Here is my second chapter on my Marx Brothers fanfic! I got more reviews on this than I expected! Good to know there are still fans of them around. It's weird how they are 'forgotten' like this. Charlie Chaplin isn't forgotten, Laurel and Hardy, but they. They were AT LEAST as famous back then and till deep in the seventies Groucho couldn't go on the streets wihtout being recognized.
Well I'll just begin.
Chico Marx = Leonard (the chicken chaser and oldest of brothers)
Harpo Marx = Adolph (the storyteller - it's supposedly his autobiography of the sort - is the second son)
Groucho Marx = Julius (the third son and quite a bookworm and quite a wit too)
Gummo Marx = Milton (never went into either Broadway or film - the fourth son)
Zeppo Marx = Herbert (got out of showbusiness as soon as he could, after his contract ran out with Paramount - fifth son)
Oh, by the way! I have a hard time mimicking Groucho. Groucho was such an incredible wit, that I find it very hard to make the jokes Groucho-standard, but I try - PLEASE don't judge me on it though!
Before telling you more about the story involving Molly I'm just going to tell you a bit more about me and my family. The Marxes were poor, very poor and till I was about eight we didn't live in one place. We moved around a lot, never out of the neighbourhood, but still, fleeing from money-hungry landlords, we couldn't pay. However when we settled down, we settled down at 179 East 93rd Street, a little Jewish neighbourhood, squashed in between the Irish in the north and the Germans in the south, in Yorkville.
I went to school till my eighth. I've always been quite small and when you also tend to be quiet and have a squeaky voice when you speak, you always have some bullies watching over you. Chico never had that problem, even though we looked so much alike at that age, that people took us as twins. However Chico was always sure of himself and there were little people who knew how to outtalk or outsmart him in any way.
My bullies were two Irishers. They were big and ugly, like all bullies ought to be and now and then, when Miss Flatto, the condescending teacher, left the room they would throw me out of the window. It was an eight foot fall, so not even close to deadly, but when it was done to you quite a few times you would get sore in the bones.
Every time that would happen, I would stretch my arms and legs, dust myself off and then calmly walk back into the school. Miss Flatto thought I was mentally instable. I didn't do all too well in school, because I would dream my way through the day and when I would come back from the 'bathroom' without asking her for permission to go in the first place (I knew I would be even worse off if I would snitch on one of the big, ugly classmates), she would like to predict my future in front of the class. I would never make it in life, I would be a complete failure. She would waggle her finger beneath my nose and say; 'Someday you will realize, young man, you will realize.'
Mum was far too busy with keeping Chico out of the poolroom, to keep me in the schoolroom, so she sent someone else. My cousin Polly lived with us and she had a boyfriend who was a herring peddler. He used to stand in the streets, with wooden buckets full of fish surrounding him, calling out to people; 'Hey, best here! Best here! Best here in the verld!' – since he was German.
You could always smell him from a block away, so when he one day showed up in my classroom, with buckets, smell and all, Miss Flatto pinched her nose and commanded him to leave the school immediately.
Cousin Polly was so embarrassed by him that she broke off with him and began something with a tailor, whom she later on married. She congratulated herself on escaping the herring peddler before it was too late. Interesting is that the herring peddler succeeded in a number of businesses years later and died a very wealthy man.
However I knew I was done when he showed up at school. The two Irish kids now took every chance they could get to throw me out of the school window. I was thrown out with such regularity and Miss Flatto was beginning to get so convinced of her own predictions of my future, that one sunny day, when I was heaved out again, I just dusted myself off and then turned my back on Public School 86 and walked straight home.
That was the end of my formal education.
Not the end of my education though. My first real teacher, because I never really counted my Second Grade teacher, Miss Flatto, was Grandpa. He taught me German, by refusing to learn English himself and magic tricks, because he used to be a magician back in Germany.
Grandpa was not a Relative. He was Family. A Relative was anyone who was named either Marx, like Dad or Schoenberg, like Mum, or who spoke Plattdeutsch, who turned up in our flat at dinnertime and made sure all of us could eat even less. A lot of strange people became Relatives, but no one was ever rejected.
Grandpa wasn't a Relative though. He and Grandma were Mum's parents and even though Grandma died shortly after we moved to East 93rd street, Grandpa stayed around till 1919, when he was exactly a hundred years old. He was Family.
When I quit school before even the end of Second Grade, I didn't know what to do with myself, except keep myself as far away from P.S. 86 as I could. School was fine for Groucho, who was knocking off 100's in the First Grade and for Chico who was in the Fifth Grade and a mathematic genius, but it was soon clear that I didn't like it one bit.
Mum and Dad accepted the fact that I wasn't going back without questions. Mum was busy with the career of her brother Al Schoenberg, who later changed it to Al Shean, trying to make him into a successful Broadway actor, which she succeeded in and furthermore only made sure Chico didn't spent too much time in the chance games. She thought she had done her duty anyway, by sending over Polly's boyfriend, to make sure I was okay.
Mum only had one major goal in her life. She wanted to put her kid brother (Uncle Al) and her five sons on stage and make them successful. A nut job, especially since only Uncle Al and Groucho wanted to be on the stage in the first place and after Groucho got a taste of the stage, he wanted to be a writer.
Our sights of the future were simple. Gummo wanted to be an inventor, Zeppo a prize-fighter, Chico a professional gambler and myself wanted to be a piano player on a ferryboat. However Minnie Schoenberg Marx had her mind set on something and she would get it her way.
Back to Grandpa. Grandpa had his own little room in the front of the flat, so from the window you could see the clock tower, the only way for us to tell the time, since we didn't have any watches for ourselves. But on the other hand. It wasn't like we needed one; we weren't expected anywhere anyway.
Once, with my Bar Mitzvah on my thirteenth birthday, I got a watch. The present was quite a relief actually, since I already got a pair of gloves of Cousin Polly and another pair of gloves from Aunt Hannah and another one from either Dad or Grandpa or both, so when I got the shiny two dollar watch from Mum, I was quite pleased with it.
However Chico had a nose for money. Every time I would make a few quarters and would hide it somewhere, he would find it and use it as his own. Once I even hid the dime Uncle Al gave me behind the wallpaper – I had found a little tear in it, but the next morning when I woke up, the tear had widened, the dime had gone missing and Chico had gone missing too, even though he normally sleeps in till noon. Every somewhat valuable item ever possessed by me when I was younger, was taken away by Chico, so he could get some money for it in the hockshops.
That was the most probable thing that could happen with my watch, but I was set on not letting him have it. When I got it I already saw his eyes glister and I knew even my Bar Mitzvah presents weren't save from his Older Brother hands. He waited a few days in respect, but then would slip it off my wrist when I was sleeping. It was a good thing it was the first and last time I outsmarted Chico.
I had taken the hands out of the watch, which made it impossible to read the time. Chico never wanted it, because how much could you get for a watch that can't tell the time? And if I wanted to know the time I would smile at my watch and look at the clock tower.
My second real teacher was undoubtedly Chico. Even though he was not two years older than me, he was far advanced in the ways of the world. He was a mathematic genius, so much was sure and he used that in the most practical way; gambling. He learned how to bet on horse and dog races, how to play pinochle, poker, bridge and every possible other way that could make you rich and poor in an instant. He was the one who learned me to never shoot dice on a blanket, how to detect loaded dice, how to handle the pool que, how to play the cards and to never ever go against the odds.
Chico had an uncanny talent in getting people to do things the way he wanted them. He was the one who got us to London, who got us into Broadway, who got us into A Rate Films and with that a certain percentage of the profit made – as first of all Hollywood movie stars in history! As far as I know the first real big time project he did was the Marx Cuckoo Clock Corporation. Uncle Al was quite an actor now on Broadway and every time he'd visit he would give us all a dime. Normally, when I'd hustle a quarter from somewhere, I'd feel guilty if I didn't kick in a part in the family kitty, but not with the occasional dime we got from Uncle Al! That was given to us. It was pure spending money!
We were all dazed! We didn't know what to do with a fortune like that, except for Chico. Chico said to me he would invest his and my dime into the cuckoo clocks they sold down the block. I wanted to know how much he could make with it. He bought one clock for twenty cents and sold it to one of the hockshops for fifty. A thirty cents profit! I gave him my dime and he bought more clocks. He said business was now too good for me to stay a silent partner, so he sent me off with the command to sell those clocks for more than twenty cents.
It turned out that at every hockshop I dropped by, Chico had already sold a clock and the owner would think I was the same kid, because we used to look so much alike, who tried to make fun of him in some way and order me out of his shop.
Chico told me he would take care of all the hockshops and I should work on all the people through the neighbourhood. I walked into the store of an ice worker. 'Cuckoo clocks! Cuckoo clocks, the best around, guaranteed!' I don't know where the guaranteed came from, I probably felt on high spirits because of Chico's confidence in the business, but the ice worker asked me how long it would run, before he had to give it a pull.
'Eight hours!' I answered him, sweating nervously. 'Okay.' He said, leaning against his counter. 'Stay here and hold the clock. If it's still running eight hours from now, I'll buy it.'
A long day started. Clients came in and went out and I was scared the clock would suddenly stop, because I had no idea how long it was supposed to run, so every time the man turned around, I would give the string a little pull, just to make it go just a little longer. Unfortunately he caught me in the act once and he kicked me on the street, with the clock, laughing like he hadn't laughed so much in years.
When I got back to Chico, it turned out Chico sold all his clocks. He had earned more than eleven dollars! I was too ashamed to ask for anything than my original dime, but Chico insisted I would take half the share. I told him he should try to double it in pinochle and damned if he didn't do just that, that same night. The Marx Cuckoo Clock Corporation was now worth 29,90$. I had never seen such a fabulous pile of cash before.
However I still felt lousy about the ice works fiasco, so I told Chico to redouble it. The next day he lost everything in a pinochle game. Chico said that should be a lesson to me. 'It was against the odds, Adolph and I said it already; Never go against the odds!'
Chico always has been a master in hustling his way through life. He could imitate about every accent and he used it every time he got himself in the scrap. He also had a photographic, slightly selective memory. If you would ask him now what cards he was holding, what cards the others were holding and in what order the remaining cards lay in the deck, in the bridge game he played more than thirty years ago, he could tell you without hesitation. However I doubt if he can tell you the name of his First Grade teacher.
When I quit school I didn't see much of Chico, because Chico never came straight home. He stopped with school too on his own accord (unlike the others who were pulled out by Mum), about two or three years later than me, when he was twelve. He decided he knew enough about math to put out a good game and he was knowledgeable enough to mingle in the action.
When he was younger it was soon evident that he had a knack for arithmetical figures, but when he became older it also was quite evident that he had a talent for the non-arithmetical figures too. Girls loved Chico and Chico loved girls. I barely saw him with the same girl twice and he never brought any of them home, but if you would visit him in the poolroom all the focus of every girl in the room was on Chico.
Chico once, when we were both a little older, set me up with a gal, on a double date. He came with another girl and I, a nervous young lad, who didn't knew the first thing about taking a girl out, started to stammer a story about Grandpa's pipe.
While I was telling my story Chico was having a pretty good time with his girl. I was still talking when he started to have a pretty good time with my girl also. I wasn't even half through with my story when Chico and both the girls were long gone, doing I-don't-know-what, leaving me sitting alone, not sure of what to do, until I just took my hat and walked home.
The only girl Chico ever brought home was Molly. And that wasn't the way he wanted it all.
I was sitting on the stoop, in front of the flat we lived in and Gummo and Zeppo were playing next to me. I was just bouncing a tennis ball on the street, letting it bounce a few times, before catching it again. I could hear Dad sing while cooking dinner, upstairs.
Next to me Groucho sat down, a grumpy look on his face and a book in his hand. I wasn't quick enough a reader to read the title, before he laid it upside down beside him. 'Dad is making too much noise.' He said. I said nothing and just continued to bounce the ball.
Because I quit school at my eighth I didn't learn to read right away. I taught myself by looking at street signs and the like. Stuff like All you can eat signs, Don't walk on the grass signs and This is a private area and therefor prohibited signs learned me how to read and I'm glad to say I can read well enough to read without moving my lips.
'The house is always so full.' Groucho continued. 'It's never just quiet.' I shrugged. 'Well, that's life I guess. I like it.' I answered Groucho. Groucho nodded. 'I guess so. I do too, but it's hard just reading a book.' For a few moments he was silent and I bounced my ball. 'Did you know Mum wants to put me and Milton and that Lou Levy kid on stage?' Groucho suddenly said.
I didn't had time to answer him before Zeppo yelled; 'LEONARD!' I looked to my left and saw Zeppo running towards an uncharacteristically annoyed looking Chico. I knew why immediately. Besides him walked Molly. She had a smug look on her face.
Chico caught Zeppo when he was about to bump into him. 'Hey little fella!' He said upbeat, wiping the grouchy look from his face. Groucho made a sound I couldn't quite place. 'Who's that?' He asked and I assumed he was talking about Molly.
I shrugged. 'I don't really know. I met her a few times. Leonard knows her.' Groucho snorted. 'Well of course Leonard knows her. Is there a girl he doesn't "know"?' I couldn't help but to laugh myself too. 'Perhaps.' I said, making a face.
Chico slapped me on the back of my head. 'Hey, brothers, are you gossiping about me? You're like a couple of old ladies.' I protested and Groucho said; 'A bit of respect to the old ladies, please!'
Molly came to stand next to Chico. 'Hi, Adolph!' She said. I noticed she pronounced my name like the Germans did, with an A like in car. Then I realized she knew my name and I blushed. 'Uhm, hello..' I stammered and Chico rolled his eyes. That made me feel even stupider.
Molly smiled at Groucho, who was pretty red in the face too. 'And which brother are you?' She asked politely, to which Groucho answered with 'The other one.'
Mum was delighted to have Molly there and kept complimenting her on the beautiful colour of her hair and the material of her cotton dress and I heard Chico murmuring annoyed remarks more than once. She stayed for dinner and therefor became a Relative, what was exactly the thing Chico didn't want to have happened. Mum and Dad kept track of their Relatives. Asked how they were, invited them for dinner and made sure they were comfortable. Mum and Dad were both very unselfish.
Chico didn't like that, because that way he couldn't just break off with her if he started something with her. I know Chico liked her, but Mum and Dad making her a Relative made him unable to begin anything with her.
However Molly kept track with the family pretty good. Not much Relatives had showed up that evening, so in the end it were only Mum, Dad, Grandpa, Cousin Polly, Zeppo, Gummo, Groucho, Chico and myself and of course Molly. Aunt Hannah dropped by at the beginning but excused herself again later on, hurrying of again.
'So..' Dad began. 'Where do you live?' Molly first didn't answer, swallowing the leftover soup from the day before, that Dad had updated with new ingredients. 'Wow, this is really good, Mr Marx!' She said, shoving in another gulp with the wooden spoon.
Dad waved it off. 'Just call me Frenchie, girl, just like everyone else does!' Molly didn't answer, busy with her soup. When she swallowed she said; 'I live just up north. In the Irish part.' Dad looked surprised. 'The Irish? Are you Irish? You sure don't sound Irish.' I suddenly realized how right he was. She didn't sound Irish at all. More British, but somehow so completely New Yorks, that it was, now I noticed, outstandingly weird.
I saw Chico's head snap up, probably curious as hell. However Molly didn't seem too eager in answering. 'Well, my mother is Danish.. maybe that's it.' She said vaguely. Chico frowned, but besides that nobody looked very fazed by the answer.
It was a nice dinner, primarily because it was the first dinner in weeks that we ate without all the Relatives. Okay, Molly was there, but she was, for some reason, part of the family as soon as she set foot into the house. It seemed cosy and intimate and Chico cracked some jokes and Groucho sang a song (he used to have a nice soprano voice) and we played a few rounds of cards, where Zeppo played along with Dad and Gummo with Chico.
In the end won Chico, but just, as Dad and Molly had cards that almost matched his. Zeppo and Gummo were put to bed, which was a lot harder than you might think as they were yelling at each other about the card game (Gummo: 'HAHA, I WON!' Zeppo: 'NO YOU DIDN'T! YOU KNOW LEONARD ALWAYS CHEATS!').
Groucho had talked his way out of going to bed, claiming he still had to do a homework assignment and even though Mum didn't belief a thing of it, she let him sit with us. I was just glad that I was already twelve and considered big enough to be able to stay up till ten.
It was a rare sight, us sitting at the table like that. First of all, because Dad normally went off to his pinochle game after dinner, so wouldn't be around now. Next to that Chico was barely ever home, except for dinner and sometimes for sleeping. Also there was a strange girl, none of us knew, sitting at the table, a cup of tea between her hands.
We talked a lot, more than we had in a long time and Mum and Dad talked about when they were young in Germany. Molly nodded a lot and Mum asked how she felt about moving from Europe to New York. Molly just shrugged. 'Every nationality you find in Europe, you'll find here, it sometimes seems.' She said. 'You have the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, the Dutch.. Just like home. The only big difference, I think, is that back home we didn't have to fight for it, because we already have our country, but here everyone needs to show it and make sure no one crosses their territory. It all feels rather pointless.' She said. She shrugged. 'But well..'
It's maybe good to mention that at this point neither the First or the Second World War has happened yet.
When it was ten thirty and Groucho was sleeping with his eyes open, Dad thought it would be a good idea for Chico to drop Molly of at her home. 'You don't let a lady walk the streets alone at this time at night.' Chico rolled his eyes but nodded, grabbing his coat. Molly shook Dad's hand and kissed Mum three times on the cheeks, like they do in Europe and then walked into the hallway, saying she would just look for her gloves and she would be ready to go after that.
Mum was slowly prying the book from between Groucho's fingers, trying not to wake him up, when Chico murmured he would just help her look for her gloves, before they would be waiting for her all night. Dad sat down at the table, laying out the cards at the table and starting a little game of vist against himself and I was watching the game unfold, when I saw a pair of black leather gloves laying on the table. I didn't think any of us had a pair of women's gloves, black and of leather or not, so I assumed they were Molly's. I snatched them off the table and walked into the hallway. I was greeted by a shocking sight.
I guess that even at that age I knew my big brother was a chicken chaser like you would say in those times, but I never, till that time, saw any other proof of it, than girls always hanging around him and always touching him unnecessarily, on the arm or shoulder or sometimes his hair and it seemed a bit weird for me as a little boy, but now it became all clear to me.
On the hallway I was greeted with the sight of Chico kissing Molly. He had pushed her up against the wall and his arms were around her waist and her hands were in his hair and I was so completely thrown off by this image that I dropped the gloves and sprinted out of there.
I heard Chico calling; 'Who was that! Adolph? Come back here, you little..!' But I jumped in bed, waking up Gummo who began to groan. A bit of noise was heard from the living/dining room. 'What's wrong?' I heard the faraway voice of Mum say. Chico answered grumpily. 'Adolph. He apparently found her gloves, but just threw them on the floor.' I huffed a bit annoyed, but I've always been unable to stay mad at anyone for more than a few seconds, so soon I was listening for more noises from outside the bedroom.
I heard the door slam shut, when Chico and Molly left and I soon began to wonder if they would pick up where they left off, when they got outside and away from the watching eyes of Mum and Dad. I wouldn't know why not, but what did I know about it?
I couldn't fall asleep for what seemed like hours, so when Chico finally got home again, I thought about what took him so long. Mum and Dad didn't comment on the time it took him. I heard chairs scraping the floor and Mum putting down the tea kettle on the table. 'So..' Mum suddenly said.
I tried to listen harder, because it was all very soft, there was a wall between it after all.
'So?' Chico asked. Dad snorted. 'Well, who is she? How did you meet her? Is that your girlfriend?' He answered. 'I like her.' Mum said. 'She reminds me of me, in a way.'
Chico made a noise of disgust. 'Thanks Mum, now that makes me hot for her!' Mum giggled, a very girly, Non-Minnie-Marx kind of giggle and Dad laughed loudly and from the sound of it, he slapped Chico on the back. 'You picked out a good one.' He continued. 'She's a very pretty gal and she seems intelligent also. And most important; she likes my cooking!'
Chico chuckled, but then said; 'Don't you get all wound up, guys, because she's not my girlfriend. Maybe someday, but most certainly not now.' He said. I frowned. Why did he lie like that? You couldn't kiss a girl like that, without her being your girlfriend, could you?
Dad sounded disappointed when he said; 'Well, don't let the nice ones slip away, son.' Mum agreed. 'She's the kind of girl I wouldn't mind you getting married to, someday in the future.' Dad laughed loudly again and answered her; 'See that face! Don't frighten him like that, Minnie, or he'll die a heart attack, before he even gets old enough to marry!'
After that there wasn't much noise and a little after I fell asleep.
review it please!
Disclaimer: The Marx Brothers and several people and places used are their own!