The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Twelve Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Wednesday night, Tom sits in his bedroom trying to work on Daniel's scrapbook. He only has Friday night to work on it, given the match on Thursday. He thinks that seeing the article about the accident set him back, but he recognizes that he's improving: he thinks that a few weeks ago, he wouldn't have been able to pick the albums back up. Tom carefully starts to remove photos to scan, feeling as though the pain is worthwhile since it'll help Daniel.
Tom's logic here—that the pain is worth it because it'll help Daniel—makes it very clear that he is, at his core, someone who cares deeply for others and has the potential to be a fantastic friend, if only he'd let other possible friends in.
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On Thursday morning, Tom tries to keep a straight face as Gran tapes a picture of Saint Vitus, the patron saint of oversleeping, on the fridge. She insists that Saint Vitus might be able to help keep Mum up for longer periods of time. Gran offers to make Tom eggs, which he hastily refuses. She tells him that she's going to buy premade lasagna later since Tom clearly doesn't like her cooking. Tom is shocked. Gran playfully ruffles his hair and tells him to say something if he doesn't like a meal. When Tom asks, Gran explains that Kylie stayed over at Brianna's to prepare for a presentation she's giving on Friday.
It's telling that Tom finds Saint Vitus funny; it suggests that he no longer regards the saints with the same venom he did at the beginning. This indicates that he's starting to come around to Gran's attempts to help. Gran's offer to make different food further shows that she now recognizes that she'll need to make concessions in order to effectively help her family heal.
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On Friday morning, Tom and several other players hang out and talk about the match the night before. Bennie's won, but the other team was horrible. Tom thinks that the Bennie's team has potential and it's Harvey's lax attitude that is keeping the team back. Tom was shocked when after the match, Harvey kept complimenting everyone and saying that having fun was the most important part. Tom believes Dad will straighten Harvey out soon.
When Tom is shocked by Harvey's focus on fun and teamwork, it indicates that at St. John's, winning was all that mattered to the team—and Tom has internalized that mindset. This offers more evidence as to why Tom is unwilling to make friends with his teammates, as he doesn't see them as worthy since they can't win.
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Rory and Jimmy tell Tom about where they'll have their footy camp in a few weeks. It's at a university with nearby nursing college, which means that the boys have numerous opportunities for sexual encounters. They tell Tom about a former player, Davin, who apparently had sex with so many girls that he fell asleep during practice. Brad joins Rory, Jimmy, and Tom and laughs about Davin. Rory points to Chrissy walking by and implies that she's Davin's girlfriend. Brad moans that he wants Chrissy and all the boys gawk at her when she talks to Tom. After she passes them, they notice Kylie and Brianna. Rory insists that Brianna looks like she's up to something.
This entire conversation shows Tom that Rory, Jimmy, and Brad in particular are prime candidates for friends and are more than willing to help make Tom feel like one of the team. Again, however, Tom's unwillingness to truly integrate with them likely has to do with the fact that he prioritizes winning over friendship and teamwork, and thus devalues the Bennie's team as a whole.
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At lunch, Tom notices some girls whispering and looking at him. Tom tries to tell himself he's just being paranoid since this isn't St. John's, but he knows something is wrong when one of the girls asks if he's Kylie's brother.
Tom's fear suggests that what's happening here mimics what happened in Mumbilli, which implies that Tom is possibly not wrong to be so afraid of people finding out about the accident.
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Tom finds Rory and Jimmy waiting by his locker after school and nervously accepts their invitation to go to Burger King. They haltingly explain that Kylie gave a speech on terrorism but instead of talking about 9/11, she talked about what happened to the Brennans in Mumbilli. Jimmy quietly admits that he already knew, which makes Tom feel panicky. Rory assures Tom that they're friends and part of a team, but Tom cuts him off. He runs away towards Gran's house. Tom remembers the morning after Daniel's sentencing, when someone spray painted "SHAME ON YOU BRENNANS, SHAME" on their house.
Though Tom is too emotional to see it, it's telling that Jimmy already knew but didn't say anything, as it suggests that what happened isn't as big of a deal here in Coghill as it was in Mumbilli. Running away shows just how intense Tom's fear is, especially when he thinks about the graffiti on their house. The graffiti in particular shows that Mumbilli truly turned against the Brennans and dissolved any sense of community there.
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Tom gets home after dark. He finds Dad, Gran, Mum, and Kylie at the table, Kylie in tears. Tom calls Kylie a stupid cow and walks back outside. He thinks that Kylie isn't going to drag the rest of the family down with her as he heads down to Brendan's cabin. Brendan passes Tom a beer and asks if Kylie is still crying. He says she's been crying for four hours now and explains that when she came right home after her speech, Gran lit into her. Tom angrily asks why Kylie would do that when the family has been through so much, and Brendan suggests it's her way of getting it out and might actually be a good thing.
Brendan is suggesting here that time isn't the only thing that heals; talking about the trauma can also help people to heal. However, talking requires making a connection with other people and trusting them, two things that Tom isn't yet willing to do. The fact that Kylie trusted some of her classmates enough to give this speech suggests that she may be healing at a faster rate than Tom at this point.
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Brendan says that Chrissy heard about the speech and came looking for Tom earlier. Tom moans that everyone will know about it now. Brendan tries to tell Tom that Coghill isn't little like Mumbilli, and notes that plenty of people already know about what happened. Tom asks why Chrissy then thought the wool stuff for Fin was for a grandfather, and Brendan says that Tom was clearly not ready then for people to know. Brendan asks if Tom thinks that people will look at him differently if they know what happened to Daniel. Tom buries his face in his knees and reminds Brendan of what happened in Mumbilli. Brendan assures Tom that Coghill is significantly bigger and nobody cares about other people's business.
Though Tom never specifies what he means when he talks about "what happened in Mumbilli," it's likely he's referring specifically to the graffiti and the fact that the community shut his family out and ostracized them. The fact that Tom fears being ostracized in particular shows that Tom is distancing himself from others as a defense mechanism; he does actually want to be close to others and have supportive friendships. However, he's just too scared to seek them out right now.
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Tom asks how Brendan can be so sure that nothing is going to happen. He admits he's scared of going backwards and having to relive what happened in Mumbilli. Brendan concedes that Kylie shouldn't have given the speech, but he insists that sooner or later, people would've found out anyway. He slaps Tom's leg and insists they should've talked about this a long time ago. He insists that Tom is stronger than Kylie and assures him a final time that absolutely nothing is going to happen now that the secret is out.
Brendan does have a point; the records of the trial are public, which means that anyone could look them up and discover that Tom is related to Daniel. Brendan's overarching point is that Tom is wasting his time worrying about what others think of him and his relationship to Daniel; what Tom really needs to focus on is himself and finding a sense of peace.
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The next morning as Dad and Tom drive through Coghill on their way to see Daniel, Tom sees that Brendan was right: there's no graffiti or signs in windows telling the Brennans to go home. He asks Dad if they can stop for breakfast, which annoys Dad, as he made breakfast at home that Tom didn't eat.
Again, Tom's returned appetite signals progress, as his ability to look at the lack of signs and graffiti and see that for what it is suggests that Tom is now able to take a less emotional view of what happened.
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The guards let the scrapbook through at the crisis center and Daniel's face brightens as he flips through it. Tom points out several pictures and he and Daniel go off down memory lane. Dad asks about an older inmate, and Daniel explains that the man is a mentor. He says his own mentor's name is Jerry. Daniel's face darkens some, but he remains calm as he explains that Jerry has been talking to him as well as a guy named Theo, who's in jail for the same thing as Daniel.
The fact that Daniel is finding the mentoring at the crisis center helpful suggests that he will be more successful in moving forward as he tries to tangibly give back in a way that's very different from the apology letters that he wrote. Daniel will soon start to mentor Theo himself, which will allow him to help Theo's community heal and help Daniel heal as well.
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In the car on the way home, Dad tells Tom that they got an offer on their house in Mumbilli that they're going to accept. Dad sighs that they'll likely stay with Gran for a while longer and admits that he thinks Gran likes having them around. Tom asks if Mum is going to be okay. Dad points out that Mum is doing better, but Tom admits that he thought that Mum might get better faster. Tom thinks he's tired of how slowly everyone else is healing, and wonders if his impatience is a sign that he's moving forward.
Tom isn't wrong; his impatience for others to catch up and start to feel better is a signal that he's healing. This is, notably, because Tom is starting to realize that he doesn't have to think of himself as intrinsically connected to Daniel and to Mumbilli. By understanding that he's an individual, he's able to make friends on his own terms.
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