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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Incident on a Trolley Car

By Henry J. Antupitsky, '32

The Magpie, January 1932, v. 33, n. 1, p. 55.

We boarded the trolley at the same corner. We were four in number, a woman of later middle age dressed and powdered up as a girl of twenty, two girls in their middle 'teens, and myself. We took our seats in such a manner that we kept each other in view, I behind the two girls, the woman across the aisle at their side. The girls were speaking and laughing, a bit too noisily; and then I noticed that the woman was looking at them, laughing with them, trying to be a part of their conversation.

I looked at her closely and soon began to see the weary lines beneath her painted skin. Somehow I lost my disgust for her, when I saw her blue eyes; she could paint her face, covering the marks of time, but she could not erase the age from her eyes. They were old, so old that I could not believe myself. Their age was not alone of years, but also of pain and suffering. She looked at the girls; and, for a moment, her eyes lost their weariness and became young again. The spirit of youth had done more to rejuvenate her than all the paints in the world. She noticed one of the girls opening her purse, displaying vanity cases and other dainty, feminine articles to her companion. With a smile of gladness the woman opened her own purse and, taking out the exact replicas of the girl's possessions, said:

"Here, take mine I have lotsa' things, more than I need."

Her voice was harsh; but a tone of sacrifice reduced the jarring hardness of her tones, and they were almost tender. She took a small knife hardly of any use for cutting, but which made a pretty trinket, and gave it to the girl. The girl took it laughingly and showed it to her smiling companion. For a moment she did not know what to do; she turned to me and seeing me smiling, smiled also and finally burst into gales of laughter. For a while we were together, youth conspiring against old age; laughing at old age's attempt to mimic the freshness and vivacity of youth.

The woman did not understand. She looked at us with puzzled eyes, smiling in a vague fashion. It made us laugh the more.

We were still laughing when our corner was reached. We got off and wended each our way to our destination, so exiting from each other's life as we had entered it... quietly and uninterestedly. But I turned around to look at the passing trolley and saw the woman's face pressed close to the window, following the disappearing forms of the girls. I could not see her eyes but they were undoubtedly puzzled, wondering what had been so humorous in her attempt to seek youth, wondering what foolish act she had committed that had made us laugh.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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