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The Price of Fortune

Author's note: ​In the novel Before We Were Free, one prominent theme was “Sometimes, no matter how hard we...  Show full author's note »
Author's note: ​In the novel Before We Were Free, one prominent theme was “Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to avoid them, some things are going to happen.” This theme is prominently seen in my story. In the beginning, you have the main character’s best friend, Eddie, shot in a failed robbery. The main character and his friends Joe and Frank can’t afford to get Eddie to a doctor, so the main character decides to rob in order to get the money to save Eddie. He finds a way through which he can save Eddie (stealing from a rich girl he befriended), but by the time he finally has the money, Eddie has passed. The protagonist had a plan and was almost certain that he would succeed in his endeavor. However, no matter how hard he tried, Eddie died in the end, for it was what was destined to happen.  « Hide author's note
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The Only Home I've Ever Known

​“Success Jimmy Boy! Pure success! We just have to cash this stuff in and soon we'll have our mugs buried in some pristine chow,” hollers Frank, as we dash out of the dim lit street into the safety of the shadows of an alleyway.
​“Pristine? What the hell does that mean?” scoffs Joe.
​“I dunno. All I know is I saw this rich guy eating some pricey looking food earlier and he was saying 'Oh, this food is so pristine,'” mocks Frank, twirling an invisible mustache on his
This was actually intended to be a prologue.
face. The four of us howl at this, each of us patting the small assortment of rings, bracelets, and necklaces we have in our hands or in our satchels. I take one of the gleaming, golden necklaces from my hand, wrap it around my neck, and leap up onto the dumpster that we are lingering near.
​Adorning my best king face, I preach to my pals, “Well then, my good sirs, let us join the 'great, rich bastards of this fine city!' Hell, with our fancy talk, top class clothes,” at this, I pat the stomach of my holed, dilapidated button-down shirt, “and pristine etiquette, we'll fit right in.”
​“Huzzah,” cheers Frank, raising one of his bracelets up. Then, in a sarcastic tone, he belts, “Cheers to our new, hard earned, completely honorable wealth!” Breaking into a boisterous round of laughter, we all hold up various gold items we have and clink them together.
​“We should probably bury the stuff, though, until news of the robbery blows over. We don't wanna get caught red handed by the bulls,” advises Eddie. To this, we all agree. After a couple of minutes of argument and tough decision-making, we develop a firm plan: Eddie and I will stay behind to find a place to hide the goods in this alleyway. Then, tomorrow, we'll all meet up here, put everything in bags, and run it down to the docks, where we'll bury it in the sand. After saying goodbye to Joe and Frank, Eddie and I get to work on finding a place to hide the jewelry.
​The alleyway we're in is long, with an opening to the street on one end and a firm brick wall on the other. The cool midnight air blows on our necks as we search for potential cracks or crevices in which we could hide the stolen materials. I try walking to the end of the alleyway and feel my way around the wall that stands there. Feeling grimy, rough stone on your bare palm honestly isn't the most pleasant experience. However, it pays off in the end when my hand falls into a deep hole towards the bottom of the wall. With his attempts to make our lives better (let me tell you, it isn't working out so well yet), Governor Roosevelt hasn't really had the time to stay focused on the care and renovation of these old apartment blocks. Lucky for us, I guess.
​I turn to Eddie and gesture for him to come to me. He jogs towards me, feet splashing against wet ground, with a good amount of the jewelry in his hand. I point out the hole and we begin stuffing our loot into it. After about five minutes, we have hidden everything and begin making our way back to the streets. Coming out of the alleyway, we are greeted by nothing but the light of the full moon, the rattling of wheels, and the clopping of hoofs on the stone streets.
​“Ready to go to that place I told you about Ed?” I ask Ed.
​“You bet, Jimmy. But it's down by the docks, right? That would be such a long run to make and I don't know if my legs are up to it,” he whines.
​“Ah, quit your griping,” I laugh, punching him lightly in the shoulder, “I got us a ride.” His blue eyes follow my pointing finger to the stagecoach proceeding down the street towards us. He looks back at me, a mischievous smile on his face, and nods. In unison, we recede into the shadows and wait. First the brown, exhausted horses trot along in front of us, then comes the lavish stagecoach. When its rear is facing us, Eddie and I bolt out of the shadows, leap up to the rear, and grip the handles below the roof. My hands tightly grip the cold, wet metal and pull the rest of my body up onto the roof. Once I am secure on the top, I realize that Eddie is still struggling to lift himself up. Reaching my hand down, I grasp his sweaty palm and haul him up onto the roof with me.
​“Thanks Jim, but I could've made it, had I just a bit more time,” he snickers, slightly embarrassed.
​“Hey, that's what friends are for,” I smile, patting him on the back. See, Eddie's not all that capable when it comes to street skills, such as handling himself in a fight, or climbing up carriages. He's always been more of a virtuoso in school smarts (I guess because he actually got to spend some time in school) and just wasn't built with natural strength and agility that most boys at age fourteen in this city have. As a result of this, I have kind of become his big brother and protector on the crowded and hazardous streets of the city, and believe me, it has given me many more black eyes than I would prefer. Honestly though, I don't mind it one bit, because at the end of the day, he's the closest thing to family that I've had in ten years and the best friend I have had –ever.
* * *
​“Remind me again Jimmy, if we were heading in the direction of the docks, why we couldn't just have brought the stuff with us and buried it now?”
​“Eddie, you know I'm not that smart. Besides, it's more fun if we do it tomorrow, see how good we can do at avoiding the cops.”
​“But wasn't the whole idea to hide the stuff so the cops wouldn't catch us?”
​“It was but then I thought to myself, 'where's the fun in that?'”
​“Whatever you say Jimmy,” Eddie laughs, shaking his head. We stand outside a four-story, red, brick apartment building, sitting in between two others that look near identical to it. Most of the lights in the windows are out and the few that are still on show no sign of activity. The wooden door in front of us is closed and the sign hanging above it can barely be read in the dim light of the moon: Rooms for Rent, $10 a month. It took us about half an hour to get here by stagecoach, so now it's later than it was before, and Eddie is about ready to hit the sack. I on the other hand, am too excited about what I'm going to show him to be tired.
​“What is it you so desperately need to show me Jimmy? Are you actually going to ask me to believe that you own one of these rooms and wish to offer me a comfortable bed in it?” Eddie gripes.
​“Better,” I whisper, “follow me.” Uncertain, but trusting in my judgment, Eddie follows me into the alleyway between the apartment building and one of its neighbors. This one is a good bit wider than the one we were in earlier, considering the fact that it needs to accommodate the two fire escapes of the adjacent buildings. However, the wider room doesn't really make for a brighter moon here, considering the fact that many people have put up clothing lines between the two fire escapes, obscuring the view of any light that may pour in. Aw well, at least no one will be able to see us. I stare up at the fire escape but frown in dismay when I realize that the ladder up to it is not hanging within reach. Eddie appears to have noticed the same thing I did, for within a minute, he pulls up a sturdy trash can and nods to me. I smile, thank him for his effort, and hop atop the trashcan. I reach for the ladder, but in vain, for I still fall short of reaching it. Looking down at Eddie, a plan conjures in my head.
​“Climb up on my shoulders Eddie,” I command.
​“Jimmy, I don't know if that's such a smart idea. What if I fall?” Reluctantly, he backs away.
​“I'll have a good grip on you and make sure you don't. Common, when have I ever let you down?” I ask.
​“Alright,” he sighs, “but if I get hurt, you're helping me out with sweeping tomorrow.”
​“Don't I always?” I smirk. “Now, get up on my shoulders.” Hesitantly, he lifts himself up my back and onto my shoulders, where I tightly grab his ankles to ensure that he doesn't fall. The soles of his work-boots inflict a good amount of pain on my shoulders, but I bite my tongue and tough it out. Carefully, he reaches up to the end of the ladder, hanging barely within his reach and starts to pull it down. A great smile spreads across my face, for I know that success is so close. Then, I feel the steel can beneath me slip and Eddie and I tumble down with it. My back hits the firm ground and then Eddie's back hits my stomach, launching pain through me for a second. Sorely, we stand up, both in pain, both distraught at our failed attempt.
​“I thought you said you would have a good grip,” moans Eddie.
​“I did,” I argue, “just not on the can.”
​I back up to lean against the wall, because my back is now killing me. CLING! My head slams into something hard and metal, and white flashes in my eyes as the agitating sound of the impact resounds in my ear. I mutter a curse under my breath and turn to see what on earth I hit. My pain instantly turns to joy when my eyes gaze upon the object I hit: one of the many bars of the ladder that lowered with us in the fall.
​“You did it Eddie!” I cheer, extolling my friend.
​“What'd I do?” he mumbles, still a bit out of it from the fall.
​“You got the ladder down! We're up!”
​Finally, he's come to and sees the ladder as well, “Well, what do you know, I guess I did!”
​“Common,” I gesture for him to follow me. The two of us ascend the ladder and then the stairs of the fire escape, passing an innumerable amount of hanging button downs, pants, and dresses on our way up. Finally, after a slow climb (we were both still a bit crippled by our fall, so we didn't move very fast) we reach the roof. I run across to the end overlooking the docks. Instantly, the potent smell of salt and fish catches my nose, a scent that I have lived without for much too long. My eyes take in the beautiful sight of the line of anchored ships that stretches all the way down the docks. The white sails of their towering masts are skillfully drawn up, and their massive, sturdy shapes are inspiring. The brown wooden ports in which they sit are covered by great piles of crates and lanterns that shed some light on the few men that are still strolling the docks because they have nothing better to do. Beyond this beautiful setting is the Hudson, sitting between Manhattan and New Jersey, with its black fingers gently reaching up towards the sky and then crashing back down.
​“What do you think,” I laugh back to Eddie. After a moment of silence I realize that the sight may not be as magical to him as it has always been to me. Disappointed, I turn back to him and sigh, “Look, I know it's not much. It's humble and simple, but it's got a . . .” I cut myself off when I see the amazement and awe in his eyes. He turns to me, a smile spread ear to ear across his face.
​“Jimmy, it's beautiful. And, you actually live up here?”
​“When I can get here, yeah,” I reply, pleased by his amazement. “I'll give you the grand tour. Over here are the lovely vents that keep me company when I sleep.” I offer, gesticulating to the short cylinders sticking up out of various places of the roof with small towers of smoke emitting from them. “And here are the beds,” I announce, pointing to the four large, metal, box-shaped vents found in the four corners of the roof. “Now, for the grand finale of our tour: the view.” I lead a bedazzled Eddie to the side of the roof facing the Hudson, drape my arm around his shoulder, and present the glorious view. “Here lies the great Hudson River, and you see that shoreline over there?”
​He nods.
​“That there is New Jersey. Yup, you better believe it pal,” I pat his shoulder, unwrap my arm from his torso, and spread out both my arms, beholding the great sight, “we're living up high with the kings! We've got a penthouse with a gorgeous view of all of Manhattan for free!”
​“We, Jimmy?” he asks, tears of joy forming in his eyes.
​“Well, of course Eddie,” I smile, sitting down on the ledge overlooking the docks, “You're family. What kind of man would I be if I kicked family out of my house onto the street?”
​“You mean it Jimmy? I can live up here, in your beautiful palace with you for free?”
​“I don't see why not.”
​“Well, Jimmy, if there's one thing I've learned in this upside down world it's that nothing out there is free.”
​“Maybe not with the lot of scum you'll find around this filthy town, but with family, and I mean true family, things are different.”
​Eddie takes me into an embrace and begins to sob tears of joy, “Thank you so much Jimmy.”
​I pat his back, “I'll always be here kid.”
​We pull out of the embrace and gaze out at the docks and the Hudson beyond it.
​“Imagine being a sailor on one of those ships huh,” Eddie sighs, “being able to get far away from this rut of a city and being able to go anywhere in the world you want. Wouldn't that be the dream Jimmy?”
​“Maybe for a couple of weeks yeah, but like my pa used to say, after spending enough time in one place, you're always gonna get tired of it, no matter how great it may be. There's no escaping boredom and pain, so why even bother trying.”
​“You have a pa?”
​“Had one. A mudda too,” I explain, getting up and walking over to one of the corner radiators, where I place down my satchel for a pillow and prepare myself a place to sleep.
​“Well, what happened to them?” asks Eddie.
​“Let’s just say that my pa had some bets he couldn’t afford to pay with money, so my ma and he paid with blood…” my voice trails off as I choke on the word blood. Sitting down on the radiator, I look out towards the river, making sure to keep my face hidden from Eddie. Tears begin to sting my eyes as memories of my mother’s soothing face and my father’s jovial laugh begin to form in my mind.
​“Oh. I’m real sorry about that Jimmy,” Eddie whispers, trying to commiserate with my pain.
​Quickly, I take the back of my sleeve and erase the tears from my face, “It’s fine Eddie. I mean, they were just my . . .” fresh tears stream from my eyes, and as hard as I try, these ones I can’t hide from Eddie. “I’m sorry you have to see me like this kid, it’s just so damn hard to deal with the pain sometimes! Just so damn hard!” Suddenly, I feel a hand soothingly patting my shoulder. I open my soaked eyes and find Eddie sitting next to me on the radiator, making his best effort to provide me with some form of comfort.
​“I lost my parents the day I was old enough to work. Pa put me into school and had me help him with the crops on the weekends. Whenever I screwed up –and I screwed up a lot –he would take me to the barn and beat me until he was sure I’d learned my lesson. My mother wasn’t much better. She always would feed me the least of the food, going on about how my father needed his strength to work. When I complained, I would be locked in the closet for about an hour until I apologized and praised their generosity. I never liked my parents. That’s why when I was about twelve years old, I stole some of pa’s money and caught the first train to New York City,” Eddie continued, “I was so excited, because I’d heard back home that life in the city was a thrill and magical and all that stuff. Well, I got here but I didn’t see any of the magic. I couldn’t make it on the streets. I had no money, no home, and the jobs that were available, I was no good at. But then, you found me Jimmy. I had only been here about four days…”
​“And I saw you eating some stolen food in an alleyway somewhere downtown,” I continue, wiping the last tears from my smeared face. “You were dirty and miserable and near dying. So, I took you to my boys, we got you to a doctor with the little amount of money we had and were able to get you back on your feet in no time.”
​“And then you, and you alone, took me under your wing. You showed me the ropes and you always protected me. Without you, I would’ve been killed by this city a long time ago. You are the only real family I’ve ever had. With you is the only real home I’ve ever known. Jimmy, you are a brother to me, I owe you so much, and everything I do will always be in honor of you. So, you should never be afraid to be true with me Jimmy, cause there is nothing in this world that could ever make me think less of you.”
​I turn to him and smile, “Brothers to the end.”
​His face radiates joy as he responds, “To the end.”
Chapters:   1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 8 Next »

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This book has 4 comments. Post your own now!

Worker Bee said...
Sept. 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm
The author has a great gift for describing the scene in such detail that the reader can see each setting very clearly in their mind.  The story itself is extremely well written which enables the reader to easily feel the triumps & pain of each character.  Very impressive & I look forward to more posts from this author!!
Brofesser said...
Jun. 18, 2013 at 11:02 am
This story is so touching!! it was great and i fell in love with it!
Tomas R. replied...
Jul. 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm
Thanks. That means a lot :) Any suggestions on things I can change?
17srao said...
Jun. 16, 2013 at 9:32 am
The story is touching even before its core - I truly felt Jimmy's pain when Eddie was shot.

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