…The Chinese restaurant Murph’s mother Pearl loved to eat in was on the same block as the Roosevelt Theater, a bit further down the block and just before the curve. That block was a long one and it actually did curve, and just past the curve was the Long Island Railroad, still overhead at this point although by the time it got to the Bayside Station it was lower than the ground, down two sets of stairs. The Chinese restaurant wasn’t a Chinese restaurant anymore, but back across the boulevard, adjacent to the railroad bridge, on the second floor of a building whose first floor was vacant, was the pool hall and Tattoo Parlor that had always been there, their signs still in English. Murph had never been in either one of those places.
On toward Bayside and out of Auburndale, the memories were more adult memories than childhood ones. Murph sped up a bit and let his mind relax, thinking this wasn’t too far from where he lived now. If he didn’t follow the curve and left Northern Boulevard just before the tracks, he’d find his way toward a different part of Flushing than where he’d been, and with a couple of subsequent turns he’d be pretty close to his apartment. If he had come from there instead of from Carla’s, he would have made the trip on the Long Island Expressway, a faster and much more direct route. He could have done it that way from Carla’s too, but since he’d had the time he’d taken the cruise.
Murph and ugly Mary spent quite a few times together since Alan stayed with his girlfriend and eventually married her. At first they didn’t like each other. Murph thought she was ugly and maybe she thought he was too. She didn’t want to be there, wherever they were at the time, and neither did Murph. She was cold to him and he reciprocated in kind so that their first time at the RKO they could have been sitting in different rows, that’s how far apart they were. She was chubby and pimply and one corner of her blouse stuck out of her jeans. Murph was chubby, had a flat top haircut and wore thick black-frame glasses, a fat four-eyes with braces. Well into the movie, at one point they each looked over to Alan and Andrea and saw them deep into making out, Andrea’s hand stroking Alan and her pants open with Alan’s hand buried in there somewhere.
“Wanna make out?” Murph asked.
“No. I don’t even want to be here.”
“Well, me either. Want some candy?”
“No. Just leave me alone and we’ll get along fine.”
Their second time at the RKO was like an instant replay. Murph only went a second time because Alan promised to buy the beer for the next two months. Murph found out later that Andrea had promised Mary she would do her English homework for six weeks.
“Anyway,” Mary said when they were talking about it, “I wanted to see this movie and Alan had the passes.”
“I don’t care about the movie,” Murph said.
“So why you here?”
“Same as you, to help out my friend.”
“Well, that’s a good thing.”
“Yes it is.”
“That’s why I’m here too.”
“You have a boyfriend?”
“Would I be here with you if I did?”
“Well, same here.”
“No kidding,” Murph said. Then, in a bold and daring move, he put his arm around Mary and she didn’t tear it away, which was a surprise. In fact, he thought, she kind of moved a bit closer to him. Feeling emboldened, he started leaning in to kiss her.
“Wait, wait,” she said. “I really want to see this part.”
Disappointed, Murph sat back in the chair and he would have sulked to the end of the movie if ugly Mary hadn’t leaned over to him and kissed him once on the lips, closed-mouthed, when the part she really wanted to see was over.
“If we have to do this again,” she said, “I’ll make out with you…”
Look for Rose’s Story toward the end of May 2017
…Murph’s head spun with memories as he drove. He remarked to himself in the midst of it that this was why he didn’t travel here often. Nathan hated Husky pants. He hated his son wearing them. Nathan hated taking him to Robert Hall and out toward the Island to Klein’s and Abraham and Strauss, two other stores that carried Huskies.
Jesus, Murph thought as memories bombarded him from numerous directions. He remembered the ripped coat and was thinking about it when he came upon the block Georgewood Florist used to be on. He wasn’t sure this was the exact block anymore because the entire area was Korean and all the businesses had changed. But the bicycle store was still there, its signs in Korean, and the brick church was on the block before it—that was Korean now too.
His thoughts became more like flashes here because too many landmark-recollections were in this space. “Hello Georgewood,” was first, the sound of his aunt’s voice in his ears as she answered the phone with those same words every time. That church was where he and one group of his teenage friends used to go cruising for girls at church dances when he was in high school. They traveled in a pack, cruised for girls, looked for and picked fights. The old Roosevelt movie theater was next, on the other side of the street. He’d felt up ugly Mary there and made out with her because his friend Alan’s girlfriend wasn’t allowed to go out unless it was a double-date. So he and Mary got to be partners of sorts, an arrangement. Mostly they went to the RKO Palace on Main Street in Flushing because Alan’s father owned a share in it and Alan always had free passes, but the old Roosevelt was the usual standby. It wasn’t a theater anymore. Now it was a banquet hall and catering center. The RKO wasn’t a theater anymore either. It was an indoor flea market.
Murph had also made out with Mary Lamb at the Roosevelt. Mary Lamb—that was her real name—had a tongue made of sugar, the sweetest tongue Murph had ever tasted in his whole life. If he could still hear his aunt’s voice in his ears, he could still taste that tongue, and when he allowed himself this pleasure, he could picture her face and remember the first time he’d put his hand under her skirt and felt her up over her panties. She’d told him to stop, but she hadn’t meant it. He knew that because he stopped when she told him to and then she asked him why he stopped. So he continued. That was the first time he’d ever found his way inside a girl’s panties. It was his first look inside a girl’s mind too.
Lots of girls were named Mary back then, especially the Catholic girls, and Murph mostly found himself with Catholic girls because most of the friends he hung out with, who were really Alan’s friends, were Catholic. That was why it was church dances, garage parties, beer and fights. Alan came from a mixed family, Jewish father, non-Jewish mother. Technically he wasn’t Jewish, and actually he wasn’t religious at all. In the scope of things it didn’t matter other than it led Murph to being where he might not have ordinarily been, but then they were kids and kids did what kids did, different back then than it was now…
Look for Rose’s Story toward the end of May 2017
After the trip to Hawaii Murph found himself alone at the McDonald’s where, after some thirty-two years, he’d reunited with Carla. Carla had not retired, not even partially. Her preliminary goal was to plod on to sixty-six, and since she’d just turned sixty-five, it was less than a full year away. That definitely seemed doable.
Murph sat in the same booth he and Carla had shared that morning. Sipping his coffee, he thought back to that moment and smiled a bit as he mulled over their time together, some six months now coursing through three seasons though only one season in full. They had watched the leaves wither and die, then huddled and cuddled together through an unusually cold and snowy winter. The welcomed spring had not brought the desired warmth yet, but as the weather often did, thus far there had been a tease or two.
This morning, as usual, Murph had dropped Carla off at the train. He would have gone directly home to his apartment but he had a chore to run in Bayside, some ten miles down the road from the McDonald’s. Feeling hungry, he’d decided to stop. He’d brought his tablet with him, and once settled in the booth, he read what he’d written yesterday, looking at it not so much for like or dislike or good or bad as for correctness and how it advanced the story. That done, he picked up where he’d left off and worked for about a half-hour.
He hadn’t been back to Bayside for a long time. He still went to the dentist over in Bay Terrace, but usually he went with the Long Island Expressway to the Throgs Neck Expressway. If he did go with Northern, he turned on Francis Lewis Boulevard so he didn’t go into Bayside proper. By the time he got to where he was going today, he would have traveled along Northern Boulevard through Jackson Heights, Flushing, Auburndale, and Bayside.
In Bayside, he was turning right on Bell Boulevard and heading up toward the Long Island Expressway. He was going to meet a woman he didn’t know, a woman who’d read his book and contacted him through his website. She said she was looking for a ghost writer and had liked what she’d seen. Murph had sent her the links to his blog and a PDF of his Doctoral Dissertation, and he told her he’d never done this before and didn’t know if he was really interested, but when she’d told him that the potential earnings went easily into six figures, he’d decided he couldn’t possibly let the opportunity slide by without at least seeing what it was. Her address, from the way he figured it, was pretty close to the church where he had gone to Boy Scouts when he was a kid, maybe a block or two from where Mr. Gilbert, the Scout Master, had lived.
After he’d eaten and worked a little, he drove slowly along. He toured up Main Street Flushing and then went back to Northern Boulevard along the road where the Robert Hall used to be, the clothing store where his father, Nathan, a World War II POW survivor, used to begrudgingly take him to buy Husky pants. The whole area was Korean now with not a word of English to be found on any of the storefronts or businesses. It was the same physical space but a different world…
Look for Rose’s Story toward the end of May 2017
Murph’s overwhelming instinct was to start the story with the double murder of the Georgia Senator and her husband some seven years ago, the double murder Rose had told Murph to look up at one of their first meetings. It was ruled a murder-suicide, dismissed as a financially distraught husband who could simply bear it no more, whatever the it was. The police and FBI never did a murder investigation, never looked into the fact that such an investigation would likely lead to high-powered, high-positioned politicians and State DFCS workers who were involved in the kidnapping and selling of children.
The why of it was easy. There was a cover-up going on. Kidnapping kids and placing them in foster care where they were literally for sale, and consequently sold—that was what it was about. The Senator’s murder, the double murder of her and her husband (of course since there was no murder investigation it could never be called a murder) was swept under the rug and anyone who disagreed with the murder-suicide findings was called a conspiracy-theory hack. Her death occurring just a few weeks before she was to present a new report on the corruption within DFCS, specifically on DFCS kidnapping and trafficking kids, thereby selling them and/or forcing them into prostitution and even worse, was never even considered suspiciously coincidental. How strange!
It was so clear to Murph and a whole lot of people, as clearly non-coincidental as Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald. To Murph, it was as clear as the FBI starting the riot he was arrested in. That was clear because he’d seen it with his own eyes, personally witnessed it and been a victim of it. Oorah.
Initially, the Senator criticized The Adoption and Safe Families Act passed during the Clinton Presidency for the trouble with DFCS. This act provided financial payouts to state and local agencies that increased the number of children being adopted out of Foster Care. It was like a royalty system, a pay-per-head scheme which she claimed caused Georgia state and local officials to flood the Foster Care System with kids that did not belong there so they could get their hands on the Federal monies.
The Senator’s initial criticism and her subsequent finding of the “flooding” of the system led her to publish a report about the “corrupt child protective services in her state,” a report which detailed her ongoing investigation of CPS, a report in which she chronicled witnessing firsthand the ruthless behavior from caseworkers, social workers, investigators, lawyers, judges and therapists. Essentially, the report outlined their collusion and pretty much damned the entire system.
Having produced this report, the Senator was beginning to lose favor with the press and beginning to be marginalized by her peers. What she was looking into was extremely volatile and dangerous because it threatened to expose high-level officials. Nevertheless, the more she uncovered, the deeper she went with her investigations and the further she expanded her scope, even encompassing areas outside Georgia’s borders and into surrounding states.
The Senator had her supporters, ardent supporters who encouraged her to go on. Her going on led her to the belief that there was a direct link between elite-level child pornography and child sex trafficking and gross misconduct within Child Protective Services.
Hence she was murdered, but not immediately, Murph thought. First she was politically murdered. She lost reelection a year after publishing her first report and claimed the loss was due to the report, her beliefs and her refusal to cease her investigations. She was about to present the new report which named names and provided details of her suspicions regarding the illicit link between CPS and child trafficking when she was killed, when the alleged murder-suicide took place.
Look for Rose’s Story toward the end of May 2017
Coming soon, a new novel.
Murph had the statistics on institutional abuse within CPS and told Rose that a child in foster care was 28 times more likely to be sexually abused than a child in the general population and that the older a child was when entering foster care, the greater the likelihood of that child being sexually abused. Furthermore, Murph had statistics showing that overall kids fared better at home than they did from being removed from their homes and placed in foster care, of course with the exceptions of cases where there was imminent danger or real and actual abuse that was demonstrable. The statistics showed that absent real danger to a child, foster care created more problems than it solved.
Rose and Murph agreed it was dangerous to go directly after CPS, not to mention costly. Most CPS cases were won by the overwhelming legal costs of challenging them. A fight against Child Protective Services could easily cost upwards of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000). Rose could afford such fees, but Murph couldn’t and most parents of kids who were taken into the system had no means whatsoever. CPS counted on this and purposefully dragged its cases out in court over years, financially destroying normal families with normal means just for attempting to challenge them in court. This was perhaps its most reprehensible statistic.
The majority of CPS cases in which kids were removed from homes were based upon neglect, and nearly all of those cases were for poverty-related reasons. Or, simply put, most kids were placed in foster care just for being poor. The overwhelming majority of removals were based only upon a caseworker’s judgment and then the cases were established within the vague and indefinable category of “neglect.”
CPS often timed its visits at the end of the month when a family on welfare would have run out of funds. This way the refrigerator and cupboards might be too empty by the caseworker’s standards and the child could be removed for “neglect.”
Murph remembered a case in which a mother had sent her son to the store to get milk but the kid bought himself some candy and a shiny new pen to write with in school. The caseworker happened to show up when the kid returned from the store. The caseworker saw that the mother was smoking and remarked that she could afford cigarettes but not milk. There was no milk, the kid was removed. The caseworker stole the nice, new pen. The kid said this in court, openly. The judge asked where the pen was. The kid said the caseworker took it. The judge believed the caseworker who simply threw up her hands and shrugged.
So when a kid was taken, an emergency hearing had to be held within three days of the removal but a child was virtually never returned home then. It took more than three months to get to the next hearing and nearly a year to get to a trial. The trial, unlike those seen on TV, took ten to fifteen days or more spread out over some eighteen months. Legal fees for a private lawyer were about three hundred-fifty dollars an hour and each court appearance was a minimum of a thousand dollars. Do the math!
But worse, whatever damage was done to the child was done by the time a trial occurred. Even if a child was returned home, the scars were already so deep that tremendous psychological damage was done. The CPS damage was not retractable. Once it occurred it was forever.