Summary: Chapter XV
On his fourteenth birthday, Frank goes to the post office to start work, but learns that he is not scheduled to begin until the following Monday. The people working at the office laugh at Frank’s raggedy clothes. Aunt Aggie takes her nephew shopping for new clothing, and gives him money to buy a cup of tea and a bun.
The next Monday, Frank starts work. He is a temporary worker, which means that he receives less pay than the permanent workers and cannot stay at his job beyond the age of sixteen. One of the first telegrams he delivers is to Paddy Clohessy’s mother. Her house, which used to be a pit of illness and filth, is now filled with new furniture, bright clothes, and good food. She tells Frank that one day after her husband, Dennis, was craving sheep’s tongue and Paddy stole one for him, Dennis leaped up and said he refused to die in bed. He went to England, as did Paddy, and both father and son now send money to Mrs. Clohessy. She remarks that were it not for Hitler, she would be dead.
Frank gets his wages, the first pound he has ever had. When Michael tells Frank he is hungry and asks for a scrap of bread, Frank takes Michael to get fish and chips and lemonade, then to a movie, where they eat chocolate, and then out for tea and buns. Afterward, Frank thinks that instead of buying food with his wages, he should save each week so that he can go to America when he turns twenty.
The only people who tip the telegram boys are widows, the poor, and the wives of Protestant ministers. Rich people don’t tip, and neither do nuns or priests. Some of the people to whom Frank delivers telegrams are so old and sick that they cannot get out of bed. Although it could cost him his job, Frank helps these people by cashing their money orders and bringing them their groceries.
When school begins, Michael starts staying with Frank in Ab Sheehan’s house. Angela comes to see her sons, and goes back to Laman’s less and less frequently, until finally she has moved into Ab’s altogether. Frank’s brother Malachy returns from Dublin a few months later, and the family is reunited. Despite the fact that Frank gives most of his paycheck to Angela, he still enjoys work, since he gets to cycle in the countryside and dream about the future.
One day, Frank delivers a telegram to the house of a seventeen-year-old consumptive girl named Theresa Carmody. Frank arrives soaked with rain, and bloodied from a fall on his bike. Theresa tends to his injuries by putting iodine on his cuts, and tells him to take his pants off to dry by the fire. He does, and when she comes into the room, she leads him to the green couch, where they make love. Theresa is bleeding, and thinking she is cut, Frank pour iodine on her. Frank goes back to see Theresa for weeks, and when Theresa is not too ill, they make love on the couch. One day Frank is told to deliver the telegram to Theresa’s mother’s workplace. When he does, he learns that Theresa is in the hospital. The next week, Theresa dies. Frank worries that she is in hell because they have had sexual relations outside of marriage, and he fasts and prays and goes to Mass to beg for God to have mercy on Theresa’s soul.
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