How I Came to Live With the Flynns
Here’s another bit of fiction. The exercise was to write a story from a child’s perspective, then to revisit it from an adult perspective.
Molly’s dad said he was goin’ down river. That’s the first I heard of it. That’s my dad, not Molly’s, that was goin’. And he said it in that funny way he slips back into when he’s not paying attention.
“’e’s goin’ dine river,” he said, only it wasn’t quite like “dine,” but it wasn’t quite “down” either, but I knew what he meant. People only say that when they’re talking about prison.
Of course I just told Momma about it, and she said it was nonsense and Molly’s dad don’t know nothin’. He is a strange one, how he goes to church on Saturday night and moves his hands before he prays. And he drinks and don’t think it’s a sin.
I told this to Momma and she nodded.
“Don’t you ever get mixed up with that alcohol, Sadie,” she said and almost cut herself. She prob’ly said that because of Daddy. He drinks too, but he’s sorry afterward.
Just then Daddy came home and I went upstairs in case they started fighting. Usually if I get out of the way ‘til supper it’s all right.
But yesterday it wasn’t all right. First thing Daddy said, real loud so I could hear it up in my room, was to pack the bags. Then they really laid into it, yelling and throwing stuff and banging suitcases about. I just stayed upstairs.
Next thing I know there’s a knock at the door and I can see from my window it’s the police, so I stayed quiet like Daddy always told me to but it didn’t matter what I did ‘cause they were there for Momma and Daddy so they never came upstairs.
I waited until they were gone then ran over to Molly’s house. I don’t really know why, I just needed somewhere to go. That was when Molly’s dad made that sign over me with his hands and hugged me. So I guess that’s where I’m staying the night tonight.
Indeed, that night and nearly every night until I left Chicago as a young woman. That day I was drawn out, as if from the sea, into the Flynn’s family. Molly, who I call sister, and her father Jim, who I still call Papa, took me in.
That first memory of Papa still hangs around in my mind. His slip into Irish, the sheepish look when he realized I was listening. My mother still hates him for knowing it would happen and for knowing what to do when it happened.
By “it” I mean my parent’s arrest on charges of bootlegging. Papa waited to tell me the details until I was fourteen, how my father had been convinced to finance a smuggling scheme, how he used mother’s money, how as it turned out it was her idea in the first place. So my birth parents became casualties of the greed bred by scarcity during prohibition. When it all came down around them they would have fled without me if the police hadn’t come first.
Mother and Father were never stable enough to take me back after that, and I didn’t want to go anyway. So that’s how I ended up with Molly and Papa Flynn.