His name should be Knocko, as in Knocko Minahan of Edwin O’Conner’s Last Hurrah, but it isn’t. He now is in his geezerhood, and may be embarrassed if I use his real name. On the other hand he might just burst out in his leprechaunish grin. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, he qualified as a Knocko so that’s what I’ll call him.

As an Assistant Planning and Estimating Superintendent in the Boston Naval Shipyard from mid 1954 to mid 1957 I had close associations with some of the Boston area’s interesting citizens. Most, including Knocko, were second-generation Irish.

While someone else would have sworn his wife and kids to secrecy and let it go at that, during a coffee break Knocko told me about one of his do-it-yourself projects. He had undertaken a bit of rewiring that necessitated running an electric cable from the basement of his single-story house to the attic. In the attic Knocko could see where he wanted a hole in the plate, that is, in the horizontal pair of two-by-four beams that formed the top strength member of the wall beneath. But Knocko wondered where he should drill from the basement in order to make a hole directly below in the wall’s bottom strength member, that is, in what carpenters call the shoe. In the basement, the shoe was hidden from view by the main-floor underlayment.


While he didn’t say so, any reasonable observer would have assumed from what transpired that Knocko had lubricated his thinking capacity with whiskey in order to prepare himself for the extraordinary geometrical challenge that lay ahead. “Two points determine a straight line,” he reasoned, “and nothing would be straighter than a line between where a bullet penetrated the plate above and where the same bullet penetrated the shoe below.”

Made confident by his heady encounter with a branch of mathematics, Knocko then judged that no mere twenty-two caliber would suffice. He brought out a forty-five caliber automatic pistol that he had squirreled away.

Of course Knocko was concerned with safety. He said that he put one cartridge in the clip and kept the clip in his pocket until he reached the attic. Then, as he learned in the Army, he carefully inserted the clip in the pistol’s grip and pulled back the slide in order to force the single cartridge into the chamber.

Knocko explained that his mind was up to every technical challenge. He carefully placed the muzzle of the pistol against the plate exactly where he wanted the hole, closed one eye in order to avoid parallax, that is, the apparent displacement of an object when seen from two different points, and achieved true verticality by aiming directly at the center of the earth. Only then did sharp-thinking Knocko shift the pistol’s safety to the off position.

Then with a look of wonderment that came over his face as he described what happened, Knocko said the blast completely splintered the double thick plate for a distance of one-foot back on both sides of where he had the muzzle, and knocked off more than sixteen square feet of plaster from each side of the wall below.

According to Knocko, due to his innovative do-it-yourself approach, he had no trouble running the electric cable.


Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo