Thursday, October 28, 2010


November 27th, 1864
Dear Journal,                                                             
The weather is getting cold and the days shorter. I saw the smoke coming out of the Williamson Hotel, and wished I had a fireplace or even a stove for my house. It's falling apart and it has been for quite some time now. The doors creak, the windows are shattered, the cold gets in and the warmth stays out. I am a lucky newsie because other newsies must live in a dorm all together.
Because of his accident, Father can no longer work. That's why I got a job as a newsie. It isn’t hard. All I do is yell out the headline of the latest edition. Working in the richest part of town made me realize how great it must feel to go to the Williamson Hotel, eat at restaurants and not care how much you spend. I must stop thinking of this. I am lucky not to be dying of hunger. Right now I can smell the soup mother probably made at the Pierces. That family is wealthy enough to employ my mother as their maid. But I am thankful, for that is the reason I even have a house and sometimes have food to eat.  
My sister Angela just came home last week to visit. She is twenty-four, and already has a husband and two children. I’m not even thinking of a wife yet, but I have time since I’m only thirteen.
          I better get some sleep tonight. I must wake up at 6:30 in the morning. It's horrible.  I'll write again soon. I will try to write every day.

December 3rd, 1864
Dear Journal,
This morning, mother woke me up at six-thirty. It is colder than it was yesterday. I was very tired because last night, I had to stay at work late in New York City in order to sell a few more newspapers than usual. When I finished getting dressed, I went to Mother who gave me a piece of stale bead. Even though it is not much, I was very grateful because there were some mornings, when I had go to work without eating breakfast first because mother has nothing to give me…  Before leaving for work, I went to my Father’s room. I saw him lying in his bed, like he did everyday since he had the accident. It hurts to see father so defeated and weak but I hid my feelings and put on a happy face. I told him that I must go to work and that I would see him when I got home.
I went to Mr. Harold’s office, (my boss who works for the Wake up NY newspaper) to pick up a pack of about twenty daily newspapers like I did everyday. He usually asked me how I was doing, but today, he was talking on the phone so he didn’t notice me when I arrived. I grabbed a pack of newspapers and walked out of the office on Richmond Street without being noticed.
From there, I walked to Downing Street. It is very busy street, and that is why Mr. Harold tells me to sell my newspapers here. I settled the pack of newspapers I had been carrying on the corner and grabbed one in my hand. I started waving it in the air yelling “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” A few people came to me and ask for the newspaper and in return, I got eight cents from each one of them. Some were rude, some were kind enough to give me a few extra cents. I paid very close attention to the faces of the people who bought my newspapers. Some faces looked familiar and I knew that that was not the first time I had seen them.  But there is one lady’s face I would see very often. She came to me almost everyday to buy the newspaper. But earlier today, she had brought someone with her. I only saw a glimpse of her because she was hidden by all the tall people walking in the street. And before I new it, she was already walking away…
December 4th, 1864

Dear Journal,
     Here I am at the Newsie Lodging House. I will no longer eat with my family, or sleep in my own bed. Papa had a long conversation with me.
“Theodor,” he said, “you know your mother and I love you, right?” 
“Of course,” I had answered, “and I love you too.”
“And I know you understand how tough these times are.”
“Yes…” I said hesitantly, not understanding the point of this conversation. It was hard, yes; we could barely feed ourselves, I never really saw my parents in the afternoon, and in the afternoons my mom tended to my father after a long day of work at the Pierces’, who lived in their own hotel, down on Fifth Ave.
It was a thirty minute walk from our house, but that was a long walk after a long day at work. She was a maid and cook for them, and even though the Pierces were kind and often tipped my mother, the money was still not enough to support us. Wind was softly blowing through the scarce sheets of cloth that served as window curtains.
Father spoke, “We’ve been trying to think of a way to stay together, to be a family, but we just can’t anymore. My boss… he fired me this morning, Theo.”
My father was coachman for various wealthy families, but he never told me how much he earned. He told me it didn’t concern me, but I secretly thought it did because he was embarrassed about how little money he earned. Because of his sudden, mysterious illness, most of the families refused to have him anywhere near them, in fear of catching the disease. His boss most likely fired him because he wouldn’t tolerate the loss of clients.
“We’ve barely got any money, and your mom is breaking her back trying to put food on our plates. And you, Theo… I’m so proud of you for helping out, going to work like an adult. You’ve really helped us out, but… We think it’d be in your best interest to go live in that Newsie Lodging House. You know, the one on Duane Street.”
I just stared at him. He looked at me, his eyes soft, and his expression earnest. He wanted me to live in that place? The lodging house was on 19 Duane Street, more than an hour away from my house. I had heard from others that the lodging house was a nice but cramped house that could hardly accept anyone there.
“You want me to go to that lodging house?”
“Think about it son. You’ll eat better, you’ll make new friends, and you’ll be safer. Please don’t take this the wrong way. We’re only making sure you have the best life you can have.”
My father then explained to me how my living there would help the family save money. It was only $10 per month, including food and shelter, so it would be less expensive than if I stayed home. I’d also be with others who knew what I was going through, and with people who could take care of me.
I was suddenly furious. I felt abandoned, after I had devoted hours of my life to working as a newsboy just to help support my parents, and they were sending me away. How could they do this to me? Did they really think this was what was best? As I thought about it and looked at my father, his pleading face, his sad expression, I realized that this was indeed the right decision. I had to go. It would benefit both me and my family. I had to go.
So here I am, standing in the cold autumn air in front of the lodging house. I hesitate, but open the door and stare into the dark warmth of it.
December 7th, 1864

Dear Journal,
I’m in my new bed. This lodging house is more comfortable then my old house but I miss my family. When I came, all the boys were taking showers. I was looking forward to taking a shower, because I have not taken one in a while but it was too late. Miss Laura, who would like me to call her “Auntie Laura”, showed me around the lodging house and told me about the boys I was going to meet. They were all around my age.
The first time I saw all the boys was at supper. They all looked nice. When the dinner was brought out to the table everyone looked at it with wide, hungry eyes. As we were all about to dig in, Auntie Laura said “Wait. Before you start, I would like to introduce you to Theodor. Theodor, would you stand up and tell us about yourself?”
“Well… I, I umm.” I was to shy to speak.
“Don’t be shy Theodor. Here, let me ask you some questions, where do you come from? What’s your favorite game to play? How old are you?” Said Auntie Laura.
“Well, I’ve lived in New York since I was a child, but my family comes from Ireland, I really do love to play Black Jack and I am 12 years old.” I finally said.
“Can everyone say “Hi Theodor!” Auntie Laura continued.
“Hi Theodor!!!” everyone scream with a little sarcasm.
When this was over we finally got to eat. The food was good. At first no one spoke to me. I just nibbled shyly on a bean. After a while a boy turned to me and said. “Hello, I know how it is to be new here, I was once new too. It gets better. I promise.” As he was walking away he turned back to me and said. “My name is Charles, by the way.” 

December 11, 1864
Dear Journal,
I finally made it to the showers! I felt filthy and couldn’t wait to bathe. The other boys had already started. I quickly joined them and was anticipated the feel of the warm water when I yelped. The water was freezing! How could the others stand this?
“Look! Theo’s not man enough to handle the cold. ” yelled a chubby boy in my direction. I passed him the soap, but not before slipping and sending the soap straight at his big forehead. The others started giggling and I turned red with embarrassment. The fat boy, rubbing his red forehead, introduced himself as Nathan, and helped me up but accidentally pushed me into Charles. He ended up splashing water onto Nathan, who then proceeded to find a bucket and dump it on Charles, unintentionally splashing me and some others in the vicinity.
The water splashing then became a full-fledged water fight. Water went sailing through the air left and right, splashing anyone and everyone. Yells were shouted as some were victorious in hitting their targets. I laughed freely for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. Life here at the Lodge wasn’t so bad after all! I had just filled another bucket and was about to throw it blindly into the air when suddenly a loud shrill voice echoed in the showers.
There was Ms. Gilbert, furious, red in the face, and soaking wet.
“OUT! She yelled, pointing her straight finger out toward the door. Everyone noticed Charles slowly backing away, and I figured he was the one who dumped the water all over Ms. Gilbert. We all scrambled out, taking our towels with us. “What is this? You boys have the chance to stay here at the Lodge, where we provide food, shelter, and safety, and this is how you treat it?!” she screeched. “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”
I knew we all regretted soaking Ms Gilbert; she provided us with so much and we were all very appreciative, but seeing Ms. Gilbert as red as a tomato, her hair frizzing up due to the water, her clothes clinging to her big body and ridiculed made us all burst out in giggles.
Ms. Gilbert shrieked in outrage and stormed out of the room, too embarrassed to scold us. As our laughs died down, our smiles never faded, and even though life was hard and I was separated from my family, I realized how happy I was to be here at the Lodge with my new friends.

December 14th, 1864

Dear Journal,
This morning Auntie Laura invited us all to the theater on one condition: that we each pay for our own ticket. She told us the tickets cost one dollar and twenty cents and that if we wanted to go, we should check if we had enough money to afford it. I went to my room and took out an empty mint box Father had given me many years ago to keep my money in. I opened it and counted all the money I had earned in the last few days I had been living in the Newsie Lodging House. I had three dollars. I asked my new friends Charles and Nathan if they wanted to go with me. They answered me with very enthusiastic smiles and kind words. They went to their rooms and gathered their money too. We went to Auntie Laura and we gave her our money. In return, she handed us our own tickets.
     We were told that the show was going to start at six o’clock so we spent the afternoon playing in the Lodging House back yard. I could not wait to go. I had worked so hard during my stay here and it was finally paying off. When the time came to get ready, we walked to the Julibee Theater. When we got there, we were escorted to our seats by a lady. I did not understand why, but she was rude and ill-mannered. Charles, Nathan and I were so happy to be there. The play was about a boy and his adventures as he travelled around the world. The only down side was that we were seated far back in the spectators’ area so we could not really distinguish the actors’ faces or the stages’ decor. Nonetheless, we had a great time, though we did not understand the story that was being acted out.

December 17th, 1864

Dear Journal,
    Today, as I was working, I decided to sit down. Nobody was passing by. It was a bad day at work. So, I lay down and closed my eyes. I had not slept very well the preceding night…
   I had not realized I had fallen asleep until I was woken by a girl. I recognized her. I was convinced I had seen her before. I thought about where I might have seen her, and I remembered. A distant memory came to me. She was the girl who had bought a newspaper from me along with her mother. They were both very kind and polite to me. I became absent-minded when she interrupted my thoughts.
“I’m sorry to wake you but I thought you might like to know that it’s nighttime.” She said.
“Oh, why thank you…” I said very embarrassed.
“That’s okay; mother asked me if you needed a place to stay tonight, we have space in the hotel.”
“Oh, no, no. That’s very nice but I wouldn’t want to impose anything on you.”
 I tried to say in a very educated manner. I think I was trying to impress her. After a while I heard a voice yell “Margaret, what’s taking so long?”
Then the girl stood up. “Sorry, my mother is waiting for me…” she said and she walked towards the big hotel. As I got up and started home, I heard a giggle in the distance, when I looked at Margaret, I saw her with her hands to her lips as if to hide a giggle.
When I got to the shelter, I had to sneak in because I was late and I did not want to get in trouble. When I got to the rooms, Charles told me “I told them that you were sick and could not come to diner.” I thanked him and went to bed because I was very tired. But as I closed my eyes the image of Margaret and the soothing sound of her giggle kept creeping into my mind. When I really thought about it, I realized I liked her.

December 21, 1864
Dear Journal,
    Another day at work like all the others. I was walking around Downing Street, yelling as I usually do, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” I was trying to concentrate on work, but something was getting in the way. All I could think about was… Margaret. She had been so sympathetic towards me, like no one else ever had. When I had looked into her eyes, I knew she was an honest and gentle person who-
     “Hello, Theodore! Would you like to come and play with Donna, Kitty and I?”
     “Um…” I hesitated “Well I would love to, but I can’t. I am working.”
     “Oh, I understand.”
I could see the disappointment in her eyes, those soft eyes. She turned around and she started walking away. She had almost reached her friends, when she turned around, came to me and said:
     “Well Theodore, my family and I are having a Christmas Eve dinner, and my parents told me I could invite a friend. And I wanted to invite you.”
I was so flattered. I had never been invited to a nice dinner. It was like I had forgotten how to speak. I stuttered, and finally words came out of my mouth.
     “Oh! Thank you so much! I… I would love to have dinner with your family!”
I was smiling from ear to ear, probably looking like a fool.  I was suddenly filled with bliss and enthusiasm. I wanted the next three days to fly by. I just could not wait. I looked at her and I could see how excited she was.
“Great! So come over to the hotel. I’ll be waiting.”
     She was still smiling as she joined her friends. I stared, dumbfounded watching her in the distance, feeling emotions I had never felt.

December 24th, 1864
Dear Journal,
The fire. It was all I could think about. The smoke. The screams. But especially Margaret. Her burnt body in the arms of the paramedics as they frantically raced out the building to save her before the building collapsed. Everything was a blur of yells and shouts and tears. The cold December wind was numbing my hands, but the rest of my body was already too numb with shock for me to notice.
I remembered how only a few minutes ago, I had been so nervous and excited to see Margaret again, but now I was seeing her, I couldn’t help but look away. Her emaciated body plagued my mind as she was thrust into the hands dn’t wait to meet her family. I was terrified at the same time, afraid her parents wouldn’t like me or think I was too poor for their daughter. I had just walked up to the gorgeous hotel when the flames came. It was very inconspicuous, but then it bigger us at first and bigger until already half the hotel was enveloped in smoke and fire.
    I later discovered the fire had been caused when my mother (she didn’t get the day off but was invited to stay for dinner also) had accidentally let whatever dessert she had been baking in the oven for too long. She had immediately warned everyone, and they all rushed out, but Margaret had been in her room and hadn’t heard the warning.
    Now, a few minutes later, I could here the cries of her horrified mother, and the frantic pleads of her father to save Margaret. I stared in a trance, too shocked, too terrified, and too fearful to do anything. What if Margaret didn’t survive? What would I do? She was the light in my life, one of the only things that kept me from running away from this miserable town.
I never get to see my parents anymore, and I doubt they’ll want me to come back and live with them. The only reason I really wanted to stay at the Lodging House was because I would be near her. And now she might not even live to see the light of day!
     I felt arms wrap around me and smelled foul smoke. It was my mother. What do I do? I couldn’t even enjoy my mother’s embrace. How could I enjoy life without the best part of it to brighten it up? How could I go on without Margaret? I don’t know what to do anymore.

December 26th, 1864
Dear Journal, 
Girl Dies in Fire on Christmas Day
Every newspaper, every single one, again and again, saying the same thing. Margaret didn’t survive that fateful night. And I had to relive that moment, feeling the painful truth like a knife deep in my gut.
    The doctors had said they’d done everything possible, everything they could do. But then why had she died? Why couldn’t they save her? It wasn’t fair. She was supposed to have lived and grown and got married and had children and-
    “It’s a shame really. Those Pierces lost their sweet daughter and their hotel. Must cost a fortune to repair all that damage though… I wonder if they’ll give the girl a nice funeral. ‘Course, it’ll probably ” A group of old women were gossiping in the corner of the street. Unbelievable. A hot surge of fury overwhelmed me as I listen to their words. They didn’t even care about Margaret. They didn’t even care about what the Pierces were going through. All they cared about was money and their reputation being garnished because of their association with the Pierces who weren’t faring too well economically.
     Who would want to live like that? Who would want to live so selfishly, so coldly? Money. Popularity. Things everyone wanted. But what do you do once you have it? You become a shell of a person, a person who doesn’t care or doesn’t love. Margaret was different. She had it all, and yet she found a kindness in her heart to become my friend. I hadn’t even gotten the chance to tell her about my feelings. And now I never would.
    All I could think about as I walked past those vile women was how lucky I was to have been raise with a loving family. I was lucky enough to have food to eat and real friends. I was lucky enough to not have to fake my way through life and just be myself. And I was lucky enough to have met someone who made me feel special when I was at my lowest, and to made friends who could make me laugh when I felt most miserable.
    Life as a newsie wasn’t easy, and it never would be. The loss of Margaret was still in my heart, and would probably never go, but I couldn’t bear the thought of not going on, because I know it’s what she would have wanted me to go. And it’s what I want to do. So I’m going to try and live again. Try and live for Margaret and myself.

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