Part III

So, Sally and Michael arrived in New York City with a friend. Conlon's Boarding House was in Brooklyn, near a pier. Sally and Michael had a small room on the top floor with two small beds, a table, a small stove, and a window looking onto the pier.

During the day, Sally was busy washing windows, sweeping the floors, and making meals for Mr. Conlon. She earned their stay, but she wanted more money for new dresses and things that she'd enjoy. She was growing sick of the only dress she had, and desperately missed her powder, rouge, and other cosmetics. So, Sally turned to… other work…

Meanwhile, every morning Michael went out to play with the boys on the pier. Most of them were newsies, boys who sold the papes for a penny a piece to make their living. They lived in a Newsboys' Lodging House near Conlon's, and always seemed to enjoy each other's company. They were tough boys and often beat up other newsies, but they seemed to like Michael from the first day.

"What's yer name, kid?" one asked.

"What's it to ya?" challenged Michael.

The kid came over to him. "Tell me yer name, or I'se gonna t'row ya in da rivah!"

"I ain't gotta name," said Michael. He didn't want to tell those boys his name.

"Ev'rybody's gotta name, kid!"

"Well, I don't."

"Well den what are we s'posed ta call ya?"

"I dunno," Michael said with a shrug.

"Well, I dunno 'bout you, but I wouldn't wanna be called da kid wit da spotted shoit," the leader of the Brooklyn newsies said.

"Well I ain't got no uddah name, so I guess dat's what it'll be," said Michael. "I gotta last name, dough."

"Well what's dat?"


"Like da boardin' 'owse?"

"Yeah, like da boardin' 'owse," replied Michael, already beginning to pick up the Brooklyn accent. He liked the Brooklyn accent. Plus, he knew that it would annoy Sally.

"So I guess ya don't need no money. Dat why you ain't a newsie?"

"I ain't a newsie cause I don't know nuttin' 'bout bein' a newsie."

"Well den we'll teach ya," the leader offered.

Michael paused. Money in his pockets… maybe eventually enough to get away from Sally… "Awright," Michael said.

The leader spit on his palm and held his hand out. Michael glanced at him, then imitated the gesture. The Brooklyn newsies cheered as a new newsie was admitted to their clan.

So, Michael began his life as a newsie. He was only seven, the youngest newsie, but could sell as many as any of them. He enjoyed walking around all day long, selling papes. Most of the other boys sold their papes with a partner, but Michael enjoyed the privacy. He had never had privacy, so he wanted as much of it as he could get. Michael had a good sense of direction and soon knew the streets of Brooklyn like the back of his hand.

Michael hid all his money in a sock, which he kept in his pillow. Sally had no idea the money was there. She was beginning to hate her new job. It was stressful and tiring, and she didn't want Mr. Conlon to find out. He was like a kind, loving father to both of the children.

One morning, as Michael was heading down the stairs to go out and buy his papes for the day, Mr. Conlon stopped him. "Hello, Michael!"

"Aww, hiya Mistah Conlin! How ya doin'?"

"I'm well, and how are you, Michael?"

"I'se real good." Michael was heading for the door when Mr. Conlon stopped him.

"How would you like to go shopping, get some new clothes? Those ones are getting awfully small for you."

Michael wrinkled up his nose. What would the newsies say when he didn't show up that day? Then he decided that it would be nice to get something new for once. "Awright, I guess so." Mr. Conlon put a hand on Michael's shoulder as they headed out the door. A boy who Michael had seen a few times walked by. The boy was about a year older than Michael was and quite a bit taller, with brown hair. He wasn't a Brooklyn newsie, and Michael didn't know why he was always in their territory. Michael glared at him as he walked by. The newsie laughed.

"What's da mattah witcha, kid? Geemaneez, dese Brooklyn newsies, so territorial…" he laughed. Two other Brooklyn newsies pounced on him, or Michael would've done it himself.

Mr. Conlon and Michael didn't return to the boarding house until nearly noon. Michael ran up to the attic to change into his new clothes. Pulling his gray cap on, he darted out the door and ran to the pier to meet the newsies before the afternoon edition came out. He still had a chance to make some money.

"Hey spotted shoit Conlon, ya ain't got a spotted shoit no more!" noted Red, an older newsie with bright red hair, as he came over to Michael.

"Yeah! Me an' me fadda went shoppin' taday." Michael stopped as that newsie walked by again. The newsie glanced at Michael, laughed, and then continued walking.

"See ya, Cowboy! Ya come back real soon, awright?" called Fish, the leader of the Brooklyn newsies. He got his nickname because he loved swimming.

"'Ey Fish, who's dat?" asked Michael.

"Dat's Cowboy. 'E's da leadah a da Manhattan newsies. An' wheah was ya all day, Spotty?"

"Me fadda took me shoppin'," he replied casually. "C'mon, let's go get some papes, huh?"

When Michael returned late that evening, he heard shouting inside the boarding house. As he approached, he could tell it was coming from Mr. Conlon's parlor. He opened the front door and peered in the keyhole. Sally was standing in there, apparently arguing with him.

"I feed you, I clothe you, I give you work here, I provide you with a room for you and your bratty little brother-"

"He is not my brother!"

"And what do you do? You go and do something disgraceful like this!"

"I'm tired of not having any money of my own! Besides, no matter how much you want to be, you're not my father! My father's dead and so is my mother. There isn't anyone left to tell me what to do and I certainly don't need you telling me what to do!"

"Young lady, while you live under this roof, you will obey my rules!"

"If you didn't already know me, you would've hired me and you know it!"

There was a slapping sound. A moment later, the door was thrown open and Sally was thrown to the floor. "I'm giving you ten minutes to get out of my boarding house. You are a disgrace! I hope you end up on the streets with no one to care for you."

Sally glared at him, her cheek beginning to redden. "I hope this awful place burns to the ground! Come on, Michael. We're leaving."

"No, the boy stays with me."

"He is not your concern!"

"You don't care for him the way I do."

Sally grabbed Michael's wrist and nearly dragged him up the stairs.

"Wheah's we goin'?" asked Michael.

"We're moving out. And get rid of that awful accent! It sounds so uncivilized." Sally began shoving her things into pillowcases. "Michael, you are never to talk to Mr. Conlon, ever again. Do you hear me?"

"Wheah's we gonna live now, Sally?" asked Michael as he grabbed his own pillow.

"I told you to stop with that accent!"

Michael sighed and rolled his eyes. "Where are we going to live now, Sally?" asked Michael, pronouncing each syllable separately.

Sally rolled her eyes. "I don't know. There's quite a few boarding houses we can live in." She paused. "Well, that's all. We're leaving right now."

Michael paused in the doorway, looking back at the fourth home he was leaving. He wondered if he would ever find a true home.

Part IV

That night, Sally found a new boarding house. She and Michael took a room on the second floor, and for a while, everything was going well. Michael left early every morning and joined the newsies for a whole day, selling alone and eating lunch with Red and Fish.

One day, Red, a very observant young man of fourteen, said, "'Ey Spotty… why don't ya nevah come outta Conlon's Boardin' 'owse anymore?"

Michael paused mid-bite, then set down his sandwich. "Uh… me fadda… 'E kicked me out."

"Why?" asked Fish.

"Cause a sumpin' me sistah did. I dunno what, dough. But I'm dyin' ta find out."

"Who's yer sistah? An' what's she look like?"

"Sally Wintahs. She's, uh, 'bout tall as Fish, maybe a lil' bit tallah. Yella 'air, coily, blue eyes, skinny, wears real fancy clothes…"

"Dat 'er?" asked Fish casually, waving his hot dog towards the window.

Michael turned, then ducked. "Geez, I shoah hope she didn't see me!"

A man sitting at the table next to them, who had happened to hear their entire conversation, laughed. "Ya wanna know what she did, kid?"

Michael looked at the man. "How d'ya know what she did? Ya don't even know 'er!"

"Oh, I know 'er, all right," the man said with a laugh. "She's workin' at the saloon."

"What d'ya mean, woikin'? Like a waitress? What's wrong wit dat?" asked Michael innocently.

"Uh, we'll explain it ta ya latah, Spot," said Fish. "C'mon, let's git outta heah."

Michael, Fish, and Red headed for the distribution office slowly. Fish and Red attempted to explain to Michael, and after a few tries, Michael realized what the man had meant.

"Ewww!" cried Michael with a shudder. Fish chuckled.

"So, ya need a place ta stay? Ya can always stay at da lodgin' 'owse fer da newsies. Y'know, wheah we stay. 'Cross da street from da saloon."

Michael nodded. "Yeah, shoah, dat'd be a lot bettah dan livin' wit dat… dat… Jezebel!" Michael finally spat.

Fish nodded and stepped up to the distribution window. "Hundred papes."

"Hundred papes!" the man shouted. "Next!"

"Fifty papes."

"Fifty papes!" the man shouted, slamming the stack of fifty papes down on the counter. Red handed them down to the much-smaller boy, who nearly crumbled under the weight. Michael was a small, skinny kid, but he was stronger than he looked.

"See ya tamarrah, Red. Bye, Fish," Michael called as he headed out to the streets. He walked the streets of Brooklyn alone. A few businessmen returning to their offices for lunch stopped him to buy a pape, but most people left the scrawny little kid alone as he walked to the pier. Michael loved the river. It reminded him of the rivers in Pittsburgh, and how often Stephie or Maria would take him and Dana down to the point where all the three rivers met…

"Don't get too close," Maria called from several yards back.

Michael and Dana disregarded her warning, though, and ran right down to the edge. The water was cold and silverish. The three rivers were wide and enormous, and moved very fast. The February evening was cold and dark, and a few stars poked out from around the clouds. The hill to the left was lit with tiny dots of light, from windows and lampposts. All in all, the night seemed magical.

"'Ey, Spotty, what're ya doin'? Ya got papes ta sell!" shouted Keys, who got his name from his talent to pick any lock.

"Leave me alone, Keys! I'se lookin' at da 'eadlines!" called Michael, opening a pape and glancing it over. Broken Railing on Trolley Leaves Three Injured. Michael smiled, knowing that the headline had potential. Jumping to his feet, Michael grabbed his papes and hurried to the streets.

"Extra! Extra! Trolley's Broken! Hundreds a lives at stake!" shouted Michael. Passers-by swarmed over to buy his papes, and Michael found over half of his papes had been sold. With a grin, he headed to another part of town.

That evening, as Michael ate a poorly-cooked dinner with Sally, he asked, "'Ey Sally, wheah d'ya woik?"

She looked panicked. "At the saloon," she answered nervously. "I'm a waitress."

"No you ain't," Michael sneered, sick and tired of Sally and her lies. "I was talkin' ta dis guy in da restrant taday, an' 'e said dat yer a Jezebel."

Sally's eyes grew wide. "You stupid, selfish brat! Who are you to question what I do? I'm feeding you and clothing you for no cost! And what do I get in return? A stupid little brat like you! Get out! Out! Right this instant! I won't stand for it any longer. I hope you like living on the streets!"

"I'se not gonna live on da streets. I'se gonna live wit da newsies. 'Cross da street from da saloon wheah youse a waitress," mocked Michael.

Sally picked up her glass and threw it at him, but she completely missed. Michael jumped out of his chair and grabbed his pillow, reaching for the sock. Sally came after him, looking quite out of her mind and ready to kill. Michael had picked up some good fighting tips from Fish and Red, and within ten seconds, Sally was laying on the floor in a lot of pain. Michael grabbed all his money, all the money of Sally's that he could find, and his cap.

"S'long, Jez," Michael said, shutting the door and heading down the stairs. He walked quickly, because he wasn't sure how soon Sally would recover. Once he was on the street, he pulled on his cap and walked along, alone as usual. He was soon outside a large building with a sign above the door that said "Newsboys' Lodging House." Michael paused, then entered his sixth, and hopefully final, home.

Living His Life
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© by Emily H., 2000