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Jack is old. He reads.
Summary: Jack is old. He reads.
Author's Note: I've had a lot of stories running through my head lately. Please ignore the time periods they were written in...just pretend that Jack is really, really old when he reads them. Oh, and please read and review - I'm really happy about this one!
It's so easy. He pulls the book off of the shelf. He opens it. He reads, and as he reads, he thinks. There's nothing hard about that. He's done it too many times before.
Jack starts young - maybe twelve years old - with a short comic about Santa Fe. It has lots of pictures, it's easy to follow and it keeps his dream of going there someday alive. As he reads he pictures himself within the surroundings, riding horses and saving maidens. He sees himself pulling out a gun and having the bullet hit a bucket of dung above his opponents head, making him a laughing stock. As he gets older, he reads this comic less and less, and soon realizes that his imagination isn't real. He loses hope.
Then he reads another book. It is years later. Jack is eighteen. He pulls the book off of the shelf and sits down to read it. It is called Cinderella. Jack begins the book, and goes to the front desk to sign it out. He can't afford a library card. Jack steals the book. He goes home to his wife, a woman he knows he can not support with his new job as a factory worker. He sits and finishes the book, Sarah glancing back at forth from him, to her needlepoint and to her bulging stomach. He finishes quickly, and then softly pulls her project from her hands, replacing it with the book. He apologizes and tells her to pretend she is the girl in story and him her prince. He promises that someday they will be.
Years pass, and Jack picks up yet another book. He has read nothing but factory reports for more than a decade, and he is 32. Jack picks a book from the shelf: Les MisÃ©rables. It is an old book, filled with pain and despair that mirrors the world of his own time. It takes him a lot of time to finish the book, because something deep down inside him makes him feel like he knows the characters. He doesn't figure it out, but knows they exist in his life. Jack finishes the book and gives it to his son, now thirteen years old. His son takes even longer to finish it, but he is smart, and he makes up for his lack of speed with his understanding of the issues portrayed in the story. Jack tells him to think about the characters in the story, for they are his friends.
Decades pass, and Jack pulls a new book from the shelf. It is called Peter Pan. Jack takes the book to his seemingly empty home, now only holding himself and his wife, with occasional visits from her younger brother, Les. Les has read the book before, and suggested it. Jack reads it as quickly as he can, unable to wait and see what will happen to the characters. He feels as if he knew them once, particularely the main but, but can't imagine how. Jack is frustrated, and takes the book back.
Jack is talking to his great grandchildren, who are very young. His wife is gone now, and his book shelf is full of stories he was finally able to purchase instead of rent from the library. It contains novels such as Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Romeo and Juliet. He takes one final trip to the nearby book shop when they leave, barely able to pick up his feet. He pulls out a book and he buys it.
When he gets back to his warm, bright, yet lonely home, he pulls book after book off the shelf. He reads them all, one by one, not caring how long it takes. Things have suddenly become clear.
His father is the man from Santa Fe - brave, encouraging, but cares for no one but himself.
Oscar Delancey is Javert - only searching for rogue newsies as his brother taught him to do.
Medda is Cinderella - she grows up in harder times than you can imagine, yet her beauty helps her to do what she loves, however cheap it must make her feel.
Mush is Romeo - kept away from the woman he loves because of a difference in their families. Or, in this case, their colour.
Snipeshooter is Oliver - he comes to seek a fortune, and finds friends.
Boots is his Artful Dodger - always encouraging him to have fun, even though what they are doing may be wrong or inappropriate.
Spot is Jack - always wants to be in charge, and fights for it with all he has until he is led to total insanity, breaking off the alliance between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Les is Piggy - always annoying the dominant one, yet ever loyal.
Racetrack is the Stage Manager - he knows everything about everyone, with the philosophy to make them understand their actions.
Crutchy is Boo Radley - unable to prove himself until the very end.
Skittery is Grumpy.
Tumbler is Hansel.
Blink is Dr. Jekyll. He is also Mr. Hyde.
Sarah is Cosette - she needs only her charm to find love.
David is Eponine - the one who Jack never realizes loves him until he is gone.
All the books are now finished, except for the newest one. Jack looks at it and reads the title aloud. He knows he will die tonight, his heart tells him so, but something inside him makes that okay. Something there tells him that when he is done he will be able to start again, to sit and talk to friends, to run around, to have wild adventures wherever he goes. He picks up the book.
Jack is old. He reads.