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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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Soft Job

Alvin D. Goldberg, '36

The Magpie, January 1936, v. 37, n. 1, p. 41.

There is one form of work that doesn't seem to be labor at all. When the average person sees a tall, bronzed Apollo sunning himself on the sands or at the edge of a pool, he usually grumbles, "Pretty soft! Nothing to do but flirt with a lot of fool women!" But if you really watch the lifeguard, you will notice that he never turns his head. When he speaks, he looks straight before him. Sometimes he appears jumpy and cross. The strain of staring at the water begins to tell on him. If you observe closely, you'll see that the guard's job consists chiefly of keeping a troop of noisy, impudent children inside the four-foot mark, and waving daring young blades back as he eyes the water outside a half-mile of shore. But there are moments when this routine is broken.

Arny had a "soft" summer berth guarding the water's edge at a vacation hotel. Under him, were four younger fellows, all on their first jobs.

It was late in the afternoon, just prior to "All in!" Shifting his posture once more, he noticed the usual crowd. There was the pretty girl in the yellow bathing suit, paddling around in the crib; there were the timid souls dunking in two feet of water. But something caught his attention. Climbing up to the high-board was a man of almost ape-like build, bullneck, barrel-chest, and a pair of arms extending almost to his knees. He stepped to the edge of the board, lost his balance, landed with an enormous splash, and stayed down. Waving his subordinates away, Arny plunged into the water. The usual case, he thought. Just a bad fright. He approached, not too carefully, and there the trouble began! The man's long arms reached out and caught the guard in a strangle hold. Still nothing to worry about,—this was easy to break. Arny used the standard escape,—right arm against victim's right cheek, and push hard. It was there that it became apparent that this wasn't going to be fun. Arny was caught in a vise-like grip. He went down, forced the man's head back with all his might, kicked with his knees. He rose again, submerged, struggling frantically against that bear-hug. Slam, slam, slam, against that head! Minutes dragged like years. His lungs ached. Blue lights danced in his brain. Everything went black . . .

Ten minutes later, Arny awoke. His friends had made their choice. They had used the pulmotor on him first.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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