Part V

A man who looked about sixty was standing behind a desk, writing out papers. "Can I help you?" he asked.

"Yeah, uh, how much 's boardin' fer da night?" he asked nervously, shifting from foot to foot.

The door opened, and in walked Fish and that Manhattan newsie. Michael glared at him again, and the newsie grinned.

"'Eya, Spotty! How ya doin'?" asked Fish. "So, ya decided ta stay da night?"

"Yeah, I'se gonna live heah from now on. Me sistah kicked me out cause I was callin' 'er a Jezebel," he said.

"It's ten cents for the first night, five cents every night after that."

Michael nodded and pulled out ten cents. "Heah."

"And what's your name?"

Michael paused. "Spot."

"All right Spot," the man said, taking the coins.

"So, Spot, ya meet Cowboy yet?" asked Fish.

Michael, not taking his glare from "Cowboy," shook his head.

Cowboy grinned even wider, then spit in his palm, and held his hand out. "Da name's Jack Kelly."

Michael eyed the kid suspiciously, then spit into his hand. "Spot Conlon."

Jack nodded slowly. "How old're you?"

"Seven, how old're you?"

"Be nine next week. So, how's ol' Fish heah treatin' ya? 'E push ya off da bridge yet?"

"Nah, dat's my trademark move," said another voice. "'Ey Cowboy, how's it goin'?"

"'Ey Bridge. I'se pretty good, how 'bout you?"

"Real good. Ya want in onna game a pokah? Dealah's 'bout ready ta start."

Fish and Cowboy darted up the stairs, pushing each other in their haste. Michael shook his head and followed.

At the top of the stairs, he stopped. All the newsies already had their bunks picked out, and most shared a bunk bed with their parnter. Michael looked around for an empty bunk, but they all seemed to be full. He took a slow step towards the middle of the room and stepped on a loose floorboard, causing it to squeak loudly.

"'Ey, Spotty!" called Red, grinning. "So, ya decided ta move in, huh?"

"Yep," answered Michael. "So, wheah's a empty bunk, Red? Ya seem ta know yer way 'round dis dump."

Various comments were shouted, and a few of the newsies who happened to be near a bed threw pillows. Michael laughed and batted them away.

"Ya guys outta know by now dat ya can't knock Spot Conlon down, 'specially not wit a pillah!" said Michael as he followed Red over to a bottom bunk. He walked past the spot where Cowboy and another Brooklyn newsie were fighting. Apparently, the Brooklyn newsies didn't like Jack much, but Cowboy held nothing against them.

"Dis is me bunk, and dat's Keys', and Bridge's, and Fish's is ovah dere, but ya can have dis one, next ta me, 'kay?"

Michael nodded. "T'anks, Red."

Then Snake, a newsie just about Michael's age, darted up the stairs. "Spotty!" he shouted. Snake raced over. "Spotty, dere's some goyl downstaihs, talkin' ta Mistah Cartah, and she's lookin' fer ya."

Michael's eyes grew wide in terror. Sally was downstairs, looking for him! "What's she look like?" he asked nervously.

"Blonde coily 'air, didn't notice 'er eyes, wearin' a blue skirt an' white shoit, 'bout tall as Fish, skinny, a couple a bruises on 'er face an' arms…" supplied Snake.

"'Ey Spot, dat sounds like yer sistah," noted Red.

"It is. Whaddo I do?" asked Michael, beginning to panic.

Cowboy, who had just gotten out of his fight with the newsie with hardly a scratch, said, "Come wit me. Hide out in Manhattan fer a while, till dis whole t'ing wit yer sistah blows ovah."

Michael paused.

"C'mon, Spot, make up yer mind! Ya ain't got much time. I can heah dat goyl yellin' all da way up heah, an' I don't t'ink dat ol' Mistah Cartah can keep dat goyl downstaihs fer much longah b'fore she comes up heah and finds ya."

"All right, I'll go ta Manhattan!" said Michael.

"Be careful, Spot," said Red.

Michael nodded. "Bye, yous guys. Don't tell 'er ya know me."

Cowboy grabbed his wrist. "C'mon, out da fire 'scape. We gotta hurry, er else dere's gonna be some nasty scabbahs on da street."

Michael scrambled out the window and hurried down the fire escape. Cowboy took the lead and started running, causing his black cowboy hat to fall back off his head. "C'mon, Spot! Hurry up!" he shouted.

They ran for what seemed like an hour, through the pitch-black streets of New York. Luckily, the streets were empty and quiet. And eventually, the two newsies found themselves in Manhattan, outside another building that said "Newsboys' Lodging House."

"C'mon," said Cowboy. "'Eya Kloppman, how's it rollin'?" he asked casually. "Dis heah's Spot, 'e's from Brooklyn. 'Is sistah's aftah 'im, so 'e's gonna hide out heah fer a while, 'kay?"

"All right, Cowboy. That's ten cents for tonight, and five cents each night after tonight," said Mr. Kloppman.

With a sigh, Michael pulled out ten pennies. "Heah." Cowboy flipped a coin at Kloppman. "G'night, Kloppman." Cowboy casually put one arm around Spot and pulled him up the stairs.

"'Ey, Skittery! Blink! Specs! Dutchy!" shouted Cowboy.

"Specs ain't heah yet," said a tall, lanky boy with greasy black hair as he walked by.

"'Ey, Bumlets, wheah's a free bunk, huh?" asked Cowboy.

"Um… dere's one next ta Skittery. Y'know?"

Cowboy nodded. "Dat's yer bunk, right dere, awright? Hey you guys! Dis heah's Spot… uh, what's yer last name 'gain?"

"Conlon," said Michael confidently, glaring down each and every one of the Manhattan newsies.

"Dis 's Spot Conlon, an' 'e's from Brooklyn."

"'Ey, what's a Brooklyn newsie doin' heah?" asked Skittery.

"It ain't nonna yer business why I'se heah. Y'just stay outta my way, awright?" asked Michael. He was sick of people telling him what do to, and some Manhattan newsie certainly wasn't going to.

The newsies glanced at each other and returned to their cards and cigars. Michael undressed, climbed up onto his bunk, and fell asleep.

Part VI

The next morning, Michael and Cowboy headed out bright and early to sell the papes. Some of the newsies had already tried to pick fights with him, but Michael quickly showed them that it wasn't a wise idea to fight with Spot Conlon. Cowboy stuck by his side just to make sure that his sister- or anyone else, for that matter- didn't try to hurt him.

One afternoon, when both the boys finished selling their afternoon papes fairly quickly, they were heading back towards the boarding house.

"Yer a real good newsie, Spot, y'know dat? Who taught ya how ta improve da truth dat well?"

"Nobody taught me. I jist know how ta do it," shrugged Michael.

Three little girls in frilly dresses were jumping rope on the sidewalk, chanting, "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick." Two turned the rope and the third little girl jumped. She always missed after one turn of the rope.

"Aww, dat ain't da way ta jump rope!" shouted Michael.

"How do you know about jumping rope?" giggled the girls.

"Cause I usedta have three sistahs, an' Day an' Stephie would make me toin da rope," answered Michael, with a trademark glare.

"Well then, you jump," taunted one of the girls, planting her hands on her hip.

Michael's mouth turned up in a sly smile, and he nodded slowly. The girls began turning the rope, and Michael jumped in and began jumping.

"Fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four," counted the girls. Michael made it all the way to one hundred and twenty-two before he got too tired to jump anymore.

"What about your friend?" asked the boldest of the three girls.

"Yeah, Jacky-boy, why doncha try jumpin'? I mean, yer in dey're lil jumpin' song an' all," laughed Michael, sitting down on the curb to catch his breath.

Cowboy, not to be undone, said, "I'll bet I can git double what you did, Spot," and decided to try his luck.

"Jack be nimble, Jack be-"

After two turns, Jack tripped over the rope and fell, face down, in the dusty street.

Michael burst out laughing, and nearly fell over. "Yer gonna get double what I got, huh?" he wheezed. "Geemaneez, dat's gotta be da funniest t'ing I'se evah seen!"

Cowboy made a face at him. "Aww, shut yer mouth, Spot!"

"Don't you tell me ta shut me mouth, Cowboy, or I'll soak ya! I sweah, I will!" challenged Michael. He leapt to his feet and put up his hands, ready to fight.

"Awright, awright! Geez, ya don't have ta git all mad at me. I'se just kiddin'," lied Cowboy. "C'mon. Let's git back ta da lodgin' 'owse, huh?"

When the two boys reached the lodging house, Red and Keys were sitting on the doorstep. The other newsies were gathered around in a half-circle, too nervous to go near the two Brooklyn boys.

Michael pushed through the crowd. "Awright, awright, move it. 'Ey, Red! 'Ey, Keys! How's it rollin'?"

"C'mon, Spotty, let's git back ta Brooklyn. Yer sistah hasn't been 'round fer a couple a days. We figure she fergot 'boutcha," said Red.

"Awright. See ya 'round, Jack-be-nimble," taunted Michael, jumping away as Jack tried to tackle him. Michael chuckled and walked off with Red and Keys.

So Spot went back to Brooklyn, and everything was going well. He was making a lot of money, and he learned to play cards. Dealer, a boy several years older than Spot, taught him every game he knew, and Spot liked playing cards, but he was no gambler like Dealer. One night after winning, Spot was feeling particularly triumphant as he strolled down the street. He was eight years old and living a life he loved. Sally was out of the picture, as was Mr. Conlon. He still missed his family, especially Dana, but his job as a newsie kept him busy enough so he didn't have too much time to think about her.

Spot turned the corner, whistling to himself. He saw two people standing in the road, a young woman and a young man, kissing and seeming very involved in each other.

Oh geez, Spot thought, mentally gagging. He continued on his way and a moment later, screams were heard for blocks around. He turned and saw a fire wagon tearing away and two battered, bloody bodies in the road. Spot went over to the pair and picked up the man's black cane. It was heavy and solid, with a fancy gold top. He gently pushed the bodies apart and gasped.

"Sally…" he whispered softly.

"What happened?" asked a policeman, grabbing Spot's shoulder.

"I t'ink dat fiah wagon ran dem ovah. Dey was standin' in da middle a da road, kissin'. Guess dey nevah hoid it comin'…"

"Who are they?"

"I dunno da guy. Da goil 's Sally Wintahs. She woiks at da saloon, I guess she lives dere too…"

After another minute or two of questioning, the policeman thanked Spot and handed him a quarter. Spot grinned and pocketed the coin. He headed off towards the pier to think, twirling the cane experimentally in his right hand.

"Hey dere, Spotty, wheah'd ya get da cane?" crowed Snake.

"Ain't none a yer business, Snakey," Spot cooly replied. He twirled it around his hand, stabbing the air in front of Snake.

"Watch it!"

"Ya goyl. I ain't anywheah near ya." Spot continued to draw figure-eights in the air before Snake's eyes.

"Ya hit me wid dat t'ing, an' yer gonna be searchin' fer it at da bottom a da rivah."

Spot poked him once, sending Snake tumbling backwards into the water. He leaned over the pier to utter one more comment: "Ya get what ya desoive, Snakey-boy."

Living His Life
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© by Emily H., 2000