On Broadway by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Literature

Once when in New York I observed a middle-aged man remove his coat at the corner of Fulton street and Broadway and wipe the shoulders thereof with a large red handkerchief of the Thurman brand. There was a dash of mud in his whiskers and a crick in his back. He had just sought to cross Broadway, and the disappointed ambulance had gone up street to answer another call. He was a plain man with a limited vocabulary, but he spoke feelingly. I asked him if I could be of any service to him, and he said No, not especially, unless I would be kind enough to go up under the back of his vest and see if I could find the end of his suspender. I did that and then held his coat for him while he got in it again. He afterward walked down the east side of Broadway with me.

“That’s twice I’ve tried to git acrost to take the Cortlandt street ferry boat sence one o’clock, and hed to give it up both times,” he said, after he had secured his breath.

“So you don’t live in town?”

“No, sir, I don’t, and there won’t be anybody else livin’ in town, either, if they let them crazy teamsters run things. Look at my coat! I’ve wiped the noses of seventy-nine single horses and eleven double teams sence one o’clock, and my vitals is all a perfect jell. I bet if I was hauled up right now to be postmortumed the rear breadths of my liver would be a sight to behold.”

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“Why didn’t you get a policeman to escort you across?”

“Why, condemb it, I did futher up the street, and when I left him the policeman reckoned his collar-bone was broke. It’s a blamed outrage, I think. They say that a man that crosses Broadway for a year can be mayor of Boston, but my idee is that he’s a heap more likely to be mayor of the New Jerusalem.”

“Where do you live, anyway?”

“Well, I live near Pittsburg, P. A., where business is active enough to suit ‘most anybody, ‘specially when a man tries to blow out a natural-gast well, but we make our teamsters subservient to the Constitution of the United States. We don’t allow this Juggernaut business the way you fellers do. There a man would drive clear round the block ruther than to kill a child, say nuthin of a grown person. Here the hubs and fellers of these big drays and trucks are mussed up all the time with the fragments of your best people. Look at me. What encouragement is there for a man to come here and trade? Folks that live here tell me that they do most of their business by telephone in the daytime, and then do their runnin’ around at night, but I’ve got apast that. Time was when I could run around nights and then mow all day, but I can’t do it now. People that leads a suddentary life, I s’pose, demands excitement, and at night they will have their fun; but take a man like me–he wants to transact his business in the daytime by word o’ mouth, and then go to bed. He don’t want to go home at 3 o’clock with a plug hat full of digestive organs that he never can possibly put back just where they was before.

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“No, I don’t want to run down a big city like New York and nuther do I want to be run down myself. They tell me I can go up town on this side and take the boat so as to get to Jersey City that way, and I’m going to do it ruther than to go home with a neck yoke run through me. Folks say that Jurden is a hard road to travel, but I’m positive that a man would get jerked up and fined for driving as fast there as they do on Broadway; and then another thing, I s’pose there’s a good deal less traffic over the road.”

He then went down Wall street to the Hanover Square station and I saw him no more.

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