Patrick O'Malley was always small for his age. He had had one best friend as people who have best friends normally do, but this was when he was too little to know any corruption, even growing up on the streets of Manhattan. His best friend had been a little German boy named Arthur, before Arthur was thrown out of school in the 2nd grade. Literally. Patrick had tried to be big and bad like the other Irish boys at school, which never worked. So, he did the next best thing- collaborated with the enemy.
He was an easy target. Patrick had stopped bringing things to school long ago because they got stolen. His father left his mother, and he tried to be a good little boy. Bring in the money, keep out the pickpockets. If only Mrs. O'Malley knew what her son had really done to get the money, she would've just about died.
One unfortunate day, Patrick got caught by a pawnbroker and taken home. He was a nice Italian man, the type of person gullible enough you'd steal from in a minute but regret for the rest of your life. Patrick held his head high, wilted inside from double shame, both his mother's and for once, his own. Prior, he hadn't known the difference. The man had let him go, but the worst punishment was to come.
"I never thought." Mrs. O'Malley said, in a thick Irish accent. "I never thought I'd live to see this day."
"You mean you never hoped to," Patrick muttered, but loudly enough for her to hear. "But then Papa left."
"Do not mention your father, Patrick!" Shrieked his mother. "This isn't about him! This is about you! You stole! You have shamed God, you have shamed your family, and you have shamed yourself!"
"Money, Mama, money." Patrick reminded, exasperated. "You can deny it all you want, but you needed every cent of it."
"I wanted it in an honest way! It is poison! I would die from it now, knowing how you got it!"
"This isn't an honest world, Mama! How can you expect to live in this type of corruption and never get caught in it?"
"This world may be corrupt, but we are not!" Yelled she. "God is pure, and everything we do is in the name of Him!"
"I'm tired of hearing this!" Patrick's voice rose. "Papa left us because he was selfish. The streets of this city are filled with carcasses. The water we use is so dingy I can't even see my own reflection in it. We haven't lived alone since we arrived in this sorry place. Things from our home are being stolen from people we should be able to trust. And you still believe in purity? You still believe in God, a man that would just stand by and watch? If He does exist, then he is no better than…" Patrick stopped, biting his tongue down so he didn't finish the sentence. He was going to say William Randolf Hearst, who got this country into war with Spain last year by lying to the American people. A man who had all the power but only did bad things with it.
He didn't want to look at his mother. But he knew he had to eventually.
Storm abdicated to silence, which seemingly lasted a long, long time. And still Patrick did not look at his mother.
He did look at her, her eyes closed and her lips taught, and another moment passed. Slowly, finally, her lips unfurled and another moment passed while they paused, oval-shaped, thinking of how to speak.
"You are right, Patrick. The world is corrupt."
Patrick was surprised.
"But I am never going to lose faith in it, or withdraw my faith from God. I cannot tell you what to think or what to believe. Beating you or damning would do neither you nor me any good," she paused, eyes still closed. "But I will not allow a thief to live in my house."
Patrick left and left the door ajar so she wouldn't hear him leave. He paused before descending the stairs, turning around and looking at his mother.
Her eyes were still closed and her hands were wrung. Just like when she was praying, when she was in another world, but she wasn't in another world now. She was caught up in facing the pain of the real world, but only for a moment. For the other infinite moments, she was in another world… a world so much worse than the one we face. A world that only mothers can enter but cannot leave only by themselves.
Wherever Patrick was leaving his mother, he was leaving her forever.
Patrick closed his eyes and stood for a moment, his Mama filling his mind. Mama leaning over a gas stove, warming her hands. Mama hanging things on the clothesline. Mama telling him of things from the old world. Mama saying her prayers, her boy beside her, eyes open and observant while hers were closed and unknowing, lost in her own world of goodness. Mama smiling and singing. Mama crying softly, oblivious to her young son's ears. Mama leaning over a young child, a little boy, succumbing to scarlet fever. Mama crying again, and another tombstone to add to the graveyard. Missing kissing a child and sending him off to school, proud of how good and how smart he is. Mama, hanging on to the only one she's got. Wanting to be proud of him.
He almost wanted to stay.
But he knew he couldn't.
He had to be who he was.
Without having to fight for himself every day.
Patrick O'Malley, who wasn't an O'Malley anymore, descended the stairs and opened the door to the exterior of New York, this time closing the door firmly behind him. Now he was simply Patrick.
AN-- Disclaimer: I am not trying to promote or demote any religion here. This isn't preaching or bashing. This is a story of a boy whose beliefs varied from his mother's.
BTW-- the person mentioned in the beginning was actually a real person... the little German boy is none other than Harpo Marx! YES Harpo's name was Arthur, (but originally Adolf) YES he was literally thrown out of the school in the second grade by two big bad Irish boys and most importantly... YES he lived in New York! *Adding* him to my story just popped in my head, lol.