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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 52
The Mother from Hell

“What's wrong with you?” Billy's mother asked as she flapped into Director Carson's
office like some exotic tropical bird, all lipstick, rouge, gloss and bottle-blond plumage.
Her long, gold-glittered artificial nails protruded like talons, over-sized and aggressive.
She reeked of perfume. “How come you didn't call?”
Billy, dressed in jeans, sweatshirt and sneakers -- his strategic need for a suit having
passed -- took a perfume-laden breath. “I'm sorry. I was busy. This is Director Carson ...
Captain O'Toole... Vera O'Toole.”
“Where's your suit?” the mother asked her oldest son, reprimanding him for being under-
Billy was at a loss for words.
“Well, Mrs. Stone,” Director Carson said, stepping in.
“Narchos. Mrs. Narchos. Narchos Construction. That's my husband.”
“Yes, Mrs. Narchos. I have heard of Narchos Construction. Very ... very, er ... big.”
Mrs. Narchos lifted her nose. Vera blinked rapidly, her early-warning system kicking in.
“Just have to ask you to sign some papers,”Director Carson said, spreading the papers on
his desk and handing Mrs. Narchos a pen. “Your acceptance of custody.”
Mrs. Narchos signed. “That it? We can go now?”
Director Carson turned to Billy. “Well, there's the door, Billy. All you have to do now is
walk out into a fine spring day -- a good day to start a new life, I would think.”
The Director reached over his desk and shook Billy's hand.
“Thank you, Mr. Carson,” Billy said. “It worked, didn't it?”
“Yes -- and I'm glad it did.”
“Congratulations,” Captain O'Toole said. “Justice has been served.”
“Now you and your officers get to get out of prison, too,” Billy said, smiling.
“Yes, as soon as the correction officers' night shift comes on.”
“Mission accomplished. No casualties. Not bad, huh, Captain.”
Captain O'Toole and Billy shook hands.
“All this hand-shaking. An old man told me that, way back in history, men shook hands
to show that they were not reaching for a sword. I guess we're still doing it.”
“Well, I'm not going to shake your hand,” Vera said, pulling Billy to her.
As they hugged, Billy whispered, “Behave yourself.”
“If she says one more thing...”
“Let's get out of this place,” Mrs. Narchos said.
Vera was about to respond. “Not here, please,” Billy said into her ear.
“Okay, but she's asking for it.”
“What's with the whispers?” Mrs Narchos said. “Let's go. I got things to do.”
Billy and his mother went out the front door into a fine, bright, late afternoon spring day,
with Vera following. They met Wally Witkowski arriving for his shift.
“Billy! You're leaving. You're really leaving. You're free!”
“Yes, and I see you're still on the graveyard shift. Wally, you've got to get on days. I'm
going to talk to Carson. The guards are back tonight?”
“Yeah. Now that we've gotten rid of you, things can get back to normal.”
“Let's hope not. Tell the guys that they're going to get the hearings and everything else
they've been promised.”
Mrs. Narchos, visibly impatient, looked at her watch.
“Well, I've got to go, Wally. Thanks. Okay, later.”
“Later, Billy.”
Billy turned around just in time to catch Vera throwing herself into his arms -- again.
Attached like two powerful magnets, they indulged in a languorous hug and kiss, Vera
sneaking a peek at a sour-faced Mrs. Narchos.
“Until tonight,” Vera said.
“Until tonight.”
Vera went back inside. Within minutes, she would leave for home with her Dad, Captain
Billy lifted his face and took luxuriant notice of cottony, bright-white clouds moving
almost imperceptibly in a robin's-egg sky.
“What are you doing?” Mrs. Narchos asked. “We're late.”
“Nothing ... nothing at all ... just looking around.”
“Well, your stepfather is waiting for us.” They walked down the driveway. “Wait till you
see your new home, son. Brand new. Finally, after struggling year after year, a home of
my own. You don't know how hard it has been for me. One rotten job after another ... no
money ... always sick, just when I just get back on my in one dump after
another. Oh, you don't know how hard it's been. But now, Nicholas -- that's your
stepfather -- is so good to me. I don't have to work. He buys me anything I want. We're
going to take you out tonight to the best restaurant in town. Wait till you see the waiters
jump up when we walk in. It's wonderful to have money, son. From what I read, you're
not doing too bad in the money department, either. Don't worry, Nicholas -- that's your
stepfather -- will invest it for you so you'll never have to work and can still buy anything
you want.”
“About the dinner tonight. That's very nice of you, but I'm afraid that I already made
plans with Vera-- a lobster feast to celebrate. Maybe tomorrow night we could ...”
“Don't be ridiculous. You can go out with her any time. I'm your mother. We're taking you
out and that's that.”
They reached the car, a long black Lincoln. “Billy, this is your stepfather, Nicholas
Narchos.” Mr. Narchos thrust a hairy, bejeweled hand out the car window. “Glad to meet
ya, kid. Call me Nick. Welcome back to the world. Heard about that book deal of yours.
Don't worry -- I'll invest it for you, put you on easy street. Get in.”
On the way, Billy heard the rags-to-riches story of Nicholas Narchos: How he and his
brother came to the U.S. from Greece and started out as construction laborers, saved their
money, went out on their own, and built Narchos Construction from scratch:
How did we do it? Simple. Beat up the subcontractors. You want to make it big, you have
to kill the subs. We slaughtered them; how they built a gorgeous retirement home for their
mother, a palace, a goddam palace complete with slaves to wait on her hand and foot;
how Narchos Construction was third in New England now, but we're gonna be number
one in two years, easy. Know how? Simple. Buy the pols. In the big time -- and this is the
big time, kid -- you gotta have the pols in your pocket. Everything and everybody is for
sale, kid, remember that.
The life story of Nicholas Narchos, with emphasis on lessons learned, was still gushing
forth by the time they pulled up to the house, which was huge, white-pillared, gated,
immaculately landscaped -- a screaming arriviste billboard. Also living in the same
neighborhood was none other than District Attorney John Conroy, whose house Mr.
Narchos pointed out as they drove by it.
“I own the guy,” Narchos said. “And you know what? He came cheap. I woulda paid him
more, but I didn't have to. Another thing to remember, kid. The bigger you are, the less
you have to pay.”
Despite having seen Billy at work on TV, Nicholas Narchos never considered that a
braggadocio moment with his new wife's kid might not be a swift idea. The kid was a kid.
It would fly right over his head. Billy thought: So Narchos is paying off Conroy
...imagine that.
Inside, Mr. Narchos excused himself saying, “Gotta go squeeze a couple of subs. Coupla
guys think I'm playing. I'm playing all right -- playing stomp on their freakin' necks.”
Mrs. Narchos said of her husband of three months, “That's a provider. Always pushing,
pushing. Pays for all this.”
She led Billy up a wide, formal staircase. “Never thought I could ever be so lucky. Year
after year I struggled. You don't know how hard it's been for me. Put your stuff in that
room and I'll show you around.”
She showed him everything: the three-car garage, the three full bathrooms, the spacious
kitchen with all new appliances, the formal dining room, the swimming pool. For
everything, she gave a dollar figure for what it should have cost and what Narchos
actually paid.
“The bigger you are, the less you pay,” she said.
“Nice. Great deal,” Billy said over and over.
After the tour, and with Mr. Narchos still on the phone transmitting terror, Billy said,
“Can we talk a bit?”
She led him into the recreation room, a room dominated by a TV screen only slightly
smaller than a movie screen. “Nick's favorite room. Mine, too. I always wanted a room
like this and now I have one. When I'm in this room, I feel like I died and went to heaven.
Well, what do you want to talk about?”
“I used to wait for you. But you never came.”
“Oh, now, wait a minute. You're not going to lay some guilt trip on me. No way. I don't
deserve it. Not the way I had to struggle, year after year, with nobody to help me. No
thank you. Keep your guilt trip. You want to talk? Ask me how hard I've had it. Ask me.
I'll tell you.”
“How hard has it been for you?”
“After your father died -- he was only 27, rheumatic heart -- I was left in an apartment in
Roxbury with four kids and one on the way.”
“Raymond was the one on the way -- getting ready to join Mary, Rebecca, Vince, and
“That's right . You were five, Mary four, Rebecca three and Vince one. I was all alone, no
job, no money and one of you kids was always sick, sometimes all of you at the same
time. Then I got sick and they had to rush me to the emergency room.”
“No relatives who could help?”
“No. There was your father's side, but they were nothing but a bunch of _____. I couldn't
stand them. They were against me from the start. My two sisters were just as bad. We
didn't speak then and we still don't. Ain't seen them in years. Fine with me. If they walked
in here now, I'd spit on them.”
“Then what happened?”
“I got real sick... couldn't eat... lost weight. You should have seen me, nothing but a bag
of bones. They put me in the hospital and nobody could figure out what was wrong.
Know what I told the doctors? I told them that what was killing me was four kids, being
pregnant and broke, worrying how to pay the rent, never getting any rest. Every minute of
the day you kids were tuggin' at me and at night you took turns screamin' and I was all
“It was too much?”
“Too much for anybody and I was sick, alone and didn't have two nickels to rub together.
While I was in the hospital, the state took all you kids.”
“Then you had Raymond.”
“Yes. There I was alone with a new baby and too sick to work. I had to go down to the
welfare office and beg and those bastards did everything they could to beat me down.
When I got better, I still couldn't work and take care of a new baby, too. I was all by
myself and I didn't have any money for child care.”
“And nobody to help?”
“Nobody. And then I ended up in the hospital again.”
“The state took Raymond?”
“Yes -- while I was in the hospital. I was never able to get my kids back. I tried, God
knows, I tried. But it was always something. Job history no good... no regular paycheck...
no family infinitestructure, or whatever they call it... not enough bedrooms. You know,
with boys and girls, the state said I had to have three bedrooms. The most I could ever get
was two; usually I only had one. Then they said they don't want to disrupt you kids by
changing schools, moving and all that. They had a whole bunch of other crap that they
threw at me. Finally, I got too tired to fight them any more.”
“How long has it been since you have seen the kids?”
“Oh, I don't know. A long time, I guess.”
“I don't know, maybe. But I never stopped trying to find a father and provider for you
kids. Only trouble is the only ones I met turned out to be drunks and pigs. Every one of
them beat up on me. One guy punched me so hard he knocked my teeth out.” She opened
her mouth. “ See, these are fake. After he punched me in the mouth, I was on the floor
spitting out blood and he kicked me again and broke three ribs. That's not the worst, son.
That's not the worse.”
As Mrs. Narchos talked, Billy began feeling exactly as he had felt all his life as a foster
child -- invisible, out in the cold, on his own, something for people to step on and use.
Now the abuser was his own mother, whom he had dreamed of and longed for all his life.
Now it was his own mother who, enveloped in a cloud of selfishness and ignorance and
hate, trampled on his feelings.
Strangely, it did not come as a great shock; it was, after all, all that he had ever known.
But now he felt, finally and without question, the full weight of the greatest rejection a
human being can suffer-- that by a mother. Overwhelmed by grief, he spoke in a
profoundly sad and hollow voice.
“Tell me.”
“You really want to know?”
It poured out of her, like someone trying to reconstruct a drunken brawl:
He hit me, I hit him back, then somebody jumped me from behind, and then they were all
over me, the bastards, crash, bang; they won because it was just me fighting all of them,
the rotten bastards, they were all against me.
When she had finished, Billy went over to her and put his arms around her. “I'm sorry,”
he said mechanically. “You have had it very hard.”
“You don't hate me?”
“No, I don't hate you.”
“Oh, my son, my dear, dear son!!”
Mrs. Narchos pulled him close, crying, laughing, kissing his face all over. “Oh, Billy, my
first-born. After all these years, all these years. I love you, son. I always have.”
Mr. Narchos entered sputtering. “Wouldn't you know. Big problem at a site. I gotta go. I
don't know when I'll be back. Damn.”
He pulled out his wallet and put a credit card in his wife's hands. “Here, you guys go.
Order anything you want. Eat until you get sick. Don't forget -- leave a thirty percent tip.
When you walk in, just let'em know who you are. Damn.”
He hurried out the door.
“Mother, I think you got yourself one heck of a provider.”
“Mother. You called me Mother.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Oh, Billy, my dear, dear Billy.”
Billy excused himself to call Vera.
“But it was supposed to be just the two of us,”Vera said when he told her about his
mother's plans for the night.
“I know. But I need to go through with this. It's just this one night -- then it's you and me.
Tomorrow night, princess?”
“Well, you are the freedom guy....”
“Thank you, princess.”
That night Billy Stone and his mother, Mrs. Ruby Narchos, both dressed as statements,
went out for lobster at the most expensive restaurant in town, The Bostonian. When their
long, sleek black chauffeured Lincoln, license plate NARCHOS, pulled up in front of the
formal canopied entrance, a valet parking attendant scrambled to open the car doors for
“Narchos Construction,” Mrs. Narchos said.
Once inside, the maitre d' approached with a deferential half-bow. “May I suggest the
Garden Room, Mrs. Narchos? It's our most elegant room.î”
They were seated at one of the better tables in the house, well away from the door, in a
stepped-up corner rendered semi-private by a jungle of potted plants, from where they
could survey other diners and look slightly down upon them.
They feasted for hours as guests of Narchos Construction and Billy's mother left a thirty
percent tip. The whole time, Billy's birth mother talked about how hard her life had been
and how now she could buy anything she wanted.
She showed no curiosity whatsoever about what had gone on with her first-born son all
these years, or what might become of him next week or in the years ahead. However, she
did ask him probing questions about how much money he expected from his book.