C/O Lawrence Kloppman
Duane Street Lodging House
March 25, 1901
I've never been very good at starting letters, so I'm just going to get out of the way all of the good wishes for your health and so on. I doubt that you were ever expecting to hear from me again, and for all I know, you're not even at the Lodging House anymore, but I felt like I should write (and if you've gone, Kloppman will know where, and he'll get this letter to you). After all, it has been close to a year and a half since I left New York, and I wanted to find out how everyone back there is doing. I wasn't going to, though. Until a couple of weeks ago, I was perfectly content with the idea of never seeing any of you again.
Then, one night about two weeks ago, I had a really strange dream. I dreamed that I was flying over New York City, and I could see everything spread out beneath me; I even saw all of you selling papes. You were yelling at David for being too honest about the headlines. Next I flew over Brooklyn. Seeing it from the air took my breath away, at least in the dream. I always knew that Brooklyn was big, but until I was flying over it in my dream, I never really realized the vastness of it, and then I remembered that I used to run it single-handedly. I flew in lower, and I saw all of my boys going about their business like nothing had ever changed. Crumbs was doing a good job of handling things, I guess. I landed in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, and standing right next to me was this kid. He was a newsie, but I only ever met him once, around the time this whole thing started. His name was either Sparky or Spanky... I can't really remember which. Anyway, in my dream, he looked at me and said, "You ran away." Of course, I protested, but then he turned into Racetrack, who told me that I may have left New York, but that I just didn't run far enough. "You should have run further," he said. Then his cigar caught on fire, and burned him to death while Blue danced around in the background, spraying blood from his mouth. I woke up covered in sweat, and knew that I had to write to you, at least for closure.
I suppose that I also have curiosity to blame for this letter; recently, I've met another boy who used to be a New York City newsie, and he told me that some strange rumors about me and my whereabouts have been circulating there. I've been told that I killed myself, that I had myself buried with Racetrack, that I'm living in the gutters, that I've gone to live in Paris...and so on. So not that any of the Manhattan boys are really worried about me, I'm sure, but I wanted to let you know where I actually am and what I'm doing.
After that day, I spent a short amount of time with family recuperating (and I helped my grandparents find my mother, though that's a different story), but as soon as I was able, I left. I took only enough money to get me out of New York, and got on a train to California. That's where I've been all of this time. The first time I stepped off the train and walked around, it was the oddest feeling. It was the first time in such a long time that I was just part of a crowd. Nobody recognized me or expected anything from me...That was actually a relief for me, particularly after what happened in Brooklyn on that last day. I've been pretty busy out here – I've gotten a couple of part-time jobs to make some money, but that's not what I want to do with my life.
Once I make enough money, I've decided, I'm going to open a shelter for runaway children. It's not only what Racetrack would have wanted, but it's also what I want. I don't want any kids to find themselves starving on the streets when I could do something to help them. I've started looking around for good buildings to buy, but they're pretty expensive, so it may be a while before I have enough cash to do this.
But on another topic, Jack, I need you to do me a favor. Before I left New York, I saw Mush briefly in the street, and he told me that the idea to come help me was Dutchy's, and that Dutchy was feeling pretty guilty about what happened. If you can, I need you to tell Dutchy that it wasn't his fault. None of it was. I forced him to help me, and then (so I understand), Race forced him to come help me. Only the final plan was actually Dutchy's. So tell him that I don't blame him, and I know that Racetrack wouldn't blame him either. We all made our own choices. I made the choice to try to face Blue on my own, and Race... Well, I may still think that he made a horrible decision at that last moment, but it was his to make. So tell Dutchy that. If anyone should bear the blame for it, it certainly isn't him.
I don't know if you know this, or even if I should be telling you this, but Racetrack was the first newsie I ever met. He was my first and only friend. It was because of him that my father threw me out, but it was also because of him that I found the newsies, who were a truer family than my flesh-and-blood family could ever have been. He gave me my name, along with so many other things. Deep inside, I don't think I'll ever stop missing him...or blaming myself for his death. I was an utter mess for weeks afterwards. I wish he hadn't jumped between me and Blue... He was worth more than me any day. He cared about people and wanted to help them. I just wanted to control them.
When I think back on it all, so much of it is a blur. More than anything, I remember something Race said to me. He told me that he gave me the cane so I could be a man. I didn't understand what he was saying at the time, but now I think I do. I spent so much time thinking about myself. Even the things I did for Brooklyn...Underneath it all, they were for me. But now I think I can start thinking about other people, about how I can help other people. I want to help people so that if Race is looking down on me, he'll think that I made something of myself, and that I at least attempted to pick up where he left off.
I know that you have these dreams of going to Santa Fe...It's not exactly right next door to where I am, but it's a lot closer than New York. So if you ever get out this way, it might be nice to see a familiar face. I could even give you a good soaking, for old times' sake.
Anyways, Jack, take care of yourself and take care of the boys...though I doubt I need to tell you that. You were much better at listening to your boys than I was at listening to mine. But from now on, I'll be doing my part from over here.
Good Luck with Everything,