Hi, My name is George. George Stoyonovich. My sister says I’m a bum. Maybe she is right. july
I’m twenty years old. I don’t learn, I don’t work. Mind you, it’s not that I don’t want to - I’m waiting for a job. But what job can I get? These days, you can’t get anything worthy if you have no education. And besides, it’s a hard time for jobs, too.
education If you ask me, education is the most important thing in life (well, maybe the second next) and you know why? respect Because it leads to respect. And respect is the word. RESPECT. What can you do in life if people don’t respect you? What?
As for my education, I must confess I left school some four years ago. I didn’t like it. Who needs teachers telling you what to do? They Who do they think they are? They didn’t respect me. So, one day when I had enough of it, I left. Just like this. I got up and left school.
But I can’t say I didn’t try. I really did. I tried to go back to school, but I was older than the other kids. I tried to work, but, well, what excitement can you get from a job like stock clerk, or delivery boy, or factory worker?!
Don’t look at me like this! There is still something I like to do. Or, maybe I should say, I used to like: carpentry. I was good at carpentry years ago. But where could I get a job to work at it?
So, here I am. George, the neighbourhood boy. If you ask me what I’m doing all day long, well, I could say more or less, nothing. I sit at home. I like to sit in my room, listening to the radio. (We haven’t discovered TV or The Internet yet). Sometimes I even mop the room and besides, I have some magazines from my sister.
Wait a minute, I haven’t told you about my sister. Where are my manners! Please meet my sister Sophie.She is 23 years old. She is just gorgeous. She works in a cafeteria in Bronx. She brings me magazines from her work, sometimes a book or two.
Sophie keeps the family: me and my father. My mother died. My father works in the fish market. He doesn’t do much talking. He’s a quiet man.
Back to me. It’s summer now, and it’s tough being at home all day long. In the evenings I go out. I go to the park where I’m alone, nobody asks me questions. Who needs them, anyway? I like to sit in the park, imagining myself with a nice house, a sports car and a great chick. What do you need for all this? Right you are: dough, and lots of it!
Well, it’s late.Stop dreaming! Let’s get back home! Have you met Mr. Cattanzara? Mr. C You should. Because Mr Cattanzara, or, as I call him, Mr. C, is a special man. You may well ask me what makes him so special. He’s not like the others in the neighbourhood.
Mr. C works at the I.R.T. station. He sells tickets. The New York Times Mr. C reads the newspaper, The New York Times - he likes to know what is going on in the world. And he asks questions, different questions, he’s different from all the others in the neighbourhood.
And he likes his bottle. And when he is drunk, his eyes are wet, his walk is tight.
Now, Mr. C’s wife is quite another story. Big, fat, white, she sits all day at the window, her arms folded under her enormous, loose breasts. She likes to see what’s happening in the street. Gossip, poor people’s entertainment.
Our neighbourhood. Our neighbourhood is poor. Stony neighbourhood, with only one park at the end of the street. Cheap, railroad flats above the stores: a butcher’s store, a shoemaker’s and all the rest. And the people? Well, the people who live in our neighbourhood are gathered from many places across the sea. All came to America to follow the American dream.
Nothing much happens in our neighbourhood. One day I met Mr. C in the street. still july “What are you doing with yourself this summer,George?” he asks me And me, trying to save my skin: “I’m reading a lot to pick up my education”.
What is a lot, you will ask me. Now, the first thing that came to my mind (or rather, to my lips) was 100 books. 100 books! And Mr. C who wants to “shoot the breeze” about my 100 books!
Suddenly, life doesn’t seem so tough. It’s nice to get out in the street, meet the neighbours. Though we don’t talk, I see them smiling, looking up at me. I even talked with the shoemaker one night. I reckon Mr. C must have given them a clue about my reading. Even my father and Sophie are nicer to me. How the rumour spreads!
You know what? I don’t even go to the park. There’s no one there. When I don’t clean the house (I do this every day for Sophie, she deserves it, she gives me a weekly allowance from her salary), I go out in the street, buy myself a beer, some cigarettes, go to the movies. What! Life can be great!
I have bought a couple of books besides the magazines from Sophie, but, to tell you the truth, I don’t have the patience to read them; they get on my nerves. The World Almanac - I prefer The World Almanac - though it’s not the latest, at least it brings you interesting things about the world, not made up stories which are boring. BORING! And the books pile up in my room. Almanac
if Not a word about my books. Nothing. To tell you the truth, I kind of try to avoid him in the street, he makes me feel uneasy. Why? Well, what if, just if he asks me about my reading? He’d make me feel like a dirty rat, so, let’s cross the street, and maybe his wife, who’s reading the news over his shoulder from her window, won’t notice me either. But what happened to Mc. C? Have we forgotten him?
august I think I’ll stay way from Mr. C Until I finish my reading.Why is everybody worried about my books? Sophie too asked me about them the other day. I don’t know what she has on her mind, but she still gives me my extra buck, and that’s what counts..So, why don’t I feel great like last month? Anyway, the night walks still make me feel good.
Last week I met Mr. C in the street. Well, “met” is not the right word. I saw him coming, drunk as usual, and my heart missed a beat. I hoped he wouldn’t stop me - and I was right. But suddenly (God knows what made him do it), he turns back and guess what he does: he gives me a nickel. “Georgie, he says, go buy yourself a lemon ice!” and asks me about the books.
First, all my blood was drawn from my veins. Then, it crawled slowly up my neck; my face, my ears, everything was on fire. I think I was looking passable on my outside but you may be sure inside I was crumbling apart. His eyes.. Mr. C has small, blue eyes which can be like knife blades. And they can hurt. God, can they hurt!
He kept on talking. He wanted to know about the books, about one book, any book: “Who can tell, if it’s a good book maybe I wanna read it myself”. What could I do? I couldn’t just vanish though I wanted to, so I made Mr. C and the whole world disappear. I closed my eyes.
It seemed like eternity. I was paralyzed. Couldn’t talk, couldn’t move, couldn’t open my eyes. But I could hear. And what I heard, I think I’ll never forget as long as I live. He said : George, don’t do what I did!
And in his voice I could here regret; the regret of a man who missed his life, who could have done great things but didn’t have the means, who had to give up his dreams because he had to thrive to make a living at a time of hardship for America. A man trapped in a life without a future. I heard in his voice the regret of all America and a warning for my future.
I opened my eyes. He was gone. He must have felt pity for me. I went home and shut myself to the world. I didn’t want to see anyone for a week.
This last week has been the worst that I can remember. end of august I didn’t want to see anybody. Sophie railed at me, my father wept (what else could he do?) Sophie stopped my allowance, and for good reason. Everything turned against me: the weather was terrible, my room stifling and I even think I lost some weight.
Two days ago I couldn’t take it anymore. I got out and went to the park. It was 1 o’clock in the morning. The heat must have thrown the people out into the streets, because they were all there, wilted and listless, waiting for a breeze. I hoped nobody would notice me. But they did; and they smiled at me! My neighbour at the corner asked me if I had really finished reading one hundred books.
You want to know what I said, don’t you? Come on, tell the truth! What would you say? Yeah! I said “Yeah! And I felt good! On second thought, not great, just relieved.
he Yesterday I met Mr. C. We talked; he didn’t say anything about the books. I got an idea: maybe he spread the rumour about me finishing all the hundred books.
september Today is the first day of fall. Summer is over. I can smell the rainy days to come. I feel better. In fact, I feel strange, excited. I think we’ll have to say Good Bye. I’m going out. I’m going - listen, you won’t believe it, I'm going to the library to read my hundred books! Bye!
Before we part I have a question for you. Yeah, you’ve guessed:
AM I GOING TO READ 100 BOOKS? 100 BOOKS? AM I GOING TO READ 100 BOOKS? 100 BOOKS?
And here, dear students is your task: answer the question that George asked