Spoilers! If you have not read the first two books in the AULD IRISHTOWN trilogy. This POV character story is also at FanFiction.net (https://www.fanfiction.net/book/Auld-Irishtown-Trilogy/)
Men are animals. There’s no use in romanticizing it.
All he wants is territory, whether that be dominating his place of work, or a woman’s body.
Put it on my gravestone, I don’t care: Men are animals.
My mother says that I have a mean streak in me. That I shouldn’t talk so crazy.
That I should “emanate grace” and “embrace my nurturing side, radiate innocence, men like a girl like that.”
Then I look at her.
I’m eighteen now and I can stand up for myself. And I don’t have to do things the way my mother Mary did.
I mean just look at her, the picture of a defeated woman: scarred from head to toe by a man’s abuse.
My father threw a pan of hot grease on her when I was a four years-old, now she’s disfigured by burns on her face.
And after giving birth to fifteen of his children, she carries the wounds of man’s ownership on her body like a branded cow.
I will not follow her lead.
But from the beginning I was a religious girl.
I prayed to God that he would save us from the poverty of Brooklyn’s Irishtown and I spent almost as much time at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church as I did caring for my younger siblings.
But things didn’t get better, and I was beginning to think God wasn’t listening.
My older brother Richie though, he is going to be a great man.
When I was seven years old, he was run over by a Brooklyn trolley.
Bill Lovett was there. He pulled off his tie and wrapped it around Richie’s leg so he didn’t bleed to death.
Richie just stared between the trolley tracks where the bottom part of his leg laid there, motionless.
Richie was never the same after that, but he owed his life to Bill.
And even though Bill is not a handsome man, his quick action to save my brother’s life deeply endeared me to him.
One day when I was fifteen, my mother made Richie go see Dinny Meehan at the headquarters of the gang that dominated labor on the Brooklyn waterfront, the White Hand, they were called.
Bill was just a dockboss for Meehan back then.
I was in the alley with her and my siblings, since girls and women aren’t allowed in there.
When Red Donnelly, the dockboss of the Navy Yard, made fun of Richie, Richie beat him into submission in front of everybody.
It was then and there that Dinny and Bill decided that Richie was the future, and promptly began a war between each other to win him.
Meehan struck first: He opened a bike shop for my mother, but with terms: Richie would work for the gang.
And kill for it, too.
You see, if there’s anything that Richie is good at, it’s fighting and killing. He’s a true Soldier of the Dawn, as the gang used to call themselves.
Right around the same time the Easter Rising occurred in Ireland in 1916, great changes came to the Brooklyn waterfront as well.
The International Longshoreman’s Association tried recruiting us Irish laborers in the north and the Italians of the south to work together under their banner.
In response, Jonathan G. Wolcott from the New York Dock Company hired the White Hand to kill the recruiter, Thos Carmody.
The fact was, however, that the White Hand Gang was losing power.
So Dinny Meehan took control.
He had Richie kill some worthless piece of garbage. Mick Gilligan was his name.
Gilligan had stepped between Bill and Meehan and broke the code of silence.
Not only was Meehan taking back control within the gang, but he was also showing everyone that my big brother Richie was loyal to him, along with all the other teenagers that followed him and the many boys in the Lonergan family.
All hell broke lose after that.
Dinny Meehan’s Irish bhoys ran through the old dock neighborhoods beating anyone that was loyal to the
Italians or the ILA.
Or even the NY Dock Co, who had recently paid him.
Bill even helped him do it when he killed Il Maschio, the Italian Black Hand leader of the southern docks.
It came to be known as “A Day for Legends,” when the Irish took back the waterfront.
But Meehan set up Bill’s righthand man for all the damage that was done.
Non Connors, an old and very loyal friend of Bill, was jailed.
Although Bill was weakened, he vowed revenge on Meehan.
As the dockboss of Red Hook, Bill organized a revolt a year later, killed one of Meehan’s enforcers, and proclaimed sovereignty there.
But Meehan is a powerful man, and he manipulated the waterfront winds in his favor.
By making a deal with the Italians (that lived in the Red Hook neighborhood) and the ILA, Meehan allowed an Italian hit man to kill Bill.
But Bill is a gamey fellow, and he turned the tables on Sammy de Angelo.
Though Bill was charged for murder, he plead out by joining the army and heading “over there” to the war in Europe.
With Bill gone, we Lonergans had no choice but to declare our loyalty to Meehan and the White Hand.
Eventually we learned Bill was killed in battle. I was crushed by the news.
Other than Bill’s family, only myself and an old man went to his service.
It was that nosy old Gas Drip Bard who talks about everyone, but I have too much respect for my elders to tell him off right there in church.
Bill had left me his most prized possession before he’d been sent to the war, his .45.
He told me to keep it warm for him. I don’t know what to do with it now.
Meehan then sent a suitor for me to marry our family to the White Hand, but I sent Liam Garrity away against my mother’s wishes.
“Why not consider it, Anna?” My mother pleaded. “They feed us, you know. And times are bad for our like.”
“I won’t marry that Liam Garrity boy because we ain’t no gypsies,” I yelled at her.
My mother is so stupid sometimes.
The winters were harsh back then, and two of my younger siblings died.
When the men came back from the war, they brought with them some terrible disease that swept through Irishtown and beyond.
With the war over, the waterfront had less war contracts and the poverty that always loomed over us intensified.
My mother again begged me to consider marrying the Garrity boy.
Although times were tough, it was burying babies that broke me once and for all.
Especially Tiny Thomas, who had clung to me as if I was his mother.
All of this drove me back to St. Ann’s where I spent many hours inside the candlelit church praying for my family.
Father Larkin promised to help and talked me through my tears.
More importantly, he cried for me when I said I wanted to kill Meehan with my own hands (Bill’s gun, actually), which swayed me from doing it.
I had never seen a man cry before.
And then a miracle happened: Bill Lovett rose from the dead.
The man who saved my brother Richie’s life and fought against Meehan had suddenly appeared like a spirit, although he was damaged from the celestial journey.
I know it was my prayer that brought him back. God finally listened to me.
The loner Darby Leighton showed up at my door to tell me, then asked me for the gun.
“For what? What’s he got planned?” I asked.
Leighton just glared at me, “Bill asked me to get it from you, now give it.”
Right away Bill wanted Red Hook again and had Richie show him his loyalty by killing Meehan’s cousin, Mickey Kane, who had taken over as dockboss there.
The message was simple, and powerful: Meehan set up Bill’s righthand man back in 1916, so Bill killed Meehan’s cousin in return three years later.
I know that Bill Lovett cares for my family, and although he’s an animal like all other men, I see fate in him. Kindness even.
Well, maybe there isn’t much kindness in Bill Lovett, but at least I know he’ll care for us and he has God on his side.
I can feel it. It was God that ran through me and brought him back.
I’m going right now down to Red Hook to see him. I’m eighteen now and I know what a man likes, and I’ll give it to him too.
I’ll give him what a queen has, her temple.
After he marries me, of course.
I am Catholic after all.