World War I was more than 20 years down the drain for most people, but Tommy Heffernan was looking up, with a slight discrediting look on his face, at Tim Kiely the bartender who was talking to or, more to the point, entertaining three drinkers sitting at his bar in Kiely’s Pub. The 2 o’clock sun bounced off Highland Avenue west of Malden Square and tried to come in through the windows shaded from years of accumulated cigarette smoke. Like always, Kiely couldn’t whisper; too much beyond his control, too much audience pull.“I know you boys come all the way from Somerville to hear the stories that grow from here. They come, glory be, without warning, like a knock on the door, trick or treat. For instance, take that lad down there at the other end of the bar, Tommy Heffernan, Colum’s boy. He was scorched in France, really bad. WW I’s green stuff they say. How many years ago’s that? He’s not worked a hard day since he come home from the Kaiser’s playground and might never work a hard day in all his life remaining, though the boy can put away a pint or two with the best of them. This I’ll tell you, though, that this lad, sick or not, for whatever ails him that the gas brought too close, has the softest hands in the whole world. Watch out for the cards in his hands, or a needle and thread.”
He tittered with his half laugh.
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