A little before Christmas, when the steam pipes had wakened her by rattling more loudly than usual, a woman sitting in a kitchen in Manhattan read an account of her own death in the morning newspaper. She had picked up the paper in a fog; while water dripped into her coffee machine and the pipes rattled and knocked, she read, and then re-read, a small, two-inch article with a dateline from Belfast.
Mary Flynn, returning from a neighborhood shop where she had gone to purchase milk, had been hit in the face with a plastic bullet. It was the sort of bullet used by the British Army for crowd-control during riots, but since there had been no rioting in the Catholic district at the time, no special unrest on the street where Mary Flynn had lived, the shooting was rather a mystery. The doctor who examined her in death said she had been fired upon at quite close range. She had died on her way to the hospital.
The woman at the table read the article a third time, hoping to find something which would explain more fully the manner of the child’s death, but nothing more could be extracted from the few lines. She understood that she was not, in fact, perusing a description of her own death, but she, too, had once been Mary Flynn. The Mary who waited for her morning coffee was in her thirty-seventh year; the one who had been killed was twelve years old. Nothing connected them but the name—a common enough name at that time—yet it seemed to the living Mary that a connection must exist. They might have been obscurely related, although her father’s people had not come from Belfast. If one erased the boundaries of fact and nationality, Mary Flynn, given her age, might have been her daughter.
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