Harold Killarney grew up in a shady part of town where thieves roamed the night, and the police were as crooked as the politicians.
Harold’s father could not keep a steady job, and his mother tried to make ends meet by washing clothes for other families in the neighbourhood while taking care of Harold and his two younger siblings, Jesse, and Dorothy, (Dot for short).
They lived in a two-bedroom flat on the lower east side with a wonderful view of the sewage plant. The smell got so intense on the hot summer days, and Harold would find himself wrapping his nose and mouth with old, dirty shirts just to deaden the foul stench that permeated the thin apartment walls.
Soon after Harold had turned sixteen, his father passed away. The doctors say that it was a combination of breathing in high levels of asbestos for many years, and the excessive amount of alcohol that he drank to forget about his miserable life.
Harold’s mother was now left with three children to feed on her own. She knew that her meager income would not cover the cost of rent, utilities, and food, let alone any other expenses that may turn up, so she sat down with her children to have an important discussion.
She told them that they only had a few choices; they could try to find a cheaper apartment with only one bedroom for all of them to share, Harold could look for work to help pay some of the bills, or she could see if another family would be willing to take in one of the children to raise. Harold and his siblings looked in shock at their mother at her last suggestion.
Harold immediately stood up and offered to search for work. He then grabbed his hat and ran out the door. Searching for work in this neighbourhood was not an easy task. Most of the residents were in as much financial difficulty as Harold’s family was.
The streets were filthy with trash and urine. Harold tried to think of what life was like in other areas, but he soon shook the thought out of his head. Nobody ever gets out of the east side. Instead, he wandered cautiously over to a group of men hanging out by the neighbourhood deli.
“Can I help you?” a burly Italian man asked as he looked Harold up and down.
“I’m looking for work,” Harold began. “I am willing to do whatever it takes. I really need the money. Can you help me out?”
The men murmured amongst themselves for a moment, then turned back toward Harold and said, “Alright kid. We’ll give you a shot. Be here tomorrow at 10:00 AM, sharp.”
Harold thanked the men and ran back home to tell his mom the good news, but instead of being happy for him, his mother scolded him for getting involved with those men. She said that they were no-good thieves that bully people around, and she wanted him to go back and tell them that he was not going to work for them.
Harold did as his mother said and headed back down the block to where a few of the men still stood. The same man that he spoke to earlier spotted Harold’s approach and waved him over.
“Back so soon, kid?” the man asked with a chuckle in his voice.
“Yes, sir. Well, you see…”
“Spit it out kid. I ain’t got all day.”
“I-I-I can’t help you after all,” Harold stammered.
“Well, this doesn’t make me happy, kid. You see, the wheels is already in motion. I can’t change things now. You need to do this job tomorrow.”
Harold worried about what his mom was going to say. He was stuck now.
“Tell you what, kid. I am going to give you a little advance on your pay so you can get some food for your mama, alright?”
Harold thought that was a great idea. Once his mom saw that he could provide for the family, she would forget about what these guys do for a living. Harold still wasn’t sure exactly what it was they did either. He just knew that they were always dressed nice and were well respected from the people in town. They couldn’t be all that bad.
Harold stopped past the general store on his way home and bought a loaf of French bread and some fresh chicken and ran back to his apartment. He ran into the room with a big smile on his face as he held up his contribution toward their dinner. Jesse and Dot’s eyes lit up at the sight of the feast before them. However, when he turned toward his mother’s gaze, her face had a scowl that made Harold feel three inches tall.
“You better not tell me that you’ve been stealing, son,” his mother stated with her harshest of tones.
“No ma’am!” Harold exclaimed. “I bought these at the store. You can ask Mr. Jamieson.”
“And where, pray-tell, did you get the money for this food?”
“I got an advance on my job, mother. I thought you would be happy.”
“Harold don’t misunderstand. I am grateful that you are trying to help me out, but you need to do it honestly. Do you understand?”
“Good. Now we best not let this food go to waste, so hand me that pan over there while I light the stove.”
Harold and his family sat down to the first fulfilling meal since his dad passed away, then they all went off to bed.
In the morning, after his mother went off to collect the laundry that she would need to clean for the neighbours, Harold snuck off to meet up with the men down the block. The Italian man finally introduced himself as, Bruno. He told Harold that he had a package that needed to be delivered across town. After jotting down the address, Harold took off running toward the west end of town. He had never ventured that far before.
Once he reached the address, Harold nervously knocked on the door of a brick bungalow. He had never seen a house so beautiful. They had grass in their front yard and everything. Harold started thinking of how much his mom would love a house like a house like this, when the front door opened. A distinguishing gentleman stood in the doorway dressed in a royal blue blazer with navy blue dress pants. He looked at Harold’s tattered appearance and asked,
“Is there something I can help you with, son?”
“Bruno sent me,” Harold said as he handed the man the parcel.
The man accepted the package, then reached in his pocket and pulled out a large wad of cash held together with a money clip. Harold had never seen so much money in his life. The man counted off several bills and handed it to Harold.
“This money is for Bruno,” the man said. He then pulled off another twenty-dollar bill and handed it to Harold, saying, “and this is for you.”
Harold stared at the money in his hands then up at the man, smiling. The man smiled back, and before Harold could thank him, the man closed the door.
Harold ran back to the lower east side and found Bruno still hanging out in front of the deli. He handed him the money and Bruno said to Harold, “That wasn’t so bad, now was it, kid?” Harold shook his head and told Bruno it was easy.
Bruno told Harold that he did good and said that if he wanted to continue to make some cash, that he knew where to find him. Harold smiled and ran back home. When he knew that nobody was looking, Harold lifted a loose floorboard from the floor inside the bedroom that he shared with Jesse and Dot. He reached inside an pulled out a cardboard box with a string tied around it. He undid the string and opened the box.
Inside, Harold admired the collection of items that he had collected over the years. He had a magnifying glass that he found by the railway tracks, a few marbles, and a small black bag. He carefully opened the bag and dumped its contents onto the floor beside him.
There sat a dried-up four-leaf clover and a dirty white rabbit’s foot keychain that his dad gave to him when he was seven. Harold cherished these items. He felt that they were his ticket out of this town. First, he held the clover between his thumb and middle finger, closed his eyes and made a wish. He then held the rabbit’s foot close to his chest and wished once again, then stuck it deep inside his pants pocket. Before closing the box, Harold pulled the twenty-dollar bill from his pocket and set it in the box then put it safely back into its hiding spot.
The following day, when Harold awoke, he felt as if something was different. He felt as if something good was about to happen. His mother had left early, and a note sat on the counter in the kitchen. It read, “Harold, please make sure your brother and sister have something to eat for breakfast. I had to run out. See you this afternoon. Love, Mom.”
Harold got out the remainder of the French bread loaf and a jar of peanut butter. He sliced the bread into three pieces and spread the peanut butter across each piece. He laid them on the kitchen table and went to the room to wake up Jesse and Dot. Once his siblings were fed and dressed, Harold walked them over to the next-door neighbour’s apartment where old Mrs. Jenkins would watch them until their mother returned.
Harold then ran out the door and down the block where Bruno and the boys sat playing cards. Bruno looked up from his hand. He gnawed on the end of a smoking cigar and spoke out of the opposite side of his mouth.
“Are you back to work, kid, or do you just like our company?” The other men laughed at Bruno’s attempt at humor.
“I’m back to work, Bruno. What do you have for me?”
“Alright, kid. I think I do have something for you, but it might not be as easy as the last one. Are you up for it?”
Harold shoved his hands into his pants pocket while he pondered the offer. Then he felt the soft fur of the rabbit’s foot brush against his fingers. He smiled and said, “I’m in.”
Bruno handed Harold another package. This one was slightly larger than the last one, but manageable. Harold had to take it to an address in the city. It would take him an hour to reach the location by foot, so he picked up his pace to a slow jog. Forty-five minutes, he arrived at the entrance to a tall building in a busy business district.
Harold had never seen so many cars or so many people gathered in one place. He felt very out of place with his dishevelled look. Some people walked past completely ignoring him, while others turned up their noses with a look of disgust. Harold quickly pushed through the crowd and entered the lobby of the office building.
He walked up to the desk just inside the lobby and asked a man in a grey uniform where he could find a woman named, Vera Long. The security guard asked Harold if he had an appointment, then tried to send Harold away when he told him that he wasn’t told he needed to have an appointment.
Harold suggested that they tell Miss Long that he had a delivery from Bruno. The security guard called up to Miss Long’s office and minutes later, the security guard stood up and told Harold to follow him. They entered the elevator, but Harold was uncertain. He had never been in an elevator before and paused before stepping inside the metal box. He was startled as he felt the elevator begin to move. Thirty seconds later, and the doors opened back up in a different room. Harold had a difficult time figuring out how that magic trick was performed.
The security guard led Harold to the office door where Miss Long’s secretary led Harold into another large room. This one had large windows across the back wall that showed a view of the entire city. He stared in awe at the sight. A woman’s voice awoke him from his trance.
“I am told that you have something for me, young man?” she asked abruptly.
Harold handed her the package. He was glad to finally be rid of it. His arms were beginning to ache. The woman opened the package and examined the contents then smiled. She reached into her desk drawer and removed a manilla envelope. She handed the envelope to Harold and asked, “How did you get here, young man?”
“I walked, ma’am,” Harold replied.
“Walked?” the woman repeated with shock in her voice. “That must have taken you hours!”
“Less than an hour, ma’am. I jogged part of the way,” he stated.
“I want to offer you a ride home. My driver can take you wherever you need to go. Would that be okay with you?”
“Oh, yes ma’am!” Harold exclaimed. “Thank you very much!”
The security guard led Harold back down to the front entrance where a long black Cadillac was parked at the curb. An older gentleman dressed in black stood by the back door of the car with the door open. He motioned for Harold to enter the vehicle. Harold excitedly jumped onto the rear seat and the door closed behind him. He looked around the vast interior and saw a television set. His family could never afford a television, so to see one inside a car was simply amazing.
The chauffer entered the limousine and asked Harold where he wanted to go. He gave him the address on the lower east side. As they rolled into Harold’s neighbourhood, he could see the shocked look on the faces of all the neighbours straining to glimpse at the person who was hiding behind the tinted glass windows. Before they arrived in front of Harold’s apartment, the driver handed another envelope to Harold. He told him that it was a gift from Miss Long. Harold opened the envelope to find a one-hundred-dollar bill. He nearly fell off the seat at the sight of this money. He didn’t even realize that there was such a thing.
As the they coasted to a stop, Harold thanked the driver and proceeded to open the door. The chauffer asked Harold to wait a moment, then walked around to the passenger side and opened it for him. All the neighbours gawked as they saw Harold stepping out of the limo. Some of the younger kids attempted to get a peek at the interior before the chauffer shut the door. Harold thanked him once again and turned to enter his apartment. His sister, Dot called his name from the window above. Harold looked up to see Dot and Jesse standing there smiling and waving. His mother was also there, and this time she appeared happy for Harold.
Harold told his mother that he would be right back. He ran down to the deli and handed the money to Bruno, and Bruno handed him an extra twenty dollars for doing such a good job. Harold thanked him and ran back home.
His mother and siblings waited anxiously to hear about Harold’s adventure. When he finished, his mother rubbed his hair and said, “Even though I don’t approve of you working for those men, I trust you to make good choices. You might be the first one in this family to ever make something of themselves.”
Harold hugged his mom and said, “If I make it out of this town, I won’t be going until you, Jesse and Dot can go with me.”
He went back into his bedroom and dug out the hidden box, placing his money inside. He wished again on the clover and rubbed the rabbit’s foot still in his pocket.
Weeks turned into months and then months into years. Harold continued his work with Bruno and stashed away every extra bit of money that he made. Within five years, he had saved up enough that he was able to move his family to a small bungalow on the west side of town. They were renting for now, but he promised his mother that one day, they would own a house like this.
Ten years had passed, and Harold finally saved up enough money to purchase a home even nicer than where they lived now. Harold had since taken over Bruno’s business and was doing quite well for himself. He now wore an expensive suit and drove a beautiful sports car, but that did not change the person he was. He still remembered his humble beginnings as he stared at the four-leaf clover that he now had framed and hanging above his mahogany desk. He reached inside his pocket and pulled out his keys. Attached to the keys was the soft, white rabbit’s foot from his childhood.
Harold never gave up on believing that his luck would turn around. Now that it had, he was happy to have his family there to share it with.