A Flute Player's Story

Mysterious girls and Noisy boys

As the girl ran across the bridge, I stood there scratching my head. I had asked her name and if she needed a place to stay the night, but she took off running. Shrugging my shoulders, I turned and walked back to the Brooklyn Lodging house. It was oddly quiet now that I was alone, so I started to hum a tune to myself. A voice calling for someone in Spanish stopped me again as I drew close to the lodging house.

"Lenmana? Es que usted?"

Stopping to look around, I saw a boy my age looking like he was searching for someone. "Hey! Hey you!" I called, hoping to help. "Can I help?" He looked over at the sound of my voice, but his expression was one of confusion.

"Lo siento, no hablo Ingles."

Great, I thought to myself. He doesn't speak English. I was guessing he came from a Spanish home where the parents didn't know English. At any rate, he didn't understand me and I didn't understand him. Where was Tajo when you needed him? Tajo was a Brooklyn newsie that spoke several languages and my second. I pointed to the boy in front of me, then to myself, and finally in the direction of the lodging house, hoping he'd get the message to follow me. He seemed more confused than ever as I repeated the signs. Realizing the uselessness in trying to make him follow me, I sighed and looked around, hoping for a way to make him understand. Just then I saw Racetrack coming back from Sheepshead. "Hey Race!" I waved him over.

"Hey Spot," he said, coming over. "Ise thought youse hitched a ride outta here in Roosevelt's carriage."

"I came back."

"Oh." He seemed a bit confused about my lack of explanation. I wasn't about to tell him what had happened on that ride. "What did youse need?"

"I need you ta translate. Dat boy don't speak English and I need you ta ask if I can help."

Race turned to the boy and started talking to him in Italian. Several minutes later, after a long exchange between the two, Race turned back to me and told me what he had learned. "His name's Castel and he's lookin for his twin sister. They got separated and he don't got a place ta stay da night."

"I don't know 'bout his sister but tell him he can stay da night."

Race translated for me. The Spanish boy quickly nodded his head, reaching down to grab his things. He said something else in Spanish, pointing in the direction of the bridge.

"He's wondering if he can be shown da way ta 'Hattan in da morning," Race said. I nodded and motioned him to follow me as Race explained everything to him in Italian. He followed me, nodding his head. I started humming to myself again to break the silence as we walked back. Race headed back to Manhattan, promising to look out for his sister. When we reached our destination, I showed him his bunk and handed him a pillow and blanket. He threw his things up on the bunk, jumped up after it, and quickly fell asleep. I crawled into my bed and curled up, my dreams filled with a girl whose name I didn't even know.

Early the next morning, I was woken up by a loud voice yelling something in Spanish. Startled, I jumped up in my bed, hitting my head on the bunk above me. Tajo, the person occupying that bunk, rolled over and fell off the bunk onto the floor with a sharp cry of pain. We looked at each other, rubbing our heads where we had hit them. Tajo hauled himself up and walked over to Castel, giving him a sharp jab to the side to wake him up. He sat up right away and looked around. Tajo started talking to him in rapid Spanish.

Shaking my head, I headed into the toilets to wash up before everyone else came in.

"Dat kid is more like a rooster den a person," Tajo muttered, coming over to the sink next to mine.

"Maybe dat's what we'll call him if he stays," I muttered back. "Wit him around, we ain't eva gonna sleep in."

Tajo smirked at me. "Da great Spot Conlon sleeping in?"

"Oh shut it, Mr. Schoolboy." I smirked back, throwing some shaving cream at him. He scraped it off his face and threw it back at me.

Later that day, I took Castel over to Manhattan, bringing Tajo with me in case I needed a translator. Castel ran his mouth the entire way, speaking non-stop Spanish in Tajo's ear. By the time we had gotten halfway across the bridge, Tajo looked ready to kill the other boy. I smiled at him and leaned in. "Maybe we's should call him Magpie 'stead of Rooster."

Tajo laughed at that. Castel stopped mid-sentence and looked at us. He looked at Tajo and asked something, who just shook his head in response. When we reached the Manhattan Newsie Lodging House, it was empty except for Jack and Race. They looked at us as we entered.

"Conlon." Jack nodded at me.

"Cowboy." I nodded back, spitting in my hand and holding it out. Jack copied me as Race turned to the other two boys and started talking to them. I quickly filled Jack in on the previous night's events. "So can he stay here till he finds his sister?"

Jack studied the tall, black-haired boy for a long time. I was starting to think Jack would say no and that we'd have to deal with another early-morning wake up when Jack nodded his head. I sighed in relief. "Oh, youse might want ta know somethin. He makes a lotta noise in da mornin. Real early. And he don't stop talkin. Tajo suggested callin 'im Rooster. Ise think Magpie suits him better." Jack laughed as Tajo and I walked out of the building and into the streets. As we slowly-and quietly-walked back, I kept my eyes opened for any sign of the mysterious girl from the night before. Tajo picked up on what I was doing and started teasing me at once.

"Spot, youse didn't tell me youse had a goirl." He lightly smacked my shoulder.

I hit him back with my hat. "I don't got a goirl. Ise lookin for Rooster's sista."

"Youse know wat she looks like?"

"Dey're twins. Dey must look like each other," I pointed out.

"Wat's her name?" Tajo grinned cheekily at me, dodging just out of my reach.

"Don't know her name. And she ain't my goirl."

"Spotty and Mystery, sittin in a tree…" I shook my head and kept looking, still hoping to at least catch a glimpse of her to make sure she was okay.

Es que usted?-Is that you?

Lo siento, no hablo Ingles.-I'm sorry, I don't speak English.

If you need any translations from the last chapter, hermano means brother, hermana means sister, and mis hijos means my children.

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