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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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I Lived Through A Blackout

By Franklin Plotkin

The Magpie, Winter 1942, v. 26, n. 1, p. 34.

It was a clear, moonless Friday night, no different from any other Friday night...in fact, I can think of two other Friday nights that beat it three ways to Tuesday. As I walked out of the house, contentedly reflecting, rather noisily on my supper, I must confess that I did not look around me with any concern, or even with any interest. It was a fine, ordinary Friday night, and I had a date.

While I steered my weary bulk toward the trolley-car stop, halted only once on my way by Buddy Schwartz, who had decided to chat, I thought of the evening ahead. I would reach her door thirteen minutes late, spend eight minutes (that was usually the time it took for all the niceties) in propitiatory actions, and then out to a movie. Ah, she would look so pretty, and I would use line No. 224 to tell her so. It would be quite an evening.

I did get there late, in fact seventeen minutes late (I am sure of that since she waved it in front of me, viciously, like a banner, all evening); and it took ten minutes to satisfy her womanly wiles. But finally we got to the movies, staggered up three million stairs to reach the projection booth, and found two uncaptured seats just below it. On went the evening.

The picture crept on and on. I got tired of holding her hand and put my arm around her, to have it returned almost dislocated. A little disgruntled, but still agreeable, I tolerated the rest of the picture. When we left, or rather as we left, the evening really got under way.

I tripped on a receding stair, poised for an inevitable plunge, gave an elderly woman a resounding smack because of my anxiety not to fall, and then by some whimsy of fate, just regained my balance and continued down. We hadn't even gotten out of this more or less sheltered movie yet!

It was still the clear, moonless Friday night when we emerged, but everything was pitch black. I knew that I should have gone to the oculist; I was blind, blind, blind...do you hear, blind! But wait, I could make out the blond head of my girl friend. It must be something else. Then it occurred to me...a blackout!

"Quick for the shelters!"

"What shelters?"

"I dunno . . . I never thought of that. Let's take advantage of our first blackout." Did she see the wicked gleam I had transplanted into my searching brown eyes? With no spoken opposition, I took over. I took her arm and started walking.

I hit a curb, turned my ankle on some grass, and smashed my shin against a hydrant. This was all accompanied by wild giggles from my lady friend. With my face a burning red mass (and no doubt my right leg the same) I began to grope. I even let go of the accompanying arm. It made me uneasy, anyway, the way it tapered off at the shoulder to join the surrounding darkness.

On I went. At last I fell to my hands and knees to find, unfortunately, that it seemed to be a favorite haunt of some leaky oil trucks. But still in a fighting mood, I pushed on, narrowly escaping decapitation by a clothesline. A clothesline? In the street? Uh-huh! Where was I? Oh me!

For what seemed hours, we wandered. Bounded by hedges . . . crushed now by my never failing instinct to find them . . . we walked, in varying stages of erection. Finally we found the sidewalk again, reached a set of stairs, and weakly collapsed. We were safe there, at least. We spoke of many things . . . most of which could be classed under the heading of "Cuts and Abrasions." Meanwhile I had completely given up my plans of action. I was too sore to make advances.

Suddenly, as if by request to a sympathizing genie, the world came to life. Lights went on, streets appeared, and landmarks once more made themselves helpfully conspicuous. Was I a mess! My pants were stained by grass and unidentifiable substances. They were torn and rumpled. My legs showed long scratches, my hands were cut, my face was filthy, and my shirt was all out. In fact I was horrible.

Edith, my girl friend, and fellow sufferer, was also no well-kempt madonna. She was a mess! It was the first time I had ever seen her soft, and very pretty light brown hair so awry. Her clothes were torn and dirty, and I must admit she was in a wretched mood. I took her home.

On the way back to the trolley, through the now comparatively dazzlingly lighted streets, I reflected. I had not kissed her good night, or even said anything to her on the way back to her house. In fact, I had ignored her. This was all because of the condition this fascinating idea of a blackout had left me in.

The evening was a total failure, just because of an unmannerly, unthinking blackout!

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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