Author's Note: So, here's the thing. I used to be a huge Newsies fan, and I'm not anymore. It's an all right movie, but I'm nowhere near obsessed. I wrote a ton of bad stories several years ago and I just felt the need to write another one. Hopefully, this isn't horrible. I'd like feedback if you've got any.
He wondered what he was doing. It was 1905 and he had been working as a newsboy for well over half of his life. He needed the money and didn't have the experience to work anywhere else. The factories were always options, but often he found himself too scared to even walk past them. There were accidents every day in those sweatshops and he didn't want any part of it.
"Extra, extra! Fire in West Side tenement kills hundreds!" he shouted. Every person was a customer; it just took the right words. "Nude corpse washes up on Lady Liberty's shores!"
"I'll take one," a man said, handing him a coin.
"Thank you, sir."
"Wait a minute." The man stopped and stared at the young man. "Boots?" He looked up. "Boots, is that you?" The boy was speechless. "It's me, David! David Jacobs!"
"Davey!" Boots cried, giving him a hug. They shook hands. "How've ya been, Dave? After the strike, we didn't see much of you."
"I went back to school," David replied, smiling. "Yeah, I'm a lawyer now. Well, an apprentice." He chuckled. "But trust me, I never thought I'd be here five years ago. So, how are the newsies?"
"Not too good, Davey," Boots said. "After you left, things went bad. Jack left for good. 'Bout a year later, Pulitzer jacked up the price again. We lost. The lodging house burned down and we was all out on the streets again." David looked uncomfortable. "So we scattered--some of us to Brooklyn, the Bronx, West Side. We just fell apart."
"Well, um, I'd like to see the others," David said uneasily. "Maybe we could all meet at Tibby's?"
"It's called Antonio's now--Tony's." Boots shifted his papers to the other arm. "Bill died and some old Italian guy took it over."
"So, how about five o'clock?" David suggested.
"Sure. See ya there."
David shook his hand again. "I can't wait!" He trotted off, grinning broadly.
Boots sold the rest of his papers and went to rally the old crew. He found Racetrack outside Irving Hall, too poor to buy his way in. "Hey, Race!" he called.
The young man raised his head from its uncomfortable place in his hands. "Hey, kid. Spare a few cents?"
"I would if I had any," Boots replied. "Guess who I ran into today."
"C'mon, guess," he insisted teasingly.
"Medda Larkson," Race said absently, his mind clearly somewhere else.
"David Jacobs." Boots grinned.
Race's jaw dropped. "Did you talk to him?" Boots nodded. "Jesus, Dave-I can't believe it. I haven't seen him for-"
"Six years," Boots finished.
Race whistled. "So, how's he doing?"
"You can ask him yourself." Race gave him a questioning look. "He wants to see everybody. So, meet at Tony's at five, all right? Tell any of the guys you see."
By thirty minutes past five, all of the old gang had gathered together. Spot Conlon even managed to make an appearance. David told them all about his studies at the university.
"Jack would've liked to see you, Davey," Mush said. "When he sent us the letter, he mentioned you. Said he wished he'd seen you before he left."
David nodded. "Well, we all have our regrets, but no sense living in the past," he finished good-naturedly. "I wish he were here." He took a sip of his drink. "So, how are you, Mush?"
"I'm doin' all right," he replied. "I work in the factory now, down on Fifty-first."
Kid Blink elbowed him, smiling and teasing, "Mush met a girl."
"Yeah, and if he weren't so poor, they'd be hitched," Race said bitterly.
Mush blushed. "Her name's Daisy. She's got no mother or father either-grew up with her granddad." He shook his head in wonderment. "She's just as beautiful as she was the day I met her." David nodded, happy for his friend. "So've you met anyone, Dave?"
"No, actually," he replied after a moment. "Up until recently, I've been spending so much time concentrating on my studies." He shrugged. "I guess I never made any time for girls."
"I always make time for the ladies," Blink said.
"Those ain't real ladies," Boots said, laughing.
"Any woman who'll sleep with me is real enough." That comment made the entire room erupt in laughter.
When everyone quieted down, David questioned, somewhat surprised, "Where's Crutchy?"
Boots licked his lips and broke the silence, "I didn't wanna tell you, Dave--Jack don't even know."
"Tell me what?" David knew it wasn't good, but he didn't have a clue.
"He got real sick," Race said. "It was one of them real cold winters we had. I mean, he wouldn't've let on about it, but Crutchy wasn't very strong, y'know? It really got to him, that bug did."
"Oh my god," David said. "I can't believe it. Weak? I never would have known!" He shook his head. "I wish I'd known."
"We all wish we hadn't," Mush said quietly.
The night dragged on slowly, filled with jokes and uncomfortable silences. David finally resigned and decided he'd better get home. The others agreed it was getting late and soon scattered.
"How'd he look to you?" Race asked, walking back to his home with Boots.
Boots thought a minute. "Happy, I guess. Maybe."
"Yeah, he's got money, he can afford to be happy." Race was awfully bitter. Boots was young but he had accepted his fate. He was poor and maybe he could never change that, but it didn't matter. Not really. He was glad he'd seen that familiar face. It had brought him back to older and happier times.