Belfast Ireland, April 1941
“What have they been teaching you now? I see you have a book, Colin? You said last week you were reading in class?” He knew his brother was frightened; if caught outside the institution, he would be severely punished by the queer priest. He wanted to get him talking to calm his nervousness so he would eat more.
“Well, I read well. This is an encyclopedia, in order of the alphabet. Everything you want to know starting with the letter A. I am not supposed to take it out of the library. I hope they don’t miss it? Father Murphy punishment for stealing is he beats you when you’re naked in front of everybody.”
“Damn! He is the worst of the queers,” Sean said to himself. Colin was small for fourteen years and good-looking, almost like a girl, with an elf-like face and curly black hair. Unlike Sean’s red hair and broad shoulders from working since he was Colin’s age. If your looks please the clergy, you stayed on at the orphanage, but a slave of the worst kind.
Shit, I need to get the kid out of here, but how? They were sitting in the cemetery on consecrated church grounds, another defiant gesture by Sean, knowing they did not bury his mother in a churchyard. Both boys were forced into an orphanage by the church. They took mother and baby to a church-run Mother’s Home, a Laundries workhouse where women were sent for a variety of reasons, including for having a child outside of marriage.
Sean knew his baby sister had died in the unsanitary church-run hell hole. And his mother from overworked with little food and beatings!
The city’s upper class hushed it up, knowing the church benefited from the forced labor.
Sean was sure that Father Murphy would sell Colin as an indentured slave after he used him for sex and to protect himself.
He reached into a sack for the bead Captain Cory gave him for the boy. Told him to feed Colin every Tuesday when the priest got drunk at the Lions and Arms pub by the docks. Close to the rectory so they could stagger home. But now, with the war, the British were crowding the pubs. The Royal Navy used the port of Belfast as a base to escort Atlantic and Russian convoys protecting them from German U-boats.
“Here now, eat this bread; you can take some back, but hide it!”
It wasn’t long before both boys fell asleep after eating. Sean, because of a long day working and Colin, knowing his big brother was close by protecting him, Colin dozed off first with his head on Sean’s shoulder.
Both woke with a start! “Thunder? What the hell was that?” The ground shook when Sean stood, reaching out his hand and pulling Colin to his feet as another deafening explosion happened! Chunks of the building across from them fell into the cemetery.
“Run!” Colin shouted, pulling Sean in the other direction to get away from the falling wall! They came out onto the street; buildings were bursting apart, flying pieces of shattered windows, and fires popped up all around them!
The boys knew it was another German bombing like the last one, but this was worse!
“Harbor, Run!” This time Sean was in the lead, dodging and shoving as people ran to escape their burning homes! He turned down another narrow street leading to the wharf. The fish trading house was in flames as they ran past. An old lady was lying on the dock in front of them. Sean jumped over the body, but Colin stopped to help her. Sean grabbed him just as another bomb hit a building, shattering the dock and throwing them into the water!
Sean pushed a plank toward Colin. “Grab on!” He pulled Colin along as he swam toward a boat. “Colin, throw that damn book away.” Colin held his soggy encyclopedia on top of his head to protect himself from flying debris. Sean kicked harder, staying under the docks, away from the explosions. Hopefully, his boat was just ahead in the darkness but unsure if it was still there? Would Captain Cory take her out to sea to escape the fires?