What was it Jack had said, up on the rooftop? "Whenever things are bad, I just picture myself in Santa Fe and let everythin' down here disappear."
Well, things were certainly bad right now. In fact, Crutchie would go so far as to say that this was the worst day of his life. Worse than when he had first caught polio, worse than when his leg was being eaten up by the disease, worse than when his folks decided he was just another mouth to feed, and a crippled one at that. They had left him on a street corner that day, not even pretending they'd be back. But today, today was a thousand times worse than any of that. Today, he had been locked up in the Refuge.
Things definitely couldn't get much worse, Crutchie decided. So, he allowed himself a few minutes to daydream.
The clean air woulda healed my leg by now, if me and Jack had run away to Santa Fe like we said.
He cast a listless glance around the room, taking in the dirt, the filth, the rats.
Everythin' in Santa Fe is clean and green and pretty, Jack said. Jack said a lotta things 'bout Santa Fe, 'specially when he woke up from a nightmare. A nightmare 'bout... 'bout the Refuge.
Crutchie tried to turn his mind back to Santa Fe, but the events from earlier kept playing over and over again in his mind. Eyes opened or closed, it didn't make a difference. Being cornered by the Delanceys. Trying to run, but being hampered by his crutch and his bad leg. He had made a decision then. If the Delanceys were bringing him down, he wouldn't go without a fight.
He swung out with his crutch, nailing Oscar in the shins. It felt good, getting a hit in on on of them. Images of every time they had kicked his crutch out from under him, or threatened Jack, or bullied one of the younger boys for fun flashed through his head, and he felt a fleeting moment of satisfaction. It was gone in an instant as one of them -he wasn't sure which one- kicked his bad leg out from under him.
And suddenly Snyder was there -where did he come from?- with a crutch in his hands. His crutch.
"It's off to the Refuge with you, little man," he sneered.
Crutchie vaguely remembered thinking that the same voice that haunted Jack's nightmares would now haunt his own, and then Snyder brought the crutch down on him, again and again and again. He cried out in pain, curling into a ball as Snyder rained blows down on him.
With my own crutch. He beat me with my own crutch. The one thing that kept me up is the reason I ain't walkin' now.
Not that I could walk very good in the first place.
The beating finally stopped, mercifully, and the Delanceys dragged him off by his bad leg. That stupid, stupid crippled leg.
If I was normal this wouldn't be happening. I woulda been outta here, like Jack. Gone ta Santa Fe.
As Crutchie was dragged away, something caught his eye. Jack was there, on the fire escape. Crutchie was being hauled off to the Refuge, his fingernails breaking on the cobblestones, screaming himself hoarse for Jack, for his brother, and Jack was there. And he just watched.
Outta here like Jack. He was outta there, alright.
Crutchie was silent and numb for the entire trip to the Refuge. He tried desperately to give Jack the benefit of the doubt. They were brothers. Jack still cared about him, he had to, but everyone knew he was scared spitless of Snyder. He couldn't be expected to risk it all just to save one boy. Not even his brother. And after all, the other boys had all made it out. That was what really mattered, right?
Of course they all made it out. They all has two working legs.
Crutchie swore under his breath. He almost never used strong language, though he had certainly heard plenty in his young life. On a normal day, Racetrack swore enough for both of them. Well, this definitely wasn't a normal day.
"Why'd I waste my time with that letter ta Jack?" he muttered. "He's prob'ly long gone by now."
Crutchie knew his brother. After the crushing defeat at the strike earlier, Jack would be hiding out somewhere, planning on running away to Santa Fe. Now that he didn't have Crutchie holding him back, he could leave anytime he liked. His dreams were about to come true.
He leaned back against the wall with a sigh. His leg was throbbing, and not letting him sleep. When that happened at the Lodge House, there were a dozen things he could do. He could watch Jack sketch Santa Fe at midnight. He could listen to the whispered conversation Race and Romeo had nearly every night. He could listen to Albert's snoring. Here, there was only silence.
Silence had always been his own worst enemy. In the silence, he was left alone with his thoughts. Lucky for him, there was rarely a moment of quiet in the Lodge House. Even on the rooftop, Jack was there to drown out the deafening quiet. But here... even though he shared a bed with three other boys, the silence was suffocating him. None of them talked. None of them even breathed loudly. They were all asleep now, relishing in a few uninterrupted hours of peace.
C'mon, Crutchie. You'se lettin' Snyder get inside your head. Ya can't let him win. Do what you does best. Stay positive.
Ya gotta smile that spreads like butter. There's that one goil who buys a pape from ya every day, the pretty blonde one. Ya should talk to her, when ya get out. 'Cause ya will get out.
Ya got poysonality. Everyone says so. With that plus the smile, the crutch, and the bruises ya got from this place, ya paper sales'll be through the roof.
Ya can predict the weather- sometimes. Even your bad leg is good for somethin'.
The youngah boys really like ya. You'se the one they goes to when they'se cryin', 'side from Jack.
And Jack. The two of you is brothers, just like ya said. He wouldn't forget about you anymore'n you'd forget about him. He's gonna win that strike, show Pulitzer who's boss, and he's gonna come for ya. Maybe even on the back of Governor Roosevelt's carriage.
A golden light crept across the wall. Crutchie looked up, seeing the sun rising out the window, and smiled. Today was a new day. Today was the second day of the strike. They were going to win. He had hope. After all, they had faith, a plan, and they had Jack.
(A/N): Hey guys! This wasn't supposed to be so sad, but Crutchie is so much fun to write... Special shoutout to my Newsie friends, Flash and Trip! (Trip's the girl I was describing here, the one who caught Crutchie's eye.) I would love it if you reviewed! Reviews make me happy, and I'm always open to requests. Fun fact: this was originally going to be a part two to my other story, Santa Fe, but it kind of took on alife of its own. Angsty Crutchie was a blast to write. I did try to give it a happy ending for you.
Note about my Race and Romeo story, A Regular Little Romeo: I'll update soon, I've just been pretty busy recently. You guys should check that story out if you haven't already!
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