Excerpt from Chapter I: Forty-five Years Later
So, John, what brings me here today?
John watched with heightened curiosity as his visitor, Sydney Schuster, an impeccably groomed gentleman in an expertly tailored suit, approached his table. John had been anxiously waiting for half an hour. He took a long swig of his Miller Lite before he pushed his chair back, stood up, and extended a hand to Sydney.
Sydney made no move to accept Johns offer of civility. Tell me, John. What brings the bully to ask his victim to drive all the way from Chicago to have lunch at a rinky-dink restaurant in Menomonee Falls?
John let his hand drop to his side and forced a smile. I know this place is not up to your usual standard, Sydney. Thanks for coming. John could have chosen a more prestigious restaurant, but he had his reasons for choosing this one.
Sydney turned his back to John, walked over to the rack, and carefully hung his cashmere coat on a hanger before he seated himself. Im waiting, John. What brings me here?
Im glad you came, Sydney. John took his seat across from his guest. To be honest, I didnt think you would. I suppose Im just as curious about why you came as you are about why I invited you. Lets order lunch. We have a lot to talk about. He motioned to the waitress for a menu.
You brought me here for this? You brought me here to listen to an old man ramble about a couple of kids?
Why did you come, Syd?
I came because I wanted to get a good look at John Murphy, the bully in a Roman collar.
John flinched at Sydneys words. He knew he was taking the wrong approach when he answered, Oh, come on, Sydney. You were a wimp. You were asking for it. All we had to do was give you the eye, and you went running off to mama, or Mrs. Trent, or a cop. Were grown men now; you know what I mean. John scraped some potatoes onto his fork.
Noyeswell, I suppose I did seek help. Sydney cleared his throat. It wasnt just giving me the eye, you know. You were downright brutal. You ganged up on me! -
Yeah, Sydney, I know, but you brought out the worst in us. I admit it did get out of hand, but
But! What do you mean, but? Theres no but about it! While you three punks were congratulating each other and celebrating your glorious manhood, I was in the hospital with a broken clavicle and three broken ribs!
Im truly sorry, Syd, but
There you go with the but again. You dont seem to understand. It wasnt just physical wounds that you inflicted. I was in shock! Do you know how much distress and anguish you and your macho cohorts caused me? Sydney slammed his knuckles on the table. Right now, I feel like giving you a few broken bones, John!
Lets get this straight, John. I was the victim then; Susies the victim now. She didnt ask for it any more than I did. Surely Jerry has committed a crime or two. He should be in jail. Where are the police when he beats her up? Anyway, Im assuming you didnt invite me here to talk about Susie and Jerry. Get to the point.
Susie and Jerry are the point, Syd. Let me ask you, what good did it do you to go to the authorities when you were being victimized?
They werent much help, Sydney responded in a monotone.
You damn well know they werent. Look, Syd, Im not proud of what we did to you, but I gotta believe Im a decent human being. I asked you here because I want you to help me help the Susies and the Jerrys. Theres gotta be a better way
I might look like a patsy to you, John, but one thing Ive learned: I cant just keep giving money to every cause that comes along with its hand out. Sydney pushed his chair back from the table and folded his arms across his chest. What happens in the wealthiest families is no different from what you just described.
John folded his hands as if to pray. I was hoping
Believe me, Sydney barked, all the money in the world cant transform a bully into a decent human being!
John winced. I was hoping youd help us to keep our parish school open. There are a lot of kids who need our help. Its the weak ones I worry about the most.
In spite of how badly he thought things had gone, John was determined to put the period at the end of his prepared speech. Theyre the ones who need a no-nonsense school where they can learn to be winners in a tough, competitive world.
You have a lot of nerve, Johnasking me, of all people!
I knew it was a long shot. The boards already voted to close our school. The pay is so bad we cant attract good teachers. There are only two nuns left, and theyre too old and out-of-sync with the times.
Let me see if I understand you. Sydney shook his finger at John and spoke through clenched teeth. You want me to give you money so you can keep pumping out more little do-gooder Catholic girls like Susie and more little bullies for the Susies to take care of. Just tell me, John, just tell me how do you expect that to help?