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Hungry Hill

A Memoir

Carole O'Malley Gaunt

Publication Year: 2007

On a sweltering June night in 1959, Betty O'Malley died from lymphatic cancer, leaving behind an alcoholic husband and eight shell-shocked children—seven sons and one daughter, ranging in age from two to fifteen years. The daughter, Carole, was thirteen at the time. In this poignant memoir, she recalls in vivid detail the chaotic course of her family life over the next four years. The setting for the story is Hungry Hill, an Irish-Catholic working-class neighborhood in Springfield , Massachusetts . The author recounts her sad and turbulent story with remarkable clarity, humor, and insight, punctuating the narrative with occasional fictional scenes that allow the adult Carole to comment on her teenage experiences and to probe the impact of her mother's death and her father's alcoholism.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Limelight

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pp. 1-3

“Carole, why do you want to rake up all that family stuff?” Michael, my older brother, asked, gravel in his voice. “Isn’t it enough you lived through it?” His bluntness was chilling, spiraling me back into the gray- tiled kitchen at 21 Lynwood Terrace where my brothers routinely dismissed me as the “crazy” one. But I...

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Chapter 1 - Last Rites

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pp. 5-11

Later that summer, I would resent that my older brother, Michael, knew all along my mother was dying. He had been told back in March, and I had not. I knew she was really sick. But as a thirteen- year- old, I believed in the magical power of miracles, believed in what the starched Sisters of Saint Joseph had told me: that a true miracle could occur at any time, if ...

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Mother’s Day 1992

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pp. 11-15

Joe O’Malley, Carole’s father, looks around her apartment. He appraises the furniture, the draperies, and nods his head in a gesture of approval. Adjusting the sofa pillow behind him, he leans back and plants his feet....

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Chapter 2 - Gone

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pp. 15-18

After the game, Anne, basketball under her arm, and Di head out of the park toward Penacook Street, and I wave goodbye, walking toward home, glad Anne always brought the basketball. The leaves on the trees sit still, watching me, warning me, Hurry home, hurry home. Hit by a need to get home, I start to run, reach...

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Chapter 3 - God Takes the Saints Early

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pp. 18-27

“God takes the saints early.” John Dowd, a white-haired man with a crew cut, shakes my hand, looking directly at me with his pale, watery blue eyes as he canonizes my mother on the first night of her wake. The saint remark brings out a chill on the back of my neck, making me think of my mother always ordering me to do some chore...

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Chapter 4 - Chocolate Cake

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pp. 27-31

After the wake , my aunts and uncles, friends, and neighbors all crowd into our kitchen. The whiskey bottles are lined up on the counter, their caps swimming in little puddles of spill. I have tasted whiskey before, but I don’t like the taste, and the smell alone can make me gag. My aunts are putting food on the table when Mrs. ...

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Chapter 5 - Perfect Skin

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pp. 31-38

Even before breakfast , it’s hot out. The outside door is open, but no air is coming in. The house this morning is quiet, except for Tommy, the baby, sitting in his wooden high chair, slapping it with his toast. Tommy has torn up his toast, smearing the grape jelly all over the high chair tray. Now he leans over in his chair and points...

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Chapter 6 - Anne of Green Gables

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pp. 38-43

There is talk about who gets to ride in which limousine once we’re out on the sidewalk. Joey and Gerry, in a protest instigated by Gerry, are refusing to ride in the smaller limousine with Aunt Madeline and Uncle Bill. Michael, Danny, and I, the big kids, know that we will get to ride in the first limousine, right behind the funeral...

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Chapter 7 - Graduation Dress

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pp. 43-50

“Dad, I need a white dress for graduation.” I pick up a milk-soaked Cheerio from the table and flick it toward the sink. My father is sitting at the kitchen table in his robe with white piping, staring at the white refrigerator door, an untouched piece of buttered...

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Chapter 8 - Honor and Privilege

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pp. 51-56

“Class, this is a wonderful day for you and your families. With the Lord’s help, I have prepared you for high school. With continued work and application—” she pauses, “I think you will do well.” This is an extraordinary day, Sister Agnes Edward...

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Chapter 9 - Complete Change of Scene

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pp. 57-60

The Tuesday morning after graduation, I am in the kitchen half-listening to Mrs. Meade tell me stories about her son Wally’s weak heart, his being a blue baby and all, when my father walks in lugging a suitcase. A suitcase? We are a family of surprises, but the suitcase...

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Chapter 10 - Kelsey Point

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pp. 60-65

It has rained here for three out of four days, and although Mrs. Metzger is in no way to blame for the weather, in my head I blame her. I’m almost ready to pray for sun and apologize to God for my complaints about rocky beaches. Rocks are fine, God, I prefer sand, but rocks will do. All part of Your creation. I am sick of...

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Chapter 11 - The Boys at the Corner Drugstore

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pp. 65-72

At the corner of Woodmont Street, there are three boys standing on the corner, and two of them are blowing smoke rings, a trick I would give anything to be able to do. “What would you do if those boys called us maggots?” I ask Kathy. “Wouldn’t you just die?” “ They will not call us maggots. The curly- haired one goes to Tech. He’s a junior.” The curly- haired one is the...

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Chapter 12 - My Mother’s Closet

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pp. 72-76

“Ouch!” I yell, as the backs of my legs touch the sun- scorched stone wall in front of Cal’s Variety Store. Watching me from his carriage, Tommy’s eyes fill with fear, then tears. Quickly, I hand him pieces from my Mounds to distract him. When he crams the dark chocolate in his baby mouth, his tears miraculously stop. The candy...

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Saint Michael’s Cemetery

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pp. 76-80

Setting: State Street, Springfield, Massachusetts. Saint George’s Section Plot 583. A sunny, but cold morning in March 2006. (Carole parks her silver convertible under a tree and sits in the car, her hands on the steering wheel. Inhaling audibly, she reaches for her gloves, slips them on, and hesitates.)...

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Chapter 13 - The Boys’ Bathing Suits Are Missing

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pp. 80-85

“Naturally, you would remember to pack your bathing suit for a beach vacation and forget ours,” Danny says, his voice all godlike judgment. “I packed underwear, shorts, jerseys, towels, and toothbrushes,” I say lamely. “Just admit it. You forgot the bathing suits...

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Chapter 14 - An Evening of Informal Modeling

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pp. 86-89

Although it has been three months since my mother died, the house still has a peculiar, empty feel to it. After dinner, the Tuesday night after Labor Day, my dad reads aloud from a front page article in the Springfield Daily News that Cathedral High School is going upscale. The downtown site on Elliot Street, overcrowded, ancient...

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Chapter 15 - The Jewel of the Diocese

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pp. 89-92

Homeroom is alphabetical, O through P. John Ouellette sits behind me and Noreen O’Connor front of me, two new names. The homeroom nun, Sister Peter Maria, has mixed boys and girls together, so unlike grammar school where the girls sat on one...

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Chapter 16 - The Dark Horse

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pp. 92-94

No. No. No. If I had only said “No” to Monica, the three- minute-older twin, when she called me Tuesday night and asked me to nominate her for class office, I wouldn’t be sitting here in an aisle seat in the auditorium, surrounded by seven hundred classmates, dreading my thirty-second speech in front of the entire ninth grade. ...

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Chapter 17 - Campaign

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pp. 95-98

When I pull my Latin book from my green book bag and check the kitchen clock, I see that it is ten past ten. I love our kitchen clock, a black wrought- iron circle with wavy squiggles surrounding it and a brown and red rooster in the middle, a painted rooster I think of as the O’Malley family pet. Memorizing the vocabulary list...

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Chapter 18 - The Dating Scene

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pp. 98-101

My dad has started dating, not that he bothers to tell any of us, but Danny, a ladies’ man himself, has guessed, and we all know the woman he’s dating. Her name is Mary Ford. When my grandfather died, she came up for his funeral and shared my...

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Chapter 19 - Cheerleading and Candy Striping

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pp. 101-104

In early April , the sign is posted, the announcement is made: cheerleading tryouts, the day I have been waiting for. I’m clutching a white square with the number 112 on it. Already the sweat from my hands is curling the edges. Milling outside the girls’ gym in an endless line of ninth-grade girls, I am waiting for my number to...

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Chapter 20 - Clip-on Tie

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pp. 105-108

Ever since Palm Sunday, Danny and I have been making the kids look out the window for the Easter Bunny. By vaguely threatening that the Easter Bunny may withhold baskets, I can pretty much head off any intra frates fighting all week. Joey, I can tell, is faking belief in the Easter Bunny, but Gerry with his usual flair is carrying...

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Chapter 21 - Auxilium Latinum

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pp. 109-112

“We will be reviewing verb tenses and conjugations for two days,” Sister Agnes Veronica announces at the beginning of Monday’s Latin class, “to prepare you for the Auxilium Latinum test.” Sister Agnes Veronica just keeps pushing us along in Latin, so reviewing will be a break for us. “ This is a national test and given to Latin...

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Chapter 22 - A Buyer of Sofas

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pp. 112-115

I place my report card on the coffee table on top of the picture of Senator Kennedy and his dark- haired wife in the Springfield Daily News, a couple far more glamorous to me than Hollywood’s Liz Taylor and Eddie Fisher. “Dad, I made the first honor roll again. Do you want to see my report card?” I ask my dad on a chilly June night...

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Mother’s Day 1993 [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 115-116

(Carole’s apartment again. There is a white ceramic pitcher filled with peonies and Mother’s Day cards standing up on the black coffee table. Joe O’Malley smiles when he reads one of the Mother’s Day cards, his expression then turning somber. He wipes a tear...

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Chapter 23 - The Doctor’s Revelation

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pp. 117-121

With seven wise-mouth brothers (though in fairness, I probably shouldn’t count Tommy), you would think I could stand just about any humiliation, but not my dad’s dating. I just wish things would slow down for him in the romance department...

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Chapter 24 - Casanova at the Beach

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pp. 121-130

Life at the beach has a different set of rules. On Thursday nights, there’s an outdoor movie on the beach, and tonight it’s Old Yeller. But my dad, Mr. Romance, will be skipping the double feature because he left right before dinner to pick up his “date” in Old...

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Chapter 25 - Stage, Left, Stage Right, Entrances and Exits

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pp. 130-137

With a good two hours before the Saturday afternoon football game, Cathy Lamoureux is in my room, fingering the piles of clothing in her open suitcase. “Rene’s hand-me-down. They’ll never fit,” Cathy says with a laugh. “Is your dad driving us to the football game?” “I think Michael will.” “You could have gone to the...

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Armistice Day 1994

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pp. 137-140

Setting : The Fort Restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is lunchtime. (The waitress places a drink in front of Joe as Joe and Carole hand her their menus.) Joe: Thank you, Gretchen. (Carole smiles at the waitress.) Carole: You’re a fixture here, dad. Joe: I have a certain...

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Chapter 26 - Party Time

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pp. 140-147

“Look at JFK in the limousine. Eddie Boland’s sitting right next to Senator Kennedy.” I point to the full-page spread in the Daily News with half a dozen pictures of Senator Kennedy at a rally in Court Square the day before the presidential election. ...

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Chapter 27 - Joey, the Bird

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pp. 147-150

Do all newlyweds celebrate a two-week anniversary? Winking at me, my dad says he and Mary are off for the afternoon to the Sheraton to celebrate two weeks of marriage with a few glasses of “the bubbly.” Closing the door behind them, and with Mary...

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Chapter 28 - Fledgling Journalist and Mad Scientist

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pp. 150-154

The 5 Ws and the H pretty much sum up Sister Edward Agnes’s journalism class. Who, what, when, where, why, and, sometimes, how. Who takes this alphabetic elective? Mostly sophomores and a few juniors, all of whom have bulls-eyed the honor roll from time...

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Chapter 29 - Under the Knife

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pp. 154-157

Right after Thanksgiving, Mary checks into the hospital in Hartford for an operation on a “hiatal hernia.” At breakfast, when I tell my dad that the index to the biology text does not list a hiatal hernia, he suggests I abandon my medical research. With...

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Chapter 30 - Dress-up Day

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pp. 158-161

After our January exams, Sister Mary Eugene awards the students “a dress-up day for all our hard work.” Since my John Meyer outfit cried out for the perfect shoes, I copied Maria Scibelli and Ellen Seymour’s choice of Bass Weejun loafers, shoes not carried at the low-end Baker’s. In Springfield, a girl with money shops at Casual...

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Chapter 31 - Sweet and Sour Times: Easter, the Election and (Step)Mother’s Day

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pp. 162-167

Mary is quite proud, I can tell, of how she has put together a serving tray for Easter with jelly beans, mostly black and green, which I hate, marshmallow chicks, and chocolate aluminum foil-wrapped eggs. For neatness sake, she portions out the fake grass, which...

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Chapter 32 - Fifteen Forever

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pp. 167-170

The school year ended in a yawn, and now it seems as though August 20th will never come. I will be fifteen forever. I am too old to ride a bike and can’t get my driver’s license until I turn sixteen in August. As bad as an entire summer is without being able to get around, I can’t get a summer job either. The law in Massachusetts...

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Chapter 33 - The Ambush

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pp. 170-176

I’m breezing through junior year. As an eleventh grader and student council treasurer, which no one else but me seems to know or care about, I feel as if I rule the school. Finding the chapel, the library, the school store, and the chemistry lab is a finger snap for me. I have the Cathedral High School lingo down, and by now I...

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Chapter 34 - Planning for the Future

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pp. 177-180

My mother was never sick in bed even one day until her cancer, and then she died; but Mary runs to doctors so often that she drops their names in conversations as if they are family members—Uncle Bill, Dr. Baltrucki. Only doctors understand her; I could not. With the back of her wrist to her forehead, Mary announces...

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Chapter 35 - Lil’ Kiss

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pp. 180-183

My brothers have been calling me crazy as long as I can remember. It is easier for them to call me crazy than to listen to me, but I have to try. It’s a Wednesday night in mid- January, and Mary and my father are out. Snow has been falling since late afternoon and a two-day blizzard is predicted. Michael, Danny, and I are in the...

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Chapter 36 - Skidding

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pp. 184-188

The snow lasts two days. No school Thursday and, a winter gift, no school Friday as well. The only black spot is that the Friday cancellation means the one and only scheduled student council dance, a sock hop, is canceled and, at sixteen, I am too old for sliding on Thornfell Hill. Although most kids’ parents won’t let them...

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Chapter 37 - Snowbound

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pp. 188-191

“Idleness is the devil’s workshop” is a long-favored threat of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, at both Our Lady of Hope and Cathedral. Sister Patricia Joseph utters this warning if she so much as sees a student glance out the classroom window. Platitude Patty, Michael calls her. Now, with his knee cramping him, Gerry is a sitting target...

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Chapter 38 - Down the Drain

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pp. 192-196

After a two-hour minstrel show rehearsal in Ellen Seymour’s wood- paneled basement, the twins drop me off at home on a Friday night. When I pleaded with my dad this morning to let me borrow the car, he gave me his customary refusal, a look of pain in his eyes. Rarely do my dad and Mary spend a weekend night at...

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Chapter 39 - Hold the Fort

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pp. 196-199

“Carole, you messed up on the dance steps. You put your back against your partner’s back on the line ‘Then, I’ll never grow up . . .’ Have you got that?” Ellen has singled me out and is instructing me as if she’s Margaret Curry, our physically unfit gym teacher arranging a Scandinavian folk dance, but I can’t blame Ellen. My...

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Chapter 40 - Imperfect Prayers

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pp. 200-202

Although my dad might throw up every morning, he never missed work. At eight-fifteen, after he had dropped the little kids off at school, he would drive down to his office at Aetna on State Street. But on Ash Wednesday, March 7th, he was too sick to get out of bed. It is a little after four, and Gerry is telling...

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Chapter 41 - A Yellowed Cheek

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pp. 203-206

Late Thursday afternoon, my aunt reports that my father’s improving, may return home as soon as tomorrow, and suggests we not visit him. We’ll have Tommy’s birthday when my dad gets home. Afraid Tommy would feel cheated, I duck into Liberty Bakeries on my way home from school on Friday and pick up a dozen...

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Chapter 42 - Cashmere Sport Coat

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pp. 207-211

“ He so loved this cashmere sport coat,” Mary says, stroking the sleeve. “I can smell his after shave,” she says, inhaling and closing her eyes. Two dark business suits and my dad’s sport coat are draped over a kitchen chair, picked from his closet by my aunt and uncle. Mary’s birdlike body begins to shake with low moans, and she puts...

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Chapter 43 - Dr. Blackmer’s Magic

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pp. 211-214

About a week after the funeral, I wake up with a sore throat and a high fever. Not counting my stitches, I’m never sick, and now I don’t even know what day it is. Three days later, Mary calls Dr. Blackmer, who pulls up in his black Lincoln, diagnoses strep throat, stabs me with a shot of penicillin, and tells me to stay in bed...

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Chapter 44 - Job Market

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pp. 215-219

That same afternoon after the Patty Jo incident, while standing at the bus stop, I vow to arrange my life so that I will never ever have to ask Mary for anything. Within a few days of my father’s funeral, Mary, cheeks ablaze, had launched a lack- of- money tirade, in which she ranted that we would all be out on the street and then...

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Chapter 45 - Bargain Tables

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pp. 220-222

Studying the Currier & Ives calendar on the kitchen wall, I notice how Ash Wednesday was March 7th, the day before Tommy’s birthday, and Easter this year was April 22nd, the day before Gerry’s birthday—odd how they overlapped—and there are only two weeks left until the Junior Prom. While I have asked Kevin...

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Chapter 46 - Beautiful

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pp. 222-224

As a member of the Junior Prom decorating committee, though one with limited artistic talent, I stop by the cafeteria after the student council meeting and am amazed by the transformation rolls of multicolored crepe paper make. Pastel paper roses hang from the ceiling, decorating the mirrored columns and the base of the statue...

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Chapter 47 - A Ten-Second Phone Call

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pp. 224-225

Sister Walter Maria, a French teacher and the head of the school’s memory book, is fond of flirting with the boys. And maybe it is her romantic French accent, but Sister is good at it. On the Tuesday afternoon of Senior Week, Sister is speaking French with Klaus Shigley, her favorite, in the corridor before unveiling to...

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Chapter 48 - Rich Woman Someday

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pp. 226-230

Standing on the wide stairs of the Hampden County Courthouse at eight-twenty on the morning of my first day of work, Uncle Bill is busy nodding to passersby like a candidate running for office. Behind him, the square courthouse, built of a rusticated gray rock with three curved arches spanning the entry, has a look of propriety...

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Chapter 49 - Handbag

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pp. 230-233

In June, Mary announces that she can no longer afford to run the risk of Michael or me getting in a car accident, which would raise her insurance premiums, so we are forbidden to drive the family car. Now it’s her car. Then, unsatisfied by our meek acceptance, she launches into her familiar lecture about money and being...

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Chapter 50 - Best Tunafish

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pp. 234-238

Sister Rose Carmel terrifies me. After a run- in Kevin had with her in the hall last fall, I remember his saying that if Sister could play defensive guard for the football team, they might win a game or two. In the opening minutes before the bell rings, she asks what we have read over the summer, and Gail Culver just about...

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Scotch and Soda—A Transcription

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pp. 238-249

Setting: Heritage Hall South, room 206, a health care facility in Agawam, Massachusetts. The present; a Sunday in winter. (Mary is sleeping. A tray of food sits on a wheeled table in front of her. Carole places a plant on Mary’s dresser. She puts her coat at the foot of Mary’s bed. Carole pulls out a disposable camera...

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Chapter 51 - Only a Dish

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pp. 249-252

The turkey has been hacked to bits, stripes of baked-on squash hug the serving bowl, and squares of orange pineapple Jello wobble in the Pyrex dish. With a heavy grayness and little conversation, we have almost survived Thanksgiving, our first Thanksgiving with neither parent. Just let it end in peace, I pray silently. There...

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Chapter 52 - Term Projects

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pp. 253-255

Sister Rose Carmel plucks tortures out of the air on a predictable, seasonal basis. This winter it is public speaking. In late fall, for a project in medieval literature, she directed us to form groups of three or four and to integrate what we had culled from this stilted, heroic literature into a presentation to be made to the...

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Chapter 53 - Runaway

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pp. 256-260

“I’ll show you! I’m getting out of here. You’ll be sorry, all of you!” Joey yells on his way out the door. From the backyard hedges, he shouts back, “You’re all jerks anyway!” An experienced runaway, Joey has spat out the language of mistreatment and warning, but has ignored the lion/lamb March weather with its falling temperatures...

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Chapter 54 - Prom Fever

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pp. 261-268

Hepburn and Tracy hit the halls of Cathedral High School. Robert Browning, played by John Brody, and Elizabeth Barrett, played by Christina Lovett, are waltzing off to the prom together. It must be reciting all those flowery sonnets. Bella, played by me, has no date, and the prom is only a week away. It is hot and stuffy...

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The Nuclear Option

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pp. 268-272

Time: The present. (Carole picks up the cell phone in her hotel room and dials. Gerry O’Malley answers. In the following conversation, there are pauses and hesitations, and laughter between questions and answers. Certain words are emphasized. The Brian mentioned is Joey’s...

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Chapter 55 - We’ll Remember Always Graduation Day

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pp. 273-275

The Coliseum at the Eastern States Exposition grounds, an ice rink for hockey games in winter, is packed with camps of parents and relatives squinting to find their soon- to- be graduates. For the graduation ceremony, the girls in white caps and gowns—purity?—and the boys in purple—royalty?—are separated by...

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Epilogue: Fade Out

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pp. 276-279

My father labeled me a “tough cookie,” and I never thought to question his definition. And Aunt Madeline urged me, “Carole, be strong for your brothers.” I never thought to ask, well, what about me? The loneliness, the hurt, the secrecy, the isolation, the...

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pp. 281-284

The troops who helped me “hold the fort”: let me thank my brothers, Michael, Danny, Gerry, Joe, Steve, Bob, and Tom who, like me, cling to whatever scraps of memories of our father and mother we unearth along the way. I’m sure that, as Gerry has hinted, Hungry Hill misses much of the O’Malley joy, so I’ve left the joyful version...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760932
E-ISBN-10: 1613760930
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558495883
Print-ISBN-10: 1558495886

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Women dramatists, American -- Biography.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Gaunt, Carole O'Malley.
  • Dramatists, American -- 21st century -- Biography.
  • Dramatists, American -- 21st century -- Family relationships.
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