Call It Sleep XV

HE HAD run and run, and now his own breath stabbed his lungs like a knife and his legs grew so heavy, they seemed to lift the sidewalk with them. Tottering with exhaustion, he dropped into a panicky, stumbling walk, clawed at his stockings, gasping so hoarsely, people turned to stare. Only one thought in the screaming chaos of terror and revulsion his mind had fallen into remained unbroken: To reach the cheder—to lose himself among the rest.

—Like I never came! Like I never came!

Now he ran, now he walked, now he ran again. And always the single goal before him—the cheder yard, the carefree din of the cheder. And always the single burden:

—Like I never camel Like I never came!

Fourth Street. In the flat smear of houses, he descried, or thought he did, the edge of his own on Ninth. It quickened his flagging legs, quelled somewhat the tumult and the fierce yapping pack within him and behind.

—Near house; Don’t go. Go round. But tired, all tired out. No! Go round! Go round!

At Seventh, he cut west, entered Avenue C, and at Ninth, turned East again, dragging his faltering legs cheder-ward. He must hold gnashing memory at bay, He must! He must! He’d scream if he didn’t forget! A furtive glance at his house as he reached the cheder entrance. He slipped into the hallway, hurried through.

The cheder yard. Haven! Haven at last! Several of the rabbi’s pupils were there. Loiterers, late-comers, elfin and voluble, they squatted or sprawled in the dazzling sun, or propped idle, wagging heads against the blank wall of the strict cube which was the cheder. His heart sprang out to them; tears of deliverance lifted so brimming high in his eyes a breath would have spilled them. He had always been one of them, always been there, never been away. Silently, fears relaxing in the steeping tide of gratitude, he came down the wooden steps, approached. They looked up—

“Yaw last!”, said Izzy, languid and scrupulous.

He grinned ingratiatingly. “Yea.”

“Aftuh me!” Solly severely.

“Aftuh me!” Schloimee.

“Aftuh me!” Zuck, Lefty, Benny, Simkee decreed.

“Awri!” He was only too glad to be lorded over—the token of their accepting him, the token of their letting him share their precious aimlessness, innocence, laughter. “Yea, I’m last. I’m last.” And finding a place against the cheder wall, he squatted down. He focused his whole being upon them. He would not think now. He would only listen, only forget.

Solly was speaking—in his voice an immense and mournful yearning. “Wisht I had a chair like dat!”

“Me too! Yea! Wisht I had t’ree chairs, like dat.”

Their amens were also mournful as if little hope inspired them.

“So yuh don’t have to gib’m all, do yuh?” Izzy fought back despair. “If yuh don’ wanna play fuh ’em, waddayuh wanna give ’im all, if yuh god so moch?”

“Cauthye I wanthyloo, dayuth w’y’.” Benny was obdurate. Benny was also afflicted with a lateral emission—no word he uttered ever succeeded in reaching his lips, but instead splashed out through his missing teeth. But David was only too glad that Benny spoke so thickly. It meant that he had to concentrate all his faculties on what he said. In trying to divine Benny’s meaning, one could forget all else. “If I blyibm duh ywully ylyod, den he wonthye hilyt me so moyuch, myaytlybe.”

“Yea, he geds a lodda hits,” sober Simkee reminded the rest. “De rebbeh never knows w’at he’s tuckin’ aboud.”

“Dat’s righ’!” Izzy tacked into sympathy. “We know yuh gid hit a lot, Benny, bot one poinder ain’ gonna make no differ’nce, is id? How moch yuh god?”

“A ylod.”

“How moch?”

“Thwenny thlyeb’m.”

“Twennyy seb’m!” they echoed marveling. “He’s god ’nuff fuh a mont’!”

“So if yuh gib’m twenny-six?” Izzy persisted. “Won’ he drop dead anyways? Nobody ever gab’m twenny-six! Only Hoish w’en he won ’em aftuh Wildy swiped ’em. Let’s see ’em!”

After a moment of hesitation, Benny opened several buttons on his shirt, drew out a bundle of sticks neatly tied with a string, and displayed them fondly. They were sharpened at one end and were of the same length and color as pointers—though not quite so straight.

Necks were craning. Some sighed. Some gasped. Within David surge after surge of gratitude beat about his heart. Oh, he was glad to be among them! To forget!

“Like real poinde’s!”

“C’n yuh bend ’em?”

“’N yuh cut ’em all outchuh self?”

“Gee, I wish I had dot kin’ o’ chair!”

And as Benny was about to stow them away in his bosom again—

“Aintcha gonna give us one?” Izzy pleaded, “Look, I god de match! Led’s smoke one—jos’ one—will yuh, Benny.”


“Aaa, don’t be a stingy louse!” they clamored.

Benny hesitated. “Lyuh gonniyl yuledth mhe sthmhoke tdew?”

“Sure! We’ll letcha smoke all yuh want!”

“Wadyuh t’ink!”

“Dlyust one.” He relented and drew a single reed out of the bound sheaf.

Izzy seized it jubilantly. “Now watch!” he admonished them. “Like a steamboat it’s gonna give.” And striking the match on the stone between his legs, applied it to one end of the reed, meanwhile sucking at the other. The former glowed, the latter yielded a sere, aromatic smoke.

“Gee!” they saucer-eyed. “Give a look, he’s real smokin’!”

“Wad’d I tell yuh!” Izzy’s features spread out in triumph. “I know dem chairs. Dey makes a noise w’en yuh sid on ’em. Crrk! Crrrk! Don’ dey Benny?”

“Lyea. Dlyon’ flyegedl, I’m fylyoist t’ stlmook.”

“Next aftuh Benny!”

“Next aftuh Simkee!”

“Me! I’m nex’ aftuh—!”

“You! Hoddy huh gid like—!”


“Wadda noif! Hooz nex’, Izzy?”

After much wrangling, turns were assigned.

Being near them, hearing the erratic spatter of their voices, yielding to their flickering moods was like basking in a hectic familiar oblivion. Their squabbling, their stridence drowned memory; that tireless tossing of their bodies, their whirring gestures, jerky antics stitched a fluctuant, tough, ever-renewing veil between himself and terror. David forgot. He was one of them.

Someone—it was Srooly—came out of the cheder, and once outside the door, squinted at them in surprise. “De cop’ll getchoo!”

“Yea!” they sneered. “He ain’t a’scared o’ us! Ha! Ha! Haw! Haw!”

Still squinting, Srooly approached. “Watcha smokin’?”

“Cantchuh see, cock-eye Mulligan? A cigah!”

He bent closer. “It’s a stick, liar!”

“Sure! It’s a smoke-stick an’ id could be fuh a poinder. Bud we didn’ wanna.”

“Uh! So hoddy yuh go?”

“Like dot.” Lefty, whose turn it was, enlightened him with a billow of smoke. “Dere’s liddle holes in id, all de way t’roo!”

“Give us a puff,” Srooly asked.

“Id’s mine,” Izzy announced. And no one contesting his claim, “I’m gonna dinch it an’ smook somm maw lader—aftuh Lefty finishes.”

“Give us a puff befaw.”

“Fuh somm o’ yuh flies I will.”

“Wise-guy! Yuh givin’ Lefty a smook fuh nutt’n.”

“So wot? Don’ smook den!”

“Aaa! Kipp it!”

“Puh! Who wants yuh flies!”

“Awri!” said Srooly. “I’ll give yuh one.”


Srooly brought out a smallish, square vial, squinted thoughtfully at the flies inside. “Most o’ ’em I jos’ caught in de gobbidj by Seven-twenty. On’y de big ones I take.”

“Hurry op, Lefty!”

“Aaa, waid a secon’, I jos’ god id!” Lefty puffed vigorously.

“Hey! I fuhgod!” Srooly suddenly remembered. “Huz nex’? Yuh bedder go in, de rebbeh says. Cause on’y Moishe is dere.”

“Me!” Schloimee rose. “Waid fer us, will ye, geng. Don’ forged!” He went off.

Srooly held the vial up to the light. Grey horseflies, glittering blue-bottles crawled and fell on the glassy sides. “Dey’s a old geezer in de cheder, yuh know?”

“Wit’ whiskers like de rebbeh!” The rest informed him. “We theleen ’im faw lyow dyihl. He’s loinin’ de guys.”

“Naa, he ain’ loinin’ de guys,” said Srooly. “He’s jost sittin’ an’ lookin.”

“So watz’e want?”

“Cow shid I know?” Srooly shrugged. “De Rebbeh wanzuh show off, dat’s all. An’ now—Hch! Hch! Hch! Moish is readin’ an’ he’s dumb like anyt’ing. Hch! Hch! De rebbeh’s gonna be med on him.”

“Aw’ yaw dumb too,” said Izzy cuttingly.

“So he sh’d worry,” the rest consoled themselves. “De rebbeh never hits w’en sommbody’s lookin!”

“Yea—? He stuck me in de ass wid de poinder—under de table! So de udder old geezer shouldn’t see!”

“Ppprr!” Lefty surrendered the inch-long reed to Izzy. “Hea! Id’s gedden hod!”

“Give us de fly now if yuh want id.”

“Wad kind d’yuh want? De shiny or de hawsfly?”

“De haws! Dey fighd bedder.”

Tilting the vial up, Srooly spilled two or three flies into his palm, stuffed back into the neck all but one and this he gave to Izzy. In return, the stumpy reed was handed over. The horse-fly, wing-stripped, crawled impotently about on Izzy’s hand.

“Now I’ll show yuh hoddeh smook!” Srooly put the bit of reed to his mouth. “Watch a real, reggilieh smooker—like I loined f’om my fodder! Watch!” and sucked with such abandon the ember at the other end sparkled—“M’lya!” Sudden pain contorted his face. “Luddle luddle! Ow! Id boins like fiah! Ow!” He threw the stub down. “Mplyaw!”

“Yeee! Look o’ him dance!” Glee filled them. They howled with mirth.

“Oooo! My dung! Ow!” Frantically he licked the sides of the glass bottle—“Ooo, id’s hod!”

“Lummox!” they jeered.

“Dot’s watchuh ged fuh bein’ a hog!”

“Wadyl pulyly stho hodth!”

“Aa, shod up!” Srooly was almost in tears. “I’ll feel you off, see if I don’. All o’ yuh! Waid’ll I ged my big brudder aftuh yuh—lousy bestitts!” He walked off, tongue in the wind.

“Big smooker!” They howled after him. “Fot brains! Yaaa! Good fer yuh! Yaaa!”

When their hoots, cat-calls, capers had subsided—“Who yuh gonna give id?” Lefty asked.

“T’ Choloimis on de foist step.” Izzy waved farewell to the fly in his palm. “Bye! Bye! Buzzicoo!”

“Naa, don’ give id t’ him—he’s fat a’reddy. Give id t’ Baby Moider by de fence!”

“Naa!” Zucky urged, “Schreck-dreck by de daw—he’s de best spider in de woild.”

“No, I ain’!” Izzy would not be overruled. “Choloimis ’z’ de biggest so Choloimis geds id.”

He rose. They followed him noisily across the yard.

—No! No! No! (Without stirring, he stared fixedly after them) No! No! You forgot! You forgot!

“Don’t scare ’im! Don’ shake his house! Sh! Stholop yuh plyushin!” They trooped down the cellar steps. From below the level of the yard, as from underground, their stealthy voices rose. “C’n yuh see ’im? Yea! See ’im in his hole dere? See? He’ thyl waitlyn!”

—Ow! (Like a stopper blown or a plug, the terrific jar of awakened terror) The cellar! The cellar! The cellar! Told her now! She, Polly! Aunt Bertha, she told! Knows! Long ago! Long ago! She knows! What? What’s she going to do? What? No! No! Don’t tell, Aunt Bertha! Don’t tell! Don’t! No! No! No! Ow, Mama! Mama!

Shrill from the cellar, their voices rose:

“Dere! Look! Look! T’row it now! Easy don’ bust id! Look o’ him! He’s walkin’ roun’. Whee! Dere he comes! Dere he comes! Lyow! He glyabth ’im! Fight! Fight! Gib’m, haws-fly! In de kishkis—nudder one! C’mon, Choloimis! Yowee! Tie ’im op! He’s god ’im! Wid de legs! Waddye big wungl! Pullin’ him! Pullin’ him! Hully Muzziz! Look! In de hole! Bye! Bye! Buzzicoo! Yea! Yea!” Excited voices fused into a treble dirge. “Bye! Bye! Buzzicoo! Yea Spider! Yea!”

The cheder door swung open. With a hunted expression on their faces, Schloimee and Moish came hurrying out, and a moment later, the rabbi, red lips visible in the glossy black beard, corners down-curved into a threatening frown.

“Where are they?” He crimped blunt brows at David. “There? Below? In that black chaos?”

Grafted to terror, the mind, wrested away, tore terror with it. He couldn’t speak.

“What ails you? Are you gagging? Speak!”

“Th-they’re down there!” He stammered.

“So!” He intoned viciously. “When I’m through with them, even death will spurn them!” And lifting his head, he bellowed across the yard. “Clods! Bleak and eternal! Come out of that pit, you hear me? Come out before a rain of stripes drowns you there!”

Hasty, startled cries below, scufflings, scuffings. They pellmelled up the cellar-steps, halted in a cluster, shamefaced and cowed. He surveyed them. “Mice!” His voice was withering. “Mice! Who gnaws at the Torah next?”

“Me.” Zuck shuffled forward warily.

“You?” Disgustedly. “What is this? Have all the plaster golems in the cheder connived to read in relays? Hanh? Will you torture me like the heathen god? Or what?” His sour gaze swept them, alighted on David. “You! Come in!”

“Me?” He started.

“On whom does my gaze end? Get up!” And once more to the others. “Let the rest of you sit here in an agony! But sit!” He shook a violent finger, and then crooked it at David.

He had scrambled to his feet and hurried to the rabbi’s side. For the first time since he had entered the cheder, the perilous task of reading when the rabbi was angry suddenly became welcome to him. Any anxiety, any disquiet was inviting if it could stem or shunt the fierce rush of this terror.

“Only one more!” As he entered, the rabbi addressed someone inside. “Be patient, Reb Schulim! Would you leave me in disgrace, nor hear at least one limber tongue? Hanh? Surely, you wouldn’t.”

Trailing behind, David peered past him toward the light. In the swirling sepia that always seemed to fill the cheder after the glare of the yard, he could distinguish no one. But when he waded to the window, risen like a square, variegated rock above the sifting dusk, the wavering outlines of a man drifted out of the dim corner beside the rabbi’s chair. The figure was seated, hunched over a cane. The wan gleam on his grey beard was like a whisper from light to shadow.

The rabbi chuckled, apologetically, drew up his chair: “When I can pierce stiff brass with a hair of my head, then I’ll pierce their skulls with wisdom. American Esaus, all of them! But this, Reb Schulim, this is a true Yiddish child.”

Reb Schulim’s only reply was to clear his throat.

David slid over the bench, and while the rabbi pinched the pages, the dusk lifted, and he peeped shyly up at the stranger. He was old, Reb Schulim, hawk-beaked. Although his lipless mouth in the grey beard looked stretched and grim, his eyes, his dark eyes in their intricate pouches were liquid, strangely sorrowful and attentive. Unlike the rabbi, he was neat, wore a black coat of thin, rusty cloth, and instead of an oily brown straw, a wide black hat crumpled the skull cap at the back of his pink and silver-grizzled pate. He hawked incessantly which made David glance up again and again only to be caught in the mournful quietude of those eyes. They affected him strangely.

“He’s a curious child.” Reb Schulim’s voice was husky and deliberate. “His look is hungry and unquiet.”

“You’ve struck it, Reb Schulim!” The rabbi spread hairy fingers on the page—kept them spread. “Sometimes he prays like lightning, sometimes an imp flies into his head and he can’t see a word. Today I know he’ll pray. Here’s something to make him.” As though it were hinged to the book, he lifted his hand, but only enough for Reb Schulim to read—not David. “Do you remember I told you once—?”

Reb Schulim puckered his lips, cleared his throat, lifted grave, benign eyes to David’s face, but made no answer.

“I’d start him in chumish,” the rabbi wheeled the book around. “But I see his mother so rarely. I’ve never asked her—Listen!” He took his hand away from the page. “Begin, my David!”

The type was small. The thrill of apprehension that ran through him seemed to flutter the characters before him. He focused on them, condensing their blur. “Bishnas mos ha melech Uzuyahu—!” And stopped and stared. The number on top of the page was sixty-eight. The edge of the book was blue.

“What’s the matter?” Rare tolerance softened the rabbi’s voice. “Why do you wait?”

“It’s—It’s him!” Past radiance threw a last parting beam into the depths of his mind. “That one!”

“Which one? Who?”

“That man! Th-that man you said! Isaiah! He said—he said he saw God and it—and it was light!” Excitement clogged his tongue.

“Well, Reb Schulim!” The rabbi’s swarthy brow canted in triumph. “One glance was all he needed, and that was months and months ago! This!” His blunt finger drummed on David’s brow. “This has an iron wit! No?” His black beard seemed to shake out sparks of satisfaction.

Reb Schulim tapped his cane against the bench. “A cherished seedling of Judah. Indeed!”

“Now all of it!” The rabbi settled down to business. “Begin once more.”

“Beshnas mos hamelech Uzuyahu vaereh es adonoi yoshaiv al kesai rom venesaw veshulav melayim es hahayhel Serafim omdim memal lo.” Not as a drone this time, like syllables pulled from a drab and tedious reel, but again as it was at first, a chant, a hymn, as though a soaring presence behind the words pulsed and stressed a meaning. A cadence like a flock of pigeons, vast, heaven-filling, swept and wheeled, glittered, darkened, kindled again, like wind over prairies. “Shaish kenawfayim shash kenawfayim leahod. Beshtyim yehase fanav uveshtayim.” The words, forms of immense grandeur behind a cloudy screen, overwhelmed him—“Yehase raglov uveshtayim yeofaif—”

“As though, he knew what he read,” Reb Schulim’s husky speech. “That young voice pipes to my heart!”

“If I weren’t sure—indeed, if I didn’t know him, I’d think he understood!”

David had paused. The rabbi sat back, hands locked on his belly.

“Vekaraw se el se vamar—”

The head of the cane clicked against the table; a shadow glided over the page. Leaning forward with outstretched arm, Reb Schulim patted David’s cheek with chill fingers.

“Blessed is your mother, my son!”

(-Mother!) “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh adonoi tsevawos.” The words blurred. A howl of terror beat down all majesty. (-Mother!) “Mlo hol haeretz h-vo-do—” He stumbled. (-Mother!)

“What is it?” The rabbi’s fingers unbraided upon his paunch and stretched out as if to seize.

“Va-va- yaw-yaw noo-noo-” (-Mother!) Without answering, he suddenly burst into tears.

“Hold! What is it?” His hasty hand clicked David’s chin up. “What makes you weep?”

Reb Schulim’s large compassionate eyes were also on him: “Reb Yidel, I tell you he does understand.”

David sobbed brokenly.

“Come, answer!” Perplexity made the rabbi urgent. “One word only!”

“My-my mother!” he wept.

“Your mother—well?” Sudden alarm quickened his speech. “What of her? Speak! What’s happened!”


“Yes! Well!”

He did not know what it was that compelled him to say it, but it was compulsion greater than he could withstand. “She’s dead!” He burst into a loud wail.

“Dead? Dead? When? What are you saying!”

“Yes! Ooh!”

“Shah! Wait!” The rabbi stemmed his own confusion. “I saw her here. Why! Only—! What—! When did she die, I ask you?”

“Long ago! Long ago!” His head rocked in the abandon of his misery.

“Hanh? Long? Speak again!”

“Long ago!”

“But how could that be? How? I’ve seen her. She brought you here! She paid me! Tell me, what is long ago?”

“That—that’s my aunt!”

“Your—!” The breath jarred audibly against his throat. “But—but you called her mother! I heard you! She told me she was.”

“She just says she is! Owooh! Just says! Just says! To everyone! Wants me to call her too—” A gust of grief blew his voice from him.

“Aha!” In suspicious sarcasm. “What kind of a yarn are you telling? How do you know? Who told you?”

“My aunt—my aunt told me!”

“Which aunt? How many are there?”

“Yesterday!” He wept. “No. Not—not yesterday. When you wanted to—to hit me. Then. That—that day, when I c-couldn’t read. She owns a candy st-store. She told me.”

“On that day—Monday?”


“And she told you? The other one?”

“Yes! Owooh! She owns a c-candy-store.”

“Ai, evil!”

“Foolish woman!” Reb Schulim chided sadly. “To reveal this to a child.”

“Pheh, foolish!” The rabbi spat disgustedly. “Sweet sister, the hussy! What business of hers was it? Squirming tongue! The gallows is due her! No?”

Reb Schulim sighed, shook David gently: “Come, my child! Dry your tears! If it was long ago—then long ago already was too late for your weeping. Come! She no longer has ears where she lies there. God commanded it.”

“Well, where’s your nose-rag?” The rabbi patted irritably among David’s pockets. “The gallows! Here!” He drew it out. “Blow!” And as he pinched David’s nose clean. “You don’t remember her then, do you? When did she die?”

“No! I don’t—I don’t know. She didn’t tell me.”

His brow knit in fresh perplexity. “Well, why aren’t you with your father? Where’s he?”

“I—I don’t know!”

“Hmpph! Did she say anything about him?”

“She s-said he was a- a-”


“I forgot! I forgot how to say it.” He wept.

“Then think! Think. What was he, a tailor, a butcher, a peddler, what?”

“No. He was— He was— He played—”

“Played? A musician? Played what?”

“A— A— Like a piano. A—A organ!” He blurted out.

“An organ? An organ! Reb Schulim, do you see land?”

“I think I see what is seen first, Reb Yidel. The spire.”

“Mmm! Why aren’t you with him?” His voice was cautious.

“Because—because he’s in Eu—Europe.”


“And he plays in—in a— She says he plays in a ch-church. A church!”

“Woe me!” He slumped back against his chair. “I foresaw it! You hear, Reb Schulim? When he said an organ-player, I—I knew! Oh!” his face lighted up. “Is that what you meant when you said spire—a church?”

“Only that.”

“Ha, Reb Schulim, would God I had your wisdom! And what do you think now?”

Reb Schulim gravely flattened his grey beard against his coat. “There’s truth in an old jest.”

“That a bastard is wise?”

Reb Schulim hawked, hawked again more violently, spat under the table. For a second or two, the only sound in the room was the smeary scrape of his foot on the floor. “Let us hope they saw to it he was made a Jew.”

“I’ll do more than hope.” With a righteous scowl, the rabbi scratched the blunt end of the pointer among the sparse hairs of his underlip. “I’ll do more!” He regarded David fixedly. “Er—David, mine, tell me this one thing more. Did she, that everlasting slut, that candy store muckraker, your aunt, did she tell you where—in what land your mother met the-er-the organ-player?”

“She-she—yes— She said.”


“In where there was— there was c-corn.”

“Where?” His brows drew together in ragged ridges.

“Where corn was grow-growing. She said. Where corn was. They went there. She told me like—like that they went.”

“Oy!” The rabbi sounded as though he were strangling. “Enough! Enough! Thank God you’re here, Reb Schulim! Else who would have believed me! Ai! Yi! Yi! Yi! Can you picture so foul, so degraded a she who would tell this to a child so young!”

“A vile, unbridled tongue!”

“Ach! Pheh!” the rabbi spat over the edge of the table. “The gallows I say! A black, uncanny death! But you—” he turned abruptly to David. “Go now! Weep no more! And hear me: Say nothing—nothing to anyone! Understand? Not a word.”

“Yes.” He hung his head in misery.

“Go!” Hasty fingers fluttered before him. David slid from the bench, turned, feeling their eyes pursuing him, and stumbled toward the door.

The yard. They were still lolling against the cheder wall.

“Hooray! Hully Muzzis!” Izzy’s aggrieved voice greeted him. “He’s oud a’ready! Hooray!”

David hurried toward the wooden stairs.

“Hey, look, Iz, he’s cryin’!”

“An’ jos’ my nex’ too!”

“Waddee hitchuh fuh? Hey!”

“Hey watsa madder!”

The corridor muffled their cries. He fled through to the street. One wild glance at his house and he scurried west. A strange chaotic sensation was taking hold of him—a tumultuous, giddy freedom, a cruel caprice that made him want to caper, to skip, to claw at his hands, to pinch himself until he screamed. A secret wanton laughter kept arising to his lips, but never issued, gurgled in his throat instead with a gurgle of pain. He wanted to smirk at the people whom he neared, wanted to jeer, bray, whistle, double-thumb his nose—but dared not until they had passed. He rattled the loose spheres on the stanchions of stoops, struck the tassels of the awnings, set the chains before the cellars swinging, kicked the ash-cans.

“Fugimbestit! Fugimbestit!” The pressure of his frenzy, too great to be contained seethed from his lips. “You! You! Watchuh lookin’! Yoop! Don’ step on de black line! Bing! Don’ step on de black line. Ain’t I ain’t! Ain’t I! Pooh fuh you too ’lilulibuh! Don’ step on de black line! I’m sommbody else. I’m somebody else—else—ELSE! Dot’s who I am. Hoo! Hoo! Johnny Cake! Blt! Dat’s fuh you! Blyoh! Stinker! Look out fuh de fox. Fox; fix fux, look out! Don’ step on de black line. Yoop! Take a skip! In de box! Yoop! Yoop! Two yoops! Yoop! Hi! Hop, skip an’ a yoop! Hi! Funny! Ow! Owoo!”

At Avenue C, he ran blindly north.

“Yoop! All busted lines. Here all busted. Watch oud! Watch oud! Hey, busted sidewalk, lousy, busted sidewalk, w’y yuh busted? Makes double jumps! Triple jumps! Fawple jumps. Fipple jumps. Yoop! Yoop! Triple! Fipple! Fipple! Kipple! Is a cake! Johnny cake! Why yuh busted? Touch a crack, touch a cella’, touch a cella’, touch a devil. He, black buggerunner! Busts it! Hee, yee! Va y’hee! V y’hee, wee, wee. Wee. Wee. Pee, pee! Pee, pee, tee tee! Yoop! sh! So watchuh lookin’? Make me step on it. Don’ count, devil, ’cause— Pee, pee, dere! Blya! Pee, pee, yea, gotta. Sommtime gotta. Gonna now! Naa! Yea! Gonna now. Take id oud! See! Look! Look! All de goils. Sh! Shattop! Wot I care. See! Hea id comes. Double dare yuh stop me. Double—”

He stepped to the curb.

“Izz wit! Zzz! Lager beeuh comms f’om—He said, Goy, sonn’va bitch! Goy sonn’vabitch! Leo sonn’vabitch! He said! Zzz! Ha! Piss higher! Look o’ my bow! Who cares! Ooh bedder! One bott’n, two bott’n! C’n jump now! Higher. Yoop! Yoop! Hi—”

Tenth Street. The car-tracks. To the east the panel of the river, shore and hazy sky.

“It follows! Run to elebent’. Run, run, Johnny cake! Yoop! Look o’ me ev’ybody! Watch me! No, no! Not me! Him! Him—me! Me—Him. Watchuh lookin’? Fuhgimbestit, it’s him! He fooled him! Ol’ smoke-mout’-stink! He fooled him, ol’ geezer. Wuz’n me. Him! He did it! I ain’t! I ain’ even! So tell. Can’t tell on me. I ain’. So tell! Tell her! Tell Tanta Berta! Tell my modder! I ain’! Yoop! Look o’ me-no-him-go! Look o’ him! Him! Him! Weewuth! Weeewuth! Ain’ even tiad! Ain’ even me! Elebent, a’reddy! Follers me it, water. Follers no me-him! Watchuh foller’n fuh? Lousy, bestitt, copycat river! Skidoo! Mind yuh own lousy biz! Beat it den, beat it, lousy! Beat, Beat it! Beat it! Yoop, Yowooh!”

He ran screaming northward.…