Blow

Blow by Bruce Porter Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Blow by Bruce Porter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bruce Porter
Uncle George and Aunt Myrna. That was where he finally learned his multiplication tables, when he was going into the fifth grade. As George recalls, “Aunt Myrna sat me down at the kitchen table and said, ‘You’re not stupid, Georgie. There’s no reason why you’re failing all the time; you just don’t know what discipline is.’ There were these two little girls next door that I really liked, and she said I was never going to get to know those girls unless I learned the times table all the way up to twelve. And I did. I learned it that summer.”
    George’s academic troubles dogged him in one way or another all the way up through high school. By contrast, his older sister, Marie, not only had an absolutely unblemished scholastic record, with never less than an A in any course, but would in every school she attended win the unqualified adoration of her teachers, qualities of which her younger brother was never allowed to remain ignorant. One of Marie’s biggest fans, for instance, was Mary Toomey, her English teacher at Weymouth High School. At the mere mention of Marie’s name Miss Toomey’s face still lights up and exudes an almost beatific glow. “Marie Jung was just beautiful, not in the sense she was all decorated, but she had a naturally classic face, lovely long eyelashes, beautiful manners, you could send her anywhere, totally trustworthy,” Miss Toomey says. “She really had everything—talent, looks, charm, brains. She was just so good, such a good person.”
    Miss Toomey, now retired and living in a cottage near the sea in the village of Eastham on Cape Cod, had taught at the school since the 1940s, when she also coached some of the athletic teams while the males were off at war. Later on it seemed natural that she was the teacher coaches came to when one of their players required extra tutoring so as not to fall below the C average needed to stay on a team. This was especially true of the football coach, Harry Arlinson, a legend in eastern Massachusetts for his teams in the 1940s and 1950s, whose record of 135 wins, 17 losses, and 3 ties earned Weymouth High a large picture spread in Look magazine in 1953. She recalls that Arlinson would take her aside and say in a near-whisper, as if engaging in some conspiracy, “I have a boy who I can’t play because he can’t pass English, and they’re going to give him one last test.…”
    This meant the boy would become one of Miss Toomey’s “special cases,” to be given private lessons after school; she’d even search the newspaper to see if there wasn’t a Shakespeare play to take him to in Boston. Miss Toomey also played a large part in choosing the questions that appeared on the subsequent test, which may or may not have been the reason every one of her special cases managed to pull through.
    Harry Arlinson had left Weymouth to coach at Tufts University several years before young George entered high school in the fall of 1958, but the new head coach, Jack Fisher, picked up on Miss Toomey’s services to keep his boys qualified for play. Miss Toomey already knew all about the Jung children, however, and the very first week of George’s high school term, she took it upon herself to send a note down to have Marie’s little brother brought to her office. “I don’t remember what year that was exactly, but I do remember calling him in and exhorting him to do better now that he was in high school. I told him I would spend the time and give him all the help he wanted.”
    George remembers sitting in homeroom that day when the word came down that Miss Toomey wanted to see him. He was certainly familiar with the name. “Miss Toomey was everything in our house; everybody loved her, Marie, my mother especially. And here I was in high school, and now Miss Toomey, she was waiting for me.
    â€œI remember going up to her office on the third floor,

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