"That's it sock him."
The Kid's white screwedup face bouncing in front of him like a balloon; his fist gets Jimmy in the mouth; a salty taste of blood from the cut lip. Jimmy strikes out, gets him down on the bed, pokes his knee in his belly. They pull him off and throw him back against the wall.
"Go it Kid."
"Go it Herfy."
There's a smell of blood in his nose and lungs; his breath rasps. A foot shoots out and trips him up.
"That's enough, Herfy's licked."
"Girlboy . . . Girlboy."
"But hell Freddy he had the Kid down."
"Shut up, don't make such a racket. . . . Old Hoppy'll be coming up."
"Just a little friendly bout, wasn't it Herfy?"
"Get outa my room, all of you, all of you," Jimmy screeches, tear-blinded, striking out with both arms.
"Crybaby . . . crybaby."
He slams the door behind them, pushes the desk against it and crawls trembling into bed. He turns over on his face and lies squirming with shame, biting the pillow. Jimmy stared through the tiny glitter of the dust on the windowpane.
Your poor mother was very unhappy when she finally put you on the train and went back to her big empty rooms at the hotel. Dear, I am very lonely without you. Do you know what I did? I got out all your toy soldiers, the ones that used to be in the taking of Port Arthur, and set them all out in battalions on the library shelf. Wasn't that silly? Never mind dear, Christmas'll soon come round and I'll have my boy again. . . .
A crumpled face on a pillow; mother's had a stroke and next week I'll go back to school. Darkgrained skin growing flabby under her eyes, gray creeping up her brown hair. Mother never laughs. The stroke.
He turned back suddenly into the room, threw himself on the bed with a thin leather book in his hand. The surf