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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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The Coming Out of Crusher Landis

By Jerry Resnick

The Magpie, January 1941, v. 25, n. 1, p. 40.

Crusher Landis walked into the garage office with a forced bravado, reënforced with gin. In reality, fear was stabbing painfully within him. This was to be his first big job, his first store job. Slugging a guy in an alley was child's play now.

"Stick 'em up!" he rasped to the garage attendant seated before the oil stove. The victim rose with his hands shoulder high. He was a short man; his forehead glistened with perspiration. The back of his neck felt red hot, his fingertips frozen; the base of his spinal column had a painful kink in it.

(Where was that dumb "flatfoot" MacCready? He usually passed about this time.)

"Open up that cash register, quick!" (Just look at that 'punk' step every time I shake my rod. Boy, this is easier than sluggin' alley rats.)

Crusher got the money and was about to turn to leave when the grease monkey cried jubilantly, "Cops!"

A reflex action caused Landis to fire his revolver, the impact of the bullet knocked the small man against the wall. He dropped. Landis turned. Three blue caps, their owners shielded from full view, were symbolic of the impossibility of his exit through the front door. He ran against the fire door. it opened noisily. Landis looked for a possible means of escape. He had intended this to be a quiet robbery, his escape to be made in the crowded subway at the corner. Suddenly his eyes were struck, struck with a sight of what was to save him, two cars on the garage lot. He ran. The engines of both cars were running. One was a big, luxurious Cadillac, a late model; the other a Ford, about two years old, the same model used by the radio police. "No use taking a chance with that," Landis thought.

He opened the door of the Cadillac feverishly. It took hours to get in, get seated, and close the door. He released the emergency brake; the car rolled forward slightly: it seemed to strain eagerly at an invisible leash. Pressing in the clutch pedal and putting the shift in second, he saw himself losing the cops after a short chase. He accelerated quickly and braced himself for the sudden lunge of the high-powered car. But it didn't come. The engine's quiet purr became a deep-throated roar, but no motion followed. Landis's heart almost stopped, his stomach felt cold and bottomless. He gripped the steering wheel with animal tenacity. He didn't move. The engine's roar became louder. The world seemed to explode. Landis was pushed forward, almost through the windshield. The engine slowed down.

At the police station a short man with a bandage at the side of his head was talking to a police-captain.

"Soon's I yell cops, this fellow shoots me and scrams through the fire door. The boss's Ford was over the other lot with a new job that just same in today. Both engines were running. The Cadillac didn't have no drive shaft, the Ford was hopped up so's it could do seventy-five."




The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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