Right Here All These Years
Raoul had never seen Alva so riled up before. Not when she found Marv passed out from cold in the back alley, hardly looking human and she thinking he was just a pile of old rags and tried to shove him out of the way with her foot. Not when some neighborhood boys shot up the alley cats one time and draped them over the back fence by the dumpsters. Not when two police from another neighborhood came by and tried to pay her off to let some fellas sell drugs back of the kitchen. Not in all the years he had known Alva had he ever seen her unable to control herself like she was this night.
It took both of them, Raoul and Lonnie McSweeney, to calm her down. And that, not until Raoul brought some brandy from the kitchen and made her drink a short glass. She coughed a little, because Alva was no drinking woman, but she finally did calm herself to the point where she wanted answers.
“He been right here all these years?” she asked Lonnie.
He nodded, with a sad look on his face. He had lost a child to cancer. That was years ago. And then his wife had just gone downhill and finally – it seemed inconceivable to Lonnie at the time – she disappeared. That’s when he went out and got his license and hung out his shingle. He took on cases to pay for his own case. He spent every free minute chasing any lead he could find. It went on for years. In between all the cheating louses of husbands and slutty wives, all the insurance frauds and the suits that ran off with their partners’ money – probably ill-gotten Lonnie always figured – in between all that he searched for Caelan McSweeney. Until the leads dried up and there was nowhere else to look. One day he went to the cemetery where they had laid little Sean to rest and he wept and wept, kneeling on the grass beside the stone marker, until the tears turned to a heaving as if the earth under him had frozen, expanding within its own chest with nowhere for the pressure to go but up. Something died in him that day, too. Hope would visit him no more. And now, by some miracle, a woman who deserved something good in her life was about to come face to face with the son she had given up for lost almost forty years ago. Lonnie, hardened as he was, looked on Alva at this moment as if a God he had long ago abandoned had come to earth to gift her directly and he felt tears prick at his eyes.
Lonnie came back to the present, cleared his throat, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to cover the emotion that had leaked out of him.
“Yes,” he said. “Right here. All them years.”
“But how?” Alva asked, her voice full of bewilderment, as if to be near each other and not know it was somehow against the laws of nature, impossible to accomplish, even if one were trying.
Finally Lonnie was on safer ground. “It’s all there in that report,” he told Alva. “All about how when he was born, just the day he was born, your aunt came down from Brooklyn and took him back with her. She kept him for a little while and then she gave your baby to a couple she knew who went to a church a few neighborhoods away. They had no children and they wanted him. So that’s how it happened. And your aunt kept up with him all the time he was growing up. They even made her his godmother. That’s how I traced it all. They did that part all up legal through their church. But technically – that is legally – he was never adopted by them. But turns out it didn’t matter none, because nobody ever questioned it.”
“I declare,” was all Alva could say.