Status:† Work in progress.
Feedback:† Yes, please.
Archive:† Seize the Night, any other just ask.
Summary:† Years later, Les recounts the story of how he found out about Jack and David, and the way it affected his family and life.
Disclaimer:† The characters arenít mine (they belong to Disney).† Only the basic idea is mine.
Warnings:† Serious issues, quite a few cultural slurs
Notes:† I toyed with the idea of a Les fic for quite a while.† Then, not that long ago, I was struck with a horrible case of inspiration (horrible because I was trying to catch a nap before work).† I had to do a bit of research because I honestly did not know any slurs for Jewish people, and I wanted to get historically accurate slurs against gay people.† Yes, Iím a sad, sad person.† I feel horrible for using some of the terms, so I apologize ahead of time.
Les is writing this in about the mid-to-late 60ís, before the Stonewall riots for anyone who knows stuff about gay history.† That would put him in about his mid-to-late seventies.
As I begin to write, quietly putting pen to paper, Iím not sure myself why Iím doing it.† What is this, exactly?† What should I call it?† I canít call it a death-bed confessional; while I may be old, I still hope to have a few more years to my name, and the word confessional sounds so tawdry and sordid, like a shameful secret unburdened just before the last breath slips away.† It is a phrase used for adulterers and guilty, secret murderers, who, in the last or beginning pages of cheap paperback thrillers, heave out shakily ďI must confess.Ē† Not for this story, which is neither cheap nor a thriller in any sense of the phrase.† There will be no exhilarating chases, no alluring femme fatales.† That last phrase makes me chuckle, if bitterly.† It is the lack of such a seductress that ultimately led to this story--or, at least, its compilation at my hands.† But I will explain that later.
Perhaps it is a confessional after all.† I am writing this in secret, hidden in a back room as if this is a dirty act I commit.† I am confessing a secret to the impartial page.† If I imagine the white paper as the crisp clerical collar of a clergyman, will I be absolved of any hidden guilt?† Do I want to be?† Is there even a need?† Questions that are inconsequential, really, because I canít recall the shape and importance of the white collar at any rate; it has been far too long since Iíve felt the desire to deal with clergy, even if a Catholic priest would accept confession from a Jewish man.†
My purpose in writing is unclear to me.† I have no idea what I mean to accomplish.† Maybe I hope someone will read this, will understand.† But if that is my purpose, why not simply speak it?† Of course, I donít know the answer to that either.† There are so many questions and I have so few answers left in me.† I cannot imagine someone else reading these pages.† Why would they?† All those involved in this story know it already.† I told my dear wife years ago; there is not a secret I would ever keep from her.† My three lovely daughters will hear it from me eventually.† So, who then do I write this for?† The act of writing implies that there will be reading done in the future.† I could burn the pages once done, but somehow I know I wonít.† I write, I think, for some unknown person who needs answers as badly as I do, who will find these pages and somehow get comfort from them.† I write for myself.† For loved ones cherished and loved ones lost.† Most of all, for my brother.
Yes, you see (you? I find myself already addressing a hypothetical reader), this story does not revolve entirely around me after all, although Iíve certainly introduced it that way.† Rather, it is my brotherís story, reconstructed from my childish memories and what I imagine happened.† It is the story of David Jacobs, first son of Mayer and Esther Jacobs.† Brother of Sarah and Elias (how I hated that name then; everyone called me Les).† Named David, Hebrew for beloved, after a long and difficult birth, I am told.† And beloved he was, as each of their children was, until one day all that changed.
Already I know youíre shifting impatiently, wondering if I will ever just begin, get on with the story.† Maybe youíre already skimming to the end, to see if there isnít a dramatic ending after all; a beautiful heroine dying in the arms of her beloved, or a tragic hero sacrificing himself to save a village.† This is not that kind of story, not those kinds of answers.† And if I seem to wander in my thoughts throughout, it is because I am not sure myself how I will tell it.†
I am no author, to relate this the way it should be told.
There are no literary conventions made that could tell this tale.† No ďIt began on a dark and stormy night,Ē no ďAnd they lived happily ever after.Ē† Without an authorís skill, I canít create stunning opening lines to hold your interest.† I can only hope the painful, solid honesty of the emotions will keep you reading and understanding, as I stumble through the events.† If this was a novel, instead of a confused confession (or biography, or memoir), I would choose to begin with a simple phrase that has often crossed my mind:
I should have known.
Looking back on it, I suppose I should have known, or at least suspected.† But I was young, though I didnít consider myself to be young.† Eleven, near twelve, was old enough to be wise in the ways of the world.† With an adultís experience behind me now, I can chuckle at that particular lofty presumptuousness of children, but then . . . then, I owned the streets, older siblings were graciously tolerated, and cowboys--even pretend ones-- were objects of hero-worship.†
I can still remember the day all that changed with a clarity that lends reality to some of my more vivid nightmares.† It wasnít a stormy day, or even particularly gloomy.† Given the circumstances, it seems it should have been.† If weather reflected emotion, the sky would have wept rain and thunder would have growled of broken things:† hearts and promises, family ties and childhood innocence.† Of course, the sadness of the memory lends it a certain somberness, but in reality the day was pleasant.
It was the height of Indian summer, edging into autumn.† The kind of day meant to be savored because the yellowing leaves made you realize there would not be many more of the kind left to enjoy in the coming days.
That is an irony I am only now coming to understand.
My afternoon had been spent chasing wild Injuns with Davey Crockett and defeating evil barons with the skill of my blade.† With all my young-boy conviction, I believed that nothing bad could sneak into my life.† If it tried, I would have chased it away with all the ferocity of my youth.† But the events that changed our lives didnít slink past wearing war-paint or twirling a waxed mustache like in the flickers.† No, it stampeded through, wild and never once in my control.† Or perhaps it had been there all along, just waiting for the right spark to blow it apart.
I think to understand that day, I must take you back a few years before it happened.† There were signs, if I had thought to look, and Iíve had an entire lifetime to contemplate what happened that day, what had caused it.† Maybe Iíve been looking for a way I could have prevented it, changed it, softened the blow.† I donít know what I think I could have done; I was only a child then.† Maybe Iíve just been searching for understanding.† What I have gained through my searching, is a series of often painful realizations about life.† I can only hope I tell this tale in a way that fairly represents what happened.
The beginning of the story, if it can be called a beginning at all, picks up several years prior to the fateful day I have mentioned.† Some few of you may know of the newsboy strike of 1899, although its significance has faded in the passing years.† The events of it-- a desperate coming together of children to challenge king-makers of men--are largely forgotten beyond those who participated in it, and most of them are gone.† It is not the events that matter in any case, but rather the people in it and the circumstances under which they met.
I can only speculate what happened behind the scenes of the events I know.† What I can tell you is that it started on a warm summer day, much like the day it fell apart, if I remember correctly.† It was a day for beginnings-- more beginnings than I knew.† I was near ten and my father was out of work, his arm broken in an accident at work.† David was barely seventeen, himself, but had quit school to help support the family.† That was not an uncommon thing in those days, as strange as it may seem now.† Children often worked to support themselves or their families and, in truth, we were lucky to receive the amount of education we did.† But to me, even then, it seemed huge.† Quit school?† It sounded like an adventure.† Armed with my wooden sword, I set out with David to conquer the world of selling papes.
The first meeting was hardly auspicious.† We had just arrived near the newspaper distribution center for our area, when we ran into a boy who would affect many lives.† Or, rather, he ran into us, quite literally.† That at least, I remember clearly.† The second meeting went little better.† I could tell David didnít care much for the self-confident and outspoken newsie, but I developed an instant case of hero-worship for the older boy.† How could I not?† He was brash and daring, his life free of school and homework and annoying siblings; everything a young boy like I was could hope for.† ďCowboy,Ē I called him, and was told he went by Jack Kelly mostly.† Later we learned his real name was Francis Sullivan, but whatever his name, it didnít change who he was:† A leader, a loner.
My brotherís lover.
I can write that now and not be surprised at the words, or dismayed, or saddened, or a myriad of other, more shameful, emotions, all of which Iíve experienced at some point.† It has taken me a lifetime, but I can write that phrase with acceptance and a longing to understand.† I only wish it hadnít taken me that long.
I have often tried, over the years, to envision how their relationship progressed.† Obviously, since they eventually became lovers, they must have moved beyond any initial dislike they had for each other.† They quickly became friends; I wouldnít hesitate to call them best friends.† But when did friendship turn into love?† I try to fill in the details, imagining my brother a happy relationship.† Wishing him that happiness, if only for a few years.† Mostly I am left with unanswered questions, and an aching suspicion that any moments of happiness they had together were fiercely fought for and hard won.
Whatever their relationship at that time, Jack and my brother worked well together.† Opposites in many ways, they made quite a pair.† Jack was a charismatic leader, deserving of the nickname Cowboy, while my brother brought his education and stubborn honesty to the partnership.† Together, they led the strike against Pulitzer and Hearst.
I was too young to fully understand what was at stake.† To me, the strike was exciting.† It was the adventure I had been expecting.† I understood poverty, having lived my entire life to that point in the crowded tenements of lower Manhattan, but the concept of being at the mercy of the headlines for livelihood and life was unknown to me.† It was enough for me that my hero thought it was important.
And the strike was certainly difficult; Pulitzer and Hearst didnít hesitate to use force against the newsboys.† David did his best to shield me from the events, but there were some things he couldnít hide from me.† I remember in detail being rushed from the newsie rally by my brother and Jack, as officers of the law attacked boys I had come to look up to.† I can feel Sarahís grip on my wrist and Davidís hand on my back as he pushed us out the exit to safety.† I can also remember my anger and fear as the Delancey brothers grabbed my sister, then hurt David when he came to help.† I prefer not to think of what could and would have happened if it hadnít been for Jack then.
The emotional trials were even more difficult than the physical.† I canít begin to imagine what it was like for those most involved.† The newsies were used to fights and hard living and unfair treatment; that they could handle.† They looked to each other for help and support, though.† When that trust was betrayed, it hit them harder than any fist ever could.† I believe that was one of the reasons they hated the scabs so intensely.† When they thought Jack had betrayed them, it almost tore them apart.
It almost tore David apart.
I doubt they were lovers yet-- my brother was never one to rush into anything--but there was something between them, even then.† It was there in every friendly gesture, every embrace, every shared look.† You could see it in how hard he took Jackís desertion; he took it personally.† No one, especially not a nine year old boy, saw that for what is was.† But, as I said, Iíve had years to reach an understanding about these things.† And sometimes it seems like a miracle that their friendship survived those rocky times.