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Withhishatinhishand.
Downcomesshe
Alldressedinsilk.
Tomorrow,tomorrow,
Theweddingshallbegin.
Thegirlsstoppedandclappedtheirhandsjoyously.Thenwithoutmotivation,therewasa
changeinmood.Thegirlswentaroundtheringslowerandwithloweredheads.
Mother,Mother,Iamsick.
Sendforthedoctor,
Quick,quick,quick!
Doctor,Doctor,shallIdie?
Yes,mydarling,
Byandby.
HowmanycoachesshallIhave?
Enoughforyouand
Yourfamily,too.
Inotherneighborhoodsthereweredifferentwordstothesongbutessentiallyitwasthesame
game.Nooneknewwherethewordshadcomefrom.Littlegirlslearnedthemfromotherlittle
girlsanditwasthemostfrequentlyplayedgameinBrooklyn.
Therewereothergames.Therewerejacksthattwolittlegirlscouldplaytogethersittingonthe
stepsofastoop.Francieplayedjacksbyherself,firstbeingFrancieandthenheropponent.
She'dtalktotheimaginaryplayer."I'mforthreesiesandyou'refortwosies,"she'dsay.
Potsywasagamethattheboysstartedandthegirlsfinished.Acoupleofboyswouldputatin
canonthecartrackandsitalongthecurbandwatchwithaprofessionaleyeasthetrolley
wheelsflattenedthecan.They'dfolditandputitonthetrackagain.Againitwasflattened,
foldedandflattenedagain.Soontherewasaflatheavysquareofmetal.Numberedsquares
weremarkedoffonthesidewalkandthegamewasturnedovertothegirlswhohoppedonone
footpushingthepotsyfromsquaretosquare.Whoevergotthroughthesquareswiththeleast
numberofhopswonthegame.
Franciemadeapotsy.Sheputacanonthetracks.Shewatchedwithaprofessionalfrownas
thecarranoverit.Sheshudderedindelightedhorrorwhensheheardthescrunch.Wouldthe
motormanbemad,shewondered,ifheknewthatshewasmakinghistrolleycarworkforher?
Shemadethesquaresbutcouldonlywriteoneandseven.Shehoppedthroughagame
ardentlywishingsomeonewereplayingwithherasshewassureshewonwithlesshopsthan
anyotherlittlegirlintheworld.
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Sometimestherewasmusicinthestreets.ThiswassomethingthatFranciecouldenjoywithout
companions.Athree-piecebandcamearoundonceaweek.Theyworeordinarysuitsbutfunny
hats,likeamotorman'shatonlythetopwassquashedin.WhenFrancieheardthechildren
shouting,"HerecomestheBettelbubbers,"she'drunoutonthestreet,sometimesdragging
Neeleywithher.
Thebandconsistedofafiddle,drumandcornet.ThemenplayedoldVienneseairsandifthey
didn'tplaywell,theyatleastplayedloud.Littlegirlswaltzedwitheachother,roundandround
onthewarmsummersidewalks.Therewerealwaystwoboyswhodidagrotesquedance
together,mimickingthegirlsandbumpingintothemrudely.Whenthegirlsgotangry,theboys
wouldbowwithgreatexaggeration(beingsuretheirbuttockswouldbumpanotherdancing
couple),andapologizeinflowerylanguage.
Franciewishedshecouldbeoneofthebraveoneswhotooknopartinthedancingbutstood
closetothehorn-blowersuckingnoisilyonbigdrippingpickles.Thismadesalivaflow,intothe
hornwhichmadethecornetplayerveryangry.Ifprovokedenough,he'dletoutastringofoaths
inGermanendingupwithsomethingthatsoundedlike
GottverdammteEhrlandigerJude
.Most
BrooklynGermanshadahabitofcallingeveryonewhoannoyedthemaJew.
Franciewasfascinatedbythemoneyangle.Aftertwosongs,thefiddleandhorncarriedon
alonewhilethedrummerwentaroundhatinhandungraciouslyacceptingthepenniesdoledout
tohim.Aftercanvassingthestreet,he'dstandonthecurb'sedgeandlookupatthehouse
windows.Womenwrappedtwopenniesinabitofnewspaperandtossedthemdown.The
newspaperwasessential.Anypenniesthrownloosewereconsideredfairgameby theboys
andtheyscrambledforthem,pickedthemupandranoffdownthestreetwithanangry
musicianafterthem.Forsomereason,theywouldn'ttrytogetthewrappedpennies.They'd
pickthemupsometimesandhandthemtothemusicians.Itwassomesortofcodethatmade
themagreeastowhosepennieswerewhose.
Ifthemusiciansgotenough,they'dplayanothersong.Ifthetakewasmeager,they'dmoveon
hopingforgreenerfields.Francie,usuallydraggingNeeleyalong,oftenfollowedthemusicians
fromstoptostop,streettostreet,untilitgotdarkandtimeforthemusicianstodisband.Francie
wasbutoneofacrowdasmanychildrenfollowedthebandPiedPiperfashion.Manyofthelittle
girlstowedbabybrothersandsistersalong,someinhomemadewagons,othersin
busted-downbabybuggies.Themusiccastsuchaspelloverthemthattheyforgotabouthome
andeating.Andthelittlebabiescried,wettheirpants,slept,woketocryagain,wettheirpants
againandtosleepagain.And"TheBeautifulBlueDanube"playedonandon.
Franciethoughtthemusicianshadafinelife.Shemadeplans.WhenNeeleygotbigger,he
wouldplaythehot-hot(hisnameforanaccordion)andshewouldbangatambourineonthe
streetandpeoplewouldthrowthempenniesandthey'dgetrichandmamawouldn'thaveto
workanymore.
Althoughshefollowedtheband,Francielikedtheorgangrinderbetter.Everyonceinawhilea
mancamearoundluggingasmallorganwithamonkeyperchedatopit.Themonkeyworeared
jacketwithgoldbraidandaredpillboxhatstrappedunderhischin.Hisredpantshada
convenientholeinthemsothathistailcouldstickout.Francielovedthatmonkey.She'dgive
himherpreciouspenny-for-candyjustforthehappinessofseeinghimtiphishattoher.Ifmama
wasaround,she'dcomeoutwithapennythatshouldhavegoneintothetin-canbankandgive
ittothemanwithsharpinstructionsnottomistreathismonkey;andifhedidandshefoundout,
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shewouldreporthim.TheItalianneverunderstoodawordshesaidandalwaysmadethesame
answer.Hepulledoffhishat,bowedhumblywithalittlecrookofthelegandcalledouteagerly,
"
Si,Si
."
Thebigorganwasdifferent.Whenthatcamearounditwaslikea
fiesta
.Theorganwaspulled
byadarkcurly-hairedmanwithverywhiteteeth.Heworegreenvelveteenpantsandabrown
corduroyjacketfromwhichhungaredbandanahandkerchief.Heworeonehoop-earring.The
womanwhohelpedhimpulltheorganworeaswirlingredskirtandayellowblouseandlarge
hoopearrings.
Themusictinkledoutshrilly,asongfrom
Carmen
or
IlTrovatore
.Thewomanshookadirty,
be-ribbonedtambourineandlistlesslypuncheditwithherelbowintimetothemusic.Attheend
ofasong,she'dtwirlsuddenlyshowingherstoutlegsindirtywhitecottonstockingsandaflash
ofmulti-coloredpetticoats.
Francienevernoticedthedirtandthelassitude.Sheheardthemusicandsawtheflashing
colorsandfelttheglamourofapicturesquepeople.Katiewarnedhernevertofollowthebig
organ.KatiesaidthatthoseorgangrinderswhodressedupsowereSicilians.Andalltheworld
knewthattheSiciliansbelongedtotheBlackHandandthattheBlackHandSocietyalways
kidnappedlittlechildrenandheldthemforransom.Theytookthechildandleftanotesayingto
leaveahundreddollarsinthecemeteryandsigneditwiththeblackimprintofahand.That's
whatmamasaidaboutthoseorgangrinders.
Fordaysaftertheorgangrinderhadbeenaround,Francieplayedorgangrinder.Shehummed
whatsherecalledofVerdiandbumpedherelbowonanoldpietinpretendingitwasa
tambourine.Sheendedthegamebydrawinganoutlineofherhandonpaperandfillingitin
withblackcrayon.
SometimesFranciewavered.Shedidn'tknowwhetheritwouldbebettertobeabandwhenshe
grewuporanorgangrinderlady.ItwouldbeniceifsheandNeeleycouldgetalittleorganand
acutemonkey.Alldaytheycouldhavefunwithhimfornothingandgoaroundplayingand
watchinghimtiphishat.Andpeoplewouldgivethemalotofpenniesandthemonkeycouldeat
withthemandmaybesleepinherbedatnight.Thisprofessionseemedsodesirablethat
FrancieannouncedherintentionstomamabutKatiethrewcoldwaterontheprojecttellingher
nottobesilly;thatmonkeyshadfleasandshewouldn'tallowamonkeyinoneofherclean
beds.
Francietoyedwiththeideaofbeingatambourinelady.Butthenshe'dhavetobeaSicilianand
kidnaplittlechildrenandshedidn'twanttodothat,althoughdrawingablackhandwasfun.
Therewasalwaysthemusic.ThereweresongsanddancingontheBrooklynstreetsinthose
longagosummersandthedaysshouldhavebeenjoyous.Buttherewassomethingsadabout
thosesummers,somethingsadaboutthechildren,thininbodybutwiththebabycurvesstill
lingeringintheirfaces,singinginsadmonotonyastheywentthroughthefiguresofaringgame.
Itwassadthewaytheywerestillbabiesoffourandfiveyearsofagebutsoprecociousabout
takingcareofthemselves."TheBlueDanube"thatthebandplayedwassadaswellasbad.
Themonkeyhadsadeyesunderhisbrightredcap.Theorgangrinder'stunewassadunderits
liltingshrillness.
Eventheminstrelswhocameinthebackyardsandsang,
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IfIhadmyway,
Youwouldnevergrowold.
weresad,too.Theywerebumsandtheywerehungryandtheydidn'thavetalentfor
song-making.Alltheyhadintheworldwasthenervetostandinabackyardwithcapinhand
andsingloudly.Thesadthingwasintheknowingthatalltheirnervewouldgetthemnowherein
theworldandthattheywerelostasallpeopleinBrooklynseemlostwhenthedayisnearlyover
andeventhoughthesunisstillbright,itisthinanddoesn'tgiveyouwarmthwhenitshineson
you.
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XIV
LIFEwaspleasantinLorimerStreetandtheNolanswouldhavekeptonlivingthereifithadn't
beenforAuntSissyandherbigbutmistakenheart.ItwasSissy'sbusinesswiththetricycleand
theballoonsthatruinedanddisgracedtheNolans.
OnedaySissywaslaidofffromworkanddecidedtogooverandlookafterFrancieandNeeley
whileKatiewasworking.Ablockbeforeshegottotheirhouse,hereyesweredazzledbythe
sunglintingoffthebrasshandlebarofahandsometricycle.Itwasakindofvehiclethatyou
don'tseenowadays.Ithadawideleatherseat,bigenoughfortwolittlechildren,withabackto
itandanironsteeringbarleadingtothesmallfrontwheel.Thereweretwolargerwheelsinthe
back.Therewasahandlebarofsolidbrassontopthesteeringrod.Thepedalswereinfrontof
theseatandachildsatinitatease,pedaleditwhileleaningbackintheseatandsteereditwith
thehandlebarswhichlayacrossthelap.
Sissysawthattricyclestandingthereunattendedinfrontofastoop.Shedidn'thesitate.She
tookthetricycle,pulleditaroundtotheNolanhouse,gotthechildrenoutandgavethemaride.
Franciethoughtitwaswonderful!SheandNeeleysatintheseatandSissypulledthemaround
theblock.Theleatherseatwaswarmfromthesunandhadarichandexpensivesmell.Thehot
sundancedonthebrasshandlebaranditlookedlikelivingfire.Franciethoughtthatifshe
touchedit,itwouldburnherhandsurely.Thensomethinghappened.
Asmallcrowdboredownonthemheadedby ahystericalwomanandabawlingboy.The
womanrushedatSissyyelling"Robber!"Shegrabbedthehandlebarsandpulled.Sissyheldon
tightly.Franciealmostgotthrownout.Thecoponthebeatcamerushingup.
"What'sthis?What'sthis?"Thushetookover.
"Thisladyisarobber,"reportedthewoman."Shestolemylittleboy'stricycle."
"Ididn'tstealit,Sergeant,"saidSissyinhersoftappealingvoice."Itwasjuststandingthereand
standingtheresoIborrowedittogivethekidsaride.Theyneverrodeinsuchafinetricycle.
Youknowwhataridemeanstoakid.It'sjust
heaven
."Thecopstaredatthemutechildrenin
theseat.Franciegrinnedathimintremblingpanic."Iwasonlygoingtoridethemoncearound
theblockandthentakeitback.
Honest
,Sarge."
ThecoplethiseyesrestonSissy'swell-shapedbustwhichwasnotspoiledanybythetight
waiststhatshelikedtowear.Heturnedtotheharassedmother.
"Whydoyouwanttobesostingyfor,Lady?"hesaid."Lethergivethekidsaridearoundthe
block.Itain'tnoskinoffyourteeth."(Onlyhedidn'tsay"teeth"tothesnickeringdelightofthe
youngstersclusteredaround.)"LethergivethemaspinandI'llseethatyougetthebikeback
safe."
Hewasthelaw.Whatcouldthewomando?Thecopgavethebawlingkidanickelandtoldhim
toshutup.Hedispersedthecrowdverysimplybytellingthemhe'dsendforthepiewagonand
takethemalldowntothestationhouseiftheydidn'ttwenty-threeskidoo.
Thecrowdscattered.Thecop,swinginghisclub,gallantlyescortedSissyandhercharges
aroundtheblock.Sissylookedupathimandsmiledintohiseyes.Whereuponhestuckhis
clubinhisbeltandinsistedonpullingthebikeforher.Sissytrottedalongbesidehimonhertiny
high-heeledshoesandcastaspelloverhimwithhersoftflutteringvoice.Theywalkedaround
theblockthreetimes,thecoppretendingnottonoticethehandsthatwentuptohidesmilesas
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thepeoplesawafully-uniformedofficerofthelawsoengaged.HetalkedwarmlytoSissy,
mostlyabouthiswifewhowasagoodwoman,youunderstand,butyouknow,akindofinvalid.
Sissysaidsheunderstood.
Afterthebikeepisode,peopletalked.TheytalkedenoughaboutJohnnycominghomedrunk
onceinawhileandabouthowthemenlookedatSissy.Nowtheyhadthistoaddon.Katie
thoughtofmoving.ItwasgettinglikeBogartStreetwheretheneighborsknewtoomuchabout
theNolans.WhileKatiewasthinkingaboutlookingforanotherplace,somethingelsehappened
andtheyhadtomoverightaway.ThethingthatfinallydrovethemfromLorimerStreetwas
starkrawsex.Onlyitwasveryinnocentlookedatintherightway.
OneSaturdayafternoon,KatiehadanoddjobatGorling's,alargedepartmentstorein
Williamsburg.ShefixedcoffeeandsandwichesfortheSaturdaynightsupperthattheboss
gavethegirlsinlieuofovertimemoney.JohnnywasatUnionHeadquarterswaitingforajobto
findhim.Sissywasn'tworkingthatday.Knowingthatthechildrenwouldbeleftalonelockedin
therooms,shedecidedtokeepthemcompany.
SheknockedatthedoorcallingoutthatshewasAuntSissy.Francieopenedthedooronthe
chaintomakesurebeforesheletherin.ThechildrenswarmedoverSissysmotheringherwith
hugs.Theylovedher.Tothem,shewasabeautifulladywhoalwayssmelledsweet,wore
beautifulclothesandbroughtthemamazingpresents.
Todayshebroughtasweet-smellingcedarcigarbox,severalsheetsoftissuepaper,somered
andsomewhite,andajarofpaste.Theysataroundthekitchentableandwenttowork
decoratingthebox.SissyoutlinedcirclesonthepaperwithaquarterandFranciecutthemout.
Sissyshowedherhowtomakethemintolittlepapercupsbymoldingthecirclesaroundtheend
ofapencil.Whentheyhadalotofcupsmade,Sissydrewaheartontheboxcover.Thebottom
ofeachredcupwasgivenadabofpasteandthecupwaspastedonthepenciledheart.The
heartwasfilledinwithredcups.Therestofthelidwasfilledinwithwhite.Whenthetopwas
finisheditlookedlikeabedofclosely-packedwhitecarnationswithaheartofredones.The
sideswerefilledinwithwhitecupsandtheinsidelinedwithredtissue.Younevercouldtellit
hadbeenacigarbox,itwasthatbeautiful.Theboxtookupmostoftheafternoon.
Sissyhadachopsueydateatfiveandshegotreadytoleave.Francieclungtoherandbegged
hernottogo.Sissyhatedtoleave,yetshedidn'twanttomissherdate.Shesearchedinher
purseforsomethingtoamusetheminherabsence.Theystoodatherkneehelpingherlook.
Franciespiedacigaretteboxandpulleditout.Onthecoverwasapictureofamanlyingona
couch,kneescrossed,onefootdanglingintheairandsmokingacigarettewhichmadeabig
smokeringoverhishead.Intheringwasapictureofagirlwithherhairinhereyesandher
bustpoppingoutofherdress.Thenameontheboxwas
AmericanDreams
.Itwasoutofthe
stockatSissy'sfactory.
Thechildrenclamoredforthebox.Sissyreluctantlyletthemhaveitafterexplainingthatthebox
containedcigarettesandwasonlytoholdandtolookatandnotunderanycircumstancestobe
opened.Theymustnottouchtheseals,shesaid.
Aftersheleft,thechildrenamusedthemselvesforatimebystaringatthepicture.Theyshook
thebox.Adullswishingmysterioussoundresulted.
"Theyissnakesinthereandnotzingarettes,"decidedNeeley.
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"No,"correctedFrancie."Wormsareinthere.Liveones."
Theyargued,FranciesayingtheboxwastoosmallforsnakesandNeeleyinsistingthatthey
rolled-upsnakeslikeherringinaglassjar.CuriositygrewtosuchapitchthatSissy's
instructionswereforgotten.Thesealsweresolightlypasted,itwasasimplemattertopullthem
off.Francieopenedthebox.Therewasasheetofsoftdulledtinfoiloverthecontents.Francie
liftedthefoilcarefully.Neeleypreparedtocrawlunderthetableifthesnakesbecameactive.
Buttherewereneithersnakes,wormsnorcigarettesintheboxanditscontentswerevery
uninteresting.Aftertryingtodevisesomesimplegames,FrancieandNeeleylostinterest,
clumsilytiedthecontentsoftheboxtoastring,trailedthestringoutofthewindowandfinally
securedthestringbyshuttingthewindowonit.Theythentookturnsjumpingonthedenuded
boxandbecamesoabsorbedinbreakingitintobitsthattheyforgotallaboutthestringhanging
outofthewindow.
Consequently,therewasagreatsurprisewaitingforJohnnywhenhesaunteredhometogeta
freshdickyandcollarforhisevening'sjob.Hetookonelookandhisfaceburnedwithshame.
HetoldKatiewhenshecamehome.
KatiequestionedFranciecloselyandfoundouteverything.Sissywascondemned.Thatnight
afterthechildrenhadbeenputtobedandJohnnywasawayworking,Katiesatinherdark
kitchenwithblushescomingandgoing.Johnnywentabouthisworkwithadullfeelingthatthe
worldhadcometoanend.
EvycameoverlaterintheeveningandsheandKatiediscussedSissy.
"That'stheend,Katie,"saidEvy,"theveryend.WhatSissydoesisherownbusinessuntilher
ownbusinessmakesathinglikethishappen.I'vegotagrowinggirl,sohaveyou,wemustn'tlet
Sissycomeintoourhomesagain.She'sbadandthere'snogettingaroundit."
She'sgoodinmanyways,"temporizedKatie.
"Yousaythatafterwhatshedidtoyoutoday?"
"Well...Iguessyou'reright.Onlydon'ttellMother.
Shedoesn'tknowhowSissylivesandSissyishereye-apple."
WhenJohnnycamehome,KatietoldhimthatSissywasnevertocometotheirhouseagain.
Johnnysighedandsaidheguessedthatwastheonlythingtodo.JohnnyandKatietalked
awaythenight,andinthemorningtheyhadtheirplansallmadeformovingwhentheendofthe
monthcame.
KatiefoundajanitorplaceonGrandStreetinWilliamsburg.Shetookupthetin-canbankwhen
theymoved.Therewasalittleovereightdollarsinit.Twohadtogotothemovers,therestwas
putbackwhenthecanwasnaileddowninthenewhome.AgainMaryRommelycameand
sprinkledtheflatwithholywater.Againtherewasthesettlingprocessandtheestablishingof
trustorcreditattheneighborhoodstores.
TherewasresignedregretthatthenewflatwasnotasniceastheirLorimerStreethome.They
livedonthetopfloorinsteadofthegroundfloor.Therewasnostoopasastoreoccupiedthe
streetfloorofthehouse.Therewasnobathroomandthetoiletwasinthehallandsharedby
twofamilies.
Theonlybrightspotwasthattheroofwastheirs.Byanunwrittenagreement,theroofbelonged
tothepeoplewholivedonthetopfloorastheyardbelongedtothepeoplewholivedonthefirst
floor.Anotheradvantagewasthattherewasnoonelivingoverheadtomakevibrationsonthe
ceilingandcausetheWelsbachgasmantletocrumbleintopowder.
WhileKatiewasarguingwiththemovers,JohnnytookFrancieupontheroof.Shesawawhole
newworld.NotfarawaywasthelovelyspanoftheWilliamsburgBridge.AcrosstheEastRiver,
likeafairycitymadeofsilvercardboard,theskyscrapersloomedcleanly.Therewasthe
BrooklynBridgefurtherawaylikeanechoofthenearerbridge.
It'spretty,"saidFrancie."It'sprettythesamewaypicturesofin-the-countryarepretty."
"IgooverthatbridgesometimeswhenIgotowork,"Johnnysaid.
Francielookedathiminwonder.
He
wentoverthatmagicbridgeandstilltalkedandlookedlike
always?Shecouldn'tgetoverit.Sheputoutherhandandtouchedhisarm.Surelythe
wonderfulexperienceofgoingoverthatbridgewouldmakehim
feel
different.Shewas
disappointedbecausehisarmfeltasithadalwaysfelt.
Atthechild'stouch,Johnnyputhisarmaroundherandsmileddownather."Howoldareyou,
PrimaDonna?"
"Sixgoingonseven."
"Whyyou'llbegoingtoschoolinSeptember."
"No.MamasaidImustwaituntilnextyeartillNeeley'soldenoughsowecanstarttogether."
"Why?"
"Sowecanhelpeachotheragainsttheolderkidswhomightlickusiftherewasonlyone."
"Yourmotherthinksofeverything."
Francieturnedaroundandlookedattheotherroofs.Near-bywasonewithapigeoncooponit.
Thepigeonsweresafelylockedup.Butthepigeonowner,ayouthofseventeen,stoodonthe
edgeoftheroofwithalongbamboostick.Ithadaragontheendandtheboystoodwavingthe
stickincircles.Anotherflockofpigeonswasflyingaroundinacircle.Oneofthemleftthegroup
tofollowtheflyingrag.Theboyloweredthestickcautiouslyandthesillypigeonfollowedtherag.
Theboygrabbedhimandstuckhiminthecoop.Franciewasdistressed.
"Theboystoleapigeon."
"Andtomorrowsomeonewillstealoneofhis,"saidJohnny.
"Butthepoorpigeon,takenawayfromhisrelations.Maybehe'sgotchildren."Tearscameinto
hereyes.
"Iwouldn'tcry,"saidJohnny."Maybethepigeonwantedtogetawayfromhisrelatives.Ifhe
doesn'tlikethenewcoop,he'llflybacktotheoldonewhenhegetsoutagain."Franciewas
consoled.
Theydidn'tsayanythingforalongtime.Theystoodhand-in-handontheroof'sedgelooking
acrosstherivertoNewYork.FinallyJohnnysaid,asiftohimself,"Sevenyears."
"WhatPapa?"
"YourmamaandIhavebeenmarriedsevenyearsalready."
"WasIherewhenyougotmarried?"
"No."
"Iwashere,though,whenNeeleycame."
"That'sright."Johnnywentbacktothinkingaloud."Marriedsevenyearsandwe'vehadthree
homes.Thiswillbemylasthome."
Franciedidn'tnoticethathesaid
my
lasthomeinsteadof
our
lasthome.
BOOK
BOOK
BOOK
BOOKTHREE
THREE
THREE
THREE
XV
FOURroomsmadeupthenewflat.Theyledoneintotheotherandwerecalledrailroadrooms.
Thehighnarrowkitchenfacedontheyardwhichwasaflagstonewalksurroundingasquareof
cement-likesourearthoutofwhichnothingcouldpossiblygrow.
Yet,therewasthistreegrowingintheyard.
WhenFranciefirstsawit,itwasonlyuptothesecondstory.Shecouldlookdownonitfromher
window.Itlookedlikeapackedcrowdofpeopleofassortedsizes,standingumbrella-protected
intherain.
Therewasaleanclothespoleinthebackoftheyardfromwhichsixwashlinesonpulleys
connectedwithsixkitchenwindows.Theneighborhoodboyskeptthemselvesinpocketmoney
byclimbingthepolestoreplaceawashlinewhenitslippedoffapulley.Itwasbelievedthatthe
boysclimbedthepoleinthedeadofnightandsneakedthelineoffthepulleytoguaranteethe
nextday'sdime.
Onasunnywindyday,itwasprettytoseethelinesfilled,thesquarewhitesheetstakingthe
windlikethesailsofastory-bookboatandthered,greenandyellowclothesstrainingatthe
woodenpinsasthoughtheyhadlife.
Thepolestoodagainstabrickwallwhichwasthewindowlesssideoftheneighborhoodschool.
Franciefoundthatnotwobrickswerealikewhenshelookedrealclose.Itwasasoothing
rhythmthewaytheywereputtogetherwithcrumblythinlinesofwhitemortar.Theyglowed
whenthesunshoneonthem.TheysmelledwarmandporouswhenFranciepressedhercheek
againstthem.Theywerethefirsttoreceivetherainandtheygaveoffawetclayodorthatwas
likethesmelloflifeitself.Inthewinter,whenthefirstsnowwastoodelicatetolastonthe
sidewalks,itclungtotheroughsurfaceofthebrickandwaslikefairylace.
FourfeetoftheschoolyardfacedonFrancie'syardandwassegregatedfromitbyaniron
meshfence.ThefewtimesFranciegottoplayintheyard(itwaspreemptedby theboywho
livedonthegroundfloorwhowouldletnooneinitwhilehewasthere),shemanagedtobe
thereatrecesstime.Shewatchedthehordeofchildrenplayingintheyard.Recessconsistedof
gettingseveralhundredchildrenherdedintothissmall,stone-pavedenclosureandthengetting
themoutagain.Onceintheyard,therewasnoroomforgames.Thechildrenmilledabout
angrilyandraisedtheirvoicesinonesteady,monotonousshriekingwhichcontinuedunabated
forfiveminutes.Itwascutoff,asifwithasharpknife,whentheend-of-recessbellclanged.For
aninstantafterthebelltherewasdeadsilenceandfrozenmotion.Thenthemillingchangedto
pushing.Thechildrenseemedasdesperatelyanxioustogetinastheyhadbeentogetout.The
highshriekingchangedtosubduedwailingastheyfoughttheirwayback.
Franciewasinheryardonemid-afternoonwhenalittlegirlcameoutaloneintotheschoolyard
andimportantlyclappedtwoblackboarderaserstogethertofreethemfromchalkdust.To
Francie,watching,herfaceclosetotheironmesh,thisseemedthemostfascinatingoccupation
everdevised.Mamahadtoldherthatthiswasataskreservedforteachers'pets.ToFrancie,
petsmeantcats,dogsandbirds.Shevowedthatwhenshewasoldenoughtogotoschool,that
shewouldmeow,barkandchirpasbestshecouldsothatshewouldbea"pet"andgettoclap
theeraserstogether.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested