(Get caught up from the beginning.)
Irvin made it home before eight and found his mother in her recliner watching TV. Most nights she slept there, which made Irvin feel like he was taking bad care of her.
She heard him open the door and pick up the scattered mail. “There you are. You didn’t come home last night.” When left with an empty space, Irvin’s mother tended to fill it in with the worst possible scenario.
“I did. Just late.”
“Oh.” Patricia Knight shifted in her chair. “I thought you might stay in Brookline.”
“You don’t have to say ‘Brookline’ like that, Ma. It’s just filled with people. Same as Dorchester.” Not exactly the same, he knew, but he refused to admit that the differences meant what his mother thought. He sat down on the edge of the couch so he wouldn’t fall in, tossed a medical supplies catalog on the coffee table and began to sort the rest of their mail.
“I’m sorry, but I’m an old lady.” A commercial came on and Patricia muted the TV. “I have a longer memory than you do.”
“About what?” Irvin put aside his only mail, an envelope from Harrison’s Comics. Boston had decades of racial fucked-upedness, but he wasn’t aware of anything pertaining to Brookline specifically.
“You don’t remember little Charlie Pitt? I remember little Charlie Pitt. He was only a year younger than you.”
“Oh, yeah. He got lost there.”
“Not lost. When you’re lost, you find your way home again, eventually.”
Irvin remembered Charlie Pitt from the neighborhood. Funny-looking kid. Glasses too big for his face. Charlie had disappeared on his way to a trombone lesson in Brookline. The public had been more outraged about Charlie’s mother letting him ride the T by himself than by his apparent kidnapping and murder.
Patricia shook her head. “That community did nothing about that little boy. I’ve seen them make more of a fuss over a damned lost cat. And with the resources they have? It’s a sin.”
Irvin grimaced. He thought that his mother lived in the past as much as the present and he didn’t think it was good for her. “How long ago was this, Ma? Twenty-five years?”
Patricia turned up the volume on the TV, as she often did when one of their discussions came to an apparent dead end.
Irvin sighed, neatened the stack of mail, put it within his mother’s reach, and went through the swinging doors into the kitchen. Helping himself to a bruised-looking pear from the sideboard, he scanned the molding along the ceiling.
An alien eye looked back, unblinking.
“Duke.” Irvin held out a finger. “Come.”
The big African grey parrot tilted his head as if to say, “Really? I don’t follow orders.” But he took wing anyway and glided down to perch on Irvin’s wrist. The parrot’s talons were always surprisingly strong and sharp.
Duke bowed his head at the pear and trilled like someone practicing to roll their R’s. Irvin fed him a bite of pear. It vanished immediately in the parrot’s beak.
Irvin stroked Duke’s wings. He had been Jamaar’s bird originally, but Jamaar had lost interest in him, as he usually did with his pets, and then Irvin took him in. Jamaar had a gift for naming, though. Duke was a duke.
Duke flapped back up to the molding, which he apparently thought was a specially made shelf for him to perch and poop on. The kitchen was Duke’s favorite room because of that, despite him having a large and well-appointed cage in the library. Irvin liked the kitchen, too. He liked the entire Dorchester house, really, though he maintained that it was too big, old, and drafty for only three people. When Irvin’s father had been around, the plan had been to renovate it, but Irvin knew that that would never happen now.
His mother used to say that she would sell the place after Jamaar graduated, and move into a wheelchair-friendly condo somewhere, but it had been a while since she’d said anything about that. Irvin knew that she was attached to the house. He liked it too, but he wasn’t attached. He could set it on fire tonight, walk away and never look back. He had felt that way for a long time. Whenever he went through the South Station T stop, he wondered if he might just get on a train and ride it until it stopped. Maybe all the way to Florida. Florida wouldn’t be too bad.
“Ma,” he called. “Have you eaten yet?”
The loud TV drowned out his mother’s answer, but he figured she hadn’t. She usually didn’t.
“I’m making macaroni casserole,” he yelled.