EXCERPTS FROM murder on mott street

Feds, reporters, and just plain disgruntled people often turned up posing as eager volunteers or the down and out. It was usually pretty easy to spot them. Their eagerness to get Catholic Workers to say something potentially traitorous or heretical gave them away. More often than not, they left of their own accord frustrated by the fact that Catholic Workers seemed more interested in Peter Maurin’s goal of “constructing a society where it’s easier to be good” than in overthrowing governments or any nefarious plots. The man in the threadbare overcoat and snow-covered fedora, his hands buried deep in his pockets in hope of forestalling frostbite, stood indistinguishable from the rest of the dejected souls shuffling along in the soup kitchen line. He asked no questions. He barely looked up from the ground and, with the gusto of a someone who had not eaten for a long time, slurped what was ladled out to him. He might have passed through in anonymity were it not for Tamar.

Seated on an empty vegetable crate near the doorway where she waited for her mother to come from working on the soup line, Tamar was struck by something those standing around her would miss: the man’s shoes. Although only the tips of them poked out from the tattered hem of his baggy pants, she could tell they were expensive. It was not an impossible incongruity. Once in a while, high-class items showed up in clothing bins at thrift stores. Often, a man who had lost his job, family, and sobriety, not necessarily in that order, would desperately hold onto one last item from his former life. It might be a musical instrument, an article of clothing, or a book. Whatever it might be, he clung to it as a last vestige of dignity.

What set Mr. New Shoes apart was that, when Tamar raised an eyebrow, he turned slightly away, loosened his belt, and hid his shoes from view. That made her at once curious and suspicious. If she had not been so, more people would have been murdered.

EXCERPTS FROM NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

At Saint Benedict’s we kept our front door open, and we gave away virtually everything we had when we had it. We might as well, since people would just steal everything if we didn’t. We lived off donations, and when those failed, we went door to door in the Catholic University neighborhood to beg for food to make dinner for our guests. ...We fed as many as forty people a day, most from the Deep South but some from exotic locations like Sowli Limpa, a Swede who did not speak a word of English, and Johannes, a refugee from Ethiopia whom Roger yelled at, “Who died and made you king, yo highness?” 

Since Kyle... agreed to go with me to the senior prom. I asked my father if I could use the family car and he said yes. 

I told him, “I might be back late.” 

“That’s okay,” He replied without concern. 

“I might be back real late,” I emphasized. 

“Not a problem,” he answered without looking up from the newspaper he had started to read. 

Somewhat miffed at his attitude toward a night when many of my peers would be driving drunk and doing their best to “go all the way,” I tried one last time to get a rise out of him by saying, “I could be out all night.” 

Still, with a no-big-deal tone of voice, he said, “Fine.” 

“Aren’t you afraid I might get into some kind of trouble?” I asked in exasperation, 

Genuinely mystified, he asked, “Like what?” 

“Thanks a lot,” I replied. 

And so it was decided that Kate, Victor, and Justin, with me in reserve, would “stake out” the woods behind Fairlawn Hospital on Wednesday night. Clad in rain gear and carrying flashlights and a camera, we split ourselves into two groups on opposite sides of the only path through the trees. It had rained quite a bit earlier and was still threatened to do so again, leaving us without benefit of the moon or stars for light. My partner Victor insisted that we crouch painfully low to the ground while we waited. 

No more than thirty minutes into our vigil, although it seemed like thirty hours to my aching knees, we heard a moaning sound wafting out of the darkness farther down the trail. Eventually, we could just make out a white figure drifting towards us. 

When Patrick was seven, he asked Claire, “Can I give you a hug, Mom?” 

“Sure,” she replied. Afterwards she asked, “What was that for?” 

He shrugged, “I had nothing else to do.” 

After seeing a letter carrier, he asked me in all seriousness, “Dad, when you grow up, would you like to be a mailman?” 

In the tub one night, he asked Claire, “Can you still go to college if you skip

the third grade?” 

I had the privilege of spending my first weekend in jail with Tom [Lewis]. His good humor and steadfast religious faith transformed it into a retreat. He told the guards who delivered thin coffee and stale doughnuts to our bare cells, “Thank you for breakfast in bed.” 

By eleven in the morning, we had spread out across a huge, steeply sloping sheet of white. The trail had long since disappeared below us. We climbed by dead reckoning. Amazingly quiet and a little disconcerting, the snow sheet extended hundreds of feet before and behind us. Should we slip and fall, we would hurtle down with increasing velocity until a field of jagged boulders tore our limbs off and fractured our skulls—kind of a hairy prospect for two seventh graders like Steve and me. None of us had snowshoes, an ice pick, rope, or crampons, the spiky attachments serious climbers put on their shoes to give them better purchase.... The sound of a roaring river and Uncle Bob’s shouts for help suddenly interrupted our nervous but steady ascent. At first, I couldn’t see him at all. He seemed to have disappeared.

In her testimony, US Congressional candidate Lisa Baskin moved the jury to tears when she concluded: “I felt that if I had been a German citizen in 1939 or 1940 that I had a responsibility to question at great risk and to open my mouth and to protest the government and not be a good German and not to go along with my government’s workings if I felt that it was immoral and devastating . . . And the harm that I felt I was going to do by sitting in the road and helping to shut down the business of war for just a few minutes would be something I could say to my grandchildren who turn to me and say, ‘Did you do anything to stop those children from being killed? Did you do anything? Were you silent? What did you do?’”

You might think that running while injured would be foolish. A life-long, talented runner named Frank Rucki called me “out of my mind.” There was a general consensus that he was right.

After bringing home our first-born in his stocking cap, we learned to support his neck so his head wouldn’t flop and to beware of getting a shower when he made a fountain during a diaper change. ...We were not home three days, though, when he exhibited violent convulsions. “What had we done wrong?” we wondered as we rushed him back to Saint Vincent Hospital. The doctor took one look at Justin before calling in two other physicians who joined him in laughing, “Your son has hiccups.”

Along with five other unarmed peace activists, I was boxed in by two armored personnel carriers with mounted machine guns and an M1-A1 tank. The formidable weapons stood less than twenty feet from us. Their operators were “buttoned up” inside, so we had no idea of their intent. We stood frozen in place as the turret of the huge tank began to turn slowly until we stared down the barrel of its long gun.

They put me on a gurney and whisked me away to the operating room. En route, I told the attending orderlies, “You should probably stand back because I think an alien is going to burst out of my abdomen any minute now.”