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Theyordered.Franciehadamentallistofallthesodaflavors.Shewasgoingdownthelistso
thatshecouldsayshehadtastedallthekindsofsodasintheworld.Pineapplewasnextand
sheorderedthat.Neeleyorderedtheoldstandby,chocolatesoda,andKatieandEvychose
plainvanillaicecream.
EvymadeuplittlestoriesaboutthepeopleintheplaceandkeptFrancieandNeeleylaughing.
Franciestudiedhermotherfromtimetotime.Mamawasn'tsmilingatEvy'sjokes.Sheateher
icecreamslowlyandthelinebetweenhereyesdeepenedandFrancieknewthatshewas
figuringsomethingout.
"Mychildren,"thoughtKatie,"havemoreeducationatthirteenandfourteenthanIhaveat
thirty-two.Andstillitisn'tenough.WhenIthinkofhowignorantIwasattheirage.Yes,and
evenwhenIwasmarriedandhadababy.Imagine.Ibelievedinwitch'scharms,then-whatthe
midwifetoldmeaboutthewomaninthefishmarket.Theystartedinwayaheadofme.They
wereneverthatignorant.
"Igotthemgraduatedfromgradeschool.Ican'tdomoreforthem.Allmyplans...Neeley,a
doctor,Francieincollege...can'tworkthemoutnow.Thebaby....Havetheyenoughinthemto
getsomewherealone?Idon'tknow.TheShakespeare...theBible....Theyknowhowtoplay
pianobutthey'vestoppedpracticingnow.Itaughtthemtobecleanandtruthfulandnottotake
charity.Isthatenough,though?
"They'llhaveabosstoplease,soon,andnewpeopletogetalongwith.They'llgetintoother
ways.Good?Bad?Theywon'tsithomewithmenightsiftheyworkallday.Neeleywillbeoff
withhisfriends.AndFrancie?Reading....Awaytothelibrary...ashow...afreelectureorband
concert.Ofcourse,I'llhavethebaby.Thebaby.She'llgetabetterstart.Whenshegraduates,
theothertwomightseeherthroughhighschool.ImustdobetterforLauriethanIdidforthem.
Theyneverhadenoughtoeat,neverhadrightclothes.ThebestIcoulddowasn'tenough.And
nowtheyhavetogoouttoworkandthey'restilllittlechildren.Oh,ifIcouldonlygettheminto
highschoolthisfall!
Please
God!I'llgivetwentyyearsoffmylife.I'llworknightandday.ButI
can't,ofcourse.Noonetostaywiththebaby."
Herthoughtswerebrokenintobyawaveofsingingthatrolledovertheroom.Someonestarted
apopularanti-warsongandtheresttookitup.
Ididn'traisemyboytobeasoldier.
Ibroughthimuptobemyprideandjoy
...
[2]
Katieresumedherthoughts."Thereisnoonetohelpus.Noone."Shethoughtbrieflyof
SergeantMcShane.HehadsentabigbasketoffruitwhenLauriewasborn.Sheknewhewas
retiringfromthepoliceforceinSeptember.HewasgoingtorunforAssemblymanfromQueens,
hishomeborough,nextElection.Everyonesaidhe'dbesuretogetin.Shehadheardthathis
wifewasverysick,mightnotlivetoseeherhusbandelected.
"He'llmarryagain,"thoughtKatie."Ofcourse.Somewomanwhoknowsallaboutsociallife...
helphim...thewayapoliticianswifemust."Shestaredatherwork-wornhandsforalongtime,
thenputthemunderthetableasthoughshewereashamedofthem.
Francienoticed."She'sthinkingofSergeantMcShane,"sheguessed,rememberinghowmama
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hadputonhercottonglovesthattimelongagoattheoutingwhenMcShanehadlookedather.
"Helikesher,"thoughtFrancie."Iwonderdoessheknowit?Shemust.Sheseemstoknow
everything.Ibetshecouldmarryhimifshewantedto.Butheneedn'tthinkI'devercallhim
father.Myfatherisdeadandnomatterwhomamamarries,hewillonlybeMr.So-and-Soto
me."
Theywerefinishingthesong.
There'dbenowarstoday,
Ifmothersallwouldsay,
Ididn'traisemyboytobeasoldier.
"...Neeley,"thoughtKatie."Thirteen.Ifwardoescomehere,itwillbeoverbeforehegetsold
enoughtogo,thankGod."
NowAuntEvywassingingsoftlytothem,makingupaparodyonthesong.
Whodarestoplaceamustacheonhisshoulder.
"AuntEvy,you're
terrible
,"saidFrancieassheandNeeleyscreamedwithlaughter.Katiejerked
outofherthoughtsandlookedupandsmiled.Thenthewaiterlaiddownthecheckandtheyall
grewsilent,watchingKatie.
"Ihopeshe'snotfoolenoughtotiphim,"thoughtEvy.
"Doesmamaknowyou'resupposedtoleaveanickeltip?"thoughtNeeley."Ihopeso."
"Whatevermamadoes,"thoughtFrancie,"itwillbetherightthing."
Itwasn'tthecustomtotipintheice-creamsaloonsexceptonspecialpartieswhenyouwere
supposedtoleaveanickel.Katiesawthatthecheckwasforthirtycents.Shehadonecoinin
heroldpurse,itwasafifty-centpiecewhichshelaidonthecheck.Thewaitertookitawayand
broughtbackfournickelswhichhelaidinarow.HehoverednearbywaitingforKatietopickup
threeofthem.Shelookedatthefournickels."Fourloavesofbread,"shethought.Fourpairof
eyeswatchedKatie'shand.Katieneverhesitatedoncesheputherhandonthemoney.Witha
suregesture,shepushedthefournickelstowardsthewaiter.
"Keepthechange,"shesaidgrandly.
Franciehadallshecoulddonottostanduponherchairandcheer."Mamaissomebody,"she
keptsayingtoherself.Thewaiterscoopedupthenickelshappilyandrushedaway.
"Twosodasshot,"groanedNeeley.
"Katie,Katie,howfoolish,"protestedEvy."Ibetit'syourlastmoney,too."
"Itis.Butitmaybeourlastgraduation,too."
"McGarritypaysusfourdollarstomorrow,"saidFrancie,defendinghermother.
"Andhefiresustomorrowtoo,"addedNeeley.
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"There'llbenomoneyafterthatfourdollarsuntiltheygetjobs,then,"concludedEvy.
"Idon'tcare,"saidKatie."ForonceIwantedustofeellikemillionaires.Andiftwentycentscan
makeusfeelrich,it'sacheappricetopay."
EvyrecalledhowKatieletFranciepourhercoffeedownthesinkandsaidnothingmore.There
weremanythingsshedidn'tunderstandabouthersister.
Thepartieswerebreakingup.AlbieSeedmore,theleggysonofaprosperousgrocer,came
overtotheirtable.
"Go-to-the-movies-with-me-tomorrow-Francie?"Heaskedallonabreath."I'llpay,"headded
hastily.
(AmoviehousewaslettingthegraduatesattendtheSaturdaymatineetwo-for-a-nickel
providingtheybroughttheirdiplomasalongasproof.)
Francielookedathermother.Mamanoddedherconsent.
"Sure,Albie,"acceptedFrancie.
"Seeyou.Two.Tomorrow."Helopedoff.
"Yourfirstdate,"saidEvy."Makeawish."Sheheldoutherlittlefingerandcrookedit.Francie
hookedherlittlefingerintoAuntEvy's.
"IwishIcouldalwayswearawhitedressandcarryredrosesandthatwecouldalwaysthrow
moneyaroundlikewedidtonight,"wishedFrancie.
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BOOK
BOOK
BOOK
BOOKFOUR
FOUR
FOUR
FOUR
XLIII
"YOUgottheideanow,"saidtheforeladytoFrancie."You'llmakeagoodstemmerintime."
ShewentawayandFranciewasonherown;thefirsthourofthefirstdayofherfirstjob.
Followingtheforelady'sinstructions,herlefthandpickedupafootlengthofshinywire.
Simultaneouslyherrighthandpickedupanarrowstripofdarkgreentissuepaper.Shetouched
theendofthestriptoadampsponge,then,usingthethumbandfirsttwofingersofeachhand
asarollingmachine,shewoundthepaperonthewire.Sheplacedthecoveredwireaside.It
wasnowastem.
Atintervals,Mark,thepimply-facedutilityboy,distributedthestemstothe"pet'lers"whowired
paperrosepetalstothem.Anothergirlstrungacalyxupundertheroseandturneditovertothe
"leafer"whopriedaunit,threedarkglossyleavesonashortstem,fromablockofleaves,wired
theunittothestemandturnedtheroseovertothe"finisher,"whowoundastripof
heavier-texturedgreenpaperaroundthecalyxanddownthestem.Thestem,calyx,roseand
leaveswerenowoneandseemedtohavegrownso.
Francie'sbackhurtandashootingpainranthroughhershoulder.Shemusthavecovereda
thousandstems,shefigured.Surelyitwastimeforlunch.Sheturnedaroundtolookattheclock
andfoundthatshehadbeenworkingjustonehour!
"Clockwatcher,"commentedagirlderisively.Francielookedup,startled,butsaidnothing.
Shegotarhythmtoherworkanditseemedtocomeeasier.
One
.Shesetasidethecovered
wire.
Andahalf
.Shepickedupanewwireandastripofpaper.
Two
.Shemoistenedthepaper.
Three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten
.Thewirewascovered.Soontherhythmbecame
instinctive,shedidn'thavetocountanditwasn'tnecessarytoconcentrate.Herbackrelaxed
andhershoulderstoppedaching.Hermindwasfreedandshestartedtofigurethingsout.
"Thiscouldbeawholelife,"shethought."Youworkeighthoursadaycoveringwirestoearn
moneytobuyfoodandtopayforaplacetosleepsothatyoucankeeplivingtocomebackto
covermorewires.Somepeoplearebornandkeptlivingjusttocometothis.Ofcourse,someof
thesegirlswillmarry;marrymenwhohavethesamekindoflife.Whatwilltheygain?They'll
gainsomeonetoholdconversationswithinthefewhoursatnightbetweenworkandsleep."But
sheknewthegainwouldn'tlast.Shehadseentoomanyworkingcoupleswho,afterthe
childrencameandthebillspiledup,rarelycommunicatedwitheachotherexceptinbittersnarls.
"Thesepeoplearecaught,"shethought."Andwhy?Because"(rememberinghergrandmother's
repeatedconvictions),"theyhaven'tgotenougheducation."FrightgrewinFrancie.Maybeit
wouldbesothatshe'dnevergettohighschool;maybeshe'dneverhavemoreeducationthan
shehadatthatmoment.Maybeallherlifeshe'dhavetocoverwires...coverwires....
One
...
andahalf
...
two
...
three-four-five-sax-seven-eight-nine-ten
.Thesameunreasoningterror
cameonherthathadcomewhen,asaneleven-year-oldchild,shehadseentheoldmanwith
theobscenefeetinLosher'sBakery.Inherpanic,shespeededupherrhythmsothatshe'd
have
toconcentrateonherworkandnothaveroomtothink.
"Newbroom,"observedafinishercynically.
"Tryingtomakeahitwiththeboss,"wastheopinionofapet'ler.
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SooneventhespeedingupbecameautomaticandagainFrancie'smindwasfree.Covertly,
shestudiedthegirlsatthelongtable.Therewereadozenofthem,PolesandItalians.The
youngestlookedsixteenandtheoldest,thirty,andallwereswarthy.Forsomeunaccountable
reason,allworeblackdresses,evidentlynotrealizinghowunbecomingblackwastodarkskins.
Franciewastheonlyonewearingaginghamwashdressandshefeltlikeasillybaby.The
sharp-eyedworkersnoticedherquickstaresandretaliatedwiththeirownpeculiarbrandof
hazing.Thegirlattheheadofthetablestartedit.
"Somebodyatthistableisgotadirtyface,"sheannounced."Notme,"answeredtheothersone
byone.WhenFrancie'sturncametheystoppedworkandwaited.Notknowingwhattoanswer,
Francieremainedsilent."Newgirlsaysnothing,"summarizedtheringleader."Soshe'sgotthe
dirtyface."Francie'sfacegothotbutsheworkedfasterhopingthey'ddropthewholething.
"Somebodyisgotadirtyneck."Itstartedalloveragain."Notme,"answeredthegirlsinorder.
WhenitcametoFrancie'sturn,shetoosaid,"Notme."Butinsteadofappeasingthem,itgave
themmorematerialtoworkon.
"Newgirlsaysherneckain'tdirty."
"
She
says!"
"Howdoessheknow?Cansheseeherownneck?"
"Wouldsheadmititifitwasdirty?"
"Theywantmetodosomething,"puzzledFrancie."Butwhat?Dotheywantmetogetmadand
curseatthem?Dotheywantmetogiveupthisjob?Ordotheywanttoseemecrythewaythat
littlegirldidlongagowhenIwatchedhercleantheblackboarderasers?Whatevertheywant,I
won'tdoit!"Shebentherheadoverthewiresandmadeherfingersflyfaster.
Thetiresomegamewentonallmorning.TheonlyrespiteswerewhenMark,theutilityboy,
camein.ThentheyletuponFranciealittleinordertoworkonhim.
"Newgirl,watchoutforMark,"theywarnedher."Hewasarrestedtwiceforrapeandoncefor
whiteslavery."Theaccusationswerecrudelyironicalconsideringtheobviouseffeminacyof
Mark.Franciesawhowtheunfortunateboyflushedabrickredateachtauntandshefeltsorry
forhim.
Themorningworeon.Whenitseemedthatitwouldneverend,abellrangannouncinglunch
time.Thegirlsdroppedtheirwork,hauledoutpaperbagsoflunch,rippedthebagsopentoform
atablecloth,spreadouttheironion-garnishedsandwichesandstartedtoeat.Francie'shands
werehotandsticky.Shewantedtowashthembeforesheatesosheaskedherneighborwhere
thewashroomwas.
"NospikEng-leash,"answeredthegirlinexaggeratedgreenhorndialect.
"Nixverstandt,"saidanotherwhohadbeentauntingherinidiomaticEnglishallmorning.
"What'sawashroom?"askedafatgirl.
"Wheretheymakewashers,"repliedawit.
Markwascollectingboxes.Hestoodinthedoorway,hisarmsladen,madehisAdam'sapplego
upanddowntwice,andFrancieheardhimspeakforthefirsttime.
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"JesusChristdiedonthecrossforpeoplelikeyou,"heannouncedpassionately,"andnowyou
won'tshowanewgirlwheretheterletis."
Franciestaredathim,astonished.Thenshecouldn'thelpit-ithadsoundedsofunny-sheburst
outlaughing.Markgulped,turnedanddisappeareddownthehall.Everythingchangedthen.A
murmurranroundthetable.
"Shelaughed!"
"Hey!Thenewgirllaughed!"
"Laughed!"
AyoungItaliangirllinkedherarminFrancie'sandsaid,"Comeon,newgirl.I'llshowyouthe
terlet."
Inthewashroom,sheturnedonthewaterforFrancie,puncheddownontheglassbowlofliquid
soapandhoveredoverFranciesolicitouslywhileshewashedherhands.WhenFranciewould
havedriedherhandsonthesnowy,obviously-unusedrollertowel,herguidesnatchedher
away.
"Don'tusethattowel,newgirl."
"Why?Itlooksclean."
"It'sdangerous.Someofthegirlsworkinghereisclappyandyou'llcatchitifyouusethetowel."
"What'llIdo?"Franciewavedherwethands.
"Useyourpetticoatlikewedo."
Franciedriedherhandsonherpetticoateyeingthedeadlytowelwithhorror.
Backintheworkroom,shefoundthattheyhadflattenedherpaperbagandsetoutthetwo
bolognasandwichesmamahadfixedforher.Shesawthatsomeonehadplacedanicered
tomatoonherpaper.Thegirlswelcomedherbackwithsmiles.Theonewhohadledthetaunts
allmorning,tookalongswigoutofawhiskeybottleandthenpassedittoFrancie.
"Takeadrink,newgirl,"sheordered."Themsamwishesisdrygoingdownalone."Francie
shrankbackanddeclinedhastily."Goahead!It'sonlycoldtea."Franciethoughtofthe
washroomtowelandshookherhead"no"emphatically."Ah!"exclaimedthegirl."Iknowwhy
youdon'tdrinkfrommybottle.Intheterlet,Anastasiascaredyou.Don'tyoubelieveher,new
girl.Thebossstartedthatclappytalkhisselfso'swewouldn'tusethetowels.Thatwayhesaves
acoupledollarseachweekonlaundry."
"Yeah?"saidAnastasia,"Idon'tseenoneofyouseusingthetowel."
"Hell,weonlygothalfahourforlunch.Whowantstowastetimewashinghands?Drinkup,new
girl."Francietookalongdrinkfromthebottle.Thecoldteawasstrongandrefreshing.She
thankedthegirlandthentriedtothankthedonorofthetomato.Immediatelyeachgirlinturn
deniedgivingit.
"Whatareyoutalkingabout?"
"Whattermater?"
"Don'tseenotermater."
"Newgirlbringsatermaterforlunchanddon'tevenremember."
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Sotheyteasedher.Butnowtherewassomethingwarmlycompanionableabouttheteasing.
Francieenjoyedthelunchperiodandwasgladshehadfoundoutwhattheywantedfromher.
Theyhadjustwantedhertolaugh-suchasimplethingandsohardtofindout.
Therestofthedaypassedpleasantly.Thegirlstoldhernottobreakherneck-thatitwas
seasonableworkandthey'dallbelaidoffwhenthefallordershadbeenmadeup.Thequicker
theorderswerefinished,thesoonerthey'dbefired.Francie,pleasedatbeingtakenintothe
confidenceoftheseolder,moreexperiencedworkers,obliginglysloweddown.Theytoldjokes
allafternoonandFrancielaughedatthemall,whethertheywerefunnyorjustplaindirty.And
herconsciencebotheredheronlyalittlebitwhenshejoinedtheothersintormentingMark,the
martyr,whodidn'tknowthatifhewouldlaughbutonce,histroublesintheshopwouldbeover.
ItwasafewminutespastnoononSaturday.FranciestoodatthefootoftheFlushingAvenue
stationoftheBroadwayElwaitingforNeeley.Sheheldanenvelopecontainingfivedollars-her
firstweek'spay.Neeleywasbringinghomefivedollarstoo.Theyhadagreedtoarrivehome
togetherandmakealittleceremonyoutofgivingthemoneytomama.
NeeleyworkedaserrandboyinadowntownNewYorkbrokeragehouse.Sissy'sJohnhad
gottenhimthejobthroughafriendalreadyworkingthere.FrancieenviedNeeley.Eachdayhe
crossedthegreatWilliamsburgBridgeandwentintothestrangebigcitywhileFranciewalked
toherworkonthenorthsideofBrooklyn.AndNeeleyateinarestaurant.LikeFrancie,hehad
broughthislunchthefirstdaybuttheboysmadefunofhim,callinghimthecountryboyfrom
Brooklyn.Afterthat,mamagavehimfifteencentsadayforlunch.HetoldFranciehowheatein
aplacecalledtheAutomatwhereyouputanickelinaslotandcoffeeandcreamcameout
together-nottoolittle,nottoomuch,justacupful.Franciewishedshecouldrideacrossthe
bridgetoworkandeatintheAutomatinsteadofcarryingsandwichesfromhome.
NeeleyrandowntheElsteps.Hecarriedaflatpackageunderhisarm.Francienoticedhowhe
puthisfeetdownatananglesothatthewholefootwasonthestepinsteadofjusttheheelpart.
Thisgavehimsurefooting.Papahadalwayscomedownstairsthatway.Neeleywouldn'ttell
Franciewhatwasinthepackage,sayingthatwouldspoilthesurprise.Theystoppedina
neighborhoodbankwhichwasjustabouttocloseforthedayandaskedatellertogivethem
newone-dollarbillsinexchangefortheiroldmoney.
"Whatdoyouwantnewbillsfor?"askedtheteller.
"It'sourfirstpayandwe'dliketobringithomeinnewmoney,"explainedFrancie.
"Firstpay,eh?"saidtheteller."Thattakesmeback.Itcertainlytakesmeback.Iremember
whenItookhomemyfirstpay.Iwasaboyatthetime...workingonafarminManhasset,Long
Island.Well,sir...."Hewentoffintoabiographicalsketchwhilepeopleinlineshuffled
impatiently.Heended,"...andwhenIturnedmyfirstpayovertomymother,thetearsstoodin
hereyes.Yes,sir,thetearsstoodinhereyes."
Hetorethewrapperfromabundleofnewbillsandexchangedtheiroldmoney.Thenhesaid,
"Andhere'sapresentforyou."Hegaveeachafresh-mintedgold-lookingpennywhichhetook
fromthecashdrawer."New1916pennies,"heexplained."Thefirstintheneighborhood.Don't
spendthem,now.Savethem."Hetooktwooldcoppersfromhispocketandputtheminthe
drawertomakeupthedeficiency.Franciethankedhim.Astheymovedaway,sheheardthe
mannextinlinesayasheleanedhiselbowontheledge,
"IrememberwhenIbroughtmyfirstpayhometomyoldlady."
Astheywentout,Franciewonderedwhethereveryoneinlinewouldtellabouthisfirstpay.
"Everyonewhoworks,"saidFrancie,"hasthisonethingtogether:Theyrememberabout
bringinghometheirfirstpay."
"Yeah,"agreedNeeley.
Astheyturnedacorner,Franciemused,"Andthetearsstoodinhereyes."Shehadnever
heardthatexpressionbeforeanditcaughtherfancy.
"Howcouldthatbe?"Neeleywantedtoknow."Tearshavenolegs.Theycan'tstand."
"Hedidn'tmeanthat.Hemeantitlikewhenpeoplesay,'Istoodinbedallday.'"
"But'stood'isnowordthatway."
"Itisso,"counteredFrancie."HereinBrooklyn'stood'islikethepasttenseof'stay.'"
"Iguessso;"agreedNeeley."Let'swalkdownManhattanAvenueinsteadofGraham."
"Neeley,Ihaveanidea.Let'smakeatin-canbankwithouttellingmamaandnailitinyourcloset.
We'llstartitoffwiththesenewpenniesandifmamagivesusanyspendingmoney,we'lleach
puttencentsineveryweek.We'llopenitChristmasandbuypresentsformamaandLaurie."
"Andforus,too,"stipulatedNeeley.
"Yeah.I'llbuyoneforyouandyoubuyoneforme.I'lltellyouwhatIwantwhenthetime
comes."
Itwasagreed.
Theywalkedbriskly,outdistancingloiteringkidshomewardboundfromthejunkshops.They
lookedtowardsCarney'sastheypassedScholesStreetandnoticedthecrowdoutsideof
CheapCharlie's.
"Kids,"saidNeeleycontemptuously,jinglingsomecoinsinhispockets.
"Remember,Neeley,whenweusedtogooutsellingjunk?"
"Thatwasalongtimeago."
"Yeah,"agreedFrancie.Itwas,infact,twoweekssincetheyhaddraggedtheirlasthaulto
Carney's.
Neeleypresentedtheflatpackagetomama."ForyouandFrancie,"hesaid.Mamaunwrapped
it.ItwasapoundboxofLoft'speanutbrittle."AndIdidn'tbuyitoutofmysalary,either,"
explainedNeeleymysteriously.Theymademamagointothebedroomforaminute.They
arrangedthetennewbillsonthetable,thencalledmamaout.
"Foryou,Mama,"saidFranciewithagrandwaveofherhand.
"Oh,my!"saidMama."Icanhardlybelieveit."
"Andthat'snotall,"saidNeeley.Hetookeightycentsinchangefromhispocketandplacediton
thetable."Tipsforrunningerrandsfast,"heexplained."Isaved'emallweek.Therewasmore,
butIboughtthecandy."
MamaslidthechangeacrossthetabletoNeeley."Allthetipsyoumake,youkeepforspending
money,"shesaid.
(Justlikepapa,thoughtFrancie.)
"Gee!Well,I'llgiveFrancieaquarteroutofit."
"No."Mamagotafifty-centpiecefromthecrackedcupandgaveittoFrancie."That'sFrancie's
spendingmoney.Fiftycentsaweek."Franciewaspleased.Shehadn'texpectedthatmuchof
anallowance.Thechildrenoverwhelmedtheirmotherwiththanks.
Katielookedatthecandy,atthenewbillsandthenatherchildren.Shebitherlip,turned
suddenlyandwentintothebedroom,closingthedoorafterher.
"Isshemadaboutsomething?"whisperedNeeley.
"No,"saidFrancie."She'snotmad.Shejustdidn'twantustoseeherstartcrying."
"Howdoyouknowshe'sgoingtocry?"
"'Cause.Whenshelookedatthemoney,Isawthattearsstoodinhereyes."
XLIV
FRANCIEhadbeenworkingtwoweekswhenthelayoffcame.Thegirlsexchangedlookswhile
theBossexplainedthatitwasjustforafewdays.
"Afewdays,sixmonthslong,"explainedAnastasiaforFrancie'sinformation.
ThegirlsweregoingovertoaGreenpointfactorywhichneededhandsforwinterorders,
poinsettiasandartificialhollywreaths.Whenthelayoffcamethere,they'dgoontoanother
factory.Andsoon.TheywereBrooklynmigratoryworkersfollowingseasonalworkfromone
partoftheboroughtotheother.
TheyurgedFrancietogoalongwiththembutshewantedtotrynewwork.Shefiguredthat
sinceshehadtowork,she'dgetvarietyinitby changingherjobeachchanceshegot.Then,
likethesodas,shecouldsayshehadtriedeveryworktherewas.
Katiefoundanadin
TheWorld
thatsaidafileclerkwaswanted;beginnerconsidered,age
sixteen,statereligion.Francieboughtasheetofwritingpaperandanenvelopeforapennyand
carefullywroteanapplicationandaddressedittothead'sboxnumber.Althoughshewasonly
fourteen,sheandhermotheragreedthatshecouldpassforsixteeneasily.Soshesaidshe
wassixteenintheletter.
Twodayslater,Franciereceivedareplyonanexcitingletterhead:apairofshearslyingona
foldednewspaperwithapotofpastenearby.ItwasfromtheModelPressClippingBureauon
CanalStreet,NewYork,anditaskedMissNolantoreportforaninterview.
SissywentshoppingwithFrancieandhelpedherbuyagrownupdressandherfirstpairof
high-heeledpumps.Whenshetriedonhernewoutfit,mamaandSissysworethatshelooked
sixteenexceptforherhair.Herbraidsmadeherlookverykiddish.
"Mama,pleaseletmegetitbobbed,"beggedFrancie.
"Ittookyoufourteenyearstogrowthathair,"saidmama,"andI'llnotletyouhaveitcutoff."
"Gee,Mama,you're'waybehindthetime."
"Whydoyouwantshorthairlikeaboy?"
"Itwouldbeeasiertocarefor."
"Takingcareofherhairshouldbeawoman'spleasure."
"ButKatie,"protestedSissy,"allthegirlsarebobbingtheirhairnowadays."
"They'refools,then.Awoman'shairishermystery.Daytimes,it'spinnedup.Butatnight,alone
withherman,thepinscomeoutandithangslooselikeashiningcape.Itmakesheraspecial
secretwomanfortheman."
"Atnight,
all
catsaregray,"saidSissywickedly.
"Noneofyourremarks,"saidKatiesharply.
"I'dlookjustlikeIreneCastleifIhadshorthair,"persistedFrancie.
"TheymakeJewwomencutofftheirhairwhentheymarry,sonoothermanwilllookatthem.
Nunsgettheirhaircutofftoprovethey'redonewithmen.Whyshouldanyyounggirldoitwhen
shedoesn'thaveto?"Franciewasabouttoreplywhenmamasaid,"We'llhavenomore
arguments."
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