“Leg O’Lamb, An Albie Story.”
*PLEASE READ NOTES BEFORE READING*
Nothing belongs to me here, Disney holds all rights to content, I am but a fan.
Albie “da Irish” was dreaming again. It wasn’t uncommon for the boy, as in fact he was quite used to endlessly dreaming of silly things such as pickles, dancing bears or silly shaped tap dancing apples. This time however it seemed luck was with him and it had been none of those things. In fact this time it had been something far more superior to anything in the history of the 20th century.
Drooling (perhaps in and out of the dream) just looking at it, he’d eagerly started to bring it to his lips just for a taste, one glorious taste. Just as he had opened his mouth like every morning before it would be swept from under him. A voice ringing through ruining_no_smashing, his sweet dreams. The voice would belt out their names along with that unforsaken pounding on the fire-escape high above and everything would be gone, vanished. Replaced by the early morning light and the booming, yet oddly calming sound of the circulation bells in the near distance, the smell of rotten garbage, leaking, oozing, in the summer New York air. Its worldly stink oddly gentle at first light, but not yet at full potential as the day would draw on.
He’d sit straight up, as if a firecracker had gone off under his bum, rubbing his hands over his both eyes. Like normal his longish dirty brown hair, his “muddah’s gift” stood standing, unruly, and directly straight up to the strictest attention, only description being as if it’d seen the devil hisself and stayed frozen in ‘is sight.
The green handkerchief was usually very meticulously folded and placed and tied just so around the base of his untameable hair. It alone remained a constant and a favorite possession. True, that Albie didn’t have much to favor in terms of possessions, but this keepsake was more for sentimental value than for just common usage. He wore it proudly there as a security, with thought of it not only helping his hair from his eyes but knowing where it always would be located. Call it a closeness,an extreme sense of safe-keeping if you will.
It alone was his cause of reminder of the better times of his life, and the man who had cared and loved him for all of his short days on earth. Some boys did not wish for such memories to occur or remain, but not Albie. He had loved his “Da” dearly and found comfort in thinking it was reason to believe the man remained in him.
Though the sweetness of that thought in this fleeting and quick thought and moment was lost to the fact that it was a cause of temporary blindness. It had found a way to have fallen over his eyes. In that dreamlike moment, he had been confused to why he could not see anything and thought himself safe and warm in a bed he hardly remembered. He did not fret though, he shoved it up on his forehead forcing it back to its place and growled furiously with his frustration, and in typical outburst, smacking a fist on the hard city ground below him. “I was havin’ the most beautiful dream! Me lips are still tinglin’!”
Racetrack Higgins, or Race, a thin boy with a cheery face in ragged clothes was also waking up. He was a highly spunky boy with unquenchable energy and an inability to sit still. More ways of describing him could also be the following: Cigar smoking, racetrack lovin’, lovable, loudmouth, fellow rebel rousin’ bestie, whom often slept not far from Albies side. Even further, from time to time, sleeping directly shoulder to shoulder or back to back with him. (He claimed it was fer warmth but Albie knew it was more because he was frightened by the rats.) “Oh a pretty goil?” Racetrack chimed in as he pulled on his only pair of shoes. He was always the one who was eager in his hope for an Albie tale of his latest female courting. Even after Albie gave him a hard time and teased him mercilessly of it being because of Races hot/cold personality and complete inability to find one of his own
“No, a Leg-O-Lamb!” Albie replied with a grin that went from ear to ear as he sat back, raised his legs off the ground and licked his lips. He watched chuckling as once again Romeo had stolen Race’s most prized possession, his one cuban cigar that he refused to light. Albie teased Race, saying that he’d steal anuddah. However his friend wasn’t having it and squeaked and squacked until finally grabbing it back claiming it had been in some drawer and therefore was indeed his. (He had a drawer? Blimey.) Meanwhile another mentioned finding his muddah in which Albie replied with a super pouty face, ‘If you can find ‘er.”
Never had he expected so many clothes to come flying at him with a resounding, “‘EY! WHO ASK’D YOU?!”
‘Ey papes aint movin’ like dey ustah, I need a new sellin spot..got any ideas?” He asked hopeful for a tip or two and they came quickly now and from quite a few different people.
“Try bottle Alley or da harbor.”
“Deys easy pickins guaranteed.”
“Try any bank or bum or barber.”
“Dey almost all knows how ta read!”
Albie listened to his friends quarrel and snorted “Alrigh Boyos, alrigh, I’ll figure it out meself.’” Those words ringing especially true! If it was anything he had learned it was how to be able to fend for himself.
Most kids (or even adults!) would have been down-right terrified by this newish independence, but not Albie. Oh no, not Albie. His family would have described him as a fighter. It took very little for him to take out even the largest of the neighbor kids. Fists and cuffs had become his life long before the streets, and he was good at it. More than often there would be a battle and he would be front and center. Not just for sweets or even for love, but for what was right. He’d come home often after won battles, bruised, and dirty.
Scolding, boxed ears or lack of dinner (there wasn’t much anyway.) never stopped him. That pure anger was always present. It was something that was as much of his nature as anything else. Though never discussed it was likely born from the moving away from where his heart had grown most, and what he missed the most, his homeland of Ireland.
Albert hadn’t been very old. In fact he had been just a wee lad when he had found himself torn from the comfort of his family. He remembered it clearly, his beloved Ma had kissed him goodbye for the day and by the time he returned home they had carted her away in a wagon like a common thief. His older brother screaming at him because it was the day he was supposed to remain home but instead he had snuck off to bet on a fight in hopes of winning some extra money, and instead allowed his littlest sister to vanish.
He had taken off right there, running, escaping. Angry and terribly bitter, his brother’s angry words and the hurt at the loss of his sister was enough, he had endured enough. He was on his feet not looking back as he got himself lost and away from his dark hallway tenement in five points where he had called home since landing in this strange place. He ran on and on, in search of safety but yet ended up in deeper, way deeper. Ran until his sides hurt and his chest burned, unable to take the over bearing stress placed upon his young shoulder. He would manage for a bit on his own at that point in the underbelly world of “Hell’s Kitchen.” stealing and barely surviving until one day he found himself cornered and caught like a mouse in a trap. It was lucky for him that his family had been friends with the Nuns, otherwise it may have been worse. Stories of horror from something called “The Refuge” had certainly made their mark to any street childs nightmares.
From there he was passed around for months like a human, but a stranger. From orphanages and workhouses he became purly wild and untamable. His anger only growing like his hair. Through his frustrations, his fighting urges grew stronger with his rage and was cause for quite a bit of upheaval and bloody faces by those who were twice his size. Though as it went on it became not always his face in peril. He had started to win, and from those winnings he got to be quite a legend in the workhouse. Usually when a bad beating came it was provided by those in multiples or those of authority who truly had no right in fighting a scared little boy torn from home not once, but twice in his young life. He found himself withdrawn and depressed, the only happiness being when his older Brooklyn cousin Finnegan (Finn, Finny boy) would be able to track him down and would ask permission (or sometimes not) and take him for an hour or two to a nearby shop where he’d buy him something to eat. In addition to Albie’s greatest pleasure of having something other than porridge or beans (not that he was ungrateful! The lack of an aching belly was pleasant.) It was on these visits he’d also be given a real treat, a sasparilla to drink and a happiness added to his heart.
It was in one of these encounters with Finn that he by chance was introduced to Jack Kelly. A boy older than him by a good few years, a boy who had escaped the legendary and highly dreaded refuge and was surviving completely on his own with a real job, a job selling newspapers. It was Jack who insisted Albie, like himself, could survive. Jack who convinced Albie that he too could make a living on his own, with the promise that no longer would he have to answer to someone calling him a nobody, but instead he could prove himself a somebody. A desirable future started to build for Albie as he too could listen to Jack and feel the gentle warmth of this “Sante Fe” against his skin, the wind in his hair. Sure he had no clue where the hell this place was. (You mean there was MORE than just New York City to this America? Impossible.)
Jack would laugh at Albie’s questions and ask some in return. It was enough to give the young boy encouragement and finally enough to feel that he did not need to fight to live.
He had found himself under enough rule and change of hand (for better or for worse) that by his fourteen years of livin’ (nearly a man!) he could not only survive, but thrive nearly on his own two feet and using his two free hands. He found this life to be the best he could ask for as only the sky above him and the ground beneath his feet to answer to.
“Sun and the stars,” he mumbled as he stepped out of the alley way into the warm sun. He looked back where they had been resting, just in time to catch Jack Kelly climbing down the fire escape from his “Penthouse in the sky.” Followed like always by his friend, no, his bruddah, Crutchie a beautiful dark haired, and olive skinned boy with dark kind eyes. Crutchie was just starting into those awkward years of being a full on teenager with the ill luck of having a bum leg making it harder to climb down the fire escape, so he was taking his time after Jack, a step at a time. In the morning air Albie could just make out the gentle encouraging words coming from Jack’s lips. “You can do this, come on, aint no bad leg dat can stop yas. Ya got it.” Though with those words of encouragement Albie noticed that Jack’s watchful eyes were 100% on the lamed boy, making sure he did not fall. No, Jack Kelly never let anybody fall.
Albie broke from his dream like state and stopped, touching his own face. With shock/surprise he found that he had been grinning from ear to ear, something that had not happened in quite some time.
He turned, wanting to ask Jack something but instead found in that moment his mouth full of cloth. He made a sound much like a sheep in his surprise and found it had been because he had been hit rudely directly across the chest with a swung pape bag. (It had truly f’n hurt!) His anger was swelling in his chest, a risk of bursting free and it may have, had he not heard the overly loud cry of “YEA----HHH” behind him. A victory cry of sorts could only put one person behind the attack. Albie turned, no, pivoted on his feet, agile like a top, and began to swing his own bag in full retaliation. Catching the young culprit (Race of course, one of his closest comrades) across the belly. Making Race lose all of his air with a balloon-like hiss, and for a moment, just a moment, they both just stopped. Dead air between them, staring intently at one another, as if ready to pounce and kill. If not knowing them, you just may have wondered /was this it?/ /Was there a fight to be had?/ But instead they broke into laughter. Throwing arms around each other’s shoulders like a couple of life-long comrades. Others of the city’s youngest unwashed just watched, breaking into full-out sulks as they slunk away, hands in their pockets. They had not hoped for that but instead wanted a battle of grandeur. The bloodier the better!
Laughing still as they walked, Race teased him mercilessly. “Ya little “erster” fail ya again?” Albie snorted “an’ ‘ey say “I’S” gots an accent.” He shook his head for emphasis, but his voice accented and humorous. He pushed Race’s hat down over his eyes before he could answer in his smartass way. Leaving him blinded as he rushed off to catch up with Finch, a darker skinned handsome boy in front of him, sporting a bright red handkerchief neatly tied around his neck. Albie swung his own bag, catching Finch the same way Race had hit him and again there was a scuffle and then a battle, and then it turned to full out war when Albie found himself quite trapped in a headlock.
It wasn’t fist and cuffs but Albie found it equally as soothing, and less dangerous and in a way, all of these battles healed him.
They walked on, chasing, laughing and smacking one another as they headed towards Newspaper Alley. Each taking their turn to get their morning papes, he made them all laugh by coming up with a new line to torment Weisel, the newspaper distributor. (“Did ya ever think ‘bout gettin’ in da movin pictchas? (Ya think I could?) “Sure buy a ticket they let anyone in!”) causing him to fake laugh with all the boys and wave his hands as if he was orchestrating.
Yes, Albie could live like this. He was free and content.
What a mighty fine life it had turned out to be.
( "Albie Da Irish" Photo rights belong completely to Marriott Theatre/Disney, not at all to me.)