Dirty Dancing—Manhattan Nights
It was four in the morning, and already, the first argument of the day had broken out.
Specs and Dutchy were sitting cross-legged on one of the bunks, passing back and forth a ledger they had stolen from the lobby, arguing in hushed whispers. They were considerate enough to fight quietly, but Racetrack had been awake all night anyway. It was hard to fall asleep when you had to contend with the mental image of Jack teaching Spot to line dance.
"Look," Dutchy said, running his hands nervously through his hair, "I just…don't see what's wrong with my lyrics."
"First of all, they ain't your lyrics, they're our lyrics," Specs said, sounding almost a little hurt, "and second of all, they're stupid. All right? They don't make no sense. Smoke on your pipe and put that in? What the hell is that? Any idiot knows the saying goes the other way around."
"JESUS CHRIST!" Dutchy yelled in exasperation, for a moment forgetting where he was. "It's because she's foreign. Of course she says it wrong. It's supposed to be funny."
"Oh." There was an awkward pause as Specs tried to come up with a suitable comeback. "Well...I still like my version better!"
"Specs," Dutchy whispered, "come on. Look at this." He held the ledger up and pointed to Specs' lyrics. "Eat Frank's Philly Cheese and get fattened? And you think mine is bad?"
"It's because we need our sponsorship, Dutch!" Specs said, sounding genuinely apologetic. "If I could change it, I would. But Frank's gonna give us fifty dollars for funding if we put in some product placement, and, well…"
Dutchy just shook his head sadly. "It's a tragedy. It really is. Eighteen years old, you're already selling your soul."
"Well, it's better than selling my body so we can get funding for this stupid musical!" Specs said huffily.
"I dunno, Specs, Mush did that last year and it worked out real well. Got over forty dollars to pay for the costumes just by knocking on lonely housewives' doors. I don't see why you think you're too high and mighty to become a prostitute. Of course," he continued innocently, "Mush was an awful lot more attractive than you. So maybe—"
"Now wait just one second. Mush is more attractive than I am? Where do you get that? I'm damn sexy."
"I bet that I could raise double the money Mush got last year if I prostituted myself," Specs said defiantly.
Dutchy paused to consider this. "Well, gee, Specs, what with writing the musical and selling papers all day, you've got kind of a full schedule already. Are you sure you can keep that many balls in the air, if you'll pardon the pun?"
Specs nodded vigorously. "Please, Dutchy? Please, let me be a prostitute?"
"Oh…okay." Dutchy looked at Specs, who was practically bouncing up and down with glee. "But no rough stuff, okay? We can't have you under the weather."
"Oh, I promise, Dutch, I promise! And I'll start tomorrow. No—I'll start tonight! Oh, wish me luck!" And without another word, Specs rushed out of the bunkroom, happy as Jack on fish stick day.
With a contented sigh, Dutchy leaned back on his mattress and put his hands behind his head. "Reverse psychology," he murmured. "Works every time…"
By six o' clock, just as the sky was getting light, Racetrack had lost any and all hope of getting to sleep. He was too exhausted to sell that day, or contend with the rest of the boys' planning, and too on-edge to even try to get some rest in; so he took the day off and did what he always did when he had this problem. He put on his jacket, and took a walk.
He didn't know how long he was out there, or where he went; he stopped caring about what direction he went, or which neighborhood he was in. Nothing could get him far enough away from the lodging house…from the dance-off. He was running from his past, and you can never get far enough away from that.
He walked for miles, up the empty sidestreets and bustling thoroughfares, through Chinatown, Little Italy, crisscrossing through lower Manhattan—until finally, body leaden, eyes barely open, a wave of exhausting took over his body, stronger than worry and dread. He didn't know where he was. He didn't really care. He just hoisted himself onto a fire escape, curled up, and went to sleep.
Racetrack Higgins awoke to the smell of freshly cooked Thanksgiving turkey.
Which was odd, really, as a.) it was March and b.) Racetrack couldn't remember the last time he had had so much as a freshly cooked turkey neck for Thanksgiving, let alone a whole bird. For a few moments, he thought it was just a dream. But then he opened his eyes and saw that it was really there: spread out on a table in the apartment whose window he was looking into was a full Thanksgiving dinner—turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, Jell-O salad with mayonnaise, green bean casserole; why, they even had Kool-Aid! Racetrack rubbed his eyes in disbelief. This had to be a dream.
But it looked real. It smelled real…
Without a second thought, Racetrack hopped through the window, sat down at the table, and began to eat ravenously.
"Oh!" said a sweet voice from behind him, "I see you've found your lunch."
Racetrack turned around sharply, a blob of Cool Whip on his chin, to see Sarah Jacobs standing behind him, smiling radiantly.
"Look," she said, "I made an upside-down cake—with real canned pineapple!" Noticing the faint look Race suddenly had, her tone became concerned. "Why, what's the matter? Racetrack, you haven't even touched your Wonderbread. And I know how much you love Wonderbread."
"What's…what's going on?" Racetrack managed. He was dazed, confused, still half out of his mind with exhaustion…and the Kool-Aid wasn't helping much either.
"Well," Sarah said, going over and sitting down in the seat next to his, "I just saw you out sleeping on the fire escape, and I thought I might make you a little something." She furrowed her brow in concern. "You…you do like it, don't you?"
"Well…yeah, but…Sarah, did you do all this?"
"It's all for me?"
"Of course," Sarah said.
"What about your family? What'll they eat?"
"Oh!" Sarah laughed lightly. "Don't worry about them! It's watered-down soup night, they're happy as…well…happy as I am to see you." She blushed.
"I see." Racetrack muttered.
"But…you shouldn't worry about this now," Sarah said, reaching out a wrist and pressing it against his forehead. "Just as I thought. You're burning up. And you look awfully pale, too. I think you should lie down."
"Well," Racetrack began, "my throat has been awful sore lately and—"
But he couldn't continue after that, of course. It's difficult to do so, after all, when someone has clubbed you over the head with a drumstick, and dragged you into her bedroom.
No one really noticed that Racetrack was gone for about three days. They were busy with the musical, of course, and were used to Racetrack disappearing every once in a while—but one night, they all realized that something had to be amiss.
"It was fish stick day at Tibby's yesterday," Jack announced solemnly, "and we all know that Racetrack would never miss fish stick day. Boys, mark my words, he's in trouble."
"Hm," said Skittery, opening a tube of blue sequins. "Bummer."
Jack scratched his head. "No one's worried about this?"
"Well, gee," Skittery said sarcastically, "I guess. I mean…no one's stolen my socks in three whole days!"
"And no one's borrowed my money and not given it back!" added Snitch.
"And…THERE'S NO ONE HERE TO RUIN ALL OUR SLEEP BY SNORING LIKE A LOCOMOTIVE! OH, NO!" Kid Blink screamed in horror.
"A little overdone," admonished Specs. "You'll have to tone that down if you want to play Jurgis, you know."
"Jurgis?" Jack asked, puzzled.
"The lead character in our musical!" Specs piped up. "You know, Lower Manhattan between Houston Street and Hell's Kitchen Story? It's gonna be great."
"Ya named the main character Jurgis?" Jack asked again, seeming no less excited.
Dutchy uncrossed his legs and leaned towards Jack. "It is," he explained, "a tragic love story set in the domain of two disparate groups: a Lithuanian street gang, and the newcomers, a group of Russian Jewish immigrants who are trying to take over their turf. From this war, a pure love blossoms, between Amira, a young, beautiful girl from Moscow, and Jurgis, the former leader of the Lithuanian street gang."
"It ends tragically," Specs said.
"I see," said Jack. "And…what are you goin' right now, with…what was it?"
"Lower Manhattan between Houston Street and Hell's Kitchen Story," said Specs. "Well, right now we're fine tunin' the lyrics for Jurgis and Amira's duet when they first meet. It's a touching song called About Forty-Five Minutes Ago."
"And you think this is more important than Racetrack's well-being?" Jack asked.
Specs and Dutchy looked at each other a long moment, then at Jack. "Well…yeah," they said in unison.
"Right," Jack managed, turning around and stalking off. "Well…I'm sure someone cares!"
But, as it turned out, no one really did. Oh, of course they thought Racetrack was a swell guy and all—but they had so many things to do! Skittery had to finish embroidering the sequins on his and Snitch's dance costumes. Snitch had to practice his steps. Bumlets had to work on his biceps. Specs and Dutchy were busy trying to come up with words that rhymed with "Jurgis". Crutchy was decorating the sets. Mush was color-coordinated his tap shoe collection.
They all would have loved to help him look for Racetrack. Really. But they were just so busy.
"Well," said Jack in disgust, "I hope you're all happy with yourselves. One of your best friends is in trouble, and you don't even lift a finger—and you know what kind of a strain the dance-off puts on him. He could be dead at the bottom of the East River for all you know. Well, one person cares. And I," he finished, turning his collar up dramatically, "am going to go and look for him."
"I just dunno where he coulda gone," Jack said in despair, three hours later.
"Maybe you should go look for him," David said mildly.
Jack looked at him in horror. "Do you have any idea what the weather is like? It's an electrical storm! Do you know how humid that can get?"
"Well, yeah, but you just said—"
"You wouldn't say anything, Dave, if you knew what humidity like this did to my hair."
"But didn't you say Racetrack was in danger?"
"Would you rather my hair be in danger? Is that it? I can get all…all frizzy and misshapen, but IT'S OKAY, AS LONG AS RACETRACK'S BACK AT HOME? SACRIFICE ONE LIFE FOR ANOTHER, IS THAT IT?"
"Well…yes, actually. That's exactly it."
Jack swallowed hard, looking away. "I don' think I can talk to you just now, Dave…"
David sighed. They were sitting in the front room of his apartment, where Jack had shown up exactly seven minutes after he left the lodging house, a paper bag clamped desperately to his head, eyes wild, speaking to him in a deathly whisper: "David…all the shine…is going out." And then he had fallen forward in a dead faint, leaving David with no option other than stretching out his arms and catching before he fell to the ground.
In truth, when he heard those words escape Jack's lips, he had thought for one wildly hopeful minute that perhaps he had been talking not about his hair but about his budding relationship with Spot. As in, "all the shine is going out of our love affair, and I suddenly realize that after having left you for nothing but a trinket, I have passed up the best thing life ever gave me. Kiss me with those lips now, David. I want you back."
Of course, Jack didn't mean anything like that, and this was made abundantly clear when the first thing he asked after he woke up again was not whether David would care to make mad passionate love on fire escape, but rather if there was any pomade in the house.
"Pomade?" David asked, puzzled.
"Yeah," Jack said. "Y'know, for my hair? Look how dull it is."
At which point David's voice went all funny and he said that no, they didn't have any pomade, and then he went into the kitchen and spend ten incredibly noisy minutes making two cups of tea.
"Mmm," said Jack, "chamomile. How's my hair?"
"It's beautiful," muttered David. "Everything about you is beautiful."
Jack laughed. "Aw, Dave, ya don't have to say that, but…yeah. I guess you're right." He smiled at David and took a sip of his tea.
"So…you're sure Racetrack's okay?" David asked.
"Yes...no," Jack admitted. "But he'll be fine. He disappears every once in a while, you know, we think he's dead, he turns up. I'm sure he's just dead again. In a week he'll be back with us. A day."
"It's just that things have seemed awfully strange lately," David admitted.
"Well…Sarah's been awfully high-strung, for one thing."
"Sarah's always high-strung," Jack said.
"No she's not."
"She was high-strung when we were seeing each other."
"That's because you were sneaking off with me every twenty minutes. Of course she was nervous. You would be too if you thought your boyfriend was having an affair with your younger brother."
"But I don't even have a younger brother."
David stared at him a long moment. "You really can be incredibly stupid sometimes."
"For your information," Jack said, "I run a successful lodging house—"
"Kloppman runs that lodging house—"
"I do all the important things, I take care of the boys, I organize the dance-off every year, and I won that gift certificate to IHOP last time around too, and may I add as well I did win that gift certificate with the dance you have so affectionately dubbed the 'Interpretive Western Dance'. You," Jack said, "Davey, do not even have a dance."
"First of all," said David, through clenched teeth, "you have spent the last two weeks ignoring your boys while you do God knows what in Brooklyn—and while your boys do not know this, rest assured I do, and I could easily tell them any day. Second, you did not win the thirty-dollar gift certificate; all you got for your Western Dance was a free plate of fruit pocket pancakes. Sunny Boulahouski won more than that with his stupid can-can. And last of all, do not ever bring up that I don't have a dance." He lowered his head to try to hide his angry tears from Jack, but nevertheless, he saw them. "You know how much pain that's caused me. You know. And you promised to never make fun of me for it."
"Hey," Jack said. "Hey, Dave…" and now he was moving over to put his hand on David's shoulder, and speaking with genuine tenderness. "I'm sorry. You know I didn't mean it. You were right. I'm sorry. You were right. Hey…remember Racetrack's song? That always cheered you up?"
David nodded miserably.
"How did that go, Dave?"
"Who's the prettiest—who's the prettiest…" David began, and then a fresh wave of sobs overtook him.
"Who's the prettiest newsie on the block," Jack sang softly, putting his arm around David's shoulder, but before either of them could continue, they heard another voice—faint and ragged, and coming from far, far away, but still so easily recognizable that they both almost jumped out of their skins when they heard it:
"…It's me!…it's me!..."
Hardly unable to believe what he heard, Jack leaned away from David, and sang all the louder: "WHO'S THE PRETTIEST NEWSIE ON THE BLOCK?"
"IT'S ME! IT'S ME!"
"RACE?" They both shouted at once.
"DAVE, I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SAY THIS, BUT I THINK I'M YOUR SISTER'S SEX SLAVE."
"Oh, no," David moaned. "Not again."
"Again?" Jack asked.
"Remember that time Swifty went missing a couple weeks and then when he came back all he would say was that he had been visiting his grandmother in Alberta?"
Jack gave him a puzzled stare.
"Never mind," David sighed. "Just go untie him."
A/N: When I started this fic, I had kind of a laundry list of dirty topics I wanted to bring up at some point. As of the end of this chapter I can cross off bondage and Wonderbread. I consider it to be a very full day.
…And I think you all knew that Specs had to become a prostitute at some point.
lil ms kp: DALTON: DON'T ENCOURAGE HER. Please…no matter what you do…
LutabelleLook at it this way—as long as you keep updating, I stay insane, continue to have nervous breakdowns, continue to write stuff like ((points)) THIS! So in short, it's really all your fault. Thank you. 3
SapphykinsYou know, I actually can never laugh at something I've written. It's weird. Do you get that? Of course, Dalton rolls around on the floor screaming "THE PAIN! IT HURTS!" but I think that's different.
And if Raceykins is still being a loser, I wouldn't mind some ice cream…((bats her eyelashes))…strawberry's my favorite.
Saturday: ((gasps)) Dave made you chocolate chip cookies? DALTON never makes me chocolate chip cookies.
DALTON: SATURDAY doesn't force Dave to paint her toenails for her.
Then again, Saturday doesn't paint David's toenails either…
Coin: DALTON: YAY! CHITA! NOW YOU CAN TEACH ME TO BE SEXY!
((grins)) Rehearsals for Charlie Dalton's rendition of "America" will be held every Tuesday and Thursday…stop by, why don't you.
DALTON: ((sings)) Puerrrrrrto Rrrrrrrrico…you UGLY islaaaaaaaand…
Chaos89: It's okay. Dalton can't sing either.
DALTON: CAN SO!
DALTON: CAN SO!
Or play an instrument.
DALTON: CAN SO!
Spoons aren't an instrument, Charlie.
DALTON: Oh…says who?
Unknown-Dreams: I must say that newsies of any kind are hot…but dancing newsies DO take the cake.
DALTON: Or dancing preppies!
LadyRachDALTON: ME TOO! I mean…
You know, I was actually more of a Carl-the-guy-that-killed-him-in-Ghost kinda girl. Can't say why. Or maybe…((pause))…you could get Race all sweaty and have the best of both worlds!
Pancakes: Thank you! …and now I'm hungry again. Damn.
All reviews will be rewarded with Charlie Dalton's rendition of "I Can Do That" from "A Chorus Line" …while wearing his lemon-yellow dance costume. Dance costume, not leotard; if you call it a leotard he won't do it. Actually he will anyway. But please, give him his dignity. He needs that, at least, if he can't have pants.