robert flanagan

When Mom came home from work around seven she and Billy ate supper at a card table in the apartment’s big room: potato soup, slices of ham, and hard rolls from the Pick Me Up Cafe. The Protestant owner was good about letting the help take extra food home, Mom said, although Billy was worried she stole it. Even if she did, you couldn’t blame her; on her own now, she had to look out for her son. And not having gone to Catholic schools she didn’t know how lots of everyday things people did were mortal sins.

She turned on the radio—Perry Como “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” The Ames Brothers “You You You,” and washed their dishes while Billy sorted her tips, flattening and smoothing dollar bills to slip into a brown Toledo Trust envelope and packing coins in the bank’s brown roll wrappers. He never kept as much as a penny for himself, although once when an eighth grader who picked on sixth graders tried picking on him he had borrowed a roll of nickels to use at school and put it back when he was done with it.

Robert Flanagan
Riddley Walker
Russell Hoban