1Losing Her TwiceWayne stared out of the barred window. "Since the trial I havent talked about it, ya know." His back was upright and motionless in the chair. But his hands moved on his knees, thenjammed into his pockets, drummed on the table. "Are ya from the newspapers?" Before I could answer he said, "What ya wanna hear?" "Anything you want to tell me," I replied. He leant forward. His young eyes looked straight into mine and when he spoke, the wordsflowed from a wound."Found it in an alley. Lying between boxes an junk. An for me it was like, I could use this to getmoney, ya know. Hold-ups and that." "Didnt you think it could be dangerous? I mean, I guess youd never handled one before." "No, I didnt think dangerous. But I also never thought itd end the way ... it ..." His voice stumbled and stopped. "Wayne, tell me what it was like being on the streets, " I said. "Wasnt that bad," he said. "Theres those soup kitchens and homeless shelters. But I waskinda hiding, scared theyd find me, take me back." I knew he meant Lincoln State Orphanage, the place he had disappeared from in early fall. "What was it like there?" "Felt strange first. But then, anywhere wouldve been strange cos Mom, Kenny and me, wedlived for six, seven years in the same apartment. I dont remember living anywhere else. Momkinda liked that hole. Mustve been home to her too." In the light from the small window, I saw his face clearly. He had opened like a book and as Iwatched him, memories of his ability to get into the telling of things and rivet the listener cameback to me.< 2 >"She wasnt much of a mover - the guys were the movers; they moved in, they moved out. Mealticket, shed say if Kenny and me whinged that we didnt like one or other of em." He looked over at the window, at the light behind me. "One guy, he was okay."
2 Something like an echo of softness was in his voice. "Stayed longer. Tried even, to get Mom off the bottle. He always said: Good-looking woman,your Ma. Kenny and me were still small then. I remember he bought us shoes that winter. Thewinter Kenny got sick. He took him up to Lester General Hospital. But the medicine was so awfulKenny jus spewed it up. Mom went on a drunk jus after that, so I tried to get Kenny to take it,he was so thin an sick. An the guy left. Patience run out I guess. And me, Kenny an Momstayed on in that hole. Till that last night with Kenny. Then I got the kids home and they tookMom off some-where too, when they found her. Yeah, it sure wouldve been easier if Kenny hadbeen in the kids home with me. Id been used to little Kenny." "It must have been darn hard foryou without Kenny. Do you remember any-thing good about being there?" "It was okay. I mean, it wasnt home and there were lots of kids but we all were kinda in thesame boat," he replied. "There was a janitor we called Leg-O. He liked to thrash the shit outtaus." Waynes voice was easy but his hands agitated under the table. "He was a pervert too. Got me once. He did it in the store-cupboard. Held his hand over mymouth. Neednt have bothered. It hurt that much like hell, I couldnt find a scream anyway. LaterI knew some of the other kids had got it too."< 3 > "Did your Mom visit sometimes?" Wayne shook his head. "She wrote a couple of times. But it was me sent most of the letters. I missed her, see. Butno, I never got any damn visits. Cos she was in an out of rehab all the time, trying to knock itoff. Mr Ashton, the guy in charge at the home, said he thought there was a good chance shedmake a visit when the, ya know, treatment was over. But she never fuckin did. And then, it wastoo late. She was gone. An for me, there jus didnt seem to be any point anymore. There wasntanything left. No-one who had known me before."I wanted to get closer to the boy Wayne had been before it all happened and called thewoodwork teacher at the school hed attended. I went up to the second floor as students pushedand crowded down the stairs. Inside the room, there was a warm smell from the shavings on thefloor and rows of tools hung on the walls. Jeffries, the teacher in charge, pulled a stool out fromunder a workbench, dusted it off and gestured for me to sit. "About Wayne. Hell, yes, I read about it in the papers. And saw his photo." "What do you remember about him?" I asked. "He was interested in wood, enjoyed the work. We got on fairly well. But he had problemswhich my woodworking classes couldnt deal with." "What do you mean?" Jeffries pushed a screwdriver back and forth over the workbench.
3 "Just like that," he clicked his fingers, "he lost the interest Id worked so hard to build up. Idecided to speak to him because during the years he was here, wed de-veloped respect for oneanother. But I couldnt help him."< 4 > The screwdriver fell to the floor. Jeffries just stood there, looking down, fingers in his beard. "Losing his mother a second time was too much for him, I guess."After I left Jeffries, I went over to Lincoln State Orphanage. It was a very big, very drab buildingwith a row of lame trees hugging the walk up to the door. Mr Ash-ton was near retirement, hisface creased under thick, white eyebrows. He offered to tell me anything I wanted to know aboutWaynes years there. "How did Wayne react to the news of his mothers death?" I asked. "He just said: Oh, well, I hardly knew her anymore," replied Mr Ashton. "But he was moreshaken up than he showed. She never visited him, you know. Not once in the five years beforeshe died. Surprisingly, alcoholic mothers usually make an effort to visit, despite everything. Wecorresponded with her, its regulations, you know. She knew how he was getting on but its neverthe same as visiting is."Traffic throttled on the overpass and below, heat surged up from the sidewalk. I went up thesteps to the apartments where Wayne had lived as a kid. I wondered why everything looked thesame and yet something was different. Mrs del Pietro opened her door and asked me to comeinto the kitchen. She said it was the trees. The trees I remembered on the sidewalk in front ofthe building had been removed years ago. "Yes, yes, Wayne and little Kenny and the Mama lived upstairs. She had lot of men - in andout, in and out. Ah, Madonna. Wayne sometimes came for food to me. When they were hungryand Mama wasnt home." "Did your kids play with Wayne and Kenny?" I asked. "Those boys not play much. Wayne, he look after his brother. She went out drinking. Andwhen it happen, she was drinking day and night. Thats why Wayne he didnt go to school. So theschool inspector went there to find out why. He get a shock that inspector when he realise, youknow, about little Kenny. He send Wayne down to me. He was hungry and first I make breakfast.He eat everything. He tells me Kenny is sick. He doesnt know, yet, because he left a piece oftoast on the table. For Kenny he said, if he doesnt spew it up."< 5 > Waynes hair had been cut since I had last seen him. His face seemed smal-ler, taut skinpulled across his cheekbones. Id brought him some cigarettes and candy and he smiled at me,his sad eyes lightening for a moment. "Yeah, Ill tell you about Kenny," he said. "He was my brother and I shouldve looked afterhim and hell, I shouldve done more for him."
4 "But you couldnt have stopped him dying, Wayne," I said. "Jesus, you were only eight yearsold." "Yeah, maybe. Maybe its better anyway, cos I think of myself now and I think, hey Kenny,youre out of it all." There was nothing I could say to take away the hurt so I said nothing. He was quiet for awhile too. Then he began to talk."That night Kenny said he was cold. Funny, he felt hot to touch though. So we kept on ourclothes and I put on this second pair of socks, left from some guy, to warm his feet. I wasntcold, it was beginning of summer I remember. He kept shiver-ing so I took the blanket off Momsbed too. And then I lay next to him, wrapped my arms round him and curled my legs up. He wasquiet all night cept his breathing was heavy. The knock on the door woke me. This guy, ya know,school inspector, asked questions. I didnt know where Mom was I said and my brother was sickand shh, hes still sleeping. The inspector went over to the couch and stood there looking. Thenhe moved the blankets back and shook Kenny a little. He stood like that for a while, jus looking.Then he put a hand on Kennys chest. He looked funny jus standing there, shaking his head. Hecame over to me and put his arm round my shoulders. And I went down to Mrs del Pietro."The next afternoon I walked way over to West Avenue. I wanted to try and clear my head. Duskwas coming in and the sky, what I could see of it, hung there, dirty and clouded. The late nightdrugstore had changed hands since the shooting. I went in anyway, to have a look around but itwas just like any other drugstore that stayed open late. Afterwards I made my last visit toWayne. The next day I would have to get back to my job in a real estate company.< 6 > "Wayne, can you talk about how it happened? If its not easy, its okay though." He didnt hesitate for a moment. "She was the old guys daughter-in-law. He said afterwards she was the kindest, mostharmless daughter-in-law anyone could ever have. Hed had the store for seventeen years. Knewhow to handle hold-ups, he said. But, hell, he said, never thought it would end like that. He calledme a monster and wanted to know why." Wayne was pale but his eyes were on fire. "Youre ... you know, asking questions, finding things out. Maybe you can tell me why." I shook my head. I had no answer for him. All I knew was that even as a child there had beena quality about Wayne that had drawn me. But a woman, attractive as his mother had been, heralcohol problem and two kids had not been my idea of a future. I had been twenty five andrestless, ready to go and grab hold of life. "The old guy already had the money in his hand. I reached out for it an my eye caught amovement from the back. I turned. An the gun went off." His hands closed over his face.
5 "She went down straight away. I remember thinking very clearly jus for that second - its awoman. With a kid inside her." After a while he said, "Im in here for a long time." A warder came up to the bars of the visitors room and tapped. "Time, Wayne." Wayne got up and pushed his chair to the table. He looked out of the window< 7 > at the strip of sky above the high brick walls. I was silent. Nothing I said would be right. Hemoved to the door. "Wayne, wait," I called. "Maybe you dont recognise me but you remember me." It was a long shot but he turned. "The guy who bought the shoes and the medicine," I said. "Yeah?" "Thought your Mom was good-looking." "Yeah. Marvin, right? I felt something when you walked in. But I thought it must be a touch ofthe crazies, being holed up in here for months." "Ill be living out in the Midwest for at least the next hundred years," I said. "Ill keep intouch. If you do too, Ill buy you another pair of shoes when you visit me. Or whatever." It was the best I could do. He turned his head away. And when he looked back at me, wewere both crying.