38 Years Old (Never Kissed a Girl): Chapter Ten
Author’s Note: This is Part 10 of a series of posts serializing my novella 38 Years Old (Never Kissed a Girl). For more information on the origins of this novella, including all disclaimers, and a complete chapter list, please see the announcement regarding this series.
I was the last kid left at home in the spring of ’73. I could have moved out a dozen times, but every time seemed like the wrong time to do it, for one reason or another.
Cathy was 35 now, living near Jane and Finch in Toronto. It wasn’t as bad a neighborhood then as it is now, but it still wasn’t great. She had two kids and a jerk-off for a husband who was constantly screwing around on her. Her habit of attracting the wrong type of guys, and sticking with them for far too long, bugged the crap out of the rest of us. You couldn’t talk to her about it. She was too scared to be on her own, and she hadn’t learned a damn thing from the whole Johnny incident. Maybe if Mikey had still been out and about, he might have been able to talk some sense into her. The only good thing was that she had stopped having kids after the second one. I felt bad for the two boys she did have. Their father was a prick, and Cathy could barely take care of herself. As for the rest of us, well, we weren’t much to those kids, but I know, had Mikey been around, he would have been a great uncle.
Ricky was 32, and an insurance salesman in Oshawa, an hour outside of Toronto. He had wanted to stick closer to home, but no one would buy insurance in Kingston from the brother of a convicted murderer. He had a wife, and three kids. He was doing okay, living a perfect suburban life.
Brenda was a good little homemaker, 29 years old, married, with two girls. She had married a structural engineer who was in school at Queen’s when they met. He made really good money, and was a decent guy who took good care of her. I talked to Brenda as much as any of the kids, but that was because I was still at home and she called Mom and Pop every couple of days. She probably talked to them more than I did, and I lived there.
Tony was 26. He was finishing up as a plumber’s apprentice after bouncing around some crappy jobs like I had been doing at the plant. For whatever reason, he wasn’t able to get a union card like I did, but stumbled into the Plumber’s Local 728. He seemed to like it, but said he hated it on any day he had to handle calls on septic tank issues.
Dad retired from Falcon Steel after 35 years, with a mediocre pension. His back was wrecked from the years of lifting and shuffling steel. The Canadian winter made him wish that they could take a vacation down to Florida. But there wasn’t that much money in the pension, and Mom wasn’t going anywhere as long as Mikey was up the road in Millhaven.
Mom was the one it hit hardest. Those first few months, during and after the trial, I don’t think she slept more than two hours a night. She lost a lot of weight, smoked more than she should have, and drank coffee like it was going out of style. Aunt Doris was there, at least four days a week, helping to feed us and to get us ready for school. Sometimes she was still there at night when we got back. Mom disappeared, often for half the day or more. When she got home, Dad would ask her where she had gone. She would say she was visiting Mike. Even if there were no visiting hours at the jail, she would go and ‘visit Mike’.
Mikey went through a few phases while in prison where he didn’t want to see anyone, and a few times, especially after Billy got killed, they stuffed him into solitary, where he wasn’t allowed visitors. The weeks when Mike was in lock-down just about killed Mom. Whatever bad habits she had broken out of since her last collapse, she fell right back into. She ate nothing, smoked more, and left the house for long hours in the middle of the day. She would sit in her car and stare at the walls of that prison, willing them to fall down and let her boy out.
And, that’s pretty much what happened.