Sean Padraic McCarthy – Fiction

A Late Winter Dusk


I went to Mass that Sunday.  My parents went in the morning, but I wasn’t up,so I walked on my own to the five o’clock. I cut through the Island Grove Park on my way. To get to the Island, from my side of town, you had to cross a long concrete bridge that spanned the pond.  It was a Civil War Memorial bridge with an enormous archway at the head of it, crested with a bronze eagle, as you reached the actual park.  Inside the park there was an old roundhouse bandstand, and a small swimming pond with a sandy beach. The Island had been a meeting/speaking place for abolitionists prior to the Civil War and several spots were marked for historical significance. It wasn’t really an island at all though, and if you cut through you would come out to the road that led to the church. 

The ground was crusted with frozen crumbled leaves, and a thin layer of winter sand.  I lit a cigarette with little fear that anyone would see me.  The drunks and kids and lifeguards would be around in the summer, the rumbling Park Department trucks, but not now.  Now it was mostly deserted. This time of year you usually only saw people walking their dogs up here.  I was now smoking pretty much every day, and I kept my cigarettes in the rock wall that separated our yard from the woods behind our house. 

I hadn’t seen Alistair nor Danny since we had exiled Chad, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to yet.  We had hung out with Chad for years, and now we had ruined him, ostracizing him from our group of friends. He had often been a bully himself, picking on the weaker kids, and I had thought I would enjoy seeing the tables turned on him, but I didn’t.  I just felt small.

I had spoken to Danny on the phone.  We were usually inseparable but he had said he had to spend the whole weekend helping his father do some work under their house.  The work was filthy, something to do with the toilet pipes and the septic tank—something was overflowing or leaking–and Danny’s father couldn’t fit beneath the house so he would send Danny under with five gallon buckets. Danny’s house always smelled like sewerage and apparently the project was an ongoing one. Winter or summer, Mr. Hurley would sit in his lawn chair, cigarette in one hand and Bourbon in the other, supervising, as he sent Danny in and out with the buckets. The eventual goal, Danny said, was to dig a trench and lay some pipe to drain the septic tank directly into the stream that ran by their home. You had to be careful doing it though, he said, because if the town caught you, it would mean a lot of trouble.