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April 03, 1940 - Image 1

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1940-04-03

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University Of Michigan Literary Magazine

. by Dennis Flanagan

HEN I was ten years old my
family moved to Philadelphia,
where they took an apartment
on Manning Street, near Rittenhouse
Square. This apartment was on the first
floor of a building which, until we had
come, had been inhabited entirely by
attists. I suppose that the artists liked
the building because the side to the north
had very large windews, which made
an ordinary room easily adaptable into
a studio. It was an interesting place
for a small boy to live, for the artists
were quite friendly; sometimes they
even asked my brother Neil and myself
to pose for them. It was interesting also
because the artists conversed with each
other through the windows, shooting
from floor to floor. My father did not
like this. "Damn those guys," he would
I remember that our apartment was
on the first floor, and that it was a
good one ,because it had separate rooms
for myself and my brother Neil.
It is my brother Neil that I would
like to tell you about.
My brothr Neil is a year younger
than I am, which would indicate that
at the time we lived on Manning Street
he was only nine. I do not remember
disliking him, but we were never very
friendly. My brother Neil was very
quiet; he spoke very little to my par-
ents and to me, and almost not at all
to anyone else. I am sure that my par-
ents worried a great deal about this.
However, my brother Neil was not
shy, nor was he retiring. In the after-
noon when school was over he went to
Rittenhouse Square, just as I and all
the other boys in the neighborhood did.
He wa easily as good as I was at mibs
and slap-ball, but he nevertheless said
very little during the pursuit of these
games. I do not remember his ever
talking with any of the boys at Ritten-
house Square, even in our gang, unless
he was spoken to, so you can readily
see that my brother Neil spoke very
There was another very curious thing
about my brother: when we walked
along the street together he paid no
attention to what I said, but listened
only to what the people about us were
saying. He did not look into the store
windows, as I did, but looked instead
at the faces of the people who passed
us. There were times when he might
see a man walking on the street who was
set off from his fellows by some peculi-
arity of appearance and follow this man,
just to see where he went and what he
did. For instance, one day when we were
walking back from school he saw a man
carrying a huge painted shoe made of
wood, and followed him, to see where
such a man might be going,
My brother Neil often followed these
men right into their homes, which us-
ually made them quite angry. Some of
them might at first try to talk to him,
but when he did not answer, they also
became angry, and sent him home. One
man even once brought him home in a
taxicab. "You'd better look after that
boy, mister," he said to my father. "He's
an odd one."
I remember thinking that it was
rather strange for my brother Neil to do
things like this, and even once asking
him why he did them. "I want to follow
them to see what I have missed in see-
ing them on the street," he told me., I

"You shut up, Neil. You let me take
care of this; I'm older than you are"
"That's all right," the man Said.
"these clothes here are plenty good yet.
You might get me that piece of news-
paper though ,if you have a mind to."
He had not yet moved from in front of
the sink.
"You go back and get him a news-
paper, Neil," I said. "I'll stay here"
My brother and 1 watched the man
wrap his hands clumsily in the news-
paper, and then thust them into his
coat pockets. -The blood had run
through them almost immediately,
"Much obliged, boys," he said. Neil
and I watched him walk out the back
door into the alley behind the building,
I did not notice that Neil had slipped
out of the door until I saw him walk-
ing down the alley after the man. I
leaned out of the door and shouted,
"You come back here, Ned!" but he
walked faster, until he had caught up
with the man. The man turned hi
head, but apparently said nothing, and
continued to walk down the alley. "You
just wait 'til Mother comes back." I
could see that some of the artists were
putting their heads out of the windows
to look down the alley.
While I was shouting I could hear
someone knocking on the front door
of the house. I waited 'ntil I had
seen Neil walk around the earner, and
then went to the door.
The man at the door was a policeman,
"You ain't seen a suspicious-looking
man go down the street hene, have you,
sonny?" he said.
"Why, sure I have," I said "He came
in through here just a minute ago; he
just went down the alley with my broth-
er Neil." The policeman looked in-
credulous. "Sure he did, he had his
hands all cut up." The policeman ran
in through the door and out into the
kitchen. "You tell my brother to come
back," I shouted after him.
The policeman did not catch the man,
nor did he find my brother. He came
back about an hour later when my
father had gotten home and asked me a
number of questions. When s showed
him the blood on our kitchen floor he
seemed to be satisfied.
"I don't know where your youngster
comes into this ma'am," he told my
mother. "That guy broke into a jewelry
store over on Locust Street. I can't
figure out why he wanted to take your
kid. I don't think he'd try no kidnap-
I remember that my nother cried in
the kitchen when the poiceman had
gone, and my father sitting with his
head in his hands. "I knew this would
happen to him, Edgar," my mother said.
It was six days before my brother
came back to the house. He came back
only when they had caught the man he
had followed and put him in jail. At
first my mother and father were quite
angry, but since Neil took their scolding
stolidly and without saying a great deal,
they became worried instead. "I tell
you I followed him because I wanted to
see what he would be like," Neil told
"Ha, that's a fine one," my father
said, "but suppose you tell me why you
followed him, now." I do not believe that
anything Neil could have said would
have explained this to my father.
(Continued on Page 10)

Illustration . By Tristan Meinecke

remember thinking that this was pretty
funny, and then later thinking that
perhaps it was not so funny, after all.
I do not believe that my parents knew
a great deal of this habit of my broth-
er's, principally since he was almost
always home before suppertime.
THERE was, however, one time when
my brother Neil did not come home
before suppertime.
One day while my father was at work
and my mother was downtown shop-
ping, my brother and I were on the roof
of the building where we lived, watching
Mr. Ferguson, who lived in the apart-
ment directly above ours, painting a
picture. I remember that he was paint-
ing a picture of Rittenhouse Square,
of which there was a beautiful view
from this particular roof. At the time
Neil was looking idly over the side of
the building at the street below. He had
been doing this for quite some time.
"Richard," I heard him say, "I just
saw a man go in the door into our
place." I ran over to the side of the
building next to him. "You can't see
h's now, he's inside," Neil said.
"I guess we better go down and see
who it is," I said.
"Sure," Neil said.
We found the man who had gone into

our front door out in the kitchen, stand-
ing in front of the sink. The odd thing
about this man was that both of his
hands were badly slashed and bleeding;
he held them gingerly under the faucet.
The flowing water showed the gashes
clearly, and the sink was full of blood.
"What do you want, mister?" I said.
I do not believe that he had heard us
until then, because he turned around
quickly, seemingly afraid.
He looked at us for a moment, still
holding his hands under the faucet.
"You don't have any old clothes or any-
thing like that around, do you?" he
"I don't know," I said. "My mother isn't
back from downtown yet."
Then Neil said, "Sure. I bet we got
some old clothes around here some-
where. I'll go up and look."
"You shut up, Neil," I said.
"That's all right," said the man, "I
guess I don't really need any. But may-
be you got a piece a newspaper so I
can wrap around my hands ... I cut
them on some glass out in the street."
"Richard, I bet we have some old
clohes around here , we can let him
have," Neil said. "Dad don't ever wear
that old brown suit any more. We can
let him have that."

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