Trayon and the Troublemaker by Lee Conrad

Lee Conrad tells a story of the commonalities between different social battles in a tough American city, when an old man who takes his new neighbour's son under his wing.

The early spring day turned cold and grey. Sleet pecked at Brian Donahue's apartment window like angry birds demanding entry. Brian rose from his well-worn chair, leaving behind a substantial imprint in the cushion. He groaned and swore as he stood. His 78-year-old body creaked from long ago battles. He looked out the window at the people on the street, their heads down from the onslaught of the sleet or life itself.

Days later, as Brian returned to his apartment from a visit to his doctor, a young boy bowled into him as he exited the elevator on the 4th floor. Brian's six-foot frame bounced the scrawny, five-foot kid off his body. The boy laid sprawled out on the carpet.

"Sorry, mister."

Brian reached down to him.

"Here, son, let me help you up. Where are you running to in such a hurry?"

"Home for supper."

"I haven't seen you around before. You new here?"

"We just moved in last week."

"And what might your name be?"

"Trayon Davis."

He ran down the hall, stopped and turned around.

"What's your name, mister?"

"Well, it used to be troublemaker, but it's Brian Donahue. See you later, Trayon."

The cold days finally gave way and Brian sat outside at the small park across the street from the apartment building. The early May sun settled on Brian's shoulder, warming a spot where a cop had cracked the bone with his baton 53 years ago. Neighborhood kids played basketball at the courts, thankful to be outside. Two groups, one older and taller, the other younger and significantly shorter. Trayon was with them.

Towards 5pm, the younger players gravitated home.

Brian called out to Trayon.

"Did you win?"

Trayon looked over at where the voice came from and walked over.

"Hi, Mr. Donahue. No, my team lost." He looked over at the older boys, still playing and a lot more aggressive than his teammates.

Brian caught it and asked, "How old are you, Trayon?"


"Don't worry, you'll get to be their size soon enough. Don't wish your life away or before you know it, you'll be an old fart like me."

Trayon looked at Brian's crinkly face and white hair. He couldn't imagine being that old.

"Why did you say your name was troublemaker? My mom calls me that sometimes."

"Ah, that's a long story. Someday I'll tell you."

"OK... I gotta go. See ya."

Brian Donahue had a routine. He would sit in the park for a while, then walk around the neighborhood and finally get his groceries. He had a flip phone and a laptop for keeping up on current events. Brian thought of his life like the movie Groundhog Day... the same day over and over. On most days he thought backward on his life, not forward. More in back than in the front, and a lot more interesting.

It was on one of his walks he ran into Trayon and his mother. She was about 5 feet 4, almost boney, with braided black hair and wearing a hospital worker's uniform. Her skin shone like dark honey. Trayon had walked the few blocks towards the hospital and met her halfway at the end of her shift.

"Hi, Trayon, Is this your older sister?"

"No, Mr. Donahue, it's my mom!" He looked at Brian like he was crazy.

Brian winked at Trayon's mom.

"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Davis."

"Sister?" She laughed. "Trayon said he found a new friend in the building. My name is Grace."

"Mine's Brian."

"You said they called you troublemaker," said Trayon.

Grace stared down at Trayon.

"Just a nickname, Grace. Too old be causing trouble anymore."

"How long have you lived in the building, Brian?"

"About five years. Moved in after my wife died. The kids are in other states. The house seemed empty without her. I ended up talking to myself a lot and wondering why she wasn't answering me."

Brian looked wistful.

"Anyhow, this place is only about a mile from my house, and I grew up in this neighborhood, so I figured I would get rid of all my clutter and downsize. How about you, Grace?"

"I got a job in housekeeping at the hospital after years of serving tables. It pays good, they have a union, so there are benefits too." Brian smiled at that. "Found the apartment close to work after someone recommended it, and that's it. I didn't grow up in this city, so we're still learning about it."

"Well, Grace, it's like any city, it has its good points and bad. But any time you need anything, let me know."

Trayon spoke. "But..."

"Later, Trayon, later," said Brian.

The following week, as Brian settled in to watch the news, there was a knock on the door. He opened it and Grace was there.

"Hi, Grace. Everything alright?"

"I'm fine, Mr. Donahue. Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, but it's Brian, no formalities with me. Come on in."

Grace walked in, not knowing what to expect from an old man's apartment.

She looked around. The layout was the same as her apartment. A main room, small kitchen with a table, a bathroom and bedroom, except his was furnished much nicer, and she had an extra bedroom for Trayon. A wide window overlooked the street and next to it a plush but worn chair, a dark wood end table and lamp. The walls were painted sage green and exuded warmth. What surprised her was the rest of the apartment. In one corner stood a large cherry bookshelf crammed with books and a desk and chair off to one side with a laptop and legal pads with lots of notes. The TV was mounted on the wall in front of a small sofa, and around it pictures she assumed were family members, including one that seemed to be from many years ago. A photo of a group of people holding a sign that said "Strike!" stood out among them.

"This is a nice place, Brian. I'm still decorating mine. Doesn't feel lived in yet."

"Well, I brought some of my stuff from the house, so that helps, and I am old, so I accumulated a lot of junk."

"We came with the clothes on our backs and in our suitcases. If I didn't get this job, I don't know where we would have ended up, probably a shelter. The last place was at a cousin's here in the city, but she has her own brood to look after."

"Give it some time, you'll get there. Now what can I do for you?"

"The people I work with asked me to go to dinner with them tomorrow night, but I'm afraid of leaving Trayon home alone. Could you check in on him while I am gone? It will only be for a few hours."

"No problem, but it would be easier for me if he waited here, if that is ok with you?"

Grace thought it through her head.

"Seems like we have a deal. Thanks, Mr. Donahue... I mean Brian."

"Bring Trayon over when you leave tomorrow."

The following day Grace, with Trayon beside her, knocked on Brian's door.

"Hello, Grace. How are you, Trayon?"

"I'm good, Mr. Donahue."

Trayon walked into Brian's apartment. The setting sun shone through the big window, adding a glow to the room. He went over to the bookcase and just stared.

"Thanks, Brian. I'll be back in a few hours. Here's my cell number. Let me get yours too."

"OK, Trayon, you behave for Mr. Donahue."

Trayon hugged his mom. "Have fun."

"Hey, Trayon, I got pizza for later. You like pepperoni?"


"You want the TV on?"

Again, Trayon answered "sure".

Brian had to switch gears. It had been a long time since he took care of kids Trayon's age. He had forgotten how uncommunicative they could be around adults. His own children were fine at that age. After all, he was their dad, but with strangers he remembered how they would clam up until coaxed out of their silence.

"Do you like my place?"

"You have a bunch of books. Did you work at the library?"

"No, I worked for a union. I had a load more books at my house before I moved here. At least a thousand. They wouldn't fit here, so I gave most of them away. These here are my favorites."

Trayon stared at the pictures on the wall.

"Who's the soldier?"

Brian looked at the old black-and-white picture with the black ribbon his mom had put on it. Preserved all these many years.

"That's my father. He died in World War Two when I was just a babe. I never knew him except for pictures."

"I don't know mine neither. Mom says he's dead. We don't have any pictures of him."

Brian nodded his head. He knew how tough it was growing up without a father. When Brian ran with the Irish gangs in this neighborhood, his mom worried he would be in jail or worse. If your father was alive, you wouldn't be doing this, she preached day after day. Brian, at Trayon's age, would shrug it off and slam out the door for another night of mayhem.

Trayon spoke and pulled Brian out of his memories.

"Who are these people?"

Brian looked at the picture Trayon pointed at.

"That's a bunch of us from Local 7 before it became a local. And the strike is why they called me troublemaker."

Trayon looked lost.

"Tell you what, I'll make the pizza and you can turn the TV on any channel you want."

Brian put the pizza in the oven, while Trayon put the Discovery channel on.

"Good pick," said Brian.

The two watched TV and ate pizza. There was little conversation, just small talk about school or what was on the Discovery channel. Before they knew it, Grace knocked on Brian's door.

"That was quick."

"Quick? It's been almost three hours. Sorry I'm late."

"Three hours? It didn't seem that long."

Trayon ran to his mother.

"Mr. Donahue didn't have a dad either."

"Now where did that come from?"

"He asked about that picture on the wall. My dad died in World War Two when I was very young. Trayon told me his dad had died too."

"Yes, well... are you ready, Trayon?"

Trayon nodded his head. "Can I visit Mr. Donahue again?"

"Of course you can. Thank you, Brian."

"Anytime, Grace. It does my heart good to be around young kids."

On Saturday, Brian got a call on his cell.

"Hey, old-timer, how about joining me for a brew? I'm in the neighborhood over at Maguire's. I can pick you up if that decrepit body of yours can't make it."

"You do remember, Mike, that you are older than me. Besides, I need the walk. Keeps the arthritis at bay."

The voice on the other end broke out in laughter and then a coughing fit.

"Got it, Brian. See you in a bit tough guy."

Brian walked the two blocks to Maguire's Bar and Grill. It was one of the last Irish bars in a changing neighborhood. Next to it was an Indian restaurant, and across the street the small grocery Brian shopped at owned by a Vietnamese family.

Maguire's kept its Irishness going. On the shelf above the well-stocked bar were old helmets from various fire stations around the state. The owner was the son and grandson of firefighters. Irish tunes were in abundance on the digital jukebox. On St. Patrick's Day, it was a place that tradition demanded you stop and have a few, no matter how far away you were earlier.

Inside, Mike Flanagan sat in a booth. His clothes hung on his body and his face looked grey. His green eyes though still sparkled with a mischievous look.

"There he is. How are you, Mike?"

Mike Flanagan gripped the cane nestled against the side of the booth and stood up.

"You don't have to get up, Mike."

"Don't tell me what to do. Remember, I was your president. Now give me a hug, ya big galoot."

Brian hugged Mike and felt the bones under the shirt.

"How are you, Mike? I haven't seen you in a few months."

"Ah, the big C is back. Thought I had it licked. You look good."

"You should talk to my doctor. She doesn't think so, and you should see me in the morning. Just a mess. And..."

"Brian, remember when we said that when and if we got old, we wouldn't talk like the old timers spouting off about their ailments?"

Brian laughed "Yep, and here we are."

Tommy Maguire came over to the booth.

"How are you, Mike?"

Tommy turned to Brian and held his hands up in mock surrender.

"You brought your muscle with you I see."

"Hi, Tommy. Not much muscle anymore," said Brian as they shook hands.

"What will you have? First one is on the house. You guys in Local 7 always brought in a lot of business."

"Guinness and shots each of Jameson. Alright with you Brian?"

"Fine with me."

"I drove by the old factory. Might be the last time I do. My kids want me to stop driving. They're already eying a hospice for me. Anyhow, where was I... oh yea, the factory. Just pisses me off about the shape it's in. Empty, busted windows, falling apart. Bastards had a good business, then they had to bust the union and ship everything to China. Just to make more money for the stockholders."

Brian watched his friend's face get more color. Maybe we need more anger to keep the blood flowing, he thought.

"Mike, remember when we first organized the union back in '65."

"I got cancer, not dementia, of course I do."

"I know you do. Boy, we were young studs then weren't we."

Mike's eyes came alive.

"When those cops and company goons attacked our picket lines, there you were Brian right in front, like your namesake King Brian Boru of the old country. Wow, did you take a beating, and not for the last time either."

"You wonder why it ain't easy to get this body moving in the morning? Took a few hits yourself."

"I hear ya, Brian."

"And you became president of the local and I was your vice president," said Brian.

"Boy, how those people in the head office hated you, Brian. From organizer to shop steward and then vice president. An overall pain in the ass to them."

"Mike, when we retired, the fire and brimstone of the early struggle to build the union faded away. The new officers let their guard down, thinking the company would play nice. They forgot history: the bastards never play nice. They just wait for the right moment and then stick it to the workers. Hell, they even forgot about us."

Brian downed his shot and slammed the glass down.

"None of that, Brian. We fought the good fight, even if no one remembers."

They talked of the past and of today, not the future. They finished two rounds of drinks and Brian walked his friend to his car.

"Take care of yourself," Brian said as he hugged Mike.

"You too. We'll get together again."

Brian walked swiftly away so Mike couldn't see the tears forming.

He sat at his usual spot on the bench in the park with his head down.

Grace walked up to him.

"You alright?"

Brian looked up and composed himself.

"Yep. Just met a good friend who is on his way out of this shithole of a world."

Grace sat down next to him.

"Sorry, Brian, but I would bet your shithole is better than my shithole."

Grace looked up at the sky; only a few clouds, but some were dark.

"When Trayon said his father was dead, that wasn't true. He's not dead. He doesn't know that though. But there is a restraining order on him, has been since Trayon was born. One of the reasons I moved here. Didn't want to run in to him back where we came from, and I don't want him and Trayon hooking up no how."

"He's a good kid, Grace. I lived a tough life when I was his age: gangs, petty crime and such. I was lucky not to get caught and thrown in the clink like some friends. When I was eighteen, I started a job at a factory on Munson Street. It's not there anymore. They treated us like shit, so a bunch of us started a union. I was muscled up then, not the old guy in front of you now."

"You still look good, Brian."

Brian nodded and smiled. "I accept that lie graciously. Long story short, we won our union, but not without taking some beatings, and giving some back. A few broken ribs and cracked bones, a concussion and a bullet just missing my head. I fought the company and the cops. As a shop steward and then as vice president of the union, I took no prisoners. That's why my name was troublemaker. My point to all this is, I hope Trayon has a better chance than me, and I'll do what I can to help. He needs to beware of the pull of the street. He's a smart kid that needs to go to college."

"You turned out alright, Brian."

"Hell, Grace. If I kept my wits about me. I would have been Doctor Donahue."

Grace looked at him, not knowing if he was serious or joking, until Brian burst out laughing.

"I'm glad you sat by me, Grace. I was feeling down. It's tough losing friends, and it seems they are coming in droves. Hell, I check the obits to make sure my name isn't listed."

"Even at my age, I've lost friends. Death reaches out to anyone it wants," said Grace.

"Let's head in, Grace, and Trayon can stop by my place anytime he wants. Do you have a computer?"

"Not yet. Rent takes a lot of my paycheck and groceries for the rest. But I should get a raise soon, then I can get things for us."

"He can use mine, and I have a half decent library too."

Over several months, Trayon made regular visits to Brian's apartment. He used the laptop until his eyes faded out. The young boy looked at Brian's library but was overwhelmed until Brian suggested a few. He started with adventures like the stories of Jack London and moved on to history, especially the stuff they didn't teach in school. Brian didn't push and scaled back if he thought he was moving too fast for Trayon.

During that time, Mike Flanagan died. They held a typical Irish wake. Bagpipers at Sullivan's Funeral Parlor played Amazing Grace and then a blowout at Maguires. Retired union members from Local 7, the Labor Federation and progressive groups showed up to pay tribute to the man who lived and bled union, one who stood shoulder to shoulder with them for every working class fight in the city and state.

Brian gave the eulogy. He talked about how Mike formed the union, the battle to survive, and the good years. He roused his audience about workers' rights, corporate greed, and the need to fight on. It drained him, but he flew like the old days of fighting for the union. He ended with a toast to his president and friend. The crowd shouted in unison, "solidarity forever" and downed shots of whiskey.

Bonnie Wilcox of Citizens Together walked over to Brian.

"That was a wonderful speech. I didn't always agree with Mike on things, but when it was crunch time, he, and you, always stood by what was right. We'll miss him."

"Not many unions left in this town, Bonnie."

"You're right, Brian, and the issues have changed. A lot of low-wage workers just getting by and working two jobs to do it. We have problems with cops seeing a person of color as a criminal instead of a citizen. You should think about coming to one of our meetings. People need to hear what has gone on before. Some younger activists think they started something new, not knowing it's been done before and many times."

"I'm tired, Bonnie. People like me and Mike did our part. It's their turn now."

"Just think about it. Stop in the office anytime. The door is always open for you."

Brian walked home from Maguires. It wasn't much past 10 pm. As he got closer to his apartment, he noticed a police car with its lights flashing. A cop had a young boy up against the hood. It was Trayon, and he looked scared.

Brian called out, "Trayon, are you ok?"

The cop turned around as Brian moved towards him.

"Sir, this isn't any of your business."

"I would say it is. Why do you have my grandson up against your car?"

The cop looked at Trayon and then back at Brian.


"You have a problem with that, officer?"

"We had a report of a young black male who snatched a purse a block away."

"And did you find a purse on him, officer?"


"Fine. Trayon, come with me, we're going home."

Brian pulled Trayon away from the patrol car, not knowing what to expect. It wasn't the first time he confronted a cop, but the unexpected is always the unexpected.

When they got inside, Trayon cried.

Brian reached out and put his big hands on Trayon's shoulders. "You're OK. Now tell me why you were out there."

"Remember the book about the stars and astronomy you gave me? I went out to the park to find Jupiter."

Brian drew Trayon to him. It was clear Trayon needed to know about more than Jupiter and the stars.

They took the elevator to the 4th floor, and Brian took Trayon home.

Grace opened the door and saw the look on Brian's face. He explained what happened. Trayon ran to his bedroom.

"I shoulda told him sooner. I didn't want to frighten him. He has such a good outlook on life. And this city is new to him. I know what's going on here, but I wasn't ready to tell my baby life ain't fair."

"I think he just found out."

Over the next two years, Trayon continued to visit Brian's apartment for books or to just talk. He didn't need Brian's laptop after Grace got a refurbished one from a friend at the hospital. Brian, on one of those visits, told him why he was called a troublemaker. He pulled out a scrapbook about the early days of fighting to organize the union, the battles with the cops, and when they signed their first contract. Trayon looked at the picture of a smiling young Brian and Mike Flanagan on the business page of the local paper. Trayon brought up the time the cop had him up against the patrol car and Brian intervened.

"I can't believe you did that, Mr. Donahue. I was scared so bad."

"To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure what he would do. Just remember there are good cops and bad cops. You ran into a good one."

"How do you know he was good?"

"He didn't shoot us."

In the few years Brian had known Trayon, he had seen him grow both physically and mentally. When Brian asked him what he wanted to do after school, he said, "I think I want to go to college and become a teacher. Mom told me about the dangers of the street, and you told me of a world beyond the street. A lot of my friends from school are giving up. It's easy to let the street suck you in. But I don't want that. You know what I mean?"

"I do. All these books here? When I was young, I could barely read, and had no interest either. My friend Mike Flanagan scolded me and asked if I wanted to be an ignoramus my whole life. He gave me my first books, and it hooked me like a drug."

Trayon smiled "Yea, I get that." He got up to leave. "I almost forgot. Mom wants you to come over for supper next Tuesday. She has someone she wants you to meet."

"Oh God, she's not fixing me up with a date, is she?"

Trayon laughed. "No, she has a boyfriend she wants you to meet."

"In that case, tell her I gladly accept."

"You know, you talk funny, Mr. Donahue. You need to get some street language in you."

"OK, Trayon. Later alligator."

Trayon just shook his head and walked out the door.

On Tuesday Brian knocked on the door of Grace's apartment. The smell overwhelmed him. He wasn't sure what it was, but it smelled good.

"What are you cooking, Grace?"

"My grandma's jambalaya. Go on in. Trayon and Desmond are watching TV."


Brian walked into the living room. Trayon was having an animated conversation with a young black man next to him on the couch. They got up to welcome him.

"Hey, Mr. Donahue," said Trayon.

The person Trayon was talking to walked over. He was tall, but not as tall as Brian. He had short black hair and brown eyes that fired with intensity. His clothes were well cut. A grey tight-fitting shirt on his thin body, black jeans and black shoes.

"Mr. Donahue, I'm Desmond Franklin. It's a pleasure to meet you, especially after hearing you speak at Mike Flanagan's funeral at Maguire's."

"You were there?"

"Yes, sir. I'm president of the hospital workers' union. Hell of a speech."

"Thank you, Desmond. And call me Brian. How long have you been president of the local?"

"I'm on my first term. But you know, if I don't deliver, someone else will have the job. I enjoy being a shop steward better. Less kissing ass."

"And more kicking ass. I hear you, Desmond. Next to organizer, steward was my favorite job too."

"Trayon, come here and help me please," said Grace.

When Trayon walked into the kitchen, Grace asked them what they were talking about.

"Union stuff."

"Now we got two troublemakers," Grace said.

The four of them sat around the table eating the jambalaya and the adults drinking the beer Desmond brought. The conversation ranged from politics to Trayon's studies to the latest goings-on at the hospital. Desmond told Brian about the issues and struggles of the hospital workers.

"Enough talk about work," said Grace, holding her hands up.

When they finished, Trayon and Grace cleaned the table and took the dishes to the sink. Desmond and Brian went into the living room.

"Brian, I have to say, I think your mentoring Trayon has been a lifesaver, and I mean that. Too many of the young brothers get lost or end up in gangs. I came close myself. I had a teacher in school who thought I had potential and helped me out."

"Trayon wants to be a teacher too."

"I know, Brian. Let's help him get there. This city can be dangerous."

"Desmond, are you serious about Grace?"

"Yes, Brian, I am."

Brian smiled "Good for you. I'm not your competition for Trayon, you know. I don't have many years left."

"How many do any of us have?" said Desmond.

They broke up the party at ten.

"Hospital workers have to get in early, Brian," said Grace.

Brian turned to Desmond.

"I'll walk you to the elevator."

As they stood by the elevator, Brian shook hands with Desmond.

"Keep up the fight, brother."

"I will. And again, it was great to meet you, Brian."

A few days after that as Brian sat in his chair reading, a fist pounded on the door.

"Mr. Donahue!"

Brian, startled, opened the door.

Trayon stood sobbing.

"Desmond is in the hospital. He's been shot."

"Shot? By who?"

"Mom just got off the phone with one of the hospital workers. She said a cop shot him."

"What the hell for?"

"I don't know. She ran to the hospital."

"Come on, Trayon, let's go."

Trayon and Brian got to the hospital emergency room a half hour later. An out of breath Brian sat in one of the waiting room chairs while Trayon looked for his mother. Police milled about. They looked anxious.

Grace came into the waiting room with Trayon and sat next to Brian.

"He's alive, thank God. The cop fired three bullets. Two missed, but one went through the back of his left shoulder and out the front."

"What the hell happened?"

"I talked to Desmond before they took him into surgery. He said a cop pulled him over going home from a union meeting. When he reached for his registration in the console the cop panicked and opened fire. What they hell do they teach them now days? Shoot first, ask questions later? We aren't all criminals!"

Grace collapsed into Brian's arms, sobbing.

The next day Brian took the bus to the office of Bonnie Wilcox. She was on the phone and motioned him to sit down as she finished her call.

"What can I do for you, Brian?"

"I was at the hospital last night with friends of Desmond Franklin. I guess my question is what are you going to do."

"I just got off the phone with the Labor Federation. They are pushing for a march on city hall. The officers and members of the hospital workers union are mad as hell and other groups are joining in. A chapter of Black Lives Matter has also been formed. It seems our small city has joined the ranks of the other unfortunate ones who treat citizens differently based on the color of their skin."

"When is the march?"

"I'm scheduling it for this Friday. Will, you come, Brian?"

"Yes, and I'll bring two friends."

Bonnie stood to walk him out of the office.

"Welcome back to the fight, Brian."

Brian knocked on Grace's door. Trayon opened it.

"Hi, Trayon. Your mom here?"

"No, she's at the hospital. What's up?"

"There is a march on city hall Friday about the shooting of Desmond. People want the cop fired and an investigation. You know what has happened around the country. It seems we aren't immune to it."

"I'll tell her. I know we'll go. You too?"

"Yes, me too."

The march on Friday started small but grew in size and intensity. People from all backgrounds and races showed up. Banners calling for justice and the end of the shootings waved in the air. Homemade signs were held high. Chants of "No justice, no peace" echoed along the city streets. Brian, Grace and Trayon shouted it along with all the others.

The crowd reached city hall where a succession of speakers railed against the shooting of Desmond and demanded the officer be fired and an investigation. The mayor came out and assured the crowd their demands were going to be looked into. This was met a chorus of jeers. The mayor scurried back into city hall surrounded by a phalanx of police.

"Do you think he will look into it, Brian," said Grace.

"Those were weasel words, Grace. Looking into it and doing something about it are two different things. I've heard that speech before."

"So, what now?"

"We might as well go back, Grace. Nothing more to do today. Besides, I could use some coffee. I'm a little tired. Where's Trayon?"

"Over there with some friends from school." She motioned to him. "Trayon, we are heading back home."

"I'll be right there, you start back."

Grace and Brian began the four-block walk back to their apartment building. Grace turned around to check on Trayon. He was just leaving his friends.

When she turned Brian was on the sidewalk on his backside.

"Brian! Are you alright?"

A large black man, a few inches taller than Brian turned around and came back.

"Are you hurt, boss?"

"The only thing hurt is my pride. And I was never a boss. I fought bosses."

By then Trayon had reached them.

"Mr. Donahue, what happened? Can you move?"

"Nothing happened except I collided with this gentleman and ended up on my ass."

"Yea, that happened to me once."

Brian laughed, thinking back on when they first met.

Trayon smiled and reached down to Brian.

"Here 'gramps', let me help you up. You live around here?"

"Yes, smartass, now pull me up."

Brian groaned as Trayon pulled him up off the sidewalk.

"I'm sorry, mister," said the man who bumped him.

"Don't worry about it," Brian said stretching his back. "I've been in this movie before."

"Are you sure you're alright, Brian?"

"I'm fine, Grace. I've taken worse hits in my life. Not as bad as Desmond though."

Brian angrily brushed the grit from the sidewalk off his clothes.

"Let's go visit Desmond at the hospital and give him a first-hand account of today. He needs to know people are standing by him."

Brian, Grace, and Trayon re-joined the throng of people headed home from the march. Animated discussions, a new-found closeness and a chorus of determined voices filled the streets as they moved through their city.


  1. Great story. The pace is slow, even leisurely. Half way into it, I realized it was Brian's pace, at that stage of his life. A perfect match.

  2. Took my time with this one and glad I finally circled back to finish it. Gritty and nostalgic with good positive messaging...anyone can make a difference.