The mighty Quinns: Liam - By Kate Hoffmann

THE THREE BOYS hunched down on the floor of the front parlor, peering through the tattered lace curtains at a figure on the front porch.

“What should we do?” Liam Quinn whispered. “We can’t let her in.”

“Answer the door,” his brother Brian ordered. “We have to pretend everything is okay.”

“She’ll go away,” Sean reassured them both. “Just wait.” Sean was Brian’s twin and they usually disagreed on everything.

“No,” Liam whispered. “She’s not going away. Not this time.”

A knot of fear twisted in his stomach and he held his breath. He and his five brothers had been dodging social workers long enough for Liam to know exactly what they looked like. This one wore a gray coat, nearly the same color as the dirty snow that melted on either side of the street. But it was the dour expression and overstuffed briefcase that really gave her away.

“Answer the damn door,” Brian snapped. “Just tell her you’re home sick and Da is napping in the bedroom.”

Liam turned to his older brothers, the twins both glaring at him. He was the swing vote, a position very difficult for a ten-year-old. “What if she wants to talk to him, Einstein?”

“You’ll just have to convince her that he can’t be bothered,” Brian explained. “Tell her he has a contagious flu…and that he’s barfing…and that the doctors said he has to sleep. You can do it, Li.” Brian gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder.

The doorbell buzzed again and Liam jumped at the harsh sound. The social workers had been a fear for as long as he could remember. They were like the mythical dragons in their father’s tales of the Mighty Quinn ancestors, always lurking in the shadows and waiting to swoop down to tear their family to shreds.

Winter was the worst season for the dragons to strike. In the winter, there was no way they could produce a responsible parent. In late October, Seamus Quinn took The Mighty Quinn down to the Caribbean, following the swordfishing fleet to warmer waters where he’d earn a winter income not possible on the North Atlantic. Since he was due to return at the beginning of April, they were still on their own for a few more weeks.

Liam didn’t exactly have a perfect family, but it was as close as the six Quinn brothers would ever come. Though his older brothers remembered a time when things were better, Liam had never known any other life. Conor, Dylan, Brendan and the twins, Sean and Brian, had all been born in Ireland, a country Liam only knew as an island on a map. But to hear them speak of it, Ireland had been a land filled with magic and mystery and wonderful, happy times.

Liam had tried to imagine what it was like to have a regular family, a father who came home every night and a mother who cooked dinner and read stories. But all that was over by the time Liam joined the family. Their father, Seamus, had brought his wife and five sons to America before Liam was even born. He’d bought a partnership in Uncle Padriac’s long-liner, The Mighty Quinn, working at an occupation that took him away from South Boston for weeks and sometimes months at a time.

Liam had been the first Quinn born in America. He had always harbored a secret guilt that maybe he’d been the cause of his family’s problems. He’d pieced together enough bits of information from whispered conversations between his brothers to know that everything had gone bad about the time he was born. His father had begun drinking and gambling, his mother often shut herself in her room and wept, and when they were together, they fought all the time.

And then she was gone. Conor had been eight at the time, old enough to remember her. Dylan had been six and remembered even less, and, at five, Brendan had only vague memories. As for the three-year-old twins and infant Liam, they’d been left to only imagine the dark-haired beauty who’d sung them lullabies and tucked them into bed.

“Fiona,” Liam murmured, his lips forming her name like a charm against evil. If she were here, he wouldn’t be scared. She was a Quinn, too, and she’d be strong enough to slay the dragon waiting on the porch. “The dragon is leaving.”

The social worker turned and started down the front steps, but suddenly she returned to the door, this time pounding on the weathered wood with her fist. “I know you’re in there,”