Name: Thomas Albert (Al-BEHR) Troy

Date of birth: February 1956

Place of birth: Manhattan

Year I created him: 1993. The book was taken out of hiatus and begun from scratch and memory in 2010.

Role: Main character, Quasi-Antagonist

Tommy is the eighth of nine children in a poor family in the Lower East Side. Spoilt Prince Tommy is the only one of her children the black-hearted Mrs. Troy loves, and she never lets her other eight kids forget it. She showers Tommy with love, presents, praise, and attention his whole life, and this gives him a bit of a superiority complex. Mr. Troy meanwhile hates his youngest son, and resents how much attention his miserable wife pays to him.

In the discontinued original first draft, Tommy was just too over the top to be a realistic, believable character. Not only was he a spoilt brat beyond belief, he was also pretty damn mean. He’s still a smug little prick for much of the finished book, but he’s no longer a mean kid, and he’s got the capacity for change. Over the years, he very, very slowly starts to grow up and become more mature and self-aware, so much so he eventually realizes he has to get away from his mother and the old neighborhood if he’s really serious about going to college and making something of himself. I also rewrote him so that he was colorblind. The one thing Mrs. Troy doesn’t like about Tommy is that he has African-American and Hispanic friends. Tommy doesn’t care what color other kids’ skin is so long as they’re nice to him and he likes playing with them.

Some representative Tommy lines, showing his progress over the years:

“I’m Mommy’s angel,” Tommy taunts his sisters as they’re walking out the door with Allen and Carlos. “I’m special because I’m the first boy after four stupid girls in a row.”

“And if my teeth fall out from eating lots of yummy candy, the Tooth Fairy will visit me and put money under my pillow!” Tommy crows.

“I have a tricycle and you stupid girls don’t,” Tommy taunts his sisters.

“Who’s that on the cross?” Tommy asks loudly as they’re entering the church, staring up at the large crucifix hanging above the altar.

“Guess I’m more popular than you stupid girls then.” Tommy sticks his tongue out at his three sisters.

“What do you mean, what are they?  They’re kids.  I don’t know what spics or darkies are.”

“This summer vacation stinks!” Tommy shouts, throwing himself on the floor. “First our house burns down, then we hafta move to this crummy neighborhood and an apartment even more crowded than our old one, and now you won’t lemme play with my new friends!”

Tommy crinkles his nose in disgust. “Mommy’s mean when she doesn’t let me do stuff with my friends.  What did a Puerto Rican ever do to her?  She was mean about my Negro friends in Two Bridges too.”

“Not fair!” Tommy protests. “I was looking forward to graduating junior high with the rest of my friends in June and starting high school with ‘em in the fall!”

“I don’t care about street credibility!  I wanna stay with my friends!”

“Elephants go home to die!” Tommy shouts. “They don’t just move back to the old neighborhood outta the blue!”

“Aw, come on, Dad, everyone has a TV nowadays.  I’d get to watch Saturday morning cartoons, movies, and funny shows.  Plus when something important happens in the news, I’d be able to see it happening live ‘steada having to hear about it at school afterwards.  These dumb girls here watch TV all the time when they go over to see Allen and his wife.  They even got to see the Moon landing this summer, and I didn’t.  That wasn’t fair.”

“I thought onea the best things about our country was that it’s home to so many different types of people,” Tommy says as he’s playing with his alien colorforms. “We have freedom of religion and speech and don’t have to follow some state religion or set of customs.”

“Do I hafta get married at eighteen too?” Tommy asks nervously. “I’m not even interested in girls like that yet.  And the girls in my classes are all either whores or prudes.”

“That’s gross.  Why would I wanna date or marry a woman ‘cause she looks like a little kid?  Only perverts and deviants are attracted to little kids.”

“Leave my little sister alone,” Tommy says. “That’s a really disgusting, perverted thing you’re suggesting.  If Adicia ran off and married that guy up the street, that’s her business.  She’s eighteen now and can’t be forced back here.  What are you, a pedophile?”

“I didn’t learn about it in school.  I’ve heard talk among other guys in the hallways and the locker room.  And by the way, it’s really creepy how you entered our house without knocking or even calling ahead.  That’s called trespassing, and it’s against the law.”

“My mother buys me everything I want.  I don’t need a job.”

Tommy lands a very hard kick to Seth’s head, even more painful than a normal kick to the head because of the roller skate.

“My mother will hear all about this when she comes home from work!” Tommy shouts indignantly as Seth releases him. “Nobody gets away with messing with her pet child!”

“That would be awesome!  All my friends would be jealous of me ‘cause I know how to fire a gun!”

“I guess I can do the big brother thing once in my life.  I know Allen must be a lot better at the big brother thing than me, since he’s so much older and has had a ton more experience doing it, but even I know you’re supposed to hold your little sister’s hand when you go somewhere with her.”

“I guess I’ve got it made if I write a college essay about growing up poor and with drug addicts and drunks for parents.  They might give me a free scholarship.  I love how Mommy buys me all the nice things I want, but I guess my friends might start making fun of me if I continue living off her once I’m a legal adult.  After all, even I know grownup guys aren’t supposed to live at home and let their mothers unquestioningly do everything for them.”

“I’m looking forward to finally being an only child.  Being on the bottom of a huge heap of kids stinks.  I wouldn’t wish being the eighth of nine on anyone.  If I ever take a woman, I only want a couple of kids.”

“I think Mother was starting to turn into another Mrs. Monsterelli,” Tommy says.  “She started coming into the bathroom when I was bathing or using the toilet, or standing outside the door and tryna carry on a conversation with me.  And she insisted on tucking me in every night, putting food on my plate, and even tryna dress me.  I’d never wanna be another Francesco.  That guy was in serious Oedipal territory.  I bet he’s still at home at fifty-two now, and turning into another Norman Bates.”

“I don’t wanna go back to that depressing old neighborhood.  I graduated high school with a B plus average, and I hope to keep that average, at least, here in college.  I think I’d lose brain cells if I had to hang around Mother and Dad with their embarrassingly bad grammar, and Mother’s attitudes towards people of other races and religions seem so out of place on someone from the Lower East Side of all places.  How do you live in a neighborhood of immigrants and poor folks and think that only white Protestants are decent people?”

“You need to wash bedding once a week?  I only washed mine once since I’ve been outta Manhattan.”

“Can I ask what it felt like to get shot seven times?”

Justine, Aoife, and Fiona are reading Seventeen and Ms. when Tommy comes sliding down the banister, landing with a thud and almost losing his pants when he gets up.  He looks down and quickly zips them up, hoping no one noticed he forgot to close his fly.

Tommy picks a large crumb off of his lap and eats it.  “By the way, thanks for letting me stay in this house and celebrate a real Thanksgiving.  It does mean a lot to me that you welcomed me in and didn’t hold everything from the past against me.”

4 thoughts on “Tommy

  1. He does sound like a spoiled child. Those are some great lines! Thanks for sharing!

    It’s crazy how our characters change and evolve over time. And how we think we’re writing them perfectly, then go back and find out they could never work that way. Ah, the joys of revising!


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