The Strength of a Sparrow
Tim ‘Dr. Hope’ Anders
Copyright © 2008 by Timothy Anders
Published by Alpine Publishing, Inc.
All right reserved.
No part of this publication may be copied, photocopied, electronically stored, transmitted or reproduced in any form or manner whatsoever without prior written consent of the publisher.
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The Strength of a Sparrow
Tim ‘Dr. Hope’ Anders
Perhaps this story should not be told. Perhaps some things are better left unsaid. But I ache to tell this story of the strength and passion of a remarkable woman. Indeed, were it not for this woman, I would not be alive today.
Our story begins…
“No, I mustn’t do this,” thought Hughie Hewitt. He envisioned devastating consequences, consequences that would befall not only him but also the lovely twenty-five-year-old woman who sat before him.
year was 1946. On this cold, wintry
night in the upper east side of
Bouvette Sherwood gazed into the deep blue eyes of this attractive, clean-shaven man not knowing the danger that lay ahead. Hughie Hewitt knew the danger, but still, he said nothing. She entranced him.
Hiding the agony that was within him, Hughie watched as she gently brushed the fiery auburn hair from her face. The movement formed a waterfall of brilliant color, sending ripples of light cascading through her long red hair. His infatuation increased. She sipped on her cherry coke.
“An angel,” Hughie thought, “I’m in the presence of an angel.”
The door bell jingled, and a small man with a cigar stub in the corner of his mouth entered the bar.
“One a’ yooz guys call a cab?” he asked, wiping the moisture from his nose.
“Yes, I did. I’ll be with you in a moment,” Bouvette said, smiling politely.
She turned toward the tall, distinguished man she was sitting with and said, “It was very nice to finally meet you, Mr. Hewitt.” Although she had seen him many times before, it was only a few short hours ago that they had been properly introduced. “Your stories were simply delightful and so was your company. I haven’t laughed this much in years.”
“I enjoyed being with you as well, Miss Sherwood,” he said, circling the rim of his glass, with a slender finger, “probably more than I should have.”
“What does that mean? Do you have a jealous wife?”
“Oh no,” he replied, “I’m not married—it just probably isn’t a good idea for us to see each other.” He had the face of a small boy whose puppy was missing.
“Why not?” she asked, perplexed by the sudden change in his demeanor.
“It’s probably not a good idea.” He slurped down the rest of the Dewar’s White Label scotch he had been drinking.
“Suit yourself,” she said flippantly as if she didn’t care. “Nonetheless it was a very pleasant evening and...”
“Lady, I ain’t got all night,” said the cabby.
They rose from the table and moved toward the black enameled coat rack in the corner of the room. He helped her don her long mink coat and was aroused by the delicate scent of her perfume. She paused and turned to him, watching tenderly as his arms found the sleeves of his own slightly worn wool overcoat. She sensed something was wrong.
“Why are you so sad all of a sudden—was it something I said?”
“Oh no, it’s not you... it’s me... I’m sorry... I really had a wonderful time this evening,” he said, smiling to cover his sadness. In a flash he slipped past the cabby and out the door. Hughie’s eyes revealed the hint of a painful hopelessness. He turned back toward her, hastily waved and said, “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” she replied. In an instant he was gone.
She adjusted her coat and went over to the bar. Turning to Vincent Rao, the bartender and owner of the restaurant, Boo said, “Your friend is mighty handsome, but he seems a bit melancholy.”
“A kinder, more gentle person you could never hope to meet. We growed up together.” Bouvette could see Vincent’s sincerity shine through his soft brown eyes. He had a thick set of distinctly Italian eyebrows.
“Does he come in often?”
“There ain’t a day that goes by without me seeing my pal Hughie.”
“Lady, I ain’t got all night. You wants the cab or what?” said the cabdriver, wondering how much more of his time this dizzy redhead was going to waste.
“Yes, I do. Let’s go. Goodnight, Vincent.”
“So long, Boo,” said Vincent. Most of Bouvette’s friends called her Boo. In a moment she was out the door, the cabby trailing her. Boo’s soft cheeks pinked in the frosty night air. She could feel the searing cold from the door handle penetrate through her leather gloves. She pulled open the door and got into the yellow cab.
“Where to?” asked the cabby.
As they drove off, snow began to fall like a million tiny parachutes twirling at the whim of the breeze.
Hughie Hewitt tramped
down the cold sidewalk, downcast, his thoughts haunted by the captivating redhead
he had just left. The cold blistering
wind whipped snowflakes into his face, blinding him momentarily as he forged
his way toward
He needed to pray.
Oblivious to the cold and the murmur of crushing snow beneath his thin-soled shoes, his thoughts kept drifting to Boo.
“God, I need help,” he thought. Alcohol usually calmed his passion for women, but tonight it had the opposite effect. He was wrestling with the desire that raged deep in his soul.
He wanted her. He needed to feel her, to hold her, to taste her sweet essence, to savor her young firm body on fire next to his, her precious lips pressed intimately against his own. These visions tormented him.
Hughie had never allowed himself to succumb to these urges. The yearning for female companionship sizzled unbearably deep inside him, setting his loins on fire. Alcohol had been his only escape and now that was failing. He needed strength—he needed to pray.
stood in front of
Hughie paused briefly to dip his slim fingertips into the holy water. His light touch sent shallow ripples to the sides of the vessel—ripples like the pangs of agony he felt within him. He genuflected. Only the tapping sound of his heels could be heard as he made his way down the marble floor to a pew. Hughie knelt down. He saw the statue of Jesus before him on the crucifix. He wept openly.
“What’s wrong, Father Hewitt?” An elderly, heavy-set woman wearing a black sweater walked up to him, a broom in her hand.
“Oh nothing, Mrs. Sullivan. I just had a very sad thought. It’s gone now. I’m fine. What are you doing here this time of night?” said Hughie.
“Now, Father Hewitt, you know perfectly well what I’m doing here. ‘Tis nearly and I have to sweep up the place before Father O’Brian’s mass,” said Mrs. Sullivan, her Irish brogue tattling on her immigration many years before.
“Oh, is it that late already? I seem to have lost track of the time. Well, goodnight Mrs. Sullivan. Ah, I mean good morning.” With each word he sent his alcoholic breath toward her.
“Good day, Father,” she said, twisting the broom handle. Through her wire-rimmed glasses, her eyes reprimanded him.
Father Hewitt slid somewhat awkwardly through the brown door next to the hand-carved confessionals and disappeared into the confines of the rectory. He snuck quietly through the hallway, toward the craggy staircase that led up to his private quarters. Father O’Brian’s bedroom was at the other end of this dark corridor. Hughie stepped quickly but softly, hoping not to encounter him; he didn’t want to have to explain himself again.
Father Daniel O’Brian, an Irishman with a full head of white hair, looked much older than his sixty-four years. He was sitting in the rectory library, perched on his favorite overstuffed chair. With a flick from his liver-spotted finger, Father O’Brian thoughtfully turned the page of his sermon notes for the imminent mass. He wetted the lead of his pencil with his tongue, and jotted notes with penmanship not unlike that of a physician.
He heard a “swooft, swooft” in the hall. It was the soft sound of Hughie’s light footsteps, muffled further by the oriental carpet on the floor.
“Father Hewitt?” said Father O’Brian, rising to his feet. Hughie froze in the open library doorway.
“Heavens, Father Hewitt, you haven’t been out all night drinkin’ again, have you now?” said the old Irishman. He wasn’t always this stern with his colleague and friend. Although Hughie was in charge of the parish, he stood sheepishly before Father O’Brian, like a schoolboy caught dipping his little sister’s ponytail into an inkwell. He said nothing.
“I’ll not be taking your place again like I did Sunday last when you were in such a pitiful state from over-imbibin’ the night before!” The ire in his voice rose until he sensed the deep sorrow in his comrade. Then he said gently, “Don’t you think you’ve been over doin’ it a wee bit of late?” Still silence. “Well Hughie, I’m off to prepare for the mass then. Rest yourself. We’ll talk of this tomorrow.” He reached up to Hughie’s six-foot three-inch frame and patted him on the shoulder.
With his head hung low, Hughie climbed to his bedroom apartment. The staircase creaked as if wounded by the extra weight that tugged at Hughie’s soul. He entered his chambers. He went straight over to a cherry wood cabinet, opened it, and grabbed a half-empty bottle of Dewar’s scotch whiskey. With trembling hands he poured a generous amount into a water-spotted glass. He slurped down the whiskey and quickly poured another, his hands less shaky now.
As he undressed, he finished off the second glass and then fell into bed. The alcohol was doing its job—the turmoil inside him was succumbing to the numbing effect of the drink. His mind drifted to the strong smell of incense that had hung in the air the day he took his vows. He remembered how joyous he had felt kneeling before old Bishop Newhart, finally becoming a priest. It had been his boyhood dream. He knew he could never leave the priesthood; it was who he was and all he had ever known or wanted to be. But this secret yearning for companionship in recent years had grown painfully present in his thoughts. In the darkness and warmth of his bed a tear glided from beneath his closed eyelid and down his cheek, soon swallowed up by his pillow. Boo was his last dreamy thought as he sank into a welcome state of unconsciousness.
The afternoon sun shone brightly through the window of Boo’s uptown apartment. Charming, elegant and utterly feminine, the furnishings befitted a successful woman of the theater.
Her coffeepot gurgled on the kitchen stove, filling the air with the sweet aroma of fresh coffee. Wearing only a blue terry-cloth robe, Boo was having a giggly, girlish conversation with her best friend, Mary Stevens.
Mary sat patiently awaiting her coffee. She twirled a few strands of her brown hair between her thumb and forefinger. Her slender shape, and delicate facial features betrayed that this beauty was indeed a talented actress and model.
“Gosh, Boo, I just realized that it has been five years since we first met. Remember that crazy audition we went to in the east village? Can you believe it? Five years… And remember that lecherous producer, George what’s-his-name?” said Mary, smiling broadly while adjusting her black cashmere sweater.
“Goldstein,” said Bouvette.
“Yeah. And how he came on to all the girls while we were trying to read our lines until…” giggled Mary.
“His wife showed up that day and slapped him so hard that his toupee flew off and into…” chuckled Boo.
“The table fan! And it chewed off little puffs of fuzz and blew them all over the stage!” roared Mary.
“It was like thousands of bearded moths flying around. That pervert George acted like a crazed bug catcher, chasing them down and wrestling to paste them back together…”
Boo put a dainty china creamer and sugar bowl onto the lace tablecloth that covered her kitchen table. Still laughing, she walked to the stove to get the pot of coffee.
“Five years… Now look at you. You’re the one producing plays, and you’re a darn site more successful than anything old George Goldstein ever put together,” said Mary, referring to Boo’s current production of Revival of Petrified Forest. Mary starred in the play.
“Yeah, well that’s because I have a much better toupee,” said Boo, theatrically tossing her hair over her shoulder. Boo delivered some toasty warm Danishes on a silver platter. She poured the coffee into two petite cups and handed one to Mary.
“Mmm, this coffee is delish,” Mary said, pausing briefly. “So tell me about this mysterious stranger that kept you out ‘til Did he kiss you or anything else?” Mary winked a long eyelash.
“Mary, I’m surprised at you, asking me that after our first, ah, well, gee, it actually wasn’t even a date,” said Boo.
“Well, did you kiss him?”
“Mary!” Boo said, feigning embarrassment. She gracefully slid onto the chair across from her friend and dipped a silver teaspoon into the sugar bowl.
“Okay, I’ll take that as a no,” said Mary, with part of a Danish in her mouth. “Come on, give!” Boo just stirred her coffee. “The scoop Boo, juicy details! Come on! What’s he look like? How did you meet him? Come on!”
Boo opened the floodgates. “Well, he’s tall and absolutely gorgeous and his name is Hughie, although I still call him Mr. Hewitt. And I’m very attracted to him. He makes me laugh. He’s so handsome and polite and gentle, and he’s got steel gray hair and deep blue eyes and he’s the kind of guy you could fall instantly in love with. And did I tell you that he’s tall and ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS and I wish he would have kissed me?” Boo exclaimed as she rambled on like a schoolgirl talking about her first crush.
hung on every word. “He’s a long time
friend of Vincent’s. You know Vincent, one of the brothers who own Rao’s on the
upper east side. That’s where we met. You know the one, on
“Oh yeah, the Mafioso place.”
“Mafioso?” said Boo blankly.
“Don’t tell me that you didn’t know that the Rao brothers are wiseguys.”
“Wiseguys? You mean they crack a lot of jokes?” said Boo innocently. She took a sip of her coffee.
The seriousness in Boo’s voice made Mary cackle like a speckled hen. “Gee, Boo, for such an intelligent woman your naiveté is astounding,” chuckled Mary.
you’re done laying that egg, it would be nice if you would simply educate this
“A wiseguy is another word for mobster, you know. Mafia, organized crime—they’re in the mob!”
“Oh… Oh no, that can’t be. Vincent’s such a nice fellow. He couldn’t be a gangster! I’ve known him for years. You must be wrong,” Boo remarked, somewhat shocked by the words of her friend.
“I can prove it, but you have to promise you won’t tell another living soul,” Mary uttered almost in a whisper.
“Remember three years ago? I had a quick roll in the hay with Sam, the stage manager?”
“We weren’t serious about each other. We just did it for fun. Anyway, I got, you know, in trouble.”
“You were pregnant!”
She nodded. “The last thing Sam or I wanted to do was get married and raise a child. I knew I couldn’t handle being a single mother all alone in this city and frankly, I didn’t want to end my career and end up taking it out on the kid. So he took me to his cousin, who happened to be Vincent. They made arrangements for a doctor to perform an abortion.”
“Wow, how did they get the doctor to break the law?”
Mary said bluntly as she dabbed the corner of her mouth with a linen napkin, “the
mob can put pressure on people. Turns
out some doctor owed big money for a gambling debt. They checked me into
“Were you scared?” said Boo, her eyes as big as beach balls.
“A little, but everything went real smooth. Thanks to Vincent. He’s a real pal.” Mary poured some more coffee into her cup.
“I don’t think that I could have done that. Well maybe, if I were pregnant and the father was someone I didn’t love.” Boo sighed deeply. “To me, having children with the man I love is the ultimate reward in life. To raise kids and nurture them means more to me than fame or fortune or anything… But I certainly wouldn’t want to have children by accident or if the father was a real jerk,” Boo was thoughtful as she pondered Mary’s revelation. “So Vincent is in the mob. I’ll be...”
“Yep, but let’s not talk anymore about that. Tell me more about this attractive man of yours.”
“Oh no,” Boo wailed, sitting down, “that explains it. Oh no!” Her heart sank as a thought came over her.
“Oh no, what? Explains WHAT?”
“It was something Hughie said. We had been laughing and having a great time. I was telling him how much I enjoyed his company and he said how much he enjoyed mine, and then all of a sudden he looked really sad and said that he probably enjoyed it more than he should have. Oh Mary, he looked so sad. At first I thought he might be married but he had no ring or, you know, that telltale white mark when they take their ring off and pretend—so I asked him and he said he wasn’t and I believe he was telling me the truth. But he was so sad. Oh no, that must be it. He must be in the mob and afraid of a relationship or something. Oh Gosh. I have to find out.”
“How are you going to do that? I can see it now—Oh, Hughie, I really like you. Oh, by the way, are you pals with Al Capone?” said Mary.
“No silly, I’ll just go to Rao’s and ask Vincent.” Boo jumped up and rushed into the bedroom to dress.
Warm rays of sun shimmered on the quilt of snow that had fallen during the night. The air, tainted only by the smell of auto exhaust, was uncharacteristically warm for this time of year, a welcome change for New Yorkers. The rattletrap Checker cab Boo had hailed clattered to a standstill in front of the red facade of Rao’s Italian restaurant.
stood alone behind the bar, the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up, his black
tie loosened at the collar. He was a
hard worker and basically a kind man, but people never crossed him. The