Annie, my older sister, had once again fallen in love. This time it was a pipe fitter who worked the same night shift as her at Electric Boat.
Kevin Hartigan was a tall man at six one or so and was what people called "wiry" back in the 50's. He had too much muscle to be called skinny, but his build was still on the slight side. It was 1957 and Annie was 21 years old. She'd gotten a broken heart a year or so earlier when she'd been engaged to be married, and then, unceremoniously dumped a month before the wedding.
This Kevin was fairly new to the area, having grown up in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He was very quiet when you first met him, but would open up a bit after he got to know you and was comfortable with you.
He had started coming to the tool shed where Annie checked out specialized power tools. The two of them would make small talk while Kevin waited for Annie to sign off on his returns or Annie waited for Kevin to complete the check out paperwork.
After a couple weeks of this, Kevin started taking his dinner breaks at the same time as Annie and he'd always sit somewhere where he could look at her.
Annie was a very sweet girl, even tempered and nice. She would do anything to help out a friend. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that Annie wasn't very pretty, but she made up for it with her personality and disposition. She wasn't ugly or even homely though, just not pretty. Her figure was OK, a bit more weight in her hips than she'd like, but womanly too.
Soon, Kevin got up the nerve to ask to sit with Annie on their dinner breaks. After a week or so of that, he asked her out to breakfast after they got off work at 6:00 A.M. All the time this was taking place, from first meeting until their first real date, I noticed that Annie was perking up from the depressed funk she'd been in ever since that ass hole had dumped her a year or so before.
She started caring more about her clothes, and began taking more pains with improving her general appearance. She made an appointment at the beauty parlor for the first time in a long time, treating herself to a new hairstyle and a facial. After that first breakfast date, Annie drove over to New London and bought herself almost a whole new wardrobe. She got the bounce back into her step and was almost the whole way back to how she'd been before her heart was broken. For those of us who loved her, it was a welcome treat seeing her happy once again.
Annie wasn't a girl who liked to play games with people. She had a long, serious, discussion with Kevin, almost from the very start of things, telling him about her one serious romance, and how it had ended badly for her. She told him that she'd slept with the old boyfriend too.
Annie didn't hide anything. She wanted it all out in the open. In her mind, she was damaged goods, since she wasn't a virgin anymore. Kevin told her that he didn't mind, because he wasn't a virgin either. So they began to seriously date. Kevin got his days off changed to match Annie's and the two of them began spending most of their free time together, a lot of it over at our house.
I got out of school early one day for some reason, and came home to find the two of them curled up on the couch almost naked. It was pretty obvious, by the look of things, and from the smells in the room, exactly what they'd been up to. Annie covered up as best she could and ran back to her bedroom. Kevin gave me a pleading kind of look, like he hoped I'd understand or something.
I didn't say anything, I just went into my room and changed into play clothes and left. Annie must have said something to my mother about me barging in on them, because my mother had my father give me the talk.
I was a week shy of my 16th birthday and my mother thinks I don't know about the birds and the bees. So my dad takes me in the bedroom and gives me his version of the talk.
"Listen Yutch, your mother told me about that thing you walked in on, and she was worried that maybe you were upset, or might of had some questions about some things?"
"You talking about Annie and Kevin doing it on the sofa?"
"There's no call for you to be jumping to any conclusions about what Annie and Kevin might or might not have been up to. We just wanted to make sure we could answer any questions you might need answered."
"Oh sure, I understand. I guess I really only have one question to ask you about it then."
My dad smiled, appearing relieved that I only had one thing I needed to have clarified.
"What's your question?"
"OK, here goes. Don't you think that Kevin should wear a rubber when he's slipping it to Annie? And not just so she don't get pregnant. There was cum all over everywhere when I walked into the living room. It was on him, on Annie, and all over the sofa. I like Kevin fine, you understand, but I gotta admit to you that I do get more than a tad squeamish about having to sit in another man's pecker tracks. Especially when I'm sitting in my own living room watching the television."
I knew that by saying that to him the way I did, I might wind up getting my ass handed to me. I was relying on his perverted sense of humor, and on the fact that he was just as scandalized by the whole sordid living room thing as I had been. He started out first by giving me the look, just to let me know that the ice was getting awful thin where I was standing.
"I can see your point Yutch, and I'll let your mother know of your concern. I'll expect that you won't be mentioning things like this to your sister, or doing anything to embarrass her further?"
I nodded quickly, letting him know that I agreed on the need for discretion around Annie. Two years before, if anyone had caught Annie getting plowed by some guy on the living room sofa, there would have been hell to pay for everybody involved. We were all walking around now on egg shells around her, trying not to do or say anything to send her back into the gloom and sorrow she'd just started coming out of. I think if my parents had caught her fucking a whole bowling team on their own marriage bed, they'd have found some way to either overlook and ignore it. In those days, once a girl had already lost her cherry, what happened to her after that was only of secondary in importance.
Things were going really good for Annie and Kevin for the next few months, and they were starting to talk about wedding plans and where they might go on their honeymoon. They had gotten more discrete in their sexual activities, but we all knew that they were screwing whenever they found a few minutes alone together. Annie was as happy as I'd ever seen her.
She'd taken off about ten pounds, mostly from her hips, and, because she had a smile on her face all the time, she was starting to look prettier to everyone. My sister, Joan, was busy making plans for how she would decorate their bedroom after Annie got married and had moved away.
Things were really going great, right up until the time when Kevin tells Annie about them needing to hold off on getting married until after he gets his divorce.
Annie didn't take the news as well as Kevin might have hoped she would. In fact, she took it rather poorly, hauling off and whacking him on his noodle with a sixteen inch spanner wrench. Her sudden attack sent him off to the hospital with a hairline skull fracture and a torn scalp that required forty stitches to close.
Several of Annie's co-workers had to pull her off of Kevin, because, after she laid him out with that big wrench, she was sitting on his chest, beating on his face and neck with her little clenched fists. The people who saw what had happened waited to pull her off him until after the cops and an ambulance had arrived.
Everybody liked Annie, and more than one threat on Kevin's life was heard uttered while they loaded him up in the ambulance.
Annie was crying and wailing to beat the band when they took her out of the lunch room in hand cuffs and hauled her off to jail. They booked her in on attempted murder charges and bail was not set until they found out whether or not Kevin would die.
It took all of our combined will power that night not to try to go down and break Annie out of jail. As I remember it, it was my mother who brought our focus back to what was really important.
"You'll be after killing that slimy bastard now I expect, won't you John?"
We all snapped our heads around to stare at her. Was this really our own mother? Even my father stared after her, astounded by what she's said.
"Mary Kathryn, have you totally lost your mind? You don't ask me a question like that in front of the children."
After he finished speaking my mother gave him the look. I'd wondered where he'd learned how to put that dead eyed stare on people that could almost freeze the blood of the one being stared at. Now I knew.
"If you're not man enough to get it done, then kindly stand aside and I'll do it for you!"
Holy shit! Not only was my mother talking like some kind of an axe murderer. She was also belittling my father's manhood in front of three of his children.
"He's stained the honor and broken the heart of the dearest, sweetest girl in the whole wide world, and you just sit there, feeding your face as if nothing had happened? Annie is sitting in a jail house somewhere, probably being groped and humiliated as I speak, and all you can think about is needing another helping of potatoes? Well here you go John, have some more potatoes!"
With that, she threw the whole serving bowl, filled with mashed potatoes, right at my father's head before turning and running crying to her bedroom. It was so quiet after the potatoes narrowly missed my dad's head and crashed, the bowl breaking, on the kitchen floor, that we all heard the lock clicking on her door.
We all looked at our father's face as he put a napkin to his mouth and wiped off any remaining food specks with it. He stood up slowly, his face as red with anger as I'd ever seen it get. Instead of making a run at the bedroom door as we had all feared he might, he turned towards our front door instead.
"Kids, I'll be leaving here now. If your mother should ask where I've gone to, tell her I told you I'd be at the El Bolero Tavern, trying to figure out the best way to take care of this problem we have. If she wants to know when I'll be back, you tell her that I'll be back when I get back, and you can also tell her this damn mess better be cleaned up, and these supper things all put away whenever I do get home."
Saying that, he turned and gave what was left of the bowl of mashed potatoes a tremendous kick as he walked by it, spreading the mess throughout the kitchen, and getting pieces of mashed potatoes all over his trouser leg. When he left, he slammed the door so hard I thought it might come off it's hinges.
Not five minutes later, my mother came out of the bedroom, wiping her eyes on her apron before bending down and carefully picking up the shards of ceramic that were all that remained of what had once been her favorite serving bowl.
"Your father is a good man, but sometimes he needs just a little help to get himself started. He'll do what needs to be done, you can be sure of that. Tomorrow's a school day, you kids finish up with your school work and get yourselves a bath and get into bed."
She spent the next hour and a half, mostly on her hands and knees, scrubbing that floor and making sure that no signs remained visible from her sudden loss of temper.
I could hear her humming tunelessly as she worked. I was hoping that Annie was alright, but I was confident that between my mother and father, something would be made to work out so that Annie would soon be home and Kevin wouldn't present any problem to my mother or sister, ever again.
My father came home after midnight, waking everyone as he roared at my mother, taking her to task for forgetting her place. I had a hard time getting to sleep, listening as the two of them going at it, their grunting and groaning punctuated by all the creaking that poor bed of theirs was doing, and the pounding against their far wall as my father moved hard enough to bang the headboard repeatedly against it. It was disgusting to be hearing them copulate like animals, but it was also very comforting to me somehow. I knew something had been settled for Annie situation. If not, there would have been a different set of noises coming from their bedroom.
We got up the next morning for school, dressing and coming out for breakfast to find my mother fluttering around the kitchen like some love struck little girl. My father sitting there, preening and posing like he was some lord of the manor. He sat at the kitchen table, reading the previous night's newspaper, sipping at his coffee while my mother stood beside his chair refilling his cup from the pot she held in her hand. In front of him was the remnants of poached eggs on toast.
All three of us children all had to make do with cold cereal and milk.
After breakfast, my mother waited at the door with my father's Chief's hat in her hand and gave him a long and passionate kiss as she sent him off to work. He slapped her playfully on the ass on his way out the door.
Twenty minutes after my father left, Mr. Bennett, a good friend of my father's, brought my sister Annie home from the police station.
My mother thanked Mr. Bennett and offered him some coffee, but he declined and left right away. Annie and my mom hugged and cried together for a couple minutes before we each got a hug from Annie and headed off to our schools.
By the end of the week it was clear that Kevin Hartigan would not only survive his injuries, but would be none the worse for having had them, unless you wanted to count the long scar on the side of his head that was mostly covered by his hair anyway. He had been notified, while in the hospital, that his job was being terminated because of cutbacks at the shipyard. He had little seniority, and wouldn't have stood a chance of appealing his layoff anyway. Everybody liked Annie and he might have been risking death or at least more serious injury if he had gone back to work. By the time he was released from the hospital, he had accepted the inevitable and just packed up his things and left town. Whatever charges still stood against Annie were dropped when Kevin refused to press charges or testify against her.
Annie was back into a deep funk again. This time was much worse than the last. She would spend the whole day sitting in her room, softly weeping and, once in awhile blowing her nose. Everyone did whatever they could to cheer her up, but nothing seemed to help. She took a month's leave from work and just stayed alone in her room. When she did finally go back to work, everyone commented on how much changed she was. She didn't smile anymore and didn't take the time to have short conversations with all of her friends and co-workers. After being rebuffed several times each, people just started leaving Annie alone, giving her the privacy that she seemed to want.
Right after Billy and Theresa's wedding, which Annie couldn't bring herself to attend, things finally came to a head between my parent's and Annie. It might have started off as my parent's trying to give Annie a pep talk, but it started going downhill from a communications perspective, and got progressively louder as the talking continued. After about fifteen minutes of build up, there was an escalation resulting in a torrent of angry words flying through the air. Annie was shouting the loudest of everyone, mostly for them to leave her alone. My mother was pleading for Annie to calm down and to listen to the people who loved her. My father was shouting that he wasn't about to just stand by and be yelled at by a bunch of damned women in his own house. I was sitting in the living room trying to look over the pictures of the new 1959 Pontiac automobiles. I'd had another good season caddying and being an escort at the Griswold Hotel dances and was sitting on a fortune in savings just waiting for the right deal to come along for my dream car.
"If you don't leave me alone, the two of you, I swear I'll move out on my own. I'm a grown woman, ma, I don't have to be told what to do like I was twelve years old or something." My mother recoiled at those words, acting like my sister had slapped her. My father fixed the look right on Annie, probably the first time he'd ever given her the look, too.
"Don't you dare be talking crazy like that to your mother, young missy, or I'll send your little butt off to the nut house in Norwich, you just see if I don't. All your crying and carrying on, you'd think you were the first woman in the world to be disappointed in her love life. Well, you aren't, let me tell you. If I thought it would do any good, I'd hightail it up to Massachusetts and find that Kevin Hartigan for you and bring him back so's you could finish up what you started, but it wouldn't. So you listen to me, you have to put this behind you, once and for all, and get on with living your life. There's plenty of other fish in the ocean you know. Two bad apples don't spoil the whole damn barrel."