The Gray of the Streets

S. E. Costard

  • 2 Pages

There was a little girl with thin knees that sat in the back of the stage, behind the curtains, where the audience couldn’t see her, watching the dancer with rapt attention. The dance was slow and beautiful, and the poor little girl, for poor she was with thin, dirty rags for clothes and a thin, dirty rag for rubbing the floor with in her poor hands, could not take her eyes from it. The child could only evoke in people emotion that was at best indifference, for who could care for such a plain and thin child? She was so dirty, after all. How she longed to be the dancer though!

“The dancer is lovely. Who is she? I don’t believe I have seen her before.”

The bartender looked suspiciously at the leering, bearded man who put forward the question. The dancer was indeed lovely, and he certainly didn’t want to be the cause of this distrustful man hurting her in any way.

The bearded man adddressed the bartender, “Well, Louie?” This time the man drew his eyes from the dancer and fixed them on Louie. The lust was replaced with a sneer. Sarcastically, the man leaned in closer and said, “Louie, you still under the old man’s thumbs? Louie, what a way to waste your life!” The bearded man then threw money down on the counter and departed.

Louie blinked hard and looked at the dancer. She was lovely. At times, Louie would almost forget that the woman was so close to him. He shook his head now, turning away from the counter. What did it matter?

Really, she was a disappointment to Farthers, the bearded man’s “old man,” and to Louie himself.

There was only one other man in the dim room, a writer, Louie knew. The writer was a drunken, out of work writer too, not a real writer. He said he wrote plays. Louie turned from the stage, and the writer sobbed into his arms.

Madeline, the dancer, danced only for the poor little girl with the thin knees who would never be able to dance on such a stage at all.

Farthers might saunter in any moment. The little girl despised Farthers more than all the grown men whose lives Farthers had ruined, the writer and Louie being two of them, for when Farthers sauntered into Louie’s place, the little girl was obliged to leave her blissful post, crouching uncomfortably behind the stage, and sweep up Farthers’ oily hair. Such oily hair the little girl had never seen.

When her brother, Sam, wet his hair to look as men like Farthers look to impress the girls he took out, the little girl thought of Farthers. She didn’t see how the young ladies were impressed by Sam’s wet hair. Sammy enjoyed taking out the young ladies more than he did watching his sister dance for him. The little girl couldn’t hold his attention for long before he swatted at her to leave the room.

Farthers knew about the little girl and how much she hated him.

Despite all of Louie’s tender threats against her youthful frowns at him. Louie was all alone in the world, except for the little girl, for Madeline would have nothing of him. Louie supposed that’s why the other man became so amused about the dancer.

Farthers did saunter in, and the little girl was rudely awakened, for unfortunately the dance ended at the exact moment, so there weren’t even sneaked glances towards the stage to comfort herself with as she swept.

Thankfully for the fellow sufferers, Louie and the little girl, Farthers arrived unaccompanied. He shot a wrathful glance around the dismal room and empty stage, where there lay one, lonely red feather, fallen from Madeline’s attire. A meaningful glare of hatred was bestowed on the drunken writer, who cried ever louder into his arms, oblivious to the world.

Who could blame the man. His wife had left him. And in the end she left him with the despised baby made with the butcher, or the mailman, or someone. He didn’t even remember whose name his wife stabbed his heart out with, oh the agonies! Such were his thoughts. He was pitiful.

Farthers stuck his face rudely at Louie and made a frightful grimace.

Louie knew what he thought. Empty again, Louie? You watch yourself. You’re next, Louie.

Farthers’ thumb was unlike any other’s.

Even the bearded man must admit that, Louie thought.

Louie sighed.

Farthers shook his head at Louie. Louie is such a waste of time, he thought. And that dirty little girl, sidling up to the bar in her dirty, disgusting rags. I have half a mind to shoot her feet off, for to merely kill her would be too easy and not afford as much suffering to the little bag of trash.

Madeline arrived on the scene next, from the back door.

The little girl was stunned to see the beauty up close and to smell the wondrous woman and to be in such heaven. She forgot her own life as she soaked in the joy being this near perfection.

Madeline spat at the little girl, and then she walked up to Farthers and fluttered her long, pretty eyelashes. Farthers glared once more at Louie, wrapped his oily fingers around Madeline’s slender red waist, and he led her out of the dank room.

The writer continued to sob, pitifully.

Tears tumbled out of the little girl’s eyes as well, but she didn’t sob out loud.

Louie looked at her with pity, but what could he do? He turned away from her and commenced to arrange the glasses.

The little girl drew from her pocket the bright, scraggly red feather Madeline dropped on the stage. She took a good look at it and turned to go home. Perhaps Sam hadn’t left yet, she pondered. He would see her dance with the feather in her hair. Wouldn’t he be impressed? Wouldn’t she look so beautiful? Sammy would say she looked beautiful, at any rate. She didn’t look back at Louie or the writer as she left through the back door.

The feather waving in her hand looked lovely against the gray of the streets.


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