governor Andrew Cuomo:New York’s Frightened Candidate

 

          During his first campaign for governor, Andrew Cuomo should have been reported to the police as a missing person, so much so that at one newspaper a wall clock was maintained showing the weeks and months during which he fled the prospect of press interviews. And so he is today. The reason? He is unable in fright to control his temper when questioned by the press and more so he seems to live in a state of anguish because intellectually he has a short stick.

          He seems to prize cunning, feeding the public as if it were a dancing bear, laughing at them from backstage. His shallow voice coats his shallow thoughts. No scholar this one and surely no Spitzer is he. If ever these two were in a debate, Cuomo would end up like meat passing through your butcher’s grinder.

          How incredible that the Democrat Party, my party, would push him down the public’s throat, a person notoriously obsessed with becoming the president, a nervous walk-on character right out of The Sopranos, good when crouched over a deal in the dark, but in real life lacking the depth that evokes the respect of others. Give him a sneaky way to con the public, and he’ll kiss your feet. He is the hustler whose idea of a good faith offer is a pail of milk with a dead rat lying at the bottom.

          Read Cuomo’s words when he was caught lying about his self-serving intervention in the work of the Moreland Commission: “it’s my commission”..;”it is mine”…”it is controlled by me”. He had proposed setting  up the Commission as the high water ethical mark for our state government and then grievously wounded it in order to satisfy the whores who suck money out of their governmental positions.

 Would you lend Andrew Cuomo your lawn mower? If you died, would you rest in peace with Andrew Cuomo in charge of your estate or of your dog?

 

Harry Reynolds

 

FAILURE OF OCA TO REFER LEGISLATORS TO APPELLATE DIVISION OF THE SUPREME COURT

 By Harry Reynolds       

            When in 2007 the  Office of Court Administration (OCA) unlawfully withheld  from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court the modest 25 year record of Congressman Rangel’s failure  to register, was the cause of the OCA’s decision the fact that the OCA knew that there were New York State legislators who were as guilty as Rangel and that the OCA  had not referred them to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court?

 

            Who had the motive and arrogance to make those decisions?

 

            Did the then Chief Administrative Judge, Jonathan Lippman, now the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, our highest court, know of those decisions?

 

            Did Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly who was responsible for Lippman’s appointment in 2009 as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, speak to Lippman about any of the guilty legislators?

 

            Who were the New York State legislators blessed by the happy disposition of the OCA towards them? How many guilty legislators since 2007 have left the OCA building in lower Manhattan wearing party hats?

 

            If the OCA was sensitive to the heady air of politics, did it extend to other matters such as delinquent attorneys sleeping in its records as “delinquent” for four, six, and eight consecutive years?

 

            Can you tell by looking at any OCA attorney registration list  the number of consecutive years a registered attorney has been “delinquent”?  Why doesn’t OCA list that information?

 

            Is it fair to state that the Chinatown lawyer, Stanley Chin,  was suspended in his eighties from the practice of law by a court that did not know that the OCA unlawfully refrained from referring legislators to that court for disciplinary action warranted by the conduct for which Chin was suspended?

 

Sister Ildephonse

                                     Sister Ildephonse

[Fiction]

by Harry Reynolds

When I was eleven years old I was told, and I believed it to be true, that God punished evil people, but then I saw that he didn’t, and then I saw that sometimes he did punish them, but then I saw that evil people sometimes were good and sometimes good people changed in midstream in doing good and turned to evil while they were doing good. In the end, I saw that God had absolutely nothing to do with good and evil, that good and evil were, so to speak, none of his business.

And so, one day, at a Lower East Side school where I was educated by military officers disguised as German nuns, when Sister Ildephonse looked at the ceiling and said, as if to herself, “No matter who you are, children, you can always rely on God’s love”, at that moment the course of my life was changed when I snidely whispered to the class forger, Vladimir Petrov, “God owes us nothing”. Sister Ildephonse, upon hearing what I had said, swooped down the aisle, grabbed my red tie, and dragged me upright into the cloakroom, where she beat me about the head, left and right, left and right, with such force that for a moment I stood apart from her beating and wondered at her strength as she delivered her blows. That night, as I lay in my bed in our cold water flat, I rolled over and over thinking of a plan for vengeance on Sister Ildephonse but could think of no way in which I could conceal my identity. But then I prayed to God to help me, and so he did, and I saw that, though he did not owe me anything, he was just. I suddenly realized that the key for concealing my identity was by telling a priest in a confessional something evil about Sister Ildephonse. We had been told by Sister Ildephonse herself that a priest’s mouth was silenced forever, even by the threat of death, about what he had heard in the confessional from any penitent. I was, I may as well say it, transfixed by the joy that my plan for vengeance upon Sister Ildephonse came out of her own mouth. For the next week, I could think of nothing but the variety of lies that I could tell the priest without making him suspicious of me whose identity of course he would know by looking through the grill at my bent form.

And so, having selected Father Fleckenstein, the newest priest in the parish, who was young and nervous looking, I entered his confessional on a Saturday afternoon, the time when the priests every week were in their confessionals ready to deal with the sins of what I thought a surprising number of parishioners. “Bless me father, for I have sinned. My last confession…” “Get on with it, boy, no need to go into that recitation.”

I confessed about five or six sins, none of them extraordinary. Sins of disobedience of my parents, of a choice lie that I was somewhat proud of, of my dreaming of a naked girl, the oversized Sophie Wyzinski who lived in our tenement, and so on until, as if I were munching on a fact that I seemed to be concealing, I blurted out that I saw Sister Ildephonse, after class had been dismissed, in the cloakroom with Father O’Brien, the Pastor, and they were laughing. Father Fleckenstein said, after pausing at length, “There’s nothing wrong with that. Why do you even mention it?” “ I don’t know”, I said haltingly, “except that I could see Sister Ildephonse wasn’t wearing her skirt. It was on the floor.” This time there was a very long pause. “What else did you see?” asked Father Fleckenstein. When I heard that question, fright overcame me. I couldn’t breathe. I began to cry. I could have urinated in my pants. Father Fleckenstein said, “You are never to tell what you saw to anyone. Never tell anyone. God will strike you and even your family dead. Do you understand that… Tell me you understand that.” And I said “Yes, I understood that.”

At Christmas, we learned that Sister Ildephonse was now in the Phillipines. I heard my mother telling my father that the rumour in the parish was that Vladimir Petrov had seen Ildephonse in the cloakroom with one of the priests, which priest no one knew. I marveled at how the seal of the confessional was observed and how God was so right in pointing the way to me. In the end, I could see that he might not owe us anything, but he certainly knew how to be just without disclosing my identity. It was then, I recall, though I cannot be certain, that I began to believe that one day I might become a lawyer.

Yuri

 

   YURI

When I was a boy in knickers, history was a story about events we saw around us, but there came a day when suddenly I saw that there was an unseen, unspoken, history of what was going on when we were not looking.

On that day, many decades ago, I was sitting in the dimly lit classroom of a parochial school when there was a knock on the door followed by the entry of the Principal, Sister Norbertine, a kind, dwarf-like German nun who had in tow a tall, lean youth, his head bent, looking straight ahead, walking in slow, hesitant steps, as if he was disabled. He seemed several years older than the rest of us. Sister Norbertine looked about and said, as if in explanation of his appearance, “This is Yuri Kirov, he’s from the Ukraine. He will be our guest for two days.” She directed him to the desk next to mine. I greeted him, hand extended. As he sat down, he looked not at but towards me, as if I were not there. He did not shake my hand.

At the end of the school day, Sister Norbertine signaled to me from the hallway and in a whisper asked me if “for the sake of Jesus” I would take care of Yuri who had suffered for Jesus in the Ukraine, she said. “What happened to him?” I asked. “I can’t say”, she said. “Is he from our neighborhood?” I asked. “He was sent by that Ukrainian Church on the West Side. Just do it for Jesus,” she said crankily, and glided away as nuns seem to do when they move.

I bent towards Yuri and told him that he would be eating with us tomorrow in the school’s cellar. He didn’t answer, and then suddenly said “Yes”, looking at me as if he knew something that I didn’t know.

The cellar was long and narrow, its walls covered with a paint that long ago had faded from white. Small electric bulbs gave off a weak light over a scarred, wooden table with wooden benches astride it. Fixed into the wall was a life size wooden crucifix from which hung the bleeding Christ. At lunch time the next day I took Yuri to the cellar. The class, in the main made up of Russian boys, thought Yuri weird, and so followed behind us.

When we were all settled, I turned to Yuri and told him that my father was Irish but my mother’s family were Ukrainian Cossacks. He stared at me and said nothing. I then asked him to tell us about himself, and that then we would eat the inevitable cabbage soup that the German nuns had prepared.

Yuri shot up, straight as a rod. With an imperious, almost laughably melodramatic look around the cellar, his hands at his waist, he began in a sing song voice, rapidly, as if a gun were being held against his head, to name his village, his farm’s location, its area, its age, every piece of machinery on it, its products, his horses, cows, pigs, chickens, and then his parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and then, without a sign, he stopped as if controlled by a turn table in the sky….and, looking at the ceiling directly above him, he yelled, not shouted, but yelled with all his might at the ceiling at the top of his voice.WHERE ARE THEY? DEAR AMERICAN COMRADES, WHERE ARE THEY! MILLIONS DEAD EVERYONE EVERY THING DEAD! AND IN YOUR PAPERS NOTHING! MILLIONS OF UKRAINIANS DEAD IN CRAZY STALIN LAND AND NOTHING IN YOUR TIMES PAPER! PEASANTS HANGING FROM TREES AT RAILROAD STATIONS, GRAVES IN CITY PARKS, TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEASANT KIDS IN WAREHOUSES STARVING, LOCKED UP BY OGPU, PEOPLE HOLDING ON TO ONE ANOTHER’S BELTS FOR PIECES OF BREAD, LITTLE GIRL – LISTEN TO THIS – SHE WENT TO HEAD OF BREAD LINE AND WAS BEATEN TO DEATH BY THE BAKER!

Some boys began to laugh, nervously. One of them said, “Get this freak out of here! He’s nuts. Is this a joke?” But everyone was afraid to move. And then, Yuri strode over to the huge crucifix and leaning against it on his elbow, as if he was pretending, mockingly, to be a passing friend of the hanging Jesus, he whispered in Jesus’s ear, “Tell them what I saw in the barn, Jesus. Go ahead. Tell them about Aunt Sophie and what I saw. Tell them. Tell them! Go ahead, tell them how I was beaten after I ran yelling across the field and told my father what I saw and he ran to the barn and came back and grabbed me by my mouth and beat me to keep me quiet…..Tell them, Jesus, tell them I saw my aunt Sophie eating her dead baby! I SAW MY AUNT SOPHIE EATING HER DEAD BABY! I SAW MY AUNT SOPHIE EATING HER DEAD BABY! I SAW MY AUNT SOPIE EATING HER DEAD BABY!”

Comrades, my dear comrades, I’ll bet you didn’t see that in your glorious newspapers!

And with that, Yuri sat down, his seizure over. Reaching for his spoon he wiped it against his sleeve and ate his cabbage soup as if it was his last meal.

We didn’t know what to do. And so we watched him, without moving, without touching our soup, without uttering a word.

When he finished, he crossed himself, rose, and trudged up the cellar steps and disappeared in the peaceful quiet of the tenements of the Lower East Side. We never saw Yuri again.

A Ukrainian priest came to bless the cellar the next day. When we asked his reason as he cast holy water on the crucifix, tables, and walls, and particularly where Yuri had sat, he said nothing except that Stalin had starved several million Ukrainians to death because he wanted their farms. In a flash, I realized why the Ukrainian Church had sent Yuri to a school filled with Russian children.

In four months, Germany would invade Poland and an unending, catastrophic tsunami of human blood, eventually called World War II, would begin, having long been hiding in a little cove of unspoken history where no one had been looking.

Sister Philomena 1937

 

Sister Philomena

by Harry Reynolds

I stand at the window and watch the snow fall.

I am eight in the third grade in a Catholic school in a slum with crazy Sister Philomena and God all around in a dark land of prayer, guilt, daily Masses, a bleeding Christ crucified above the blackboard, the fear of having my face slapped or my hands beaten with a ruler held by Sister Philomena, souls screaming in Purgatory in a print over her head, Hell behind every closet door ready to break out with the Devil reaching for me as his daily catch. It is 1937.

I walk through life heedlessly innocent to a dangerous degree of the malice in the world. I am thankful for the privilege of sitting next to the hot belly of a coal stove in winter, protected from the murderous winter wind trying to get through the newspapers stuck under the hallway doors and in the tops and sides of the old windows through which I can see, across the park, the tiny lights in the surrounding snow shrouded tenements.

And then there’s Confession. I have to confess my sins come Saturday to an old priest sitting in a dark box, he on the other side of a grill, me on my sinful knees – God knowing it all, why do I have to tell this priest anything – he seems asleep, and has bad breath.

But if I don’t tell him everything, the confession is bad, I commit sacrilege by taking communion, and if I don’t take communion at least once a year, then it’s into Hell I go, for it’s a law that thing about communion once a year, break that and it’s the Devil inhaling my breath one night as I lay asleep in my bed in our cold water flat on the top floor of the tenement on Avenue B next to St Brigid’s Church across from Tompkins Square Park.

Yes, it seems that everything in life is connected and if I knew the spot where I could pull out the plug everything would disappear.

If, I thought, my mother dies and I don’t go to that school every day and smell Sister Philomena’s body bent over my shoulder, looking for ink spots on my paper that would make her grab it and rip it up, if my mother dies and I don’t have to go to Mass every morning except Saturday and watch the priest do the same thing over and over again, if I kept on sleeping in my bed and no one noticed that an ambulance came and took me to Bellevue Hospital where those parents of Mickey Rooney in the movies would take me secretly from Bellevue to Judy Garland in their snowbound house in Westchester far from Avenue B, then I could pull out that plug and whenever I wanted I could buy a thirty-five cent corned beef on club, with mustard, at Katz’s on Houston Street, and everything wouldn’t be connected anymore, especially Sister Philomena, who would be dead.

But wait. Should I have killed off Sister Philomena just because, balding and pot-bellied in age, I am watching the monotonous fall of snow on Bradley Road? Americans say they love realism (of course they are lying, they love realism as an entertainment) and if they love realism shouldn’t they receive dollops of it even if only in a local weekly newspaper? The truth is that on other occasions, particularly when speaking before bar association groups, I have wheeled out Sister Philomena as the third grade teacher who turned my life around by instilling in me the desire to excel as a student. Of course my motive to study was in part prideful but deep down in my heart it was to save me from an attack by this nun who represented the Pope. As a lawyer I have never drafted an agreement without her shadow enveiling the paper that had invisible ink spots made by my invisible dip pen. Whenever and wherever I stand in public I stand with the rigidity of a German officer in memory of Sister Philomena’s order of German nuns who punished slouchers with a slap from behind at the back of a head. Waste not, want not was tattooed across Sister Philomena’s forehead, and in self-defense across mine in larger letters. Every sheet of paper that we used had to be used on both sides so that in the fifth grade I took a test on the back of a sheet the front of which had the third-grade scrawl of Thomas, my younger, black sheep brother. We were fed lunch every school day by the Sisters for a dollar a week. Huge helpings of chopped meat, boiled potatoes, German cabbage, beans and so on, were laid across our plates with the two-fold warnings that as we ate we should remember that our parents were digging ditches or cleaning floors or unloading the tween decks of ships for that dollar a week and that there were millions – yes, millions – of children who looked just like us who were starving in India and China thinking of that very food on our plates. Sister Philomena said, as we ate, that these thoughts should make us humble, a thought that I kept in mind as I walked in winter to the cold water flat that Charles Dickens had thoughtfully provided for my arrival. Last, and the greatest gift from Sister Philomena, was the gift of memory, the gift instilled by the sheer fear of failing to recite each and every word, including punctuation, exactly as they were found in our old, dreary text books, smudged by the hands of other prisoners who had passed before Sister Philomena’s half-closed eyes as she looked down on us when one by one we recited from memory in fright the paragraphs assigned by her for memorization the prior night.

So, good and gentle folk, I’ll turn Sister Philomena in her wheel chair and walk towards stage left where I’ll keep her behind the curtain in a sepia toned memory cell, waiting for another snow fall.

Lester, My IRA Hero

                                                         Lester, My Uncle and My Hero     

                                                                                    Harry Reynolds

            It was the spring of 1935, or was it the autumn, when my uncle Lester, bachelor brother of my father,  tenant by sufferance in our Lower East Side cold water flat, despised for his drinking by my deaf mother, made me a member of the Irish Republican Army. 

            I was proud of it all, all of it, the rifles Lester said he stored in my uncle Charlie’s pigeon loft around the corner, the escape map  he drew for me, tied round by a rosary, on which he had me hurriedly swear a death oath against England on the steps of St Brigid’s Church across the way from Tompkins Square Park. I inhaled the purity of the adventure of it all, for I was eight and the magic of the new and unexpected had its hold on me as it does even until today.

            Unlike my friends in parochial school, who didn’t seem to have uncles, Lester took me everywhere. Regularly on Wednesdays we went to  Esther’s apartment on Avenue C where he gave her catechism lessons that took a good twenty minutes with me sitting alone in the kitchen reading  comic books he bought me, while Esther giggled like a little girl in the next room, once calling  out Oh my Jesus, a sign to me that Lester knew what he was doing to convert Esther, and then we would traipse over to Vazac’s Club for an hour with me sitting in the rear booth with Heshie Horowitz our numbers man waiting for the 3 p. m. number call, and  then across the way to Berkowitz’s Bakery where with three Irishmen, Lester, his elegant vest thrown on a post and his sleeves rolled up,  would help to unload cases from a covered truck all the way from New Jersey while Berkowitz kept a lookout for robbers, Lester said, and with that done and a  fistful of money he would call a cab and we would go to Times Square to the Belasco, a real theater, not a movie, where I would sit in the front row and watch beautiful girls dancing in lines and chewing gum and kissing Lester’s face as he chose one to meet him in church, he said, with all the girls laughing away and poking at his fat stomach, and then we would walk fast to St Patrick’s where Lester would take  literature from a rack and we would rush down the steps to a cab and back to the Lower East Side where Lester would run up to Charlie’s pigeon coop and  take a swig out of a bottle stashed in a feed bag, and then he would comb my hair and would take me home around the corner and give me to my mother as I handed her the St Patrick’s holy literature, and Lester would stick a five dollar bill in my pocket and run down the steps to an emergency IRA meeting, reminding me with a wagging finger to answer all my mother’s questions but to say nothing because she was a Ukrainian and not one of us in the IRA.

            Then, late at night, when all were asleep in the flat, Lester would tip toe in, kiss the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hanging on the wall above my head, and slip into bed, whispering to me to be quiet as he told me of the English freighter he had just left, just blocks away from our house, soon to leave port with something, he couldn’t say what, set to go off when she was at sea. With that, I fell contentedly asleep as did Lester, the red candle light in front of the picture of Jesus flickering above me and around the room, sending us off to sleep in a grand soft light that aureoled the room.