Chapter Two Thousand Three Hundred Eighty-Six
10th July 1975
It had been a long evening at Benno’s and all Sepp wanted was some uninterrupted sleep. Tomorrow was another day of classes followed by a shift at Benno’s Burgers, the same as today. Fumbling with his keys, he opened the front door and saw his father was passed out on the recliner in the parlor with the television on. Sepp was really starting to wonder why his mother put up with his father, even at the best of times he was worthless…
“Josef?” Sepp heard his mother ask from the kitchen and he felt a stab of guilt over his previous thoughts.
Seeing his mother seated alone at the kitchen table with papers spread out before her, he could see that she looked tired. If she had been paying bills, continuing the juggling act which she had been doing for years, then that explained a great deal.
“I spoke with your Headmaster today” Sepp’s mother said, “He said that you have been recommended to start taking preparatory classes next year. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Because his mother would force him to take that recommendation.
“I forgot” Sepp replied. His mother didn’t take issue with that, but Sepp could tell from her expression that she didn’t like that answer.
“You will have plenty of time to remember” Sepp’s mother said as she pulled a letter out from one of the piles and handed it to him.
Sepp read it with growing disbelief at what his mother had done behind his back. Apparently he and Dieter had been selected to take part in a historical emersion program. Reading between the lines, Sepp could see that this was another “Get the poor kids out of the city for a few weeks” program.
“Is this a joke?” Sepp asked, “I can understand Didi doing this, but I’ve too much to do.”
“No, you don’t” Sepp’s mother said, “You and your brother have a chance at a better life, and I’ll be damned before I let you fuck that up.”
Sepp was rather surprised by the vehemence in his mother’s words. For years, he had only seen a weary acceptance for the way things were from her.
“I see” Sepp replied. Realizing that he was not going to be given a choice in this matter.
“And enough of you working at Benno’s” Sepp’s mother said, her words growing angry as she said them. “Yes, the money helps, but if it comes at the cost of your future then it is not worth it.”
Sepp said nothing in reply. It had been a long time since he had had his mother talk to him this way, but he remembered that she had been unbending in the past. She wasn’t going to allow him to do anything but what she wanted this time.
With a day’s wait before the flight which would take Marie Alexandra home, Jack had insisted that she be his guest and have dinner with his family. Out of courtesy, she couldn’t exactly say no even though she was tired and just wanted to spend the rest of her Summer Holiday sleeping.
When Marie had told Jack what she had seen and heard over the course of the week he didn’t seem too surprised. Not even when she mentioned the British or Chinese Officials who had treated her in such a shabby way. He had been particularly interested in what they had said to each other when they thought no one who could understand was listening. Marie had heard plenty and had no problem with telling Jack all of it. Her mother had told her once that respect goes both ways. Those who disrespect you are not worthy of being given it in turn.
Mercifully, the negotiations had ended with all parties getting as much as they could get their greedy hands on. Marie had traveled back to Dublin where she spent all afternoon once again going over every word she had heard spoken with Jack and Andy. To her shock, they had transcribed everything said officially at the meetings in London and there had been a Stenographer present during what had turned into a debriefing.
Had Jack known what was going to happen and planned accordingly?
That was not a pleasant thought and Marie knew that if she complained it would be one of those situations where her mother would tell her that things like this come when you are an adult. Small wonder that Marie would have remained a child forever if she had gotten her way. Life had been so much easier when her primary concerns had been Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Robin Hood, or Treasure Island.
“You attend McGill University in Canada, right?” Jacqueline, or Jackie as she preferred to be called asked. Like in every interaction Marie had had with her, Jackie’s words came in an almost incompressible mad rush with an odd Dublin accent, giving Marie little or no time to answer her questions. If she could understand them. “They say that McGill is the Harvard of Canada, Da went to Harvard. Did you know that? And I asked him if that means that Harvard is the McGill of the United States. He didn’t answer the question…”
On and on Jackie went, with Marie answering “Yes” or “No” but most often “I don’t know” over and over. She got the impression that Jackie must get that reaction often from people.
“Our guest is tired, Jackie” Bridget said, and Marie was profoundly grateful. “Why don’t you talk to your brother about his day instead?”
“Ew, gross” Jackie replied.
Sean said nothing but was pushing food around the plate with his fork. Considering some of the things that Jack had said about his son it was probably for the best that he was quiet.