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So I said, "Yes, Harry," and "I'll do my best, Harry." I hung up the phone and went to consult my father.
My father was a typical Irish Catholic. He never asked you what part of Philadelphia you were from. He always asked what parish. He knew Mrs. Murphy's pastor, and through him he made an appointment for me to call on the Murphys, mother and son.
"I'd better go with you," he said. "A man can influence a woman more than another woman can."
"You'd influence her to send her son to Pennsylvania," I said. "I'll go alone."
Chelsea Circle was a quiet side street in Germantown. At 8 o'clock the following evening I climbed the porch steps of the Murphys' shabby house, my lips moving in a soundless repetition of a wet little speech of greeting I had learned by heart and had rehearsed before the mirror at home. I rang the doorbell.
"Come in," a female voice boomed.
I opened the door and stood staring—not at Charlie Murphy, who sat silent and sprawling on a studio couch; not at Mrs. Murphy, who sat crouched behind a desk and watched me out of sticky, pale blue eyes—but at the signs of wealth that were scattered around the otherwise drab room. There was a large crystal vase of big bronze chrysanthemums, a five-pound box of Louis Sherry candy, a combination radio and victrola in an ornate Chippendale cabinet, a black sealskin coat flung over the bannister.
The wet little speech was not even delivered.
"Holy cats," I exclaimed instead.
It was definitely a bad beginning and I struggled to make amends. "I'm—I'm sorry," I stammered. "I didn't mean to say what I did."