I was positioned in the front room, the normal place of punishment. I was covered from head to foot with dust and it was getting up my nose, making me sneeze, but otherwise I stood stoically, awaiting the inevitable. To keep myself brave, I conjured an image of fighting back—something like the prolonged fistfight in The Quiet Man between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen was the sort of thing that I had in mind. Me and Horrie, going at it, hammer and tong, and me prevailing, proving my manhood to my admiring father… It was the only way to stop myself from crying in despair.
Outside, I heard my mother intercept Horrie in the hall.
“Maybe we should think about buying the books, Horrie,” she said.
“Bloody books. Always causing trouble.”
“He really seemed interested, and it isn’t fair to the nice man, after the state the book finished in. Maybe...”
“Ella, we need a new car. The books will cost more than that. We can’t afford either. We sure can’t afford both.”
“But I’ve never seen him so... affected by anything before,” my mother said, unsure of herself now. “Maybe the books will help him.”
“Nothin’ will help that kid,” Horrie grunted.