The Long Road... #2014reboot

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

#192: The Girl From Limestone, Part Two

As I said in Part One, This is the story the way I tell it. Much of it is factual. All of it is true. The parts that didn't happen that way, should have...pennsy

Bev and Bill set up house in an apartment over a furniture store in Dormont, a suburb in name only at the edge of the Pittsburgh city limits. They would walk to the streetcar stop at the top of the hill and ride the trolley to work at the paper everyday. He was a young printer's apprentice. She was the boss's secretary. They used to laugh that she was really his boss, but she would never treat him that way. She loved him. He was tall and broad shouldered like a football player. His black hair was combed over to the side and he always looked so serious. like a man with important things to achieve. When she told him she was pregnant, he wept like a baby.

They boy was born the following summer. Nothing like having July babies in Pittsburgh to make you appreciate winter. They named him Bob, after his grampa. Bev and Bobby used to sit in the window seat over Potomac Avenue and wait for Uncle Bud's car to pull up to the front stoop. Bill would step out in his white shirt, sleeves rolled up, black lunch pail tucked under his arm, with a copy of the evening paper in his hand. He would smile and wave. Uncle Bud would laugh, toottle the horn, and speed off with a screech of tires making the old men on the bench in front of Pete's barber shop swear in Italian.

The three of them were a family. Of course Bev couldn't work any more. She had help. Julie and Bob lived just a few blocks up the street on Broadway, where the streetcar ran. and Hazel lived right across the hall. she was a widow who loved Bev and would babysit on the nights when it was just too hot to spend one more minute in their house. Bill would shave and put on lotion and Bev would put on heels and they would go down to the Hollywood for a double-feature in the air conditioned shadows. After, they might go down to Dickinson's for a soda or Campiti's for a small cheese pizza.

He was working hard. Studying for his union exams. You didn't get to be a union printer just because your daddy was in the union. You had to know your stuff. Bill was smart and he was determined. He had been an Eagle Scout, one of the youngest ever. Bob had been his scoutmaster. Bill wanted to take care of his family and he wanted to make his dad proud. He did everything he could do do both.

Then, the year after Bobby was born, Bob had a stroke. He had always been a smoker. Liked a drink. Liked a good time at the lodge. Julie shook her head and rolled her eyes. What could a wife do? When Bob died, it was like a light went out in Bill. How could God take his father like that? Not even sixty years old? Never to know his grandson? Never to see his own son make something of himself? What kind of a God would do such a thing? No kind of God worth a damn. That's for sure.

She watched helpless as his smile disappeared. Years later, it would flash from time to time, but it would never be quite the same. Her children would love their father, but they would never get to meet the man she fell in love with. Part of him went into that hole on the South Side of Pittsburgh where Bob and Julie had scratched their way through the depression together.

Julie was devastated. She became angry and suspicious. She was afraid to go out alone. Everywhere she looked there were niggers and pollacks and dagos trying to cheat and steal and kill. She started getting lost, and had to give up her little red Valiant.

Bev was pregnant again, and the apartment on Potomac was not big enough for four, so they bought the house on Broadway and moved in with Julie. It was not an ideal situation for a new mother. Julie's room was immaculate. It looked like a showroom in a furniture store. The rest of the house looked like a place where a two-year-old boy lived. When Beth was born there were twice as many kids to spoil, the favorite children of the favorite son, and Bev couldn't have kept up with a team of house keepers. Julie would cluck and shake her head. Whenever they left the house, they would return to some secret cleanup project. Julie would have polished the bathroom or refolded all the drawers or scrubbed out the refrigerator. She never said a word. She didn't have to. Judgment hung thick in the air like vinegar and pine oil.

Working was out of the question for Bev now. For one thing, she had her hands full with two kids who seemed determined that only one of them was going to life to adulthood. Why in the world did they fight like that? Nobody fought like that. They couldn't even be in the same county together without torturing one another. For another thing, if she ever told Julie she wanted to go to work, the old woman would have torn into her like an angry eagle. Wives took care of their husbands and children. Finally, Bonnie was born and that was it. Three. No more.

The kid's screaming used to take it's toll. Spankings were barely useful. Threats became more and more insane. "If you two don't stop fighting, I'm leaving/calling the police/ sending you to the orphanage where they'll beat you with electric cords till you learn to behave." She could hear the words come out, barely believing herself capable of saying them. Then she would cry. Hard years.

The years passed, the kids got older. The newspaper went on strike and Bill started looking for other jobs. He mowed yards. He cleaned the church. He drove a school bus. Bev went to work at the pharmacy to help bring some more money in. She finally had a reason to get out of the house and meet people that not even Julie could fault. They all needed her to work. She really liked it. She always liked business more than keeping house. The neighbors came by and they would laugh and gossip together. Later on, she moved to the Stop'n'Go across the street. Bill didn't like the hours, but Bev liked the independence that working gave her. She also was exposed to people and things she had never encountered as a sheltered country girl. She met junkies and pan-handlers. Con artists and crooks. She finally was a part of the street life that she had been watching from under the green canvas awnings on her front porch for so many years. It felt good to be free again.

Then Julie started getting sick.

Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four

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