The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos

… The strike was not popular on Orchard Street. It meant that Mom had to work harder and harder, doing bigger and bigger boilersful of wash, and that Fainy and his older sister Milly had to help when they came home from school. And then one day Mom got sick and had to go back to bed instead of starting in on the ironing, and lay with her round white wrinkled face whiter than the pillow and her watercreased hands in a knot under her chin. The doctor came and the district nurse, and all three rooms of the flat smelt of doctors and nurses and drugs, and the only place Fainy and Milly could find to sit was on the stairs. There they sat and cried quietly together. Then Mom´s face on the pillow shrank into a little uneven white thing like a ragged handkerchief and they said that she was dead and took her away.

The funeral was from the undertaking parlors on Riverside Avenue on the next block. Fainy felt very proud and important because everybody kissed him and patted his head and said he was behaving like a little man. He had a new black suit on, too, like a grownup suit with pockets and everything, except that it had short pants. There were all sorts of peple at the undertaking parlors he had never been close to before, Mr Russel, the butcher and Father O´Donnell and Ucle Tim O´Hara who´d come on from Chicago, and it smelt of whisky and beer like at Finley´s. Uncle Tim was a skinny man with a rounded red face and shadowy blue eyes. He wore a loose black silk tie that worried Fainy, and kept leaning down suddenly, bending from the waist as if he was going to close up like a jack-knife, and whispering in a thick voice in Fainy´s ear.
unemployed men outside a soup kitchen
Unemployed men outside a soup kitchen. Wikipedia
“Don´t you mind ´em, old sport, they´re a bunch o´ bums and hypocrytes, stewed to the ears most of ´em already. Look at Father O´Donnell the fat swine already figurin´up the burial fees. But don´t you mind ´em, remember you´re an O´Hara on your mother´s side. I don´t mind ´em, old sport, and she was my own sister by birth and blood.”
When they got home he was terribly sleepy and his feet were cold and wet. Nobody paid any attention to him. He sat crying on the edge of the bed in the dark. In the front room there were voices and a sound of knives and forks, but he didn´t dare go in there. He curled up against the wall and went to sleep. Light in his eyes woke him up. Uncle Tim and Pop were standing over him talking loud. They looked funny and didn´t seem to be standing very steady. Uncle Tim held the lamp.
“Well, Fainy, old sport,” said Uncle Tim giving the lamp a perilous wave over Fainy´s head. “Fenian O´Hara McCreary, sit up and take notice and tell us what you think of our proposed removal to the great and growing city of Chicago. Middletown´s a terrible bitch of a dump if you ask me … meaning´ no offense, John … But Chicago … Jesus God, man, when you get there you´ll think you´ve been dead and nailed up in a coffin all these years.”
Fainy was scared. He drew his knees up to his chin and looked tremblingly at the two big swaying figures of men lit by the swaying lamp. He tried to speak but the words dried up in his lips.
“The kid´s asleep, Tim, for all your speechifying´ … Take your clothes off, Fainy, and get into bed and get a good night´s sleep. We´re leaving´ in the mornin´.”
And late on a rainy morning, without any breakfast, with a big old swelltop trunk tied up with rope joggling perilously on the roof of the cab that Fainy had been sent to order from Hodgeson´s Livery Stable, they set out. Milly was crying. Pop didn´t say a word but sucked on an unlit pipe. Uncle Tim handled everything, making little jokes all the time that nobody laughed at, pulling a roll of bills out of his pocket at every juncture, or taking great noisy sips out of the flask he had in his pocket. Milly cried and cried. Fainy looked out with big dry eyes at the familiar streets, all suddenly odd and irregular, that rolled past the cab; the red bridge, the houses where the Polaks lived, Smith´s and Smith´s corner drugstore … there was Billy Hogan just coming out with a package of chewing gum in his hand. Playing hookey again. Fainy had an impulse to yell at him, but something froze it … Main with its elms and street cars, blocks of stores round the corner of Church, and then the fire department. Fainy looked for the last time into the dark cave where shone wonderfully the brass and copper curves of the engine, then past the cardboard fronts of the First Congregational Church, The Carmel Baptist Church, St. Andrew´s Episcopal Church built of brick and set catercornered on its lot instead of straight with a stern face to the street like the other churches, then the three castiron deers on the lawn in front of the Commercial House, and the residences, each with its lawn, each with its scrollsaw porch, each with its hortensia bush. Then the houses got smaller, and the lawns disappered; the cab moved past Simpson´s Grain and Feed Warehouse, along a row of barbershops, saloons and lunchrooms, and they were all getting out at the station … (Del original U.S.A., The 42nd Parallel, de John Dos Passos, con inglés más fácil)

Chicago: ciudad de Estados Unidos, en el estado de Illinois. Es la tercera más populosa ciudad con aproximadamente 2,7 millones de residentes. El área metropolitana, que se extiende hasta Indiana y Wisconsin, es la tercera más grande, después de New York City y Los Angeles.

El autor
John Dos Passos (1896- 1970) fue un escritor y artista norteamericano que estudió en Harvard y viajó alrededor del mundo aprendiendo sobre literatura, arte y arquitectura.

One Man's Initiation: 1917 (1920), Manhattan Transfer (1925), Orient Express (1927), U.S.A. (1938). Three-volume set includes: The 42nd Parallel (1930), Nineteen Nineteen (1932), The Big Money (1936); Tour of Duty (1946), The Men Who Made the Nation (1957), Mr. Wilson's War (1962), Brazil on the Move (1963), The Portugal Story (1969), Century's Ebb: The Thirteenth Chronicle (1970), Easter Island: Island of Enigmas (1970), Lettres à Germaine Lucas Championnière (2007) - only in French

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