From Magic City Morning Star|
Alkey smiled at himself in the mirror at the thought of his wife scurrying around in the kitchen below. "Have to keep em in-line somehow." He mumbled to himself, as he tried to avoid looking at the reflection of himself in the mirror. When he'd gathered the courage, he slid his eyes at the mirror and he was shocked at what he saw. His hair had receded to a point that he could no longer see any hair unless he tipped his head way forward. And it was then that he noticed several large, ugly, brown liver spots nestling in the scaly skin on the top of his head. "Those hadn't been there the last time I looked." He thought to himself.
Alkey was glad that the mirror was quite small because he had the feeling that if it had been any larger, he would have committed suicide right then and there. He didn't have to be told that the rest of his body wasn't in any better condition than the parts he'd just seen.
He eased himself down onto the toilet and grimaced as his withered flesh connected with the cold toilet seat. "Fine friggin way to start the day!" He thought to himself. "Can't piss, can't shit and can't sleep either!" He tried to block his thought process as his mind automatically began to list the other numerous things that he couldn't do.
Finally, completing his task, he pulled his long johns up and left the room. He could smell the eggs and bacon his wife always cooked for his breakfast as the aroma floated up the stairs from the kitchen below. As he slowly made his way down the cluttered staircase, his bare foot came in contact with a pile of folded clothes that his wife had placed on one of the bottom steps to await her next trip upstairs. His foot caught on the pile and he tripped. "For good God's sake woman!" He screamed at his wife, "Can't you ever put anything away! What are you tryin to do, kill me?" With a swift move of his foot, he kicked the pile of neatly folded clothes off the step and they landed with a swoosh at the bottom of the stairs.
His wife turned around and looked at him and said the same thing that she had been sayin for the past thirty years. "Alkey, are you ready to eat?" He raised his bleary eyes to look at her and a shaft of bright sun light from the window over the sink bored a hole into his retinas. He winced in pain and blotted out the sun with his beefy hand. "What the hell do you think I'm sittin here for?" He snarled. "My good looks?" She sighed and took her own sweet time as she scraped the eggs and bacon out of the iron frying pan and dumped it on his chipped plate. He looked down at the watery eggs and the limp bacon. "Jesus Christ woman!" He exploded. "Ain't you never going to learn to cook?" He shoved the plate away and grabbed the hot mug of coffee. He swilled it down in great gasping gulps and signaled with his empty cup for more. Alkey sat in his chair for a long time as the uneaten eggs and bacon slowly dried up and tried to remember when everything had turned to hell and gone.
He'd been the only child born to his mother late in life and his mother had doted on him until she'd died at the age of eighty-three. No matter what he did or said, she couldn't find anything to criticize about her Alkey.
Alkey's French grand father, Alcid had been a woodsman all his life. On a clear, cool day in early nineteen hundred, he had ambled over the United States boarder and had never returned to his birthplace in St. Froid, New Brunswick, Canada. He'd settled down and raised a large family and considered himself lucky to living in the United States.
Wilfred, Alkey's father, was a decent, hard working man. He'd never gone to school because schooling wasn't deemed important in that day and age. He'd gone to work in the woods with his father Alcid, as soon as his father would let him, at around the age of six. Wilfred's first jobs, in the lumber camps, were to take water to the men and to take care of the huge horses that were used to pull the logs out of the woods and back to the sawmill situated on the banks of the Aroostook River in Sheridan.
Wilfred loved his job in the woods of the county! He like the men because, being the smallest and youngest, he was treated like the camp pet. But he especially loved the horses! He wasn't intimidated by the huge, muscular beasts in any way. He lugged pails of water to the horses twice a day and in the evening; he brushed every part of them that he could reach until their coats shone like glass in the moonlight. If he turned up missing, he, almost always could be found fast asleep, cuddled up in the stall with the huge animals. He could scramble all over them and under them and they'd merely life one tired eyelid, look at the small boy, and go right back to sleep.
He'd met Alkey's mother one Saturday night as she was coming out of the A. & P. Store in Ashland. She was with her mother and Wilfred held the door for them as they were leaving. As they passed by, Wilfred caught a whiff of a "clean" woman and he liked it. From that day on, every waking moment was taken up by the plan and design of how to meet her again. He took to spending so much time at the A. & P. that folks soon nicknamed him Mr. A. & P.
It wasn't too long before things took their natural course. After a few months of courtship in secret and a couple of "knee-tremblers" thrown in for good measure, they got married. She was only sixteen, when she'd run off to marry Alkey's father and she'd been disowned by her family. They were strict Protestants and they felt that she had lowered herself to marry a "Frenchie Frog" or a "Puddle Jumper." as people of French heritage were commonly called back then. In those days, in the county, a girl could come home drunk and it wasn't too bad. Or she could come home drunk and pregnant and that wasn't too bad either. But, if a girl came home with a Frenchman, that beat all hell! Her family wasn't any better educated or better off financially than his was. But being Protestant, they still considered themselves a cut above everyone else.
On his parents wedding day, her father had packed all of her belongings into an empty pork barrel, took it down to Sheridan to St. Matthews Church and dumped it in the middle of the churchyard. His mother had never gone home again, not even when her father, Winslow Galbraith, lay dying.
They settled down in a small house in Sheridan. The building, which had once been a stable, was long and narrow. It had a small upstairs room that had once been used for storing grain. When Alkey's mother complained that the building still smelled of manure and animals, Alkey's father said that if the smell was good enough for him, then it was good enough for his family and the matter was settled. "After all," His father said. "There ain't anything wrong with good old horse shit! It certainly smells a lot better than some of the woodsmen that I've worked with!" Even his mother had to agree that there was more truth to that than poetry. They cleaned the stable from top to bottom and moved in but the underlying smell of manure was always there.
Alkey's mother was nearly thirty when Alkey made his way into the world. She'd long ago given up on the idea that she'd ever have a child and it was love at first sight when she spied Alkey for the first time. The old midwife eased the large child out of his mother and briskly wiped his face on her soiled apron. The boy squealed in protest and the midwife had to laugh. "He's only just arrived and he's already complainin," she said as she handed the child to his mother. Alkey rooted around for his mother's breast, locked his lips and began a good, strong suck. When the midwife interrupted his nursing to place him on the other breast, he emitted a strong squeal of protest and his mother laughed. She felt a strong surge of love for her only child that was over-whelming. "I'll never let anything happen to him!" She vowed. And that was Alkey's beginning. His mother smothered Alkey with love. She bathed him in it. She wouldn't let anyone, not even his father, touch him. He was hers and hers alone.
Things changed drastically in the Gosselin house once Alkey arrived. His mother took to being a mother with a vengeance. She was going to make up for all the lost years of being childless in one fell swoop! The only mother who could lay claim for "besting" his mother in the care of her child was the Virgin Mary herself.
As Alkey grew, his care was the direct cause of most of the dissention in the Gosselin home. His father, being a devout Roman Catholic, demanded that Alkey be christened in his church, St. Matthews. He christened his son, Alcid Francis Xavier Gosselin. His mother, still true to her Protestant faith, secretly carried the child off to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Ashland where she'd been christened and baptized him Alton Edward Galbraith Gosselin.
By the time the child was four years-old, his name had been shortened to Alkey, although his mother secretly referred to him as Alton, when his father wasn't around. Alkey was finally weaned, kicking and screaming, at the age of five. The truth be told, his mother would have still been nursing the boy but Alkey now had a mind of his own and she didn't trust him now that he had his first set of permanent teeth. Alkey grew to be a strong, sturdy child and his mother puffed with pride if any of the neighbors happened to even mention his name.
Alkey's mother had a high school education and she was determined that Alkey would have a fine education too or she'd know the reason why. The time for Alkey to register for school was fast approachin and his mother spent the better part of every night sewing clothes for Alkey. She'd made numerous trips to Ashland to buy the finest materials that she could find. When it came time for him to go to school, all his fine, handmade clothes were nearly the death of him.
Alkey, at six years-old, was a big, strapping kid. He had his father's black hair and the white, fair skin of his mother. Since his mother didn't speak French and his father only knew a smattering of English, you really couldn't call Alkey bi-lingual. When he spoke, it was usually half in French and half in English.
The local parochial school was run by nuns of the, Order of the Perpetual Light, and was located in the basement of St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Sheridan. It was only a short walk from his home and Alkey could easily have walked the short distance all by himself, but his over-protective mother wouldn't hear of it.
On the first day of school she got Alkey up bright and early. She drug the old copper wash tub into the kitchen and set it next to the wood stove. After she'd filled the tub with water that was just the right temperature, she dumped Alkey in. She scrubbed him with her homemade soap until what little skin he had left on his body was bright red. Then she dusted him with some of her best talcum powder and proceeded to dress him in the clothes she'd so lovingly sewn. When she was finished, she stepped back to have a look at him.
She gazed in rapture at her son. He was the epitome of perfection! His first pair of long pants had been hand sewn out of soft, brown wool and his shirt was made out of the finest muslin that she could find at Chasse's Department Store in Ashland. His boots were made of soft, black leather and there wasn't a scuff mark on them. She'd combed his straight black hair back from his white brow and then she placed a small, navy blue cap on his head. Now he was ready for learnin.
The old nun, Sister Marthe, was ringing the school bell as Alkey and his mother hurried up the dusty path to school. His mother smiled at the nun as she handed her darling boy over to her care. Sister Marthe looked at the exquisitely dressed kid and motioned for him to enter the school. Just as his departing mother, wiped the tears from her eyes and turned around for a last look at her darling, she saw the nun give Alkey a rough push on the back of his head through the open school room door. Anger surged through her like a bolt of lightening. She didn't like that one bit!
Sister Marthe, unused to seeing such a spoiled, pampered child, propelled the whining boy down the isle and into a seat. Then, she began speaking to the class in Parisian French. Suddenly, all the kids stood up and began reciting the "Hail Mary". Alkey simply sat where he was and kept swinging his chubby legs back and forth. The toes of his new, patent leather boots were all scuffed as he kept kicking the legs of the seat in front of him. All the other kids whispered and giggled in French as they watched Alkey.
The nun, noticing that Alkey wasn't standing like the others, stepped down off the small platform and marched over to where the little boy sat. She grabbed the poor, pampered kid by the nape of the neck and drug him out of his seat and up to her desk. She turned him around and swatted him across the back of his well-combed head. His large, brown eyes filled with tears at the sharpness of the blow and the shock of not being everyone's darling anymore. All the other kids were waiting to see what would happen next.
The nun resumed reciting the prayer and she'd poke Alkey every now and then to prod him into repeating her words. Alkey was dumbfounded! He didn't know what to do! Finally, the praying was over and the nun shoved him in the direction of his seat. But Alkey, having had enough of education for one day, didn't stop there. He flew down the isle as fast as his chubby legs would take him and out the door. He never stopped until he rounded the corner for home. His mother was hanging out her wash when she heard him coming up the drive way. Alkey was howling like a dog on a night with a full moon.
She dropped her wash on the ground and rushed to meet him. "Alton, my darling boy!" she exclaimed. "Why are you home so early? Are you sick?" She plied him with question upon question but Alkey wouldn't answer. He buried his tear stained face in her skirt and held on to her for dear life. She took him into the house, undressed him and put him to bed. Alkey fell into an exhausted sleep and this only reinforced her anxiety that he might be sick.
When his father came home that night, his mother told him the story of Alkey's first day of school. Wilfred walked over to the bed and looked down at his pampered son. He prodded Alkey with his finger and demanded to know what had happened. Alkey told him and when his father finally stopped laughing, he shook his head and said, "Why don't you send him to work with me tomorrow and forget this "school" ting. I make a man out of him, me, I tink." But his mother, unwilling to give up her dreams for Alkey so easily, only nodded her head.
The next morning, after his father had left for work at the Sheridan Paper Mill, she drug Alkey out of his nice, warm, feather bed, dressed him in the same clothes he'd worn the day before and once again, took him off to school. She stayed with him until the nun came out to ring the bell. Then she marched up to the nun and informed her that she didn't want a repeat of the day before. The nun, not understanding a word of English, merely smiled at his mother and nodded her head. Alkey's mother, thinking that the nun had understood, patted Alkey on the back and left him standing there. By now, Alkey knew what was expected of him and he hurried down the isle to find a seat. He stood when the other kids stood and he moved his lips when the other kids did but he still didn't have a clue about what was going on.
All the kids gathered around Alkey and some of them poked and jabbed him with their fingers. Others whispered and laughed at him. Just about the time that he felt his fat little feet edging down the path towards home, one of the older kids came up behind Alkey and grabbed his hat off his head. Alkey was blind with rage. He grabbed the other kid and threw him to the ground. They pummeled each other as they rolled around into the bushes and out. Alkey drew back his fist and whacked the kid in the face. Blood spurted out of his nose and all over Alkey's new clothes.
Scared by all the blood, Alkey climbed off the kid and fell back against the ground. The other kid scrambled to his feet, grabbed his bleeding nose and ran screaming to the school door. He pounded on it until the nun finally opened it up. She listened intently to the other kid's version of the fight for a couple of seconds and then she hurried down the steps and headed in Alkey's direction.
She didn't say a word to Alkey. She grabbed him by the ear and pulled him over to a small bush. She held him firmly with one hand and with the other; she ripped off a small branch. Holding the slender reed in her small, white teeth, she deftly stripped the leaves off the branch. Then she turned to Alkey. She bent him over her knee and the small branch whistled as it cut through the air. It landed on Alkey's bottom and he felt the sting clear through his woolen pants and underwear. Alkey's plump bottom was burning like fire by the time the nun had run out of anger and energy.
To give her credit, Alkey's mother tried her best but school just wasn't for Alkey. As soon as he crawled out of bed each morning, he was out the door and down the road to the mill where his father worked. It wasn't too long before the image of the spoiled, pampered kid was only a figment of his mother's imagination. The first Alkey had disappeared and was replaced by a younger version of his father. A version, who cussed, smoked and drank alcohol whenever he got the chance. His, mother, still kept a strong hold on her dream of a "refined" Alkey but it was never to be. Her Alkey was forever gone, replaced by a swaggering, swearing, man-child.
Sometimes, late at night, when Alkey was fast asleep, his old mother would slip out of her bed and steal up to Alkey's room and look at his sleeping face. It was only then that she saw the son that might have been. Many's the night, unbeknownst to Alkey and his father, she stood over his bed as silent tears of loss slid down her withered cheeks as she prayed silently for God to have mercy on her little Alton.
The years passed and so did his father and his mother and Alkey was left to make his way alone in the world. By now he was a grown man and time and hard living had taken its toll of him. He had all the vices known to man and then some.
Alkey drank to excess, smoked, chased wimmen and generally lived the life of a reprobate. He was well-known to all the local cops and had been known to inhabit the jail at the county seat in Houlton more than a couple of times.
One night as he was driving down the road to Sheridan, after having had a "few" at Michaud's Restaurant in Ashland, Alkey was pulled over by the local cop. The officer strode up to the window and asked Alkey if he'd been drinking. Alkey, grinned, his little shit-eatin grin and shook his head no. The cop looked him over real good and said, "If you aren't drunk, why did you jist go through that stop sign back there?" Alkey looked at the cop and replied, "Well ossifer, I was tryin to stop but the sign turned red too quick." He spent three days down to the lock-up in Houlton for that wise-assed remark.
Having no "real" education, his jobs when he was lucky enough to have one, were usually menial, minimum wage friggers didn't last too long. But Alkey soon found a way to land on his feet. He found a woman who'd met life head on and come out a winner. She'd had a husband who had settled every argument with his fists and that was one thing that Alkey didn't do. He talked a good talk and sung a sweet song and before he knew it, he was married. His life, after he'd married Anne, took a decided turn for the better.
Anne, after having been married to a wife beating alcoholic, thought that Alkey was a king. It didn't matter to her that he didn't work all the much and it didn't matter that he drank, because he didn't abuse her. Alkey couldn't believe his good fortune! It was just as though his mother had been reincarnated in the form of Anne. Finally, there was another woman who loved him just the way he was, warts and all.
Alkey never really planned to be a business man. You might say that he happened upon the "business" quite by accident. It seemed that because he was the one who never held a full-time job, he was the one who was always available to "run for the rum" every time his pals needed something to drink. Now Alkey may have been uneducated but he wasn't anybody's fool. It didn't take him too long before he realized that he had the makings of a business. "Demand and supply." His drunken cronies demanded that he bring them liquor and he supplied it at a little extra cost. And Alkey's "career" took off.
It wasn't too long before Alkey was the man everyone called when they needed a little soothin brew. He really did a brisk business during the holidays and had gained quite a reputation as being reliable so, he was always busy deliverin to one person or another. Living in an isolated county like Aroostook, he wasn't bothered too much by the cops either and besides, the truth be told, some of the cops were his best customers.
Anne was the kind of woman who never asked for anything for herself but there was one thing that she demanded of Alkey and Alkey almost always complied. Anne was a devout Catholic and she demanded that Alkey accompany her to church every Saturday night. If something came up and they couldn't make it to mass on Saturday night at Saint Matthew's in Sheridan, then she and Alkey would drive up the road a few miles to attend Saint Mark's Church in Ashland early Sunday morning.
Now Alkey wasn't foolish enough to have his bootlegging equipment at home. The Aroostook River ran along the back of his property and there was a small island out in the middle of the stream that had a deserted fishing shack on it. With a little imagination and a lot of work, he'd appropriated the shack for his own use and now, after several years, he had quite a sophisticated brewery set-up out there in the middle of the slow moving stream.
When a batch was about done workin and the brew was lookin pretty good, Alkey would spend a couple of long nights out on the island, getting the liquor bottled and capped. Sometimes if Alkey was in a drinkin mood and not a cappin mood, he'd sample one too many and not get the job done. Other times, he'd forget just when he'd mixed the batch and commence to cappin the too green mixture, only to be reminded when the entire batch would blow its caps as the pressure increased in the bottles.
In a small community like Sheridan, there isn't too much that passes by unnoticed and everyone, including the law and the priests knew of Alkey's sideline business but because he didn't sell to kids, the law and the priests generally left him alone. Especially if Alkey made an appearance at the rectory on a regular basis and paid a friendly call on the sheriff's office every now and then when his latest batch of elderberry wine showed promise.
From time to time, some of the older kids who wanted to wet their whistle, would appropriate his canoe and row out to the island to steal some of his batch. Alkey really didn't mind as long as they didn't take too much beer or bust-up his equipment.
In summer, the kids especially like to play pranks on old Alkey. They'd wait until he had taken his canoe and rowed out to the island and once he was inside the shack, they'd swim out and untie his boat and let it float down river until it got hung-up on the Sheridan Dam. Then they'd swim back to shore and wait in the bushes until Alkey came out to go home. Manys the night, after a long evening of bottlin, cappin and sippin, Alkey would come out to make a bootleg run and find that he was stuck on the island until someone missed him and came lookin for him. When finally rescued, he'd threaten one and all with a good thrashin and that would be it.
The downfall of Alkey came in the spring of nineteen sixty-three. The old sheriff had finally succumbed to the flu that was makin its rounds in the county that year and a new and eager self-righteous little prick had been hired by the town manager to clean-up Ashland, Sheridan, Masardis, Squapan and Garfield. Alkey was doing fine in his little business and had even managed to put somethin aside for a rainy day until he got too cocky and started selling booze out of the trunk of his car. He'd always sold it out of his car but this time, he made a fatal mistake.
The Saturday night sermon that they usually attended at St. Matthew's in Sheridan had been cancelled because Father Druin's housekeeper had taken ill and he'd had to drive her to the hospital in Fort Kent. So, Anne, not wanting to miss mass, insisted that Alkey drive her up to St. Mark's in Ashland. Not thinking, Alkey loaded the trunk of his car with his latest batch and headed off to attend mass never once givin thought to the newest lawman.
Alkey didn't really mind attendin mass with Anne but he knew that Saturday night masses tended to run long. It was as though the priest, Father Hubert, who was rumored to be about ninety-five and unable to act like everyone else, stretched out the mass so that his parishioners would have even less time to drink and carouse and generally sink closer to the fires of Hell.
Alkey, hearin the ancient priest drone on and on about the evils of the flesh and the lure of sin, slid a little further down in his seat and laid his head against his wife's shoulder. Anne nudged him a little to get his attention and then she smiled and let him be. Just as he let out a little snore, Alkey felt a sharp jab in the back of his head. He jerked himself up into a sittin position to turn and give the person who had hit him a dirty look.
As he turned, he heard a familiar voice behind him say, "Jasus Alkey, could yah take a wee trip to the parkin lot with me? I need ta take a leak real bad." Recognizin the speaker, Norman Pelkey, and one of his best customers, Alkey nodded his head slightly, slid to the end of the nearly vacant pew and slipped quietly out the side door of the church.
Never havin to worry about the law before, Alkey didn't even give it a second thought. He strode over to where his jalopy was parked, opened the trunk and waited for his customer. After a couple of minutes had gone by and the customer still hadn't appeared, Alkey began to have a niggle of unease that ran from the back of his neck down along his spine. Only a slight niggle but it was there all the same. Just as he was about to slam the trunk shut, he felt a hand on his arm. Thinking that it was the customer, he lifted the trunk lid again, turned and said, "Jeesus Norman, I had about given up on you! What the Christ took you so friggin long?"
A bright light was flashed into his eyes and the eyes he saw lookin at him weren't the eyes of Norman after all. "Don't be lookin so surprised, Alkey, Norman won't be needin anything tonight and you won't be sellin anything tonight either! Come with me!" Before Alkey could utter a word of protest, he felt himself propelled along the ground in the direction of the sheriff's vehicle. He was under arrest.
The next day, the Star Herald over to Presque Isle had a headline in big, black letters. It read: "Notorious Bootlegger Captured after Decades!" Alkey couldn't believe his eyes! The article went on to state that Alkey had been "wanted for bootleggin" by the local police for years and they had finally been able to catch him red-handed, sellin booze from the back of his vehicle in the parkin lot of St. Mark's Church during Saturday night mass.
Alkey couldn't catch his breath! He read on and recognized words like "notorious," "infamous," "wanted rum-runner," "gangster element" and words like that. Alkey was in deep ca-ca, no doubt about it. All he could think about was his "little" nest egg and how useful it was going to be. It's too bad that it was going to be used to pay for the services of a local lawyer, Mr. Seeley. Of course, Mr. Seeley would never admit to the judge, Alfred Turner, that he was a regular customer of Alkey's. Nor would Judge Turner ever admit that he'd also had occasion to use Alkey's services from time to time.
Anne, mortified at all the gossip and stress, wouldn't speak to him for the better part of two months and as the date for his trial drew nearer, Alkey was grateful that he'd had the sense to save what little money he had.
A week before the trial, Alkey received the best news of his tarnished, tawdry life. His lawyer phoned to say that the state's star witness against him had "disappeared" and it seems that the over-zealous cop had forgotten to confiscate the contents of his trunk on the night of his arrest. Thus, no witness and no evidence, equal no trial. Heavin a huge sigh of relief, Alkey sent the lawyer a money order for the remainder of his legal fees and headed for home, a poorer but not necessarily a smarter, man.
Recently Published Articles include:
Childrens Stories include:
See also Vengeance is Mine a short mystery novel published at Magic City over 4 days.
All works by Martha Stevens-David published at Magic City Morning Star News are her copyright property and may not be reproduced without her permission.
© Copyright 2002-2013 by Magic City Morning Star