1 The Game of Life

1.1 Hello, everyone! I'm taking a breath from the never-ending task of rewriting My Name is Sirius Black, and venturing into realm of Newsies, a great movie full of funny bits and a moving plot line.

1.2 My favorite character is Racetrack, he just appeals to me so much. And I felt he was just dying for a story. Needless to say, once I thought of it, the idea refused to leave me alone until I had it down on paper and so this story was born.

1.3 I'm working on one more that deals with Race's son and WW1, but that won't be out for a bit, not until I get this one out. Then, I should be back on Black, ( cookies for anyone who gets the reference) but until then, please enjoy.


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I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain --and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height

One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

In 1899 the streets of New York City echoed with the voices of newsies. Pedalin' the papers of Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, and other giants of the newspaper world. On every corner you saw um carryin' the banner, bringing you the news for a penny a pape. Poor orphans and runaways, the newsies were a ragged army, without a leader. Until one day...all that changed.

They all had stories, stories of pain and suffering, of hunger and weariness, stories of how they came to be poor orphans on the streets of New York. This is only one.

The name's Racetrack, Racetrack Higgins. Pleased to meet you. Now, you may have guessed that Racetrack is not my real name. No self- respected mother would name her kid Racetrack. But it suits me.

Of course, this isn't exactly how I talk. I'm from New York, been here all my life and have the mouth to prove it. But when I write, something very different comes out. It's almost as if my hands and my mouth belong to two very different people.

I've had an education, limited as it is. My mother taught me how to read and write and do basic mathematics, skills that have helped me a great deal. The rest of what I know I learned on the streets. You can't sell papes if you can't read the headline, and you can get cheated if you don't know how to count your papes when you buy them. Denton helped me with the spelling and grammar in this story, but the words are my own.

My life ain't been easy, but whose has? The way I see it, life's a game of chance. Every time you make a decision, you roll the dice. You win some, you lose some. In my case, you lose quite a bit, but that doesn't stop me from gambling again. Besides, what does it matter how much money you make or where you're from when you have family? And I have a very large family. The Newsies.

What's a newsie you ask? Here's my answer. What tiny nowheres-ville did you come from? The Newsies are what makes this city turn. We own this city. We sell the papers of the giant newspaper companies, Hearst, Pulitzer and the others. It may not seem that a bunch of kids may have a lot of power, but we do. Without us, no one knows what is going on. We found that out that summer, when Jack pushed us all to the limits of our imaginations.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Maybe I should start at the beginning.

I was born in Rome on October 31, 1883. That's right, Rome, Italy. The Rome. Now I know what you're wondering, what's a kid from Rome doing in Manhattan, selling papes for a lousy penny each? Hold your horses, I'm getting there.

Well, my mother, Marinna Casella, grew up in the south of Italy, in a small coastal town called Positano. A town full of pleasant people, where you can smell the sea air, fresh and clean, not like the smoggy filthy air of the city. Where the water was so clear , you could see straight to the bottom. While the people were poor in money, they were rich in kindness and tradition. I had long wanted to visit this small wonderland my mother had described to me so many times. Still do, but to travel like that costs money that I don't and never will have.

When she was about seventeen or eighteen, she journeyed up to Rome with her folks. There she met and fell in love with a British officer whose name she had long since forgotten. And when her family found out that little old me was on the way, they booted her out. She was left alone, penniless, and pregnant. After a few month's, she scrimped together enough to afford passage on a boat to America. Just before the ship left, I was born. She named me Anthony.

When she arrived in New York, I was almost a month old. She was still penniless and could hardly speak a word of English. After she wandered the city for a day or two, begging for a bit of food to feed her son, a kindly Italian saw her, who understood her plight, and owned an apartment building. He took her in and bought her to his building in lower Manhattan. After a few weeks, she met a man a floor or two above her, an Irishman named Silas Higgins. They fell in love, which is odd given their different nationalities and the tension between the Italian and Irish, particularly in my area.

Needless to say, our neighbors were hardly pleased and my mother and new father had to flee the area. They found a small apartment across the river in Queens. That is where I lived.

Mama was a slight woman; she'd fallen ill soon after giving birth to me, I was told, and dark in features. She had long black hair that tumbled down her back, and dark laughing eyes. he'd always crack jokes, either in English or Italian, I could understand both, though English came easier. Pop did not speak it and Ma could constantly say things that sent me over onto the floor in hysterics, and gave Pop a look of extreme confusion. She was a tough old bird, very protective of me and very quick to defend me whenever anyone dared question my legitimacy or character.

I remember once when I was about six years old. The area we lived in was predominately Irish, with few other nationalities. Although my father was Irish, I know he wasn't my real father, but he was all I ever had to fit the part, I had been born in Italy and looked the part. With my Mom's black hair and dark eyes, I stood out in the crowd of light skinned light haired children, both in my building and my neighborhood. I remember one night, coming home in tears because my best friend's mother had just told them they could not associate with me because "I was not one of them." My mother, furious, grabbed my hand and led me down the hall to the woman's apartment. There she proceeded to rave at the woman, in a curious mix of Italian and English. The woman slammed the door in her face, but not after my mother telling her she hate no right to not let her children play with who ever they wanted.

"This it America!" she yelled, " It doesn't matter where you come from here!" Then she took me back and rocked me slowly back and forth until I fell asleep.

Pop was a big man, with a fiery head of hair and a loud rolling laugh. I used to love to hear him laugh. Every night, when he got home from the factory, he would grab me and put me up on his shoulders, while grabbing Ma and sweeping her into a tight hug. He would laugh then, loud and long, so glad to be home, and we were so glad to have him back that we wouldn't care that he was dirty or sweaty. And no matter how cold it was, he would always take me out at look at the stars late at night. Sometimes, Ma would go with us and he'd point out the brightest star he could find and say, " It's all yer's, Marinna. Only foir youse." She'd smile and act like he'd just given her the world.

I, not wanting to be left out, would climb on his lap and ask, "Which one's me star, Pop?" And he'd smile and say a very simple phrase that meant the world to me.

"Take yer pick, Tony. Ya can have any star ya want, as long as ya reach." And I'd run to the edge of the roof, and climb on the rail and stretch out my hand as far as it would go, trying to capture my own little twinkling star.

He loved those evenings when it was just the three of us. But there was only one thing in the world he loved as much as Mama and me. The races.

Now I should say that my father had been disowned by his parents when he wasted his money gambling on the races at Sheepshead Bay. Before this, he had been rather wealthy, not rich, but not poor either. As a newly married husband and an instant father, he forced himself to forget his addictive habit and find a stable job to support his new family. But every once and a while, he would come home and pick me up in his arms, and whisper, " How would ya like ta visit da horses, Tony?" I would nod energetically and Ma would sigh and roll her eyes, muttering something in Italian before allowing us to go.

"No gambling Silas, you promised. And don't let Tony near those horrid jockeys." What she didn't know is that while there, my father would converse with the jockeys, trying to figure out which was the safest bet and the whole time, he would sit me on his knee while they laughed and cheered on their favorite. Afterwards, Pop would take me into the stables and the jockeys would let me feed the horses.

Sometimes, he'd let me pick the horse we were betting on and I would cheer and wave my hat just as energetically as the full-grown men beside me. And if my horse won, he'd lift me high on his shoulders and we'd parade home, showing our winnings off to Mama. She would smile proudly as I described to her in great detail how the horse had pulled through in the last leg, even if it had never happened. Pop would never say a word, but would watch us and grin.

When I was six, I began to spend time at the races by myself. After school, I would head over to Sheepshead and watch in fascination as the horses ran. A few older jockeys took a liking to me as they saw me there with my father and later by myself enough. Sometimes, they would place small penny bets for me on the horses they knew would win and give me the penny or two that I had earned. I felt very proud of myself the day I brought home a whole dollar. Mama didn't like it at first, but Pop persuaded her.

"It's just a race, Marinna, it can't hoit him." Then she would sigh and smile. As long as I was home in time for my chores, she let me go. On my sixth birthday, she gave me her father's pocket watch.

"It came with me all the way from Italy, Tony, just like you. Take good care of it." I promised. I still got the damn thing, though it stopped working years ago. I don't got the money to get it fixed.

Yes, we had a perfect life, or so it would seem. When I was about eight or nine, I noticed Mama did not sing in the kitchen anymore. She constantly rubbed her forehead as if it hurt and developed a deep hacking cough. Pop became worried, but she insisted it was fine.

Soon, I stopped going to the small neighborhood school and helped Mama get the housework done. Sometimes, I went out in the street across the river to shine a few shoes or carry a few groceries, anything to make a few extra pennies.

Her condition only worsened over the course of the winter. She lie in bed, racked with a cough that send her into convulsions. Her fever soared and she often mumbled nonsense while she tossed and turned on their small bed. We could hardly afford money for a doctor, so when we had saved enough, we sent for one. He shook his head and gave Pop a sorry look.

Mama died on my tenth birthday. We buried her quietly, in a cemetery nearby. I am sorry to say that her death broke my father. He no longer went to work and I did my best, but some days I could hardly get him out of bed.

Pop was not as energetic or excited. He no longer wanted to take me to the racetracks. Instead, he lie in bed while I fixed him some hot tea. He died six days after she did, leaving me quite alone in the world.

I remember that morning. It was foggy and cold, the wind was whistling through the cracks in the wall we could no longer afford to have covered. I crawled over to Pop's bed and shook him. He seemed very cold and he didn't move.

"Pop?" I called, "Pop, get up!" But he wouldn't. I curled up next to him and began to cry. A neighbor found me a few hours later and called the police.