Chapter Two: This Pain Inside Me
Several months before the strike.....
A boy stood on the dock overlooking the Brooklyn harbor, glaring at the waves, oblivious to the bitterly cold winter wind against his naked skin. After taking a swig of beer from the flask beside him, he pulled off his trousers and dived into the icy waters, losing all sense of being as the cold engulfed him. Sometimes he wished he would lose all feeling altogether and drift away from this harsh world, this city that hated him. But every time, he would climb back out of the water ten minutes later, huddle into a curled position behind a barrel where no one would see him, and clench his fists until they bled, just to see if he was still alive.
Then sixteen-year-old Deuce Harvey would gather up his clothes and stalk back to the Brooklyn Newsboys Lodging House, his home since he was eleven years old. And there he would sit with his friends, playing poker, messing around, until it was time for bed, knowing full well that the next day he would play the same game again, and maybe next time would be the last.
This particular evening, when Deuce reached the Lodging House, the downstairs room was packed even more than usual, as several of the Manhattan, Harlem, and Queens newsies were there for an inter-turf poker game. Spot, he saw, seemed to be doing pretty well, as did Cotton, leader of the Harlem newsies, that Manhattan newsie Racetrack, and Jack Kelly. Jack Kelly. Deuce's fists clenched in anger as he saw the cocky Manhattan newsie's trademark smirk, making them bleed once again. He hated that son-of-a-bitch Kelly more than anyone he had ever met in his life. Hated his calm demeanor, his arrogance, his stupid cowboy hat, and the ease with which he had obtained the leadership of the Manhattan newsies since his arrival on the scene a few months before. Apparently, he had been a prisoner in the house of refuge before he joined the newsies. He had escaped, and he even had some cock and bull story he told anyone who would listen about escaping on Teddy Roosevelt's carriage.
"Deuce!" called Wolf as he entered the Lodge, causing several faces to turn up. Deuce didn't have many friends among the non-Brooklyn newsies, so his welcome was not warm, but none compared to the look he received from Jack Kelly. Jack's head jerked up immediately when he heard the name, and his eyes narrowed in displeasure as he caught Deuce's eye. The two held the gaze for several moments before it was broken, and Jack went back to playing cards while Deuce saunted upstairs.
"Ain'tcha gonna stay and play pokah, Deucey-boy?" Spot called as Deuce disappeared upstairs.
"No!" came the reply shortly. Spot and the others looked at each other, shrugged, and resumed their game. Deuce never had been the most social guy anyway. though usually he wouldn't miss a game of cards (hence his name). Once Deuce had reached the top of the stairs and saw that the room where the boys slept was empty except for a couple of younger kids, who were already asleep, he instantly regretted having come upstairs. He didn't want to stay here, but he couldn't possibly go back downstairs now without the others saying something. He looked miserably around the room and his eyes fell upon the window. He was only on the second story, and there was a tree right outside the window. He crossed the room in several long strides and shoved open the window, letting in an icy cold draught.
"Awww, close 'da windah," muttered ten-year-old Mouse, who's bed was adjacent to the window. Deuce ingored him, and swung his long legs over the sill. Once he was safely perched in the tree, he leaned over precariously and began to pull at the window, trying to get it closed. This was a bad idea, as he soon lost his balance and, with a sharp cry, fell twenty feet into a bush at the base of the tree. After muttering some words that surely he hadn't learned from his mother, Deuce straightened up and was just about to decide what to do next when he heard a familiar, mocking voice behind him.
"Some of us find dat da stairs is a much easiah way o' gettin' downstairs," Jack Kelly said drily as Deuce hurriedly stood and brushed off as much dirt and leaves as he could without looking too ridiculous. "But, ya know, to each 'is own, huh?"
"Fuck off, Kelly," Deuce growled, "unless you wanna get hoit."
Jack raised his eyebrows in slight surprise. "You challengin' me to a fight, Harvey?"
"Yeah, maybe I am," Deuce said, his voice barely above a whisper, but the intensity was the same as if he had screamed it. He took a step toward Jack, who stood his ground, studying the other boy intently. When he finally spoke, his voice was surprisingly gentle, not at all mocking like it had been before.
"Get back inside, Harvey," he said quietly. "You're drunk and you'll freeze if youse don't get more clothes on." And with that he turned and joined the rest of the newsies who were piling out of the Lodging House, heads bowed against the oppressive wind, making their ways back to their respective territories.
Deuce, however, did not move. He stood frozen where he was, his blood running icily cold through his veins. He had wanted to fight Jack Kelly, wanted to watch blood flowing from his face, to see that smug mouth of his trembling in pain, and to taste his blood on his fingertips. He hated Jack Kelly. Hated him for being so smooth, so collected, so beautiful and so dangerous. And he hated himself for wanting Jack Kelly so much that pain of falling from the tree and of piercing the skin on his hands paled in comparison to what he felt when he saw the image of Jack's beautiful face in his mind's eye.