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"Allright,"saidFrancie."ButwhenI'meighteen,I'llbemyownboss.Then
you'll
see."
"Whenyou'reeighteen,youcanshaveyourscalpforallIcare.Inthemeantime..."Shewound
Franciestwoheavybraidsaroundherheadandpinnedtheminplacewithbonehairpinswhich
shetookfromherownhair."There!"Shesteppedbackandsurveyedherdaughter."Itlooksjust
likeashiningcrown,"sheannounceddramatically.
Itdoesmakeherlookatleasteighteen,"concededSissy.
Francielookedinthemirror.Shewaspleasedthatshelookedsooldthewaymamahadfixed
herhair.Butshewouldn'tgiveinandsayso.
"AllmylifeI'llhaveheadachescarryingthisloadofhairaround,"shecomplained.
"Luckyyou,ifthat'sallgivesyoualifeofheadaches,"saidmama.
Nextmorning,NeeleyescortedhissistertoNewYork.AsthetraincameontotheWilliamsburg
BridgeafterleavingMarcyAvenuestation,Francienoticedthatmanypeopleseatedinthecar
roseasifinaccordandthensatdownagain.
"Whydotheydothat,Neeley?"
"JustasyougetontheBridge,there'sabankwithabigclock.Peoplestanduptolookatthe
timeso'stheyknowwhetherthey'reearlyorlateforwork.Ibetchaamillionpeoplelookatthat
clockeveryday,"figuredNeeley.
FranciehadanticipatedathrillwhensherodeoverthatBridgeforthefirsttime.Buttheride
wasn'thalfasthrillingaswearinggrown-upclothesforthefirsttime.
Theinterviewwasshort.Shewashiredontrial.Hours,ninetofive-thirty,halfanhourforlunch,
salary,sevendollarsaweektostart.First,theBosstookheronatourofinspectionofthePress
ClippingBureau.
Thetenreaderssatatlongslopingdesks.Thenewspapersofallthestatesweredivided
amongthem.ThepaperspouredintotheBureaueveryhourofeverydayfromeverycityin
everystateoftheUnion.Thegirlsmarkedandboxeditemssoughtandputdowntheirtotaland
theirownidentifyingnumberonthetopofthefrontpage.
Themarkedpaperswerecollectedandbroughttotheprinterwhohadahandpresscontaining
anadjustabledateapparatus,andracksofslugsbeforeher.Sheadjustedthepaper'sdateon
herpress,insertedtheslugcontainingthename,city,andstateofthenewspaperandprinted
asmanyslipsastherewereitemsmarked.
Then,slipsandnewspaperwenttothecutterwhostoodbeforealargeslantingdeskand
slashedoutthemarkeditemswithasharpcurvedknife.(Inspiteoftheletterhead,therewasn't
apairofshearsonthepremises.)Asthecutterslashedouttheitems,throwingthediscarded
papertothefloor,aseaofnewspaperroseashighasherwaisteachfifteenminutes.Aman
collectedthiswastepaperandtookitawayforbaling.
Theclippeditemsandslipswereturnedovertothepasterwhoaffixedtheclippings.totheslips.
Thentheywerefiled,collectedandplacedinenvelopesandmailed.
Franciegotontothefilingsystemveryeasily.Intwoweeks,shehadmemorizedthetwo
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thousandorsonamesorheadingsonthefilebox.Thenshewasputintotrainingasareader.
Fortwomoreweeks,shedidnothingbutstudytheclients'cardswhichweremoredetailedthan
thefileboxheadings.Whenaninformalexaminationprovedthatshehadmemorizedtheorders,
shewasgiventheOklahomapaperstoread.TheBosswentoverherpapersbeforetheywent
tothecutterandpointedouthermistakes.Whenshegotexpertenoughnottoneedchecking,
thePennsylvaniapaperswereadded.SoonaftershewasgiventheNewYorkstatepapers,
andnowhadthreestatestoread.BytheendofAugust,shewasreadingmorepapersand
markingmoreitemsthananyotherreaderintheBureau.Shewasfreshtothework,anxiousto
please,hadstrongcleareyes(shewastheonlyreadernotwearingglasses),andhad
developedaphotographiceyeveryquickly.Shecouldtakeinanitemataglanceandnote
immediatelywhetheritwassomethingtomark.Shereadbetweenahundredandeightyand
twohundrednewspapersaday.Thenextbestreaderaveragedfromahundredtoahundred
andtenpapers.
Yes,FranciewasthefastestreaderintheBureau-andthepoorestpaid.Althoughshehadbeen
raisedtotendollarsaweekwhenshewentonreading,herrunner-upreceivedtwenty-five
dollarsaweekandtheotherreadersreceivedtwenty.SinceFrancieneverbecamefriendly
enoughwiththegirlstobetakenintotheirconfidence,shehadnowayofknowinghowgrossly
underpaidshewas.
AlthoughFrancielikedreadingnewspapersandwasproudtoearntendollarsaweek,shewas
nothappy.ShehadbeenexcitedaboutgoingtoworkinNewYork.Sincesuchatinythingasa
flowerinabrownbowlatthelibraryhadthrilledherso,sheexpectedthatthegreatcityofNew
Yorkwouldthrillherahundredtimesmore.Butitwasnotso.
TheBridgehadbeenthefirstdisappointment.Lookingatitfromtheroofofherhouse,shehad
thoughtthatcrossingitwouldmakeherfeellikeagossamer-wingedfairyflyingthroughtheair.
ButtheactualrideovertheBridgewasnodifferentthantherideabovetheBrooklynstreets.
TheBridgewaspavedinsidewalksandtrafficroadslikethestreetsofBroadwayandthetracks
werethesametracks.TherewasnodifferentfeelingaboutthetrainasitwentovertheBridge.
NewYorkwasdisappointing.Thebuildingswerehigherandthecrowdsthicker;otherwiseit
waslittledifferentfromBrooklyn.Fromnowon,wouldallnewthingsbedisappointing,she
wondered?
ShehadoftenstudiedthemapoftheUnitedStatesandcrosseditsplains,mountains,deserts,
andriversinherimagination.Andithadseemedawonderfulthing.Nowshewonderedwhether
shewouldn'tbedisappointedinthat,too.Supposing,shethought,shewastowalkacrossthis
greatcountry.She'dstartoutatseveninthemorning,say,andwalkwestward.She'dputone
footdowninfrontoftheothertocoverdistance,and,asshewalkedtothewest,she'dbeso
busywithherfeetandwiththerealizationthatherfootstepswerepartofachainthathad
startedinBrooklyn,thatshemightthinknothingatallofthemountains,rivers,plains,and
desertsshecameupon.Allshe'dnoticewasthatsomethingswerestrangebecausethey
remindedherofBrooklynandthatotherthingswerestrangebecausetheyweresodifferent
fromBrooklyn."Iguessthereisnothingnew,then,intheworld,"decidedFrancieunhappily."If
thereisanythingnewordifferent,somepartofitmustbeinBrooklynandImustbeusedtoit
andwouldn'tbeabletonoticeitifIcameacrossit."LikeAlexandertheGreat,Franciegrieved,
beingconvincedthattherewerenonewworldstoconquer.
Sheadaptedherselftothesplit-secondrhythmoftheNewYorkergoingtoandfromwork.
Gettingtotheofficewasanervousordeal.Ifshearrivedoneminutebeforenine,shewasafree
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person.Ifshearrivedaminuteafter,sheworriedbecausethatmadeherthelogicalscapegoat
oftheBossifhehappenedtobenabadmoodthatday.Soshelearnedwaysofconservingbits
ofseconds.Longbeforethetraingroundtoastopatherstation,shepushedherwaytothe
doortobeoneofthefirstexpelledwhenitslidopen.Outofthetrain,sheranlikeadeer,circling
thecrowdtobethefirstupthestairsleadingtothestreet.Walkingtotheoffice,shekeptclose
tothebuildingssoshecouldturncornerssharply.Shecrossedstreetskittycornertosave
steppingoffandonanextrapairofcurbs.Atthebuilding,sheshovedherwayintotheelevator
eventhoughtheoperatoryelled"Car'sfull!"Andallthismaneuveringtoarriveoneminute
before,insteadofafternine!
Onceshelefthometenminutesearliertohavemoretime.Inspiteofnoneedofhurry,shestill
pushedherwayoutofthetrain,flewupthesteps,rushedthroughthestreetseconomicallyand
crowdedintoafullelevator.Shewasfifteenminutesearly.Thebigroomwasechoinglyempty
andshefeltdesolateandlost.Whentheotherworkersrushedinsecondsbeforenine,Francie
feltlikeatraitor.Thenextmorning,sheslepttenminuteslongerandreturnedtoheroriginal
timing.
ShewastheonlyBrooklyngirlintheBureau.TheotherscamefromManhattan,Hoboken,the
Bronx,andonecommutedfromBayonne,NewJersey.Twooftheoldestreadersthere,sisters,
hadoriginallycomefromOhio.ThefirstdayFrancieworkedattheBureauoneofthesisters
saidtoher,"YouhaveaBrooklynaccent."Ithadsoundedlikeashockedaccusationandmade
Francieself-consciousofherspeech.Shetooktopronouncingwordscarefully,lestshesay
thingslike"goil"for"girl,"and"apperntment"insteadof"appointment."
TherewerebuttwopeopleintheBureautowhomshecouldtalkwithoutembarrassment.One
wastheBoss-manager.HewasaHarvardgraduateandinspiteofabroad"a"whichheused
indiscriminately,hisspeechwasplainandhisvocabularylessaffectedthanthoseofthe
readers,mostofwhomhadgraduatedfromhighschoolandhadpickedupanextensive
vocabularyfromyearsofreading.TheotherpersonwasMissArmstrong,whowastheonly
othercollegegraduate.
MissArmstrongwasthespecialcityreader.Herdeskwasisolatedinthechoicestcornerofthe
roomwheretherewasanorthandaneastwindow,thebestlightforreading.Shereadnothing
buttheChicago,Boston,Philadelphia,andNewYorkCitynewspaper.Aspecialmessenger
broughthereacheditionoftheNewYorkCitynewspapersoonafteritleftthepresses.When
herpaperswerereadup,shedidn'thavetopitchin,astheotherreadersdid,andhelpthegirls
whowerebehind.Shecrochetedormanicuredhernailswhilewaitingforthenextedition.She
wasthehighestpaid,receivingthirtydollarsaweek.MissArmstrongwasakindlypersonand
shetookahelpfulinterestinFrancieandtriedtodrawheroutinconversationsothatshe
wouldn'tfeellonely.
Onceinthewashroom,FrancieoverheardaremarkaboutMissArmstrongbeingtheBoss'
mistress.Franciehadheardof,butneverseenoneofthosefabulousbeings.Immediately,she
examinedMissArmstrongcloselyasamistress.ShesawthatMissArmstrongwasn'tpretty;
herfacewasalmostsimianwithitswidemouthandflatthicknostrils,andherfigurewasmerely
passable.Francielookedatherlegs.Theywerelong,slenderandexquisitelymolded.She
worethesheerestofflawlesssilkstockings,andexpensively-madehigh-heeledpumpsshod
herbeautifully-archedfeet."Beautifullegs,then,isthesecretofbeingamistress,"concluded
Francie.Shelookeddownatherownlongthinlegs."I'llnevermakeit,Iguess."Sighing,she
resignedherselftoasinlesslife.
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TherewasaclasssystemintheBureauengenderedbythecutter,printer,paster,paperbaler,
anddeliveryboy.Theseworkers,illiteratebutsharp-witted,whoforsomereasoncalled
themselvesTheClub,assumedthatthebetter-educatedreaderslookeddownonthem.In
retaliation,theystirredupasmuchtroubleaspossibleamongthereaders.
Francie'sloyaltiesweredivided.Bybackgroundandeducation,shebelongedtoTheClubclass
butbyabilityandintelligenceshebelongedtothereader'class.TheClubwasshrewdenough
tofeelthisdivisioninFrancieandtriedtouseherasago-between.Theyinformedherof
trouble-makingofficerumors,expectingthatshewouldrelaythemtothereaderandcreate
dissension.ButFranciewasn'tfriendlyenoughwiththereaderstoexchangegossipwiththem
andtherumorsdiedwithher.
Sooneday,whenthecuttertoldherthatMissArmstrongwasleavinginSeptember,andthat
she,Francie,wastobepromotedtothecityreaderjob,Francieassumedthistobearumor
inventedtoarousejealousyamongthereader,allofwhomexpectedthecityreadingjobwhen
andifMissArmstrongresigned.Shethoughtitwaspreposterous,thatshe,agirloffourteen,
withnothingbutagradeschooleducation,wouldbeconsideredeligibletotakeovertheworkof
athirty-year-oldcollegegraduatelikeMissArmstrong.
ItwasnearingtheendofAugustandFranciewasworriedbecausemamahadn'tmentioned
anythingabouthergoingtohighschool.Shewanteddesperatelytogobacktoschool.Allthe
yearsoftalkabouthighereducationshehadheardfromhermother,grandmother,andaunts
notonlymadeheranxioustogetmoreeducation,butgaveheraninferioritycomplexabouther
presentlackofeducation.
Sherememberedwithaffectionthegirlswhohadwritteninherautographbook.Shewantedto
beoneofthemagain.Theycameoutofthesamelifeasshedid;theywerenofurtheralong.
Hernaturalplacewasgoingtoschoolwiththem,notworkingcompetitivelywitholderwomen.
Shedidn'tlikeworkinginNewYork.Thecrowdscontinuallyswarmingabouthermadeher
tremble.Shefeltthatshewasbeingpushedintoawayoflifethatshewasn'treadytohandle.
AndthethingsshedreadedworstaboutworkinginNewYorkwasthecrowdedEltrains.
Therehadbeenthattimeinthetrainwhen,hangingfromastrapandsotightlywedgedinthe
crowdthatshecouldn'tsomuchaslowerherarm,shehadfeltaman'shand.Nomatterhow
shetwistedandsquirmed,shecouldn'tgetawayfromthathand.Whensheswayedwiththe
crowdasthecarsswerved,thehandtightened.Shewasunabletotwistherheadtoseewhose
handitwas.Shestoodindesperatefutility,helplesslyenduringtheindignity.Shecouldhave
calledoutandprotestedbutshewastooashamedtocallpublicattentiontoherpredicament.It
seemedaneternitybeforethecrowdthinnedoutenoughforhertomovetoadifferentpartof
thecar.Afterthat,standinginacrowdedtrainbecameadreadedordeal.
OneSunday,whensheandmamabroughtLaurieovertoseegranma,FrancietoldSissyabout
themanonthetrain,expectingthatSissywouldcomforther.Butheraunttreateditasagreat
joke.
"SoamanpinchedyouontheEl,"shesaid."Iwouldn'tletthatbotherme.Itmeansyou're
gettingagoodshapeandtherearesomemenwhocan'tresistawoman'sshape.Say!Imust
begettingold!It'sbeenyearssinceanybodypinchedmeontheEl.TherewasatimewhenI
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couldn'trideinacrowdwithoutcominghomeblackandblue,"shesaidproudly.
"Isthatanythingtobragabout?"askedKatie.
Sissyignoredthatremark."Thedaywillcome,Francie,"shesaid,"whenyou'reforty-fiveand
haveashapelikeabagofhorses'oatstiedinthemiddle.Thenyou'lllookbackandlongforthe
olddayswhenmen
wanted
topinchyou."
"Ifshedoeslookback,"saidKatie,"itwillbebecauseyouputitinhermindandnotbecauseit's
anythingwonderfultoremember."SheturnedtoFrancie."Asforyou,learntostandinthetrain
withoutholdingontoastrap.Keepyourhandsdownandkeepalongsharppininyourpocket.
Ifyoufeelaman'shandonyou,stickitgoodwiththepin."
Franciedidasmamasaid.Shelearnedtokeepherfeetwithoutholdingtoastrap.Shekepther
handclosedonalongviciouspininhercoatpocket.Shehopedsomeonewouldpinchher
again.She,justhopedso,sothatshecouldstabhimwiththepin."It'sallverywellforSissyto
talkaboutshapesandmen,butIdon'tliketobepinchedintheback.AndwhenIgettobe
forty-five,IcertainlyhopethatIhavesomethingnicertolookbackonandlongforthanbeing
pinchedby astranger.Sissyoughttobeashamed....
"What'sthematterwithme,anyhow?HereIstandcriticizingSissy-Sissywho'sbeensodarn
goodtome.I'mdissatisfiedwithmyjobwhenIshouldfeelluckyhavingsuchinterestingwork.
Imaginegetting
paid
toreadwhenIliketoreadsomuchanyhow.AndeveryonethinksNew
Yorkisthemostwonderfulcityintheworldand
I
can'tevengettolikeNewYork.SeemslikeI'm
themostdissatisfiedpersoninthewholeworld.Oh,IwishIwasyoungagainwheneverything
seemedsowonderful!"
JustbeforeLaborDay,theBosscalledFrancieintohisprivateofficeandinformedherthatMiss
Armstrongwasleavingtobemarried.HeclearedhisthroatandaddedthatMissArmstrongwas
marryinghim,infact.
Francie'sconceptionofamistressbrokeandscattered.Shehadbelievedthatmennever
marriedtheirmistresses-thattheycastthemasidelikeworn-outgloves.SoMissArmstrongwas
tobecomeawifeinsteadofaworn-outglove.Well!
"Sowe'llneedanewcityreader,"theBosswassaying."MissArmstrongherself,suggested
thatwe...ah...try
you
out,MissNolan."
Francie'sheartjumped.She,cityreader!ThemostcovetedjobintheBureau!Therehadbeen
truth,then,inTheClub'srumors.Anotherpreconceivedideagone.Shehadalwaysassumed
thatallrumorswerefalse.
TheBossplannedtoofferherfifteenaweek,figuringhe'dgetasgoodareaderashisfuture
wifeathalfthesalary.Thegirlshouldbetickledtodeath,too-ayoungsterlikethat...fifteena
week.Shesaidshewaspastsixteen.Shelookedthirteen.Ofcourseheragewasnoneofhis
businessaslongasshewascompetent.Thelawcouldn'ttouchhim-hiringsomeoneunderage.
Allhe'dhavetosaywasthatshedeceivedhimastohertrueage.
"There'salittleraisealongwiththejob,"hesaidbenignly.Franciesmiledhappilyandhe
worried."HaveIputmyfootinit?"hethought."Maybeshedidn'texpectaraise."Hecovered
hisblunderhastily."...asmallraiseafterweseehowyouworkout."
"Idon'tknow..."beganFranciedoubtfully.
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"She'soversixteen,"decidedtheboss,"andshe'sgoingtoholdmeupforabigraise."To
forestallher,hesaid,"We'llgiveyoufifteenaweek,starting....Hehesitated.Nousebeingtoo
good-natured."...startingthefirstofOctober."Heleanedbackinhischairfeelingasgracious
asGod,Himself.
"Imean,Idon'tthinkI'llbeheremuchlonger."
"She'sworkingmeformoremoney,"hethought.Aloud,heasked,"Whynot?"
"I'mgoingbacktoschoolafterLaborDay,Ithink.Imeanttotellyouassoonasmyplanswere
settled."
"College?"
"Highschool."
"I'llhavetoputPinskioncity,"hethought."She'sgettingtwenty-fivenow,she'llexpectthirty
andI'mrightbackwhereIstarted.ThisNolanisbetterthanPinski,too.DamnIrma!Where
doesshegettheideathatawomanshouldn'tworkaftermarriage?Shecouldkeeprighton...
keepthemoneyinthefamily...buyahomewithit."HespoketoFrancie.
"Oh!I'msorrytohearthat.NotthatIdon'tapproveofhighereducation.ButIconsider
newspaperreadingadarnfineeducation.It'sagood,liveever-growingcontemporary
education.Whileinschool…it'smerelybooks.Deadbooks,"hesaidcontemptuously.
"I'll...I'llhavetotalkitoverwithmymother."
"Byallmeans.TellherwhatyourBosssaidabouteducation.AndtellherIsaid,"heclosedhis
eyesandtooktheplunge,"thatwe'llpayyoutwentydollarsaweek.Startingthefirstof
November,"heshavedoffamonth.
"That'sanawfullotofmoney,"shesaidinallhonesty.
"Webelieveinpayingourworkerswellsotheystickwithus.And...ah...MissNolan,please
don'tmentionyourfuturesalary.It'smorethananyoneelseisgetting,"helied,"andifthey
foundout..."hespreadhishandsinagestureoffutility."Youunderstand?Nowashroom
gossip."
Franciefeltgraciousasshesethismindateaseby assuringhimthatshe'dneverbetrayhimin
thewashroom.TheBossstartedtosignletters,indicatingthattheinterviewwasover.
"That'sall,MissNolan.AndwemusthaveyourdecisionthedayafterLaborDay."
"Yes,sir."
Twentydollarsaweek!Franciewasstunned.Twomonthsago,shewasgladtoearnfive
dollarsaweek.UncleWillieonlyearnedeighteenaweekandhewasforty.Sissy'sjohnwas
smartandearnedbuttwenty-two-fiftyaweek.Fewmeninherneighborhoodearnedasmuch
astwentyaweekandtheyhadfamilies,too.
"Withthatmoney,ourtroubleswouldbeover,"thoughtFrancie."Wecouldpayrentona
three-roomflatsomewhere,mamawouldn'thavetogoouttoworkandLauriewouldn'theleft
alonesomuch.IguessI'dbemightyimportantifIcouldmanagesomethinglikethat.
"ButIwanttogobacktoschool!"
Sherecalledtheconstantharpingoneducationinthefamily.
Granma:Itwillraiseyouuponthefaceoftheearth.
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Evy:Eachofmythreechildrenwillgetthreediplomas.
Sissy:Andwhenmothergoes-prayGodnotforalongtimeyet-andbabyisbigenoughtostart
kindergarten,I'mgoingouttoworkagain.AndI'llbankmypayandwhenLittleSissygrowsup,
I'llputherinthebestcollegethereis.
Mama:AndIdon'twantmychildrentohavethesamehardworkinglifeIhave.Educationwillfix
itsothattheirlivesareeasier.
"Stillit'ssuchagoodjob,"thoughtFrancie."Thatis,goodrightnow.Butmyeyeswillgetworn
outfromthework.Alltheolderreadershavetowearglasses.MissArmstrongsaidareader's
onlygoodaslongashereyesholdout.Thoseotherreaderswerefast,too,whentheyfirst
started.Likeme.Butnowtheireyes....Imustsavemyeyes…notreadawayfromthejob.
IfmamaknewIcouldgettwentyaweek,maybeshewouldn'tsendmebacktoschoolandI
couldn'tblameher.We'vebeenpoorsolong.Mamaisveryfairinallthingsbutthismoney,
mightmakeherseethingsinadifferentwayanditwouldn'tbeherfault.Iwon'ttellherabout
theraiseuntilaftershedecidesaboutschool."
Franciespoketomamaaboutschoolandmamasaid,yes,they'dhavetotalkaboutit.They'd
talkaboutitrightaftersupperthatnight.
Afterfinishingtheirsuppercoffee,Katieannouncedneedlessly(sinceeverybodyknewit),that
schoolwasopeningnextweek."Iwantbothofyoutogotohighschoolbutit'sworkingoutthat
onlyoneofyoucanstartthisfall.I'msavingeverycentIcanoutofyourpaysothatnextyear,
bothofyouwillbebackinschool."Shewaited.Shewaitedalongtime.Neitherofthechildren
answered."Well?Don'tyouwanttogotohighschool?"
Francie'slipswerestiffasshespoke.Somuchdependedonmama,andFranciewantedher
wordstomakeagoodimpression."Yes,Mama.Iwanttogo:backtoschoolmore'nI'llever
wantanythinginmylife."
"Idon'twanttogo,"saidNeeley."Don'tmakemegobacktoschool,Mama.Iliketoworkand
I'mgoingtogetatwo-dollarraisethefirstoftheyear."
"Don'tyouwanttobeadoctor?"
"No.Iwanttobeabrokerandmakelotsofmoneylikemybosses.I'llgetontothestockmarket
andmakeamilliondollarssomeday."
"Mysonwillbeagreatdoctor."
"Howdoyouknow?ImightturnoutlikeDr.HuelleronMaujerStreetwithanofficeina
basementflatandalwayswearadirtyshirtlikehim.Anyhow,Iknowenough.Idon'tneedtogo
backtoschool."
"Neeleydoesn'twanttogobacktoschool,"saidKatie.ShespoketoFranciealmostpleadingly.
"Youknowwhatthatmeans,Francie."Franciebitherlip.Itwouldn'tdotocry.Shemustkeep
calm.Shemustkeepthinkingclearly."Itmeans,"saidmama,"
thatNeeleyhastogobackto
school
."
"Iwon't!"criedNeeley."Iwon'tgobacknomatterwhatyousay!I'mworkingandearningmoney
andIwanttokeepon.I'msomebodynowwiththefellers.IfIgobacktoschool,I'mjustapunk
kidagain.Besides,youneedmymoney,Mama.Wedon'twanttobepooragain."
"You'llgobacktoschool,"announcedKatiequietly."Francie'smoneywillbeenough."
"Whydoyoumakehimgowhenhedoesn'twantto,"criedFrancie,"andkeepmeoutofschool
whenIwanttogosomuch?"
"Yeah,"agreedNeeley.
"BecauseifIdon'tmakehim,he'llnevergoback,"saidmama,"whereyou,Francie,willfight
andmanagetogetbacksomehow."
"Whyareyousosureallthetime?"protestedFrancie."InayearI'llbetoooldtogoback.
Neeley'sonlythirteen.He'llstillbeyoungenoughnextyear."
"Nonsense.You'llonlybefifteennextfall."
"Seventeen,"correctedFrancie,"goingoneighteen;toooldtostart."
"Whatkindofsillytalkisthat?"
"Notsilly.Onthejob,I'msixteen.Ihavetolookandactsixteeninsteadoffourteen.NextyearI'll
befifteeninyearsbuttwoyearsolderinthewayI'mliving;toooldtochangebackintoaschool
girl."
"Neeleywillgobacktoschoolnextweek,"saidKatiestubbornly,"andFranciewillgobacknext
year."
"Ihatebothofyou,"shoutedNeeley."Andifyoumakemegoback,I'llrunawayfromhome.
Yes,Iwill!"Heranoutslammingthedoor.
Katie'sfacesetinlinesofmiseryandFranciefeltsorryforher."Don'tworry,Mama.Hewon't
runaway.Hejustsaidthat."Theinstantreliefthatcameintohermother'sfaceangeredFrancie.
"ButI'mtheonewho'llgoawayandIwon'tmakeaspeechaboutit.Whenthetimecomesthat
youdon'tneedwhatIearn,I'llleave."
"What'sgottenintomychildrenwhousedtobesogood?"askedKatiepoignantly.
"Yearshavegottenintous."Katielookedpuzzled.Francieexplained:"Weneverdidget
workingpapers."
"Buttheywerehardtoget.ThepriestwantedadollarforeachbaptismalcertificateandIwould
havehadtogotoCityHallwithyou.IwasnursingLaurieeverytwohoursthen,andcouldn'tgo.
Weallfigureditwaseasierforyoubothtoclaimtobesixteenandnothaveallthefuss."
"Thatpartwasallright.Butsayingweweresixteen,wehadto
be
sixteen,andyoutreatuslike
thirteen-year-oldchildren."
"Iwishyourfatherwerehere.HeunderstoodthingsaboutyouthatIcan'tgettounderstand."
PainstabbedthroughFrancie.Afteritpassed,shetoldhermotherthathersalarywastobe
doubledonNovemberfirst.
"Twentydollars!"Katie'smouthfellopeninsurprise."Oh,my!"Thatwasherusualexpression
whenanythingastonishedher."Whendidyouknow?"
"Saturday."
"Andyoudidn'ttellmetillnow."
"No."
"YouthoughtifIknewthatitwouldfixmymindaboutyoukeepingonworking."
"Yes."
"ButIdidn'tknowwhenIsaiditwasrightforNeeleytogobacktoschool.YoucanseethatIdid
whatIthoughtwasrightandthemoneydidn'tcomeintoit.Can'tyousee?"sheasked
pleadingly.
"No,Ican'tsee.IcanonlyseethatyoufavorNeeleymorethanme.Youfixeverythingforhim
andtellmethatIcanfindawaymyself.SomedayI'llfoolyou,Mama.I'lldowhatIthinkisright
formeanditmightnotberightinyourway."
"I'mnotworrying,becauseIknowthatIcantrustmydaughter."Katiespokewithsuchsimple
dignitythatFranciewasashamedofherself."AndItrustmyson.He'smadnowaboutdoing
whathedoesn'twanttodo.Buthe'llgetoveritanddowellinschool.Neeley'sagoodboy."
"Yes,he'sagoodboy,"concededFrancie,"butevenifhewasbad,youwouldn'tnoticeit.But
whereI'mconcerned..."hervoicewentraggedonasob.
Katiesighedsharplybutsaidnothing.Shegotupandstartedtoclearthetable.Herhand
reachedforacup,andFrancie,forthefirsttimeinherlife,sawhermother'shandfumble.It
trembledandcouldn'tconnectwiththecup.Francieputthecupinhermother'shand.She
noticedabigcrackinthecup.
"Ourfamilyusedtobelikeastrongcup,"thoughtFrancie."Itwaswholeandsoundandheld
thingswell.Whenpapadied,thefirstcrackcame.Andthisfighttonightmadeanothercrack.
Soontherewillbesomanycracksthatthecupwillbreakandwe'llallbepiecesinsteadofa
wholethingtogether.Idon'twantthistohappen,yetI'mdeliberatelymakingadeepcrack."Her
sharpsighwasjustlikeKatie's.
Themotherwenttothewashbasketinwhichthebabywassleepingpeacefullyinspiteofthe
bittertalking.Franciesawhermother'sstillfumblinghandstakethesleepingchildfromthe
basket.Katiesatinherrockernearthewindow,heldherbabytightlyandrocked.
Franciealmostwentblindwithpity."Ishouldn'tbesomeantoher,"shethought."Whathasshe
everhadbuthardworkandtrouble?Nowshehastoturntoherbabyforcomfort.Maybeshe's
thinkingthatLauriewhomshelovessoandwhoissodependentonhernow,willgrowupto
turnagainstherlikeI'mdoingnow."
Sheputherhandawkwardlyonhermother'scheek."It'sallright,Mama.Ididn'tmeanit.You're
rightandI'lldoasyousay.NeeleymustgotoschoolandyouandIwillseethathegets
through."
KatieputherhandoverFrancie's."That'smygoodgirl,"shesaid.
"Don'tbemadatme,Mama,becauseIfoughtyou.You,yourself,taughtmetofightforwhatI
thoughtwasrightandI...IthoughtIwasright."
"Iknow.AndI'mpleasedthatyoucanandwillfightforwhatyoushouldhave.Andyou'llalways
comeoutallright-nomatterwhat.You'relikemethatway."
"Andthat'swherethewholetroubleis,"thoughtFrancie."We'retoomuchaliketounderstand
eachotherbecausewedon'tevenunderstandourownselves.PapaandIweretoodifferent
personsandweunderstoodeachother.MamaunderstandsNeeleybecausehe'sdifferentfrom
her.IwishIwasdifferentinthewaythatNeeleyis."
"Theneverything'sallrightnowbetweenus?"Katieaskedwithasmile.
"Ofcourse."Franciesmiledbackandkissedhermother'scheek.
Butintheirsecrethearts,eachknewthatitwasn'tallrightandwouldneverbeallrightbetween
themagain.
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