Dedicated to Josh, who's serving our country…one day at a time!
Back of the Turnip Truck
There was nothing unusual about the street, it consisted mostly of row houses, a neighborhood bar, deli and convenience store, but he was having trouble finding the place. Looking at the sheet of paper again, he realized that the number written down was an eight, not a six. He gunned the car and drove two blocks down, seeing a young woman standing impatiently on the sidewalk in front of the brick row house that bore the numbers he was looking for. Short and antsy, she was shifting from foot to foot on her well worn Keds. Waving at him to pull over, he saw that her blondish-red hair pulled back in a pony-tail bounced as she motioned to him. He pulled up and, much to his surprise, she jumped into the front seat.
A wave of Philadelphia heat bowled over him from the outside replacing the cool crisp air conditioning as she wrenched open the door. She turned, a tiny trickle of perspiration running down her neck, and barked, "It took you long enough! Where the hell have you been?"
Greg House looked at her somewhat perplexed. He recognized her voice as being the one over the phone, "I thought I was early?"
She let out a heavy sigh, "Early? You're an hour late! Well, shit, Jack will probably kill us when we get there, you better start driving."
"Driving? Where am I going?"
"Cavanaugh's on Frankford in Richmond." She screwed up her face, "For Christ's sake, get going…we're late as it is." Annoyed, she waved at him to move the car.
House started driving down the street of row houses and maples. He wasn't sure what he was doing or where he was supposed to go, but he knew where Richmond was because he had looked at a room to rent in the area just the day before. After a few minutes of driving, House said casually, "I can get us to Frankford, but you're going to have to show me the address."
"My God, where did Jack get you? You been in a monastery or something?"
"I'm new in town."
Her jaw dropped with realization, "Oh Jesus H. Christ! You're the guy looking for a room, aren't you? Damn, I forgot to call you and let you know that the room was rented. A woman came by and said she'd be back later to give me a deposit."
House pulled over and stopped the car, "Then why am I giving you a ride?"
He could see the panic on her face. Shaking her head, she threw her hands up, "Look, my brother has a temper. If I don't get over there soon, he's probably going to take my allowance away. Please, if you give me a ride, I promise to give you some of whatever we're going to get."
"Some of whatever we're going to get? That's pretty nebulous. What are we getting?"
"I'm not sure, but it's ten boxes, maybe more with six to a box. Whatever it is."
He thought for a second and then reached over her lap, noticed the pale, but nicely shaped thighs partially covered by her cutoffs, and opened the door on her side, "Get out of the car."
She narrowed her eyes and snarled, "Like hell. Buddy, I don't know what you think you're playing at, but you don't make Maggie Malone walk. Do you know who my brother is?"
"I could care less if your brother is Sly Stalone…you can walk." He glared back as hard as he could. She was gritting her teeth. He noticed that she had freckles that splattered everywhere on her face. Light red hair, not orange, almost blonde, was pulled back into a ponytail that fell soft and wavy just past her shoulders. She was very pretty, not beautiful, but certainly a head turner.
She thought for a split second, "How much do you want to take me to the bar?"
"I want the room." He paused, sober and determined. "And one of whatever we're getting."
"I don't want to room with an asshole." She crossed her arms across her chest.
"Neither do I; but guess what? It looks like I'm going to end up with you, aren't I?"
She cursed under her breath, "You don't even know what the room looks like. How do you know you want it?"
The corners of his wide lips turned up, "Because if a woman is willing to rent it, it must be okay. I'll pay the 400 a month you were asking and that includes my utilities."
She took a deep breath and brushed away the stands of hair from her face, "400 includes all your utilities but the phone. You pay for a third of the phone and all your long distance calls."
He nodded and started the car, smiling to himself, relieved that he finally had lodgings. Rooms were going fast now that the med school, internships and residencies were ready to start. He hadn't expected the housing market to be so tight, but then most of the residents who had rooms already, knew him or his reputation, and refused to rent to him.
After a few minutes, she asked softly, "What's your name again?"
"House, Gregory House."
The pretty woman still had her arms crossed and was seemingly staring at the road straight ahead. But he noticed that she kept stealing glances at him from the corner of her eye. "Are you a student?"
He snickered, "Do I look like a student? I'm a doctor; I'm doing a residency in Nephrology at Temple."
"Really? Where did you go to med school?"
"Hopkins. I did my internship and residency in infectious diseases at Michigan."
She relaxed, "I don't allow smoking."
"Fair enough. I don't smoke…much."
"You buy and cook your own food."
She jerked her arm up and pointed, "There, over there. Pull into the alley behind it and back your trunk up to the dock."
House saw the building, it was a bar between two taller brick buildings. A large sign with a shamrock declared, 'Cavanaugh's Bar, Proud Home of Local 30.' There were shamrocks painted on the glass and a neon sign in the window that said, 'We Serve Guinness.' House did as he was told and pulled the car around the back in the alley, but there was no one on the dock to greet them. The redhead looked worried. As soon as he stopped the car she jumped out, "Wait here."
A few minutes later a man, in his late twenties, with features that could only mean he was her brother, came out to the dock. Rolling up the steel door, he revealed ten medium sized boxes with Sony written on the side. The young woman and her brother were having a very animated argument. Both of them were in each other's faces. House got out and ventured towards the dock.
"…never showed up. If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't have made it. Now do you want to continue to argue or help me load these? If we don't get them back, we're going to miss the buyer."
"Jesus, Maggie, you're such a pain in the ass. I don't know why I support you."
House watched as she gave her brother a smile that would melt any man's resolve. The brother, whose hair was even redder than his sister's, reluctantly met her smile with his own, forming a temporary truce. He handed a box to House as House opened the trunk. Within a few minutes the boxes were loaded in the trunk and backseat.
Maggie kissed her brother on the cheek and jumped into the passenger side of the silver Galaxy. Her brother walked over to the driver's side where House was sitting behind the wheel. He leaned in on the open window and narrowed his eyes.
"Maggie says you're going to rent a room from her."
House sized up the man and decided that he had a certain look that men get who are used to having their way. House was known to have the same look most of the time. But House didn't want to ruin a good thing so he gave a polite nod.
"I'm Jack, Maggie's brother. The house may belong to her, but I pay the mortgage, utilities and food for her while she's in school. So you'll be seeing me from time to time. She said your name is Gregory House. Well, Gregory House, make sure you treat my sister good or you'll be talking to me and a couple of my friends. Do we understand each other?"
House nodded again, started the engine and waited for Jack to stand up straight before slowly pulling out of the dock and into the alley. He looked over at Maggie who was staring out the back of the window, smiling and waving at her brother.
"What's in the boxes?"
"Sony Walkmans. Don't worry, you'll get one."
"What did you mean buyer?"
"I've got a guy who's going to buy these for 75 a Walkman. It's my books and living expenses for the next few months."
House wrinkled his brow, "But they're worth twice that."
"If you buy them in the store. He'll sell them for 125. "
"How much profit will you make?" House asked.
"You do the math, 10 boxes with six walkman at 75." She said casually, watching the road in front of her.
He glanced over at her, "You mean that you didn't pay anything for them?"
She chuckled, "They fell off a truck."
House was beginning to understand, "What does your brother do for a living?"
She turned and looked at him. House would learn that Maggie's eyes changed constantly from gray to blue and back depending on the time of day, the weather, what she was wearing and how pissed off she was. They looked blue to him at that moment and they looked angry.
"None of your fuckin' business."
He pulled his head back and laughed. "I seeeeee."
She thought a minute, letting his question stew, "He runs that bar. It's the family bar."
"What's so private about that?"
She shrugged her shoulders, "Nothing I guess. It was just the way you asked it."
"Yeah, well when he's not running the bar, is he chasing trucks to see what falls off the back?"
She smiled and rolled her blue-grey eyes.
They pulled up to the curb and carried the boxes inside the three story house. It was whitewashed brick with forest green shutters. After unloading, Maggie gave House a tour. There was a large parlor with a fireplace that was boarded up. Just off the living room was a dining room with a large maple table and six matching chairs. In the back of the house was the kitchen with a small eat-in dining area, complete with a melamine table and small breakfast bar. The kitchen was clean, the cupboards freshly painted white and sporting chrome handles. They stepped in to a small room where there was a washer and dryer, pantry and cupboard. The door to the basement was next to the laundry room.
Next to the steps leading up to the bedrooms was a small powder room with a toilet and sink. Upstairs, on the second floor were two bedrooms. The smaller room was partially furnished with a newer looking twin bed and a cheap chest of drawers. By the window was a small pressboard desk. The room had lace curtains under heavier velvet curtains that could be pulled together to darken the room, perfect for when House would have to take the night shift. Further down the hall on the left was the second bedroom, but the door was closed. He assumed it was Maggie's. At the end of the hall was the door to the bathroom and a linen closet. There was a set of stairs going to the third floor.
She took him upstairs and he watched as her small, but round hips swayed in her cutoffs. On the third floor was a third bedroom about the size of the small one downstairs, another small powder room and then an open area with storage and built in shelves that housed books. The entire house, or what he could see, with the exception of the bathrooms and possibly her room, had been painted a mauve, a popular color for homes and one which he found rather sickening. The bathrooms were a pale yellow.
"The bathroom on the second floor is the only bathroom in the house with a bath and shower. So, in the mornings, you need to take your shower and, if someone is waiting, do the rest of your toiletries in your room or in the downstairs bathroom."
House liked the bathroom, it was large with an old fashioned gravity flow toilet, a claw tub and a makeshift shower that had been added sometime later to the bathtub. The floor was made up of small octagonal black and white tiles. She pointed to a towel rack and a little set of drawers. "That's yours. The one up there is Mike's. The vanity drawers are mine…all mine."
"He's a friend of the family from Trenton. He boards here while he's in college. He has the other room."
"School starts Tuesday, when will he be back?"
"Monday night. He goes home as much as possible." Maggie turned and walked towards his new room, "I need your first and last rent."
"Who do I make the check out to?"
She pointed to her chest, "Me, Maggie Malone."
He went over to the desk in his new room, pulled out a check book from his back pocket, wrote a check for 800 and handed it to her. "You said something about school? What are you taking?"
"I'm starting med school at Temple."
House tilted his head, "Really? You look too young. How old are you?"
He stuck his lip out, "Hmm, you're older than I thought, but still young to be starting med school."
"I went to private Catholic School and graduated when I was sixteen, went year long to college to get it over with in three years. I'm in a hurry."
"So your brother supports you?"
She nodded, but said nothing more as she headed down the stairs, check in hand. House followed.
"Can I paint the room something besides that putrid purple?"
She started laughing, "What? Don't you like mauve?" She stopped and looked at him, her eyes gray now, "I hate the color too, but the place needed painting and the paint fell off one of those trucks. As long as you pick a tolerable color, I don't care."
Maggie shrugged her shoulders, "Navajo White? Not white, not cream, but Navajo White? Fine." She checked him out, up and down, "You're here five minutes and you want to redecorate. Are you gay? I mean, it's okay, I just never lived with a gay guy."
House walked down a couple of stairs, reached down and let his breath tickle her ear as he whispered, "It depends on how gay you want me to be? Pleasant or really, really happy?"
Maggie shivered from his breath on her neck, stared defiantly and then started down the steps again. Walking into the living room, Maggie crossed to one of the Sony boxes, opened it up and threw House a Walkman. She turned and crossed to the kitchen. House followed, watching as she got two beers out of the refrigerator.
"Don't you have air conditioning?" he asked.
Opening the beers, Maggie handed one to House, "In my room. If you want to get a small one for your room, it will cost you an additional 15 for the increase in the electric bill."
He smiled seductively at her, "Or, I could just sneak into your room to sleep."
"Man, you're a little creepy." She 1 held up her ring finger to point out the diamond engagement ring that House had already noticed when they were in the car. "You are a loser. I am a goddess. I'm engaged, so keep your thoughts and your mitts to yourself."
He sat down at the little melamine table, "Does your fiancé live here in the house?"
She shook her head, "He's got a couple of years left in the Navy. He's stationed in California."
"Yeah, they paid for his schooling. He's a Jag officer."
"How old is he?"
"Twenty-seven. We grew up together in this neighborhood."
House laughed, "You mean he babysat you."
She sat down at the breakfast bar on a wood stool covered with a gingham elastic cushion, "He's my brother's friend, Tom. He was around all the time. When I was in high school Tom kept telling my brother that he needed to keep an eye on me. Said I was pretty and naïve, that someone was going to take advantage of that. Little did my brother know it would be Tom who took advantage of it. We started going out when I was seventeen and he was in law school. We got engaged last year." Maggie sat her beer down and looked at House's finger, "So, do you have a girlfriend?"
House frowned, "Did, but when I left Michigan, I didn't invite her to come with me. It seemed a natural time to end it, so she's not speaking to me anymore."
"Are you just now doing your residency? Did they keep you back in kindergarten?"
He held up a finger to indicate a pause and burped, loudly. Maggie chuckled and shook her head in mock disgust. Having a brother meant she was used to garish male behavior.
"I've already done a turn in Internal Medicine for a year and then a subspecialty in Infectious Diseases for the last three years. Now I'm doing a residency in Nephrology."
It didn't make sense to her; the specialties didn't really seem to overlap. She could understand a second residency in Immunology or Dermatology, but Nephrology? "Why? Not too many people associate Nephrology with Infectious Diseases."
"I plan on becoming a diagnostician."
She giggled, "A what?"
"It's a new specialty, you learn how to diagnose difficult symptomology."
Maggie still wasn't convinced it was real. "You mean, all you do is diagnose people? What about treatment?"
House smirked, "I could care less about patient care after I figure out what's wrong with them."
She chortled, clearly not understanding why anyone would become a doctor if they didn't want to treat the patient.
House looked Maggie up and down. She wasn't skinny, but the only place he saw a little extra flesh was her abdomen, and it was only slightly round. He thought her legs, which extended out from her jean shorts, were nicely shaped with curvy calves and thin ankles. He was just about to evaluate her breasts when the doorbell rang. She jumped up and hurried to the door.
House joined her and watched as an Italian man pulled an envelope from his pocket while eyeing House suspiciously. Two other young Italians began taking the boxes out the door. Within minutes the boxes were gone along with the men and Maggie was counting her money.
"Don't you count the money before you hand over the goods?"
She rolled her eyes, "That would be an insult. We trust each other. Or, at least my brother trusts Paulo. He knows if he short changes me, that…" She looked up from counting, realizing that she was talking to a virtual stranger, "…my brother won't be happy. They like keeping my brother happy."
"What, or they'll wake up with a dead leprechaun in their bed?"
House was surprised when she giggled. "Yeah, something like that."
House spent the rest of the weekend moving into the room after painting it Navajo White. The room had little storage so House bought shelves and installed them with Maggie's permission, promising to leave them when he moved out. He put his stereo and books up on the shelves, hung his Charlie Parker poster and bought some twin sheets, leaving his double sheets and a few items of furniture in storage. The house was big enough that he and Maggie didn't occupy the same space very often. She read in the living room, cooked in the kitchen and spent most her time in her bedroom watching a small television and studying.
House bought some groceries and stored them in the areas Maggie designated for him. It wasn't long until he started eating her left-overs and drinking her beer. Apparently, Maggie either didn't notice or thought it was her brother taking the food, because she didn't mention it.
One Monday night, House was in the living room watching baseball when the door opened and a young, dark haired, brown-eyed man walked into the house with several bags, including one of groceries. He nodded at House.
Leaning forward to shake House's hand, "Hi, I'm Michael O'Sullivan. Are you the new roomie?"
House nodded, "Greg House."
Michael smiled, putting the luggage on the floor, "I thought she'd pick someone…younger and prettier. She usually gets a freshman or sophomore girl. Well, welcome to the hood." He pulled out a beer from the grocery bag and handed it to House, making his way to the kitchen with the rest of the groceries. A few minutes later he appeared back in the living room where he sat down with his own brewsky to watch the Phillies.
House turned to him, "So I hear you're a friend of the family?"
"My Dad's been helping Jack out with the business ever since Maggie's father died. Dad was a good friend of their Dad's. He promised that he'd look out for them when Uncle Liam got cancer."
House fished for some information, "What business? I thought they owned the bar?"
He gave out a sharp laugh, "The bar makes money, but certainly not enough to keep up Jack's lifestyle and Maggie in med school. Most of the money is made from the business- from Jack and his crew." Michael shrugged his shoulders, "You know."
"So they're part of some gang?"
He paused to think about his response, "Jack and a few others are the last of the Irish mob in Philly. He took over from his Dad who was in the K & A."
"K & A?"
"The Irish gang named after the intersection of Kingston and Allegheny, where most of the Irish unions, you know, the roofers, plumbers and truck unions, have their social clubs and locals."
House nodded. "What about Maggie?"
Michael smiled warmly. It was obvious that Mike liked Maggie a lot. "Maggie? She's too busy going to school and working in the bar to get involved too much in the family business."
"What about their mother?"
Michael cocked an eyebrow, "Mother? Maggie's mom and brother, Kieran, died in an auto accident on the Schuylkill Expressway when Maggie was five."
"Now it makes sense why her brother supports her. Does she have any other siblings?"
"No, but she's got Thomas O'Leary, her fiancé. I wouldn't mess with him. He's not only Jack's best friend, but he's also connected to a lot of the union boys."
House snickered, "If someone had told me that I'd be renting from the Irish Mafia in Philadelphia, I would have laughed in their face."
Michael shook his head, "Don't call it that, at least not to Jack or Maggie. She refuses to think of her brother as a criminal. She turns a blind eye to the things he does, people he hurts. He takes good care of her, pays for med school, gave her this house. He loves her more than he loves the woman he lives with. They've been through a lot together."
House saw that Michael was very serious. He thought for a second, took a drink of his beer and turned back to the ballgame. This is definitely more interesting than Michigan. Michigan had its benefits, living with the identical twin blondes with the Double Ds had its good points, so to speak, but the Irish mafia could prove very entertaining.
House hated the first few months of residency. The supervisors were always real hard-asses, trying to make the residents feel stupid and worthless so that they could then be whipped into shape. He knew he had a problem with authority, so the first few weeks of a new job always tested his patience. It didn't take long for House to find himself on the wrong side of his chair, Dr. Lee Sung. Sung had suggested that a patient's kidney failure was the result of the measles. House disagreed and told him that it was Lupus. But since the patient was a male, Sung refused to consider Lupus. Despite being told to concentrate on another case, House ran an ANA, leaving the positive lab results pinned to the cork board in the Doctor's locker room. It was Lupus.
Dr. Nellie Waterson talked Sung out of suspending House, since House had prevented Sung from committing malpractice. But, House was quickly turned over to her. She was now his supervisor, something she didn't relish. Word had spread fast through the Temple medical community - House was a rogue and unpredictable. He didn't play by the rules, but he was a brilliant doctor.