Excerpt for Under Pressure: Buried Alive and Other Ordinary Miracles by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



By Paul Joseph Brennan

Copyright © Paul Joseph Brennan, 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without permission in writing from the author.

Red Mountain Shadows Publishing

Cover Design by Serena Clarke

Smashwords Edition

Under Pressure: Buried Alive and Other Ordinary Miracles

By Paul Joseph Brennan


This book is dedicated to my mother. She chose self-improvement over self-indulgence. She worked her way through nursing school while having to raise and feed five of us. She walked to school then work, waited on tables, and walked home again. Mary Brennan was diligent. She did whatever it took. She never gave up on me! She always saw the good. When I get tired or knocked down, I think of Mom B and I get up again. I miss you, Mom! (Chumbawamba!)


They say your life flashes before your eyes when you are about to leave this planet. I happen to know that is true because I found myself in a heap of trouble on this particular day. And I mean a heap! How I got myself into this predicament is pretty clear looking back, but who knew that my life was about to end so suddenly and so traumatically? This couldn’t be happening. Am I really going to die this way? Smothered to death with no air and no room to breathe in even if I had air?

Wait God! I am a good guy, a good son, a good husband, a good father. Why me? Why now? No! This is NOT OK! I can get myself out of this because I have enough faith to move mountains. I need to move this mountain of dirt off the top of me, so I can climb out of this trench. This intense crushing is unbearable… This is insane…

The day started out as a pretty normal day… as far as days go. I was quite frustrated that I wasn’t where I really wanted to be in life. It felt like I was at a dead end in my career. It was frustrating, and I felt “stuck” to try whatever I could to provide for my family, because there were limited job opportunities. My friend, Jody, and I had been discussing it for the past few days. All either one of us really wanted to do was to be able to give lectures and classes, teaching people about health and how to keep their bodies and minds functioning properly.

As it was, we were stuck digging sewer lines!

It was mandatory for all the houses to switch from septic tanks to sewer lines, but neither Jody nor I could afford to pay anyone to do this for us, so we were doing it ourselves with a backhoe. We figured that as long as we had to rent the backhoe, we might as well do this for a few of our neighbors to make back the money we paid to rent the machine and maybe even make a little cash as well. This would also save our neighbors more than half of the normal cost to hire someone else to do it.

Though I was thankful for the money this provided, we were still frustrated that we had to do this instead of following our dreams. I kept saying how I felt “trapped” and hated what we had to do to make money. Little did I know that I was going to literally be “trapped” just a few short moments later. Are our words really that strong that we can cause things to happen just by saying something out loud? I always felt that it was important to keep my words on the positive side, but I was about to find out just how important that was.

I had been at the hospital with my 14-year-old daughter, as she had been admitted for surgery to remove her appendix. I left the job to Jody, but I was feeling a little nervous, because I knew that the hole we’d dug was not shored up very secure and I knew the dirt wasn’t very stable. I wanted to be there to help make sure we could get the sewer pipe in and glued and get that hole backfilled as soon as possible. I had even told my wife that I needed to get back to work as quick as I could.

Well, my daughter’s surgery went fine and she came home that afternoon. Now, the matter at hand was to finish this job and get on with the next one.

The owner of the home we were working on had cut his sprinkler line and forgotten to shut off the system, so the hole had filled completely with water and mud. The next morning, we came upon a muddy pond.

I had to use the bucket of the backhoe to dip the water out.

I only needed to be in the trench for a few seconds… Yet here I was, trapped beneath 8-10 feet of muddy, wet, heavy earth.

First, before I move on, let’s get to my life that brought me to this point… Things that I feel are important enough to make public because of how each of those events or times caused me to become who I am today, as well as some of the things I’ve learned along the way. I am in no way trying to say that I am any more special than anyone else or that I’m any smarter than anyone else. On the contrary. But I do know who I am, as far as being a son of a Heavenly Father who loves me and who has, for whatever reason, given me many miracles to keep me alive and has helped me get to this point in my life.

I also know that I am not unique in this aspect either. He is there for each one of us! We are all on an individual journey and it’s up to each one of us to recognize our own miracles and blessings. As you read, you’ll also realize that I’m not afraid to ask for miracles. God wants to bless us, but He won’t force himself on us. It’s up to us to open that door.

I’m assuming you realize that I made it out of that trench, since I’m here now writing this story, but you’ll have to keep reading for the details. I think you’ll find they are worth the read. Each chapter in this book is a separate story of parts of my life. They are all completely true. However, names have been changed to protect the “guilty” and the innocent. These stories have all molded me into who I have become. They are all “ordinary miracles” … as ordinary as the air we breathe. You’ll understand what I mean by this later. Of course, I am being facetious, as miracles are amazing and none are ordinary.

We all have miracles in our lives. Do we recognize them for what they are or do we chalk them up to coincidences? As I tell my story, remember this is life flashing-before-your-eyes mode, laying beneath the crushing earth, but in slow-mo... Here goes!

Chapter 1

Boston Children’s Hospital

This is the story of Paul. This first chapter explains in part why I am the way I am. I don’t apologize. I am “me” because of my beginnings and I am a product of my past. We all have a past, a present and a future. It’s not where we were yesterday that counts, but what we do with today and who we are trying to become tomorrow! I am certainly not perfect, as you will clearly see.

My parents-

Gene R. Brennan and Mary Jane Hanley. Married 3 times just to get it right…

I'll tell you about the first two right now. The third one will be later on in the book. You see, Mary Jane, a devout Catholic knew there was no other Holy Matrimony than being married in the Catholic Church. Gene, on the other hand, born out of wedlock, was raised by his grandmother then eventually turned over to a foster family. I can't really remember the details, but I am a prodigy of fetal alcohol syndrome.

So as ADHD, ADD, and Dyslexia plays on a guy—you could probably read this book backwards and catch a better vision. Like I said, no apologies! I am who I am and I do jump around a bit, but I will try to help you follow my journey as best as I can.

My dad's foster brother was a Protestant minister as well as an attorney. He married the two of them, but of course mom could not live without the blessings of the Catholic Church, so they got married again, this time by a Catholic priest. It still made no difference. They were heading for divorce and they just didn't know they were on the “broken family tour bus.” It was like the scenic route, but they finally divorced years later. Just think of all the fights they would've missed out on if they had done it sooner.

Dad was a bartender and allowed mom one drink only while she was pregnant with me. Well, mom must have thought it was one drink from each one of their friends and they had a lot of friends! And they all thought it was pretty funny that Mary could drink everybody under the table and not even show signs of getting drunk.

Well if she, in her pregnant state, was staying sober, do you wonder who might have been the one getting drunk? By the way, I look up to all my siblings, literally. They're all taller than me. Now that pisses me off! Does this have something to do with all that alcohol?

Combine this start in life with all the later head injuries, three broken collarbones, 16 stitches in the skull, falling 12 feet onto my head and stopping by a concrete basement apartment when I was two, falling on a picket fence, and 16 more stitches, this time opposite my head very close to my ass-ett, which almost made me sterile.

In my formative years, I was bitten by eight dogs, two of which were Doberman Pinschers. I was the only white boy in that yard among thirty other children. These dogs had never seen a white boy before, so I guess you couldn’t blame them! I must have tasted like chicken. And they must have spread the word to get a piece of this guy because six more came at me at different times…all different sizes…all in that same neighborhood. They all traveled in packs from “the projects”.

My mom told me that when I was just a few years old a pack of these wild dogs encircled me while she looked out the side window of our apartment building. Her blood ran chill and there was no way to warn me, as the slightest movement would have caused them to tear me apart like a rag-doll. All she could do was pray. Thankfully, that prayer was answered. I can't remember the details, but I do remember I was wearing my cowboy hat, six shooter cap gun and fake cowhide chaps. I don't even remember that circle of dogs, but I do remember how it felt when eight other dogs bit me at different times, all breaking through my skin.

Believe it or not, I am a dog lover! Our first dog was a female boxer. She was so wonderful and protective, and she took good care of us. She would go and get the newspaper from the corner grocery store and pay for it with the money placed in her leather collar, and heaven help you if you tried to get the money and were not the owner of the drugstore.

From toddler to seven-years old, we called the projects “home”. The projects were a low-income neighborhood filled to the brim with the lowest of the low. Dirt, drugs, crime. All in a world of stacked apartment buildings, scary alleyways, and squalor. There were good people there too, in the midst of all of this, but they were harder to find. One sweet elderly black lady, named Miss Teddy, encouraged my mother to get my sister out of this neighborhood. She was concerned it would only bring my sister trouble by remaining in that area. Especially being a white family in a mostly black neighborhood in the ‘60s.

Back to dad… remember, he was turned over to foster care as a boy. Being the oldest of 13 foster children in the foster-care system, he had to turn all his money over to the home. He also endured daily beatings, to the point where if they skipped a day he wondered what was wrong. He grew up and became a hard worker and tried to make a life with what he had, but needless to say, he grew up with a chip on his shoulder. While he had to endure a miserable upbringing, his sired father was a millionaire playboy whose parents refused to let him take the responsibility of his actions.

My father did the best he could at the time with the hand he was dealt. In fact, he joined the military at an early age and became feared and respected. In his days in the military, during World War II, he was a corporal by the end of that war. Nobody got advancements, but my dad got his.

My father also had a sense of decency. He hated to see men use power and violence against others. Perhaps because he had been a product of it himself. I remember once my dad saw three men beating on this old neighborhood drunk in front of our house in Roxbury. For the first few minutes of the fight it was somewhat even because my mother had a hold of my dad’s arm, trying to hold him back. She kept begging him not to fight. Yeah right!

When he broke free of her, he picked one of the guys up over his head and slammed him on the curb, breaking his back. It ended the fight, but my mom was just as pissed off at him as he was at the three men. I don't know who was crazier in my family, my mom or my dad, but I got a lot of both of them flowing in my veins. I had a very hot Irish temper cursed from both sides of the family. I did not need alcohol; I just needed an excuse, leaning on the verge of bipolar. By the way, the telling of these stories will remain G rated as I have grandkids now that will read this, but you've got to realize the language in my house was very close to what prison language is like or a bunch of drunk sailors. 

While I’m on the topic of prison language…

My business associate, Roger, was building a spec home in a very prestigious neighborhood and stopped by in his business suit, as usual, to check up on how progress was going. The home entertainment contractor was pulling cable and hit the back of his hand on a frame bracket that would hang a large screen TV.

Roger’s presence still being unbeknownst to him, he yelled out in pain “Effen bracket!” Of course, he did not use “Effen” but used the actual word that begins with that. Like I said, I’m trying to keep this G rated.

Roger came up behind him and yelled, “Hey, nobody uses the word bracket in my house!”

So, for the rest of this book, if you see bracket symbols, it is my way of using creative verbiage stemming from this moment in time.

Back to the past…Shortly after my first Holy Communion at age 7, we moved to Jamaica Plain. A little suburb off of Boston. There was a lovely little cemetery at the end of our street… a cemetery surrounded by a forest that I almost burned down…

Chapter 2

Jamaica Plain

I was in my eighth year on planet earth and Seventy-three Tower Street was a magical place to live! At that time, I found that the closer you got to the end of the street the tougher the kids got. Some of the toughest people I know are dead, so it made sense that Forest Hill Cemetery was located at the end of the street. The Averil's lived right against the cemetery’s picket fence. They were great friends; one of the older brothers was the toughest jarhead in town, down to the younger ones, street kids. They introduced me to cigarettes by the time I was eight. And why not? I was already addicted to beer, courtesy of my Uncle.

The twin Leanard brothers, who also lived on that street, were always fighting, mostly each other. I was glad for that because otherwise they would be kicking my butt. Their older brother looked just like the sergeant on the weekly series “Combat” and that's exactly what we played every weekday after school. We met out in the center of the cemetery where two-thirds of the miles of property were forest. The cemetery had private security police to watch over it. One guy, named Daryl, was to be feared!

I think he was like an old, World War I vet that had taken the war-games home with him. It kind of made our game feel real! If we could have painted his cobalt blue station wagon with gray Nazi swastikas we would for sure have been dead instead of merely scared stiff! No, really! When he'd show up, you’d freeze! Like Christopher Reeve did in the movie Somewhere in Time when he discovered a penny while back in time!

That blue wagon ended wars, baseball games and tobogganing. Come to think of it, Daryl probably let us sled down “Bloody Hill” because of its name. Either he didn't want to chase us in the snow or he just wanted to count how many trees had blood stains by the time he would lock the gate for the night. It was all fun and games, until the night my older brother, Bobby, and I almost burned the cemetery down playing with our cap guns and dried pine needles.

We would gather the pine needles and light them on fire inside a bucket, then drop the caps in. If it made such a fun noise dropping in several caps, then dropping a few rolls in should be even better, right? This was our logic! So, that’s what we did. The burning needles quickly erupted into an explosion that ignited the surrounding brush, overwhelming our ability to control the flames. The fire was spreading fast! Running all the way home to bring back a few glasses of water was futile! By the time we had returned, the fire had spread and several fire trucks were at the scene of the crime. Needless to say, this scared us into running back home to hide!

Unfortunately, my sister saw us running our glasses of water in the direction of the fire and figured things out. She used this as blackmail. Our payment to keep it a secret? Doing her turn of washing the dishes for weeks. It must have worked, because we never did get found out for the cemetery fire.

Daryl wasn’t the only scary man in Jamaica Plain; we had a neighbor named Mr. Gabee that wasn’t too fond of the neighborhood kids. He was always chasing us away from the front of his house. He wanted us to stay away, but that was impossible, as he was the second house from the end of a dead-end. Everyone who came up that street had to use that driveway between the Averil’s house and his to turn around.

We would also play half ball right there and he would always chase us off. One day, he went too far and hit my brother Bobby. My dad was on crutches at the time, with both knees in a cast. The blade on the bulldozer had pinned him against a wall and broken his knees. But that didn't stop him from facing off against Mr. Gabee! When he found out that Mr. Gabee had hit Bobby, he went up on both crutches and headed down the street.

Up the porch stairs he went in a rage. When Mr. Gabee answered the door, both crutches flew! He pinned Gabee up against the wall over his head, while me and the neighborhood kids all chanted “Hit him, hit him!” or “Kill him, Mr. Brennan”! Dad slammed him against the wall several times with a warning to never touch his kid or any other kid on the street, ever again! Retrieving his crutches, the cheers started and didn't stop until Dad made it all the way home. Heroism isn’t without its consequences though, by the time he walked through the front door, he said he was hurting pretty badly because the adrenaline rush was going away!

By the time I turned eleven years old, Brennan Trucking (my dad’s company) had the opportunity to contract for the expansion of the Logan International Airport. This was a fantastic opportunity for my dad. Unfortunately, he also took on a crooked partner who took a lot of the money that our family never saw. There were many arguments in the Brennan home that most of the neighborhood could hear. All the kids playing stickball in the street would cheer as my dad would leave because of the way the tires on the car would smoke and screech halfway down the street! I remember Dad always had really nice cars; one in particular was a Bonneville convertible.

After one particular fight, I knew a storm was on the horizon. The thunder in my head was getting really loud… we're moving again…

Chapter 3

Stoughton…Trained in the Art of Forced Deception

Between my addiction to tobacco and alcohol and increased violence at home, my outlook on a lot of things changed and the innocence of my childhood vanished. I no longer referred to my dad as “Dad,” instead he became “Geno” or the “old man.” His fights with mom became so abusive and loud it definitely carried over in the way she treated us.

Dad’s job, coupled with all the pressures at home, kept him away a lot. He would leave and come home every other weekend. Then, eventually his coming home every other weekend turned into every other month. Money was scarce and the phone seemed to ring too many times a day. We were taught to tell bill collectors that my parents were not home. All the while, one or both of them would be standing in front of us mouthing what to say. It was just plain terrifying to know that if I said something wrong the beatings would begin.

It was in these days that Mom got a job and Dad rarely showed up. It was up to us kids to be responsible for cleaning the dinner dishes and the dirty diapers. It was difficult but doable because Stoughton was just an awesome place to live. I was twelve and I had a crush on a beautiful Irish girl by the last name of Daughtry. She didn't know about my feelings for her, so it was a private crush.

Her older brother hung out with my brother and we all played hockey together, but I couldn't bring myself to invite her into that circle. It seemed awkward. She sure was pretty though. I would occasionally walk home with her and we would talk a little bit about schoolwork and teachers and some of the students. I just could never get up the courage to ask, “Can I carry your books?” or “Can I hold your hand?”.

It was around this time in my childhood that I broke my collarbone playing touch football. The pain was excruciating; though not compared to the hurt when my kid brother backed up, jumped and landed, sitting down on my mending shoulder. He didn’t do it on purpose, he was just trying to re-enact a Batman move on television and got carried away. That was a rough night babysitting! Compound fracture the second time, right through the skin. It had to be reset and immobilized, to the point where I needed help going to the bathroom. Now that was embarrassing!

A broken bone is a pretty hard thing to go through, but even more difficult was the fact that my mother had started asking if we wanted to live with her or my father. I was crushed! I felt like my heart was broken, as well! I was scared, and I didn't know how to answer, so one night I said “both.” She turned and closed the door to my room and walked away. I don't think I slept that night. It was during that same week that something ominous happened! Something that could only be explained in an Alfred Hitchcock movie!

My mom, either through the loss of her spouse or their mutual hurt feelings, had become very inquisitive about spiritual things and God. This went on for a long time but what was crazy was the unexplained attack against me from an unseen enemy from a world that I knew nothing about at that age! 

Some of my mother’s new friends at work had invited her to a healing meeting and one specific friend had a birth defect. One of her legs was shorter by 3 inches than the other and she had to wear a corrective heal in her shoe so she could walk without a limp. At this faith meeting, she was completely healed and walked out holding her shoes in her hand and no limp. She walked normal! Now, whatever it was from these meetings that my mom was messing around with she brought home with her. It scared me to the point that I thought of death and I did not even understand death. I just knew I did not want to be in the room with whatever it was that was holding me bound, pressing me into the bed.

I had no ability to cry out for help or to free myself. Any attempt was futile. I had no ability to turn, not even my head to look away or to scream for help in the panic that I was in! After the space of what seemed forever, this enemy which held me bound let go and I heard the springs on my mattress squeak. I rose from my bed quickly and made it into the bathroom. I turned on the light and just stared into the mirror, not wanting to go back into my room. I was afraid of the return of this unknown force or, if I had just been dreaming, I did not want to go back to sleep and have that dream ever, ever again!

My mom sought out several other churches to find answers that she was not getting from Catholicism. As she would study and read, she would come up with more questions that could not be answered. Time and again, she was told “all will be made known in the end, just have faith”. I found out much later in life that the night I was bound towards destruction, my mother was also attacked by that unseen enemy.

As teenagers, we would talk about Ouija boards and make fun of them, but respectfully after that night I wanted nothing to do with that crap. And it gave me chills when I would hear haunting stories that were possibly just made up, but nonetheless I had a baseline to go off of that I never wanted to go anywhere near again. We also used to go out in the yard at night and look at the stars in the heavens and talk about potential aliens. We truly gave those thoughts a lot of energy! Then, of course, the movie “War of the Worlds” started to affect my optimistic views of visitors, going more towards the negative.

There’s not much on the positive side to say about this time in my life. It was basically survival and a hope that somehow things would get better in time. Kids shouldn’t have that much responsibility forced on them; to have to live in such a grown-up world at that early age. I believe that kids should have chores and participate in family life, but my world at that time was so full of negative that it was rough. All we had to look forward to was Saturday morning cartoons. My desire to watch cartoons shows that I was still a little kid while having to take care of little kids. Being a little kid in a miserable situation, I didn’t even realize that my mom must have been suffering the same or worse.

Her misery came out against us, because she had no one else to vent to. She would physically and mentally take out her stress and depression on us if the dishes weren’t done, or the house was a disaster. No wonder she was looking for religion. It was either religion, or alcohol. Her mother was such a horrible drunk when mom was a child, she was vehemently opposed to becoming like her. I guess that was one negative cycle she was able to break.

Speaking of breaking things… my penchant for breaking bones at an early age gave me a unique sense of humor. Although, not that unique when it comes to being a protective father raising daughters. Most fathers threaten, with guns and knives, the boys who dare come around. The old “polishing and cleaning the weapon” bit.

My favorite was to give them a questionnaire and contract for them to sign. I know how a boy’s ego works and what can inspire fear in a young boy’s mind. One of my favorite questions on the dating questionnaire was “If you were to have one bone broken on your body, which would be your last choice?” Some would say the neck, but I know a compound fracture of the collar bone, twice within a week, would be my personal choice!

I used this contract with my son-in-law when he was dating my eldest daughter. He “one-upped” me though and changed the wording on the contract, which he signed, to say “marry my daughter” instead of “date my daughter”. The bone he chose to want broken the least? None!

Another job, another move, for our dysfunctional family. This one, now 100 miles away in Springfield, Massachusetts, changed everything. If there was ever any pixie dust of make-believe left in my life, it now seemed far distant. Now the reality of desegregation was in my school and the racial riots and fights had started right in junior high school. What was absent when we went to private parochial school was now in my face every day.

In parochial school, when we would get off the overhead train and notice the police in riot gear, this meant we had to cross the street and get on the next train home. No school for us during the riots! I was actually hopeful to see those officers in riot gear because, at school, Sister Saint Rose would usually just lock me in the closet that went down to the basement, which was pretty “{ }” weird and scary! Not a good idea to put an angry nun with a kid who stood in need of medication just to be able to pay attention, but who knew back then? I was not an unruly child, I just didn't catch on. I also wasn’t very social; I don't remember ever really talking to many of the kids sitting around me.

I do remember junior high and fighting two black guys that always hung out together and always took everybody's lunch money. When it came to my turn, I would never give them my money. I would rather fight and I did! When it came time to fight, I had absolutely no fear of what they could do to punish me. Every time they would demand my money, I would give them my fist as fast and as hard and as often as I could swing until somebody stopped us from swinging at each other. They should have been able to kick my butt because they were bigger than me and there were two of them. They would never fight me alone, only in pairs. Maybe what they couldn't figure out is how to hurt somebody who's conditioned to receiving a lot of beatings!

Because of the violence going on at the schools, the National Guard began showing up at our junior high school in Forest Park every day to get everybody out and on their way back home safely. I started to realize it was just easier to skip school than to deal with this every day. I would walk in late, sign in at the office and walk out the other door. I skipped about 180 days of school in seventh grade, my last year of formal education. It actually became a learned skill to avoid truant officers and hideout eight hours a day and get food and cigarettes. I got very creative!

My mom continued in her quest to find spiritual answers. The miracles and/or wonders of charismatic preachers and events were so powerful it actually inspired my mom to drive hours in the pouring rain, by herself, down the Massachusetts Turnpike from Springfield to Boston. She really felt inside that there was no explanation for those healings and manifestations, except that God had to be involved. As weird and as uncomfortable as she felt, she could not deny it. So, she said a prayer in desperation, wanting to do the right thing but fearing her entire belief system was being turned upside down. The prayer she offered was simple and much different from the prayers of Catholicism's history at that time in 1972. She committed to God that she would go and join this specific Church who believed in baptism by immersion if He would make everything work out just right to help comfort her frayed emotions.

Upon arrival, her brother-in-law, who was supposed to meet her, was not there. For her, this was the first red flag with sirens blasting because things were not going smoothly. “What do you mean my brother-in-law is not here?” A former Catholic priest that had quit Catholicism and joined this church said that he would be happy to baptize her and then her brother-in-law would give her the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands when he was back in town the following Wednesday night.

My mom’s main criteria was baptism by immersion by someone holding God's authority to do that. In this specific church, the focus was on the gift of the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues and rolling around on the floor consumed by the Spirit of God, as well as healings at the meetings from all diverse kinds of problems people have in this world of physical pain and suffering. So, the perfect counterfeit to her desire to be baptized in this church was the former Catholic priest saying, “Don't worry Mary, I’ll baptize you now and your brother in law will finish the job on Wednesday!”

“No, you won't” she said as she stormed out of that chapel. She got in her car and drove the two hours back home in the pouring rain. Hydroplaning made that whole trip scary and unsafe.

I don't care who you are, if you blow-off Mary Brennan, you're going to hear about it! This time standing on the front porch in Springfield, she stomped her foot and raised her fist, shaking at the heavens above. Loud enough that all the neighbors could hear, she yelled, “I drove two hours to Boston, damn near lost control several times, my brother-in-law was not there, nothing worked out right today. I don't know what I am supposed to do! I don't have a phone, so you can't call me, they pulled it last week for lack of payment, so you're just going to have to ring my bell!” And with that, she stormed into the house, slamming the door behind her and slapping the Bible down onto the kitchen table in tears!

You’ve got to know that the landlord of the planet Earth, Heavenly Father, definitely has a sense of humor! It was the very next morning that I was rudely awakened by two Fed’s standing there! I was scared to death. Guilt overwhelmed me. Even if there was no reason, I was used to feeling guilty for everything. Going through the motions of greeting them at the door, but not wanting to, I heard one of them say, “We need to talk to your mother, is she home?” As he said this, he flipped a white wallet at me then quickly closed it and put it back in his top pocket.

“What do you need her for,” I asked.

The guy next to him punched him in the arm and said, “We’re missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints”.

As soon as I heard “missionaries,” the pressure that held me bound was lost. I was now free to go back to the couch. I said, “Religion?… she's in the kitchen, knock yourself out.” I dove onto the couch before I finished that sentence. Now, knowing full well I was not caught, I was totally relieved and went right back to sleep.

After this first meeting, the missionaries kept coming by for months. One time, they even taught us how to make tacos. I thought, “Who gives a crap about tacos?” They sure did, and they were so happy to teach us about them. We had never heard of tacos before that.

My friends and I thought these dudes were gay because of their appearance… always in suits and ties, and they were always together. They lived up the street and we had to bring them food all the time. My mother would feed them because they were away from home and away from their families so she felt bad for them. She didn’t feel bad enough to join them, only to let them come visit or to feed them; that's where she drew the line.

She, like me, never wanted to have an experience like the one she had when she was going to all the TV evangelist meetings. That was too real and far too dark! Not the things that she saw in the meetings; those were so illuminating and bright and surreal. The rolling around on the floor was a little uncomfortable for a Catholic who mostly just politely kneels and stands and lights candles and messes with rosary beads and talks to men behind curtains. OK, it's starting to sound weird too, but the stuff that happens when you're all by yourself and you invite death if delivery does not show soon enough… that's the stuff nobody needs! “{ }” EVER! So, rather than be “tricked” again, she wouldn’t allow a more personal meeting, such as dinner with the missionaries.

In Springfield, our house was between the two big gangs, the X gang, which I should've belonged to because they were Irish, and the other gang who were all Italians. My best friend moved south from my section of town, so we hung out with the Italians or the South End gang at Mo Mo's corner coffee shop.

At this time, there was a group of long hairs that lived next door on the top floor and my mom used to feed them. I didn't know it but they were all college graduates and owned a PA system. I ended up helping them with free concerts in the park on the weekends and it turned into a full-time job.

Shortly after I started working with them, they moved to an upper middle-class neighborhood, because of the success with their concerts. In fact, at one point in our career, we were doing Concerts East when Don Kirshner was doing Concerts West and the Friday night show on TV. We staged all the big bands in all the convention centers.

A class act was Dizzy Gillespie and the Ink Spots, as well as Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. We had even more fun with Cheech and Chong Live, Savoy Brown and the James Gang, NRBQ and John Sebastian. Leslie West and Mountain… Dozens and dozens of local bands across Connecticut, Cape Cod, Holyoke, Amherst, the Springfield Convention Center, etc.

That's when I got my ear chopped off by one of the neighbors who did not like all those “long hairs” living next door...

Chapter 4

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

We had just gotten back from a softball game and I was unloading the U-Haul into the basement with all the 4 x 4 base speakers, cable boxes, stack horns and staging equipment that ran some very large bands.

It was during this that the neighbor kept calling his friend, the captain of the local police department to come and hassle us for existing. After the third visit, the officer was somewhat embarrassed when I asked him where he first heard the annoyance of our music and he had to answer honestly that he didn’t hear it until he got to the front door.

The 45-year-old drunk across the street was back from the VFW club feeling bulletproof and one of my friends went over to ask, “Please contact me and I'll be very happy to shut my music off if it's bugging you, but it was not even loud enough to annoy the cops.” While he was at their front door, the old man and his son jumped him and started to beat on him out in front of their house. I saw this and ran over to assist my friend. I took on the son who was a college boy.

I was a large 14-year-old with an attitude of jump in and ask questions later. The fact is, my job after building and stacking the PA system was to kick guys even bigger than him off the stage when they were drunk and tried to climb on to party at concerts… boom, boom, out go the lights! My mistake here was a war cry warning them of my charge. It was kind of comical as I ran right into his straight-arm fist. My feet went right out from under me, but as fast as I went down I got up and grabbed him from his side and bear hugged his arms useless. With his legs, he was smashing me against the telephone pole, but he was losing energy quickly. I was not only a cling-on, I was squeezing his ability to breathe and working his balance with my legs wrapped around his. All the while knowing my friend and boss (I’ll call him Rob) would drop the old man and come take this menace off my hands.

All of that came to pass. Rob put the hurt on the dad and the dad ran to his garage to get a weapon. Rob pulled us apart and I ran to the back of the station wagon where the softball equipment was. How convenient… an aluminum bat! I returned to the street painted line and yelled out how I would use the bat to end it now. The son retreated and Rob commanded me to put the “{ }” bat away.

Assuming it was over, I walked towards Rob’s house, when Desilveroni (the dad) ran up behind me swinging at my neck with a hatchet! I ducked but only quick enough to stop his swing with the side of my head. BAM! The next thing I saw was bright lights and lots of colors, while he was winding up for the next hit! Luckily, the hatchet missed my chest and was sticking into the ground behind me as I continued to roll. I was up and on my feet in no time, facing the front door of Rob’s house, dragging the bat, bewildered as to what just happened.

Screams were coming from the girls who were pointing at me, one gagging. All the white roses on my black & white shirt were red, with blood. As I flipped my hair off my shoulder, a piece of my left ear fell off! Almost as fast as it hit the ground, Bandit, my friend’s half husky Shepherd was chewing it. Carly, one of the girls who witnessed this scene, lost her lunch. Rob thumped Bandit’s head and he dropped my ear back onto the floor. Before it hit the floor the second time, my senses returned and I knew what had just happened to me. I raised my bat with two hands and charged out the door to the enclosed porch.

I had one foot on the deck when Rob grabbed my belt from behind, pulling and jerking me air-born backwards until I crashed into the wall /door frame dividing the staircase entry way into the dining room. A second blow to my head! I was losing steam as I slid down the wall until I was in a squatting position and then I asked for a beer and a smoke. I was spent!

While the girls went got napkins to pick up my ear, Rob was on the phone calling the police. They were on the front lawn in no time, their headlights bouncing from jumping the sidewalk when they heard what had happened! I was rushed off to the hospital with my head gushing blood and adrenaline pumping; my blood pressure was way up. They wouldn't give me any medication for pain because they couldn't tell how many beers I had consumed! Let me tell you, it hurt like a “()’#$&%*” when they were sewing my ear closed and gave me 9 stitches in my skull.

One of the girls must've called my mom, because here comes Mary prophesying, “Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are!” Yeah, I'm a 14-year-old, working my job unloading the truck and the crazy drunk neighbor from World War II figures it's starting over again and he's going to kill us commie b@#$%*d's. All he wanted to do is bury the hatchet! Pun intended!

Interestingly, he took us to court… and lost. The judge interrupted Desilveroni's testimony with a question of who bit Brennan’s ear off? Everybody laughed…. Except for me. At this point, I envisioned him handcuffed to a burning car… or at least 5 minutes alone with me so I could bring my own kind of justice!

My friend Rob went on to be very successful in the insurance industry, top in his career. My mom went back to school and became a nurse. Waitressing was just not cutting it. And it was during this time in my life that my dad was in prison. I remember one of my biker friends taking me out to Danbury State Penitentiary. I wanted to find out how much trouble I could be in if I was dumb enough to mess with that drunk Italian neighbor again. Even at age 14 I knew not to take chances. Not that I had to kiss my father's ring, but my dad was definitely well-connected. So much so, in fact, that the Feds claimed he was making too much money. I mean big money. So big, that…well, let's just say it was a quarter of an inch too big!

This earth life is so wonderfully mapped out, and yet we have agency to give us different scenery. Now the scenery that my dad chose from his extracurricular activity put him behind bars, but only for a short while if you think of the bars he’d be behind if he would've killed that drunk neighbor for chopping his 14-year-old boys’ ear off! Well, whatever he was doing, the Feds have a way of doing it right back. My dad said they put counterfeit plates in his vehicle when they pulled him over, and instead of turning evidence and becoming a ☠ SPIONE ☠, he did the time…3 -5 years!

This was my dad's favorite joke; well, one of the few that I feel okay to repeat.

Question: What do you get when you take the “F” out of the word “justice”? Say the answer out loud to catch the meaning.

After my dad got out of prison, his favorite business was his Limo service with a 1959 Silvercloud Rolls-Royce. Even though he ran from the idea of holy matrimony after my mom, having his pearlescent white, burgundy interior Rolls-Royce for the bride's car, he just fit the role! His business card said, “Above the rest” and he really was! He would meet every schedule. Everybody loved having him on that memorable day because he was a class act, no doubt about it. When the downtown Boston traffic hit, he would roll down his window, wave his umbrella and stab it at other cars who would come too close to that pearlescent paint job! I am sure there are brides in Boston that have video footage of this. That was just his personality and I miss him.

In the movie “Analyze This”, Billy Crystal is making fun of Robert De Nero with “I'm sure you're not accustomed to hearing the word no from people,” and De Niro came back with “Quite the contrary! I hear it a lot! In fact, it’s followed by ‘Please no! No please! Please no, noooo!’.” That was like my dad. My dad even looked a lot like De Niro. His facial expressions were very similar! He was also a combination of Charlie Rich and the Man from Glad…especially because of the tux and the white hair.

He graduated from planet earth about eight years after my mom. But more about that in another chapter…

Back home at the ranch, Mom and her Kitchen Bible had many great debates with the young Mormon boys from Utah. In fact, a lot of these guys were scholars in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament. When one missionary would move out of the area, new transfers would keep coming. One guy even had a degree in Latin. Detective (Elder) Weaver was the only guy that never got a transfer, which is odd because it's usually a see-saw and the older guy breaks in the new guy and then gets transferred to a new area.

After many months of visiting with Elder Weaver and each new companion he happened to bring with him, he came up with this inspired rejection…

Elder Weaver: “I’m sorry Mrs. Brennan but we can't come back to your house and visit anymore!”

Mom Brennan: “You guys have been coming for months, why now? You just give me your mission president's phone number and I'll give him a piece of my mind!”

Elder Weaver: “It’s not him. He has nothing to do with this, this is our decision to move on.”

Mom Brennan: “You can't do this to me! You guys are the only thing that I look forward to! My kids could give a damn about religion and you guys are so full of information and happiness when you're around. I can’t explain it, but you can't just leave. What did I do to offend you? What can I do to change your mind?”

Elder Weaver: “We have come out for only two short years to share what's very dear to us, but you won’t let us talk about it here in your home. You will not allow us to tell you about the Book of Mormon. In fact, you said you wanted the oldest religion and none of this new stuff. You wanted to go back to Judaism! We have to move on. We’ll come back and be friends after our mission, but it's really taking up a lot of our time coming here. It's fun and everything but we're not doing what we came out here to do. You will not let us.”