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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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Young America

By Robert Blackburn, '39

The Magpie, June 1937, v. 21, n. 2., p. 74.

High into the air soared a large flock of pigeons, black against the cold blue sky; then gliding gracefully they banked sharply to the south. They com m ended a gradual circling descent upon the roof of a tenement. Farther off towards the east, the river flowed sluggishly on to the ocean, while numerous gulls swoop ed majestically down upon its placid surface in search of food.

A bedraggled lad leaned lightly against a wire cage, watching the pigeons as they settled slowly. Then running to the extremity of the roof, he waved his long pole and sent them fluttering into the blue. From the stairway, a voice hollered in a high falsetto.

"Hello, Izzy. How're you doin'?"

"Awright. What do you want?" sneered Izzy.

"Nothin'. Catch any strays today?"

"Yeah. I caught a Red Teger and a Tipplit," replied Izzy.

"Gee, Izzy, that makes eight in three days," said Johnnie doubtfully and continued, "I caught only two."

"Yeah, and one of them was mine. I'll fix you!" said Izzy ominously.

"Look! A stray," yelled Johnnie, pointing to the North.

"Stay back," commanded Izzy.

The flock which had landed now soared upward as Izzy waved his pole, gesticulating and shrieking wildly. Johnnie, seeing this, yelled.

"Keep quiet, Izzy. You will frighten the stray," and he paused breathlessly while Izzy's flock vainly sought to canvass the stray, but the pigeon sensed the trap and forged out to the southeast.

"It's your fault," yelled Izzy with a fiery glint in his eye, "You should mind your own business; these are my birds, anyway get off my roof!"

The two boys challenged each other with their eyes while another boy came from the adjoining roof, yelling "Hit him!" "Muss him up Izzy! What's he doing on our roof?"

"Hello, Reggie," said Izzy, "he's trying to start somethin', but I'm gonna fix him right now."

With a quick right-handed blow, he connected with Johnny's face, while Reggie grabbed Johnny from behind. Reggie went spinning, knocking Izzy down as Johnny threw him over his head. Then Johnny grabbed Izzy by the neck, but Reggie seized Izzy's abandoned pole and hit Johnny a crushing blow on the side of the head, that sent him reeling towards the edge of the roof, and for an instant he hovered sickeningly, while the two boys gazed, terror stricken at the sight. Then Johnny toppled over. Reggie screamed.

"I've killed him! Killed him—oh!"

Izzy stood dumbfounded then he found voice enough to say weakly, "What did you hit him with the pole for? Now he's dead."

"I didn't mean it. You know I didn't mean it. You saw it. Don't tell anyone," implored Reggie.

They stood transfixed with horror as they visioned the consequences of their rash act. Trial—prison—then?

"Don't stare at me like that," shrieked Reggie.

"Let's get down to the street; maybe he's not dead." said Izzy confidently and they started down the stairs leaving their pigeons on the roof.

Reggie sobbed, "Johnny was a swell guy even if he did catch our pigeons." He paused and continued sorrowfully, "My mother told me not to come up on the roof. I wish I had done what I was told to."

They crept dejectedly out upon the street in terror of what they would see. No excited crowd greeted their astonished gaze. No ambulance, no patrol cars; only the boys playing ball saw them and hollered.

"Where's he? He didn't fall off?" asked Reggie incredulously.

"Yes he did. I saw him," convinced Izzy, and, gazing aloft they saw only their pigeons flying about.

"Perhaps we dreamed it," said Reggie with hope in his voice.

"Com'on Izzy. Let's go back up on the roof . . . see, . . . maybe he's still there."

They rushed into the dim hallway and bounded to the steps when Reggie shouted. "A Ghost!!"

They saw the figure of Johnny descending the stairs in jerky steps.

The pallor of his face was enhanced by the surprised look in his eyes as he saw them staring at him. He opened his lips to speak but laughed weakly when he saw the rapidity with which they made their exit. He plotted still further retribution for them as he realized how he had scared them and, as he examined his scraped knee and elbow, knew he couldn't altogether hate top floor fire escapes, although he still felt a healthy dislike for pigeons and roofs!

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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