“Blood isn’t as thick as ketchup, stupid”
From the basement apartment we lived in, as you walked out our basement door, on the right there was a small 6'x5' cement/grass front yard. To the left of this were the 26 steps going up to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor of the house. Rose Farrell, lived and owned this row house. Rose occupied the 3 floors with her sons Jimmy & Johnny- twins who didn't even look like brothers,and were 8 years older than I was, Raymond, her oldest son, and Rose's two brothers, Uncle Nick and Uncle Mike.
Johnny would dress in women's clothing and stick oranges down his dress for make believe breasts. I loved Johnny. He was more like a girl friend than a boy who was a friend. I would often sit on his lap when he was dressed as a girl, and he would ask me to feel his breasts. He had stuffed oranges down his dress to give him that full bosom effect. I'm not sure what kind of abuse this falls under, but I'm sure it's somewhere right up there.
Jimmy was the bad boy of the family, always getting in fist fights with his 2 brothers or any other hoodlums in the neighborhood. Jimmy had been in jail. Jimmy would also beat up his girl friends. No one was immune, although he never laid a hand on me. Jimmy also had guns. Gun laws really didn't exist in the late 1950's, or if they did, I'm sure they were ignored.
Raymond the oldest son was pitiful. Even at my young age, I knew he wasn't like the others, nor was he liked as much as the others.
The description of Raymond today would include words like manic depressive, anxiety ridden, moody, and sadly, suicidal.
Raymond never quite got it right, always looking for the fast and easy buck, hanging around with bookies and gamblers and losing money that sometimes didn't belong to him. His twin brothers didn't like him and the feeling was mutual.
You knew to keep away from Raymond, especially when he was in one of his moods.
Rose was wonderful. She said she often wished she had a daughter like me. I wished she had me too. I lived with this family for a couple of years and loved them.
One of my many memories of Rose was watching her spend days on end, starching and ironing shirts from this horde of males that were her family.
There were 3 clothes racks, the kind you see in department stores, standing there with hangers ready for the deluge of shirts she was ironing. Shirts that belonged to these five men. She had one of those old Speed Queen sit down roller ironing machines, the ones where you could not only see the steam coming out the back, but also smell it.
Striped shirts, solid shirts, work shirts hung from these racks lined up like soldiers, first 5 buttons always buttoned, button down collar always buttoned and every single shirt facing the same way on the hangers.
Uncle Nick and Uncle Mike's shirts stood out like a sore thumb.
Uncle Mike and Uncle Nick were butchers at a meat market they owned down the street. Although the work shirts always had blood on them, from cutting up the meats and live chickens, Rose would wash and iron those shirts as if they were going in a display window at Macy's. I was envious of such devotion and attention to their needs.
On one particular afternoon I was downstairs watching TV. Jimmy called down to me from the second floor and asked me to come upstairs.
I went into Rose's living room and Jimmy and my brother Frankie were sitting there looking at one of Jimmy's hand guns. I knew this was wrong. Jimmy wasn't supposed to be showing me and Frankie the guns.
Frankie sat there handling the gun, turning over and over in his hands and singing the praises of how cool the gun was. I kept warning him to put it away, that mommy would get mad. He only laughed.
Jimmy then grabbed the gun from my brother, without warning, or so I thought, and as he yanked the gun away, it went off in my brother's direction. All I saw was something red on his shirt. My brother screamed, and fell to the floor. I screamed and cried. Jimmy shouted at me to SHUTUP and not tell anyone or be would beat me.
I ran downstairs, woke up my mother, (which I always seemed to do) and told her Jimmy had just shot Frankie.
She got up, dragged me by the shirt upstairs to the 2nd floor.
There were Jimmy and Frankie laughing hysterically.
It seems I was set up- it was all a joke. They had planned it.
What was my mother's response-?
You got it- she screamed at me, "blood isn't as thick as ketchup, stupid."
How sad was it, that some 15 years later, Raymond, the older brother would be the one to commit suicide with one of the guns from Henry Street, one of the guns used in a joke.