By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"I heard the Gap and all these places are just circling, looking to try and kick out the antique stores, the old ladies who have had antique stores here for 50 years, and putting in the Gap," says Chris. "There’s a real tug of war in this town right now."
Ventura, they say, was the kind of place where cowboys, Hell’s Angels and farm hands all mixed comfortably. As if to punctuate the statement, a roar of motorcycles announces a couple of guys on Harleys cruising down the street. Chris says they’re probably weekend warriors, not the real thing, because he doesn’t recognize them. The windshield on the front of one of the bikes would seem to confirm that. To illustrate the changes taking place, Dan tells me about last Halloween. "Some kids came up to trick or treat and my dad opened the door and they were like, ‘No way! He’s a worker for Halloween." They all laugh.
I ask if their dad would have been happy if they’d all stayed on the ranch. "Yes," they answer in unison.
"I was thinking about that the other day, how when I go out to work with my dad, he has to show me what to do," says Dan. "He calls us city boys and says we have hands like girls’ because they aren’t all fucked up like his are."
I wonder if there is any tension.
"I was just going to say, he has a tremendous amount of respect for what we do now," Keith says. "He enjoys the big-wave surfing stuff. Although we don’t have the working hands he does, we have plenty of battle scars."
They hear it from their mom, mostly, about how proud their dad is of them. "We come from a family that if you sit there and talk about it, it degrades the whole thing," says Chris. "He admires people whose actions speak for it. He’d rather show us his approval over the course of six months in a subtle way than say, ‘Gee, son, I’m so happy with you and I love you so much.’ "
The brothers, though, will be the first to say that they aren’t the real heroes in the family. The lessons of courage, resilience and generosity were taught to them by their sister, Mary, who was born with cerebral palsy, a bad heart and no hearing or sight. She’s fought harder for her moments of joy than they ever will, and they all know it intrinsically. Mary is 22 years old, and that’s 21 more than anyone said she’d be. When the Malloy kids were growing up, the fire station was between the school and their house. "So, for, like, 10 years, every time I’d hear a fire engine, it’d be awful," says Keith.
There’s a scene in Box of Birds where Chris is lying next to Mary, who even now is not much bigger than a toddler, and he’s remarking that the doctors told them she isn’t sentient — that she doesn’t know what’s going on. Just as Chris says it, she reaches up and lovingly rubs his face. And then she does it again, a wide smile on her face. It’s a bald expression of love, and it’s more beautiful than any wave the boys have ever ridden.
"Her being there gave us a perspective that I think a lot of people don’t get, you know? I think that just shaped us to be just a little bit unique in what is important to us just because we got that perspective from having our little sister, Mary, who has all these problems," says Keith.
"With her, the biggest lesson was no matter who you think you’ve become, no matter what a magazine has written about how good you are or what you’ve done, coming home to her and our family always made you realize that you were that same kid that you started out as, and that life’s not perfect. In fact, it’s way off center," Chris says. "And the other thing is . . . "
"She’s probably happier than all of us put together," Dan cuts in, laughing.'If that pizza isn't here in 10 minutes, it's free!' Dan, Keith, and Chris(L-R), waiting to be delivered
"You’d come home from school and there’d be an ambulance or something and it was a really strange way to grow up," Chris continues. "Here we had this wonderful place we lived and these great parents and we had each other, but it just gave you an appreciation for every day and what was in front of you, and to be optimistic, too. It gave you confidence. You’re told that things are going to be so wrong; she’s not going to make it past 2 weeks old, they said at first . . . it gave us optimism."