Short Stories » Jimmy
Jimmy - Page 1 of 3
JIMMY was about thirteen years old. He lived in a tenement house on a very narrow and dusty street, rarely traveled by any but delivery-wagons, butcher-carts, and such like, and the front-door view was of other people's back premises.
His parents were poor; his father worked away from home months at a time, coming home for the holidays Fourth of July and Christmas and of all the year these were the best and happiest days for Jimmy; for then his father gave his only boy a little spending money, and once a suit of ready-made clothing, with twenty-five cents in the right-hand pants pocket.
His mother, too, went out by the day; and though I used to think she really loved Jimmy best of all (because he was a boy), still she always provided for his sisters first, because persons notice little girls' clothing, and they had to look neat at school. By the time she had attended to their wants, and it came Jimmy's turn, generally the money was all gone, or the rent was just due, or her husband's remittance had failed to arrive on time, and a bill of credit was accumulating ; all these, and perhaps other conditions, so intervened between her intentions and her actual performance of them, that it became quite the common thing for Jimmy to be the neglected and poorest-dressed member of the family.
" Boys don't mind about their looks as girls do." "Nobody notices how boys look." "They're always down on their knees playing marbles, and good clothes would soon look just as bad," is the style in which neglect of boys' appearance and comfort is often excused.
Now Jimmy did love to see his little sisters look neat and pretty on their way to school, and did not envy them a ruffle on their aprons, or even buttoned shoes when laced shoes would have done just as well and would have been a saving towards his wardrobe; and when his mother bought some little extra for herself, so as to look nice when she went to work for fine persons, Jimmy thought she looked prettier than ever.
But when he started down town to hunt a day's work or some errand to do, and instinctively looked at his limp felt hat, shabby overalls, and grimy hands, then at his bare toes, I know Jimmy had a very down-cast and abstracted air, and a general lack of confidence in anyone wanting to give him anything to do.
But, happily, boys are liable to sudden changes of feeling, and the first " Hello, Jim !" that greeted him had power to rout instantly every dark thought, and set him on good terms with all the world again, and the two or three would set off together in quest of something to do. Boys who were apprenticed to trades ventured generous and impossible suggestions to do as they were doing, but the superintendents always had "boys enough at present," which "present" time seemed to be all the year round.
These more fortunate boys all liked Jimmy, and when coasting was in season he was always among them, apparently as happy as any. They divided their treats of candy, etc., with him, and played marbles or kite as enjoyably with him as with any other boy. On the occasion of a circus, I am happy to say that Jimmy was always seen going in with the crowd of his friends, and I have even known several of them to accompany him after their work-hours to the rear of some store (by permission) in quest of discarded boxes for kindling-wood.