Read The Hoods Online

Authors: Harry Grey

Tags: #Literature

The Hoods (5 page)

BOOK: The Hoods
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“When we grow up, it will come in handy, we'll have muscles and wind, and be tough as nails.”

We were jogging along in a compact group right behind Maxie's long flying legs. After ten blocks, pudgy Dominick, gasping and puffing, called out, “I had enough, Max. I'm all pooped.”

Maxie turned his head, he was breathing easy. “The trouble with you, Dommie, is that you eat too much spaghetti. Some day you'll be sorry.”

Dominick dropped out. We continued downtown, changing pace, running fast one block, then slowing up the next. We made our way downtown to the financial district. We stopped and rested at the curb. An immense building was in front of us. The windows were covered with thick iron bars. The entrance was a heavy steel door.

Patsy remarked, “It looks like a prison.”

“There's no prison down here,” I said.

Patsy said, “How do you know?”

Maxie laughed, “Don't argue with Noodles. He knows everything. Hell even admit it himself.”

“Yeh,” I smiled. “I'm a smart feller.”

“You mean a fart smeller, hey, Noodles?” Maxie said.

We all laughed at my expense.

Maxie called out to a passer-by, “Hey, mister.”

The man stopped.


“What kind of building is that, a prison?”

The man smiled. “A prison? No, that's where they keep all the money.”

Patsy interestedly asked, “A lot of money?”

“Why yes.” The man was amused. “Quite a few million. That's the Federal Reserve.”

He walked away smiling.

Maxie walked over and tried to look in. He came back and said, “Some day we're gonna heist this joint. What do you think, Noodles?”

“It's okay with me, but it looks like a tough job,” I said. “Yeh, it looks tough. How you going to heist this joint?”

Maxie replied, “Don't worry, I'll find out some day.”

I looked at Maxie. He was staring at the building. It reminded me of a cartoon I saw someplace of a mouse defying an elephant.

He muttered, “For a million bucks I'll heist this joint some day.”

We ran all the way back to Gelly's candy store. Dominick was standing outside, talking to Fat Moe's pretty brunette sister, the untouchable Dolores. We all had a secret crush on her. She had a pair of dancing shoes slung over her left shoulder. She smiled coolly when she saw us approaching. Her greeting was only for Cockeye.

“Hello, Hy,” she said, “do you mind playing for me tonight while I practice?”

“Sure, Dolores, it's a pleasure.” Cockeye was overcome with delight. “Anytime, anytime, for you, anytime,” Cockeye repeated effusively.

They adjourned to the back room of the store. We followed and watched as Dolores changed her shoes and went into her dance. She improvised a dance routine to Cockeye's playing. Her limb movements thrilled me. My eyes followed her every motion as she kicked and pirouetted easily, gracefully, around and around. She stopped after awhile to catch her breath. She sat talking to Cockeye.

Maxie called out to her, “Hey, Dolores.” She turned and stared coldly at him.

“Hay is for horses. Who do you think you're talking to, Peggy? I'm not accustomed to being addressed in that manner.”

She turned her back to Max and continued her conversation with Cockeye. A tingle of delight went through me. That was the moment I felt my first deep pang of pride and overwhelming infatuation for Dolores. It was a clean, uplifting emotion, entirely different from the feeling which Peggy or other neighborhood girls inspired in me. Looking at her sitting daintily aloof on the chair, I felt she was like a dancing angel—something ethereal. Yeh, this was it. I loved Dolores.

I smiled and walked over to Dolores. “What kind of dancing is that? What do they call it?”

She looked haughtily over her shoulder. “I thought you knew everything. That was interpretive dancing. You're not as smart as you think you are.”

I stood there, red-faced, at a loss for an answer.

Cockeye volunteered, “Dolores is practicing to be a professional dancer. She's going to be a star in a Broadway show some day.” He tapped his harmonica on the palm of his hand. In a swift tempo he played, “Yes Sir, That's My Baby.”

She floated around the room again in time to the music. Somehow her attentions to Cockeye didn't seem to bother me in the least. It was Maxie who aroused my jealousy. While she was dancing, Max mischievously picked up her shoes and threw them behind the bench.

She stopped after that number, smiled at Cockeye and said: “Thanks very much, Hy. You play that harmonica beautifully.”

Cockeye blushed and mumbled something. She looked angrily around for her shoes. I walked behind the bench and picked them up and handed them to her. She misunderstood. She gave me a furious look. Without a word she put them on. I could have killed Max. She left the room, her green eyes flashing and her head held high.

Unhappily, without a word, I walked outside. I stood in the doorway, feeling as if the world had crumbled around me. Dolores meant a lot to me, and Maxie had loused me up with her.

A placating voice cut through my unhappy mood: “You wanna Sweet Caporal, Noodles?”

Maxie offered me a cigarette. I took his peace offering.

We stood there smoking. Mr. Gelly came walking down the street.

When he reached his doorway he whispered: “You boys bring me some bundles in the morning?”

Maxie nodded and said, “Yep, don't we always supply you with morning papers?” He patted Maxie on the head.

“Pick me up a bundle of
tomorrow, yeh?”

Maxie said, “Yep.” He nudged me. “We get up early tomorrow, Noodles.”

I nodded. “What time?”

“About four-thirty, I'll meet you on the corner.”

“I'll be there.”

We stood there, finding it difficult to make conversation.

We blocked the doorway. A customer made for the door. We stood aside with deference for the well-dressed, mustachioed “Professor.” We tingled with pride and pleasure when he greeted us with a pleasant smile.

“How are you boys?”

“Okay, Professor,” Max said.

“Fine, Professor,” I echoed.

“You boys wait for me, I'll be right out.”

Max said, “Sure, Professor.” We saw him enter the telephone booth.

“He's smart; he's got plenty of brains, that guy.” Max was overflowing with admiration. “He's only out of jail a week, and I'll bet he's back handling 'junk.' He's a smart Wop. I wonder where he gets the stuff,” Maxie mused.

“He's got connections. He imports it, I guess. It don't grow in this country,” I said importantly; in my know-it-all manner.

“From where do you think, Noodles—Italy?”

“Could be, maybe China. Chinks smoke it mostly, I read somewhere.”

“Why do people smoke opium?”

“It gives them nice dreams.”

“Wet dreams, about girls?” Max grinned.

We both laughed. I said, “I would like to smoke a pipe of that stuff sometimes.”

Max said, “Me, too. That's what they call kicking the gong around, hey, Noodles?”

I nodded and smiled affectedly.

The Professor came out, puffing on a big cigar.

“I have a job for you boys; follow me down to my place,” he whispered.

We walked behind him. He rounded the corner, and went down a dark store cellar. He held the door open for us, and bolted it after us. We followed him in the dark into a rear room. He struck a match and lit the gaslight. The Professor had a complete workshop with assorted carpenter tools, hand drills and a small mechanical punch press in the coiner. I spied a small honing stone. I stuck it in my pocket when his back was turned. On a bench there was a large wooden box with the lid open. Inside, I could see some gears and wheels. It had slots cut into the front and back, with handles on the sides. Max and I walked up close to the box. It was highly polished and looked out of place in that dirty cellar. The Professor stood there looking at us, twirling his mustache.

Maxie gestured with his head, “What's that?”

“That?” The Professor was amused. He closed the lid and said, “Let me demonstrate my new invention, something every home should have.”

He turned a handle, we heard the gears inside revolve, and before our amazed eyes, a crisp ten-dollar bill came out of the slot. He walked away and said, “All right, let's forget all about this machine for awhile. I want you lads for—”

He stopped. He stood looking at us, twirling his flowing mustache. “You boys want to make some money, right?”

I said, “Sure, Professor, that's what we're here for.”

He looked gravely at us, “I know you lads are smart, and I can trust you to keep your mouths shut, right?”

We both echoed, “Right.”

He smiled, showing his large white teeth. “Fine, fine, you're good lads, just the type I can trust. I wouldn't ask anybody else, because most young boys talk too much. Now, here's what I want you to do for me: you know where Mott Street is?”

“Yep, Professor,” Maxie answered proudly. “Noodles knows this city like a book.”

“Mott Street is in Chinatown,” I said.

“That's right.”

He took a small round ball, resembling putty, out of a drawer. “Keep this in your pocket. Deliver it to the store at this address. Just leave it on the table, and walk out. That's all you do. All right?”

He made us repeat the number of the store over and over again until we had memorized it.

“Be careful with it. It's valuable, and don't play with it.”

Maxie nodded. “Yep, Professor, we know what's inside.”

The Professor raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“Junk,” I said.

The Professor chuckled. He patted me on the back.

“Smart boy, I'll wait here for you, and I'll have a dollar apiece for you when you get back.”

When we reached Chinatown, we found the store easily. As we opened the door, a cop swinging his club passed us without giving us a second glance. The bell hanging over the door gave a faint, creepy tinkle as we walked in. In the murky light, we were barely able to distinguish a large, fat Chinese seated at a table. He was staring bale-fully at us. I was glad I had the knife in my pocket. It gave me a feeling of supreme confidence. I gave him back stare for stare. I toyed with the release button on the knife. In my imagination I dug it into his fat throat again and again; then I slashed him across the face.

A funny thing happened: I actually saw his eyes bulge with fright. I swear he knew what I was thinking. I was sure of it. He knew that all I had to do was to take one step. With my magic push-button knife I would cut his face into chop suey. He turned his white flabby face away in terror. I laughed and spit on the floor. Max put the ball on the table. We walked out.

“What was you laughing at, Noodles?” Max asked.

“At the Chinaman.”

“Them Chinks don't like to be laughed at, Noodles.”

“That Chink I could handle, or anybody else,” I boasted.

Maxie looked curiously at me. “He was a big Chink.”

I shrugged. “So what? I'd cut him down to my size.”

Maxie laughed and patted me on the back. “Yep, I forgot, you got Pipy's knife.”

“My knife.”

“Yep, your knife. It makes you feel good to have something like that handy, hey, Noodles?”

I nodded. “Yeh, it makes you feel like you're somebody.”

“I'm going to get something to carry around myself,” Maxie said. He picked up a cigar butt from the sidewalk. He put it in the corner of his mouth. “Someday I'm going to get me a revolver. I'll ask the Professor.”

He handed me the butt. I smoked it awhile, then passed it back to him.

The Professor held the door open for us as we walked downstairs into his place. “Everything all right? You boys delivered it?” he asked anxiously.

“Yep, everything's all right, we delivered it.” Maxie spit on the floor. He puffed on his cigar stub. I looked coldly at the Professor.

He laughed and gave us a dollar apiece. “You kids will go a long way; you got the goods all right.”

“Yeh, Professor, we're looking to make money. We need it,” I said.

“You boys will make plenty, and I'll show you how.”

“You're the Professor,” Maxie wisecracked.

He chuckled, and rubbed his hands. “Yes, yes, I can teach you lads plenty of tricks, maybe, for our mutual benefit.”

“Hey, Professor,” Maxie was shuffling awkwardly with his feet.

“Yes, Max?”

“Can you get me and Noodles a couple of rods?”

“Rods?” The Professor was surprised.

“Yep, a couple of rods, you know, revolvers.”

“Yes, Max, I know what you mean.”

He was twisting his mustache. He looked at us intently.

“What do you need them for?”

“Well, we thought it would come in handy some time.”

“For instance, when, and what for?”

BOOK: The Hoods
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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