ON THE SIDEWALK BLEEDING
By Evan Hunter
The boy lay bleeding in the rain. He was sixteen years old, and he wore a bright purple silk jacket, and
the lettering across the back of the jacket read THE ROYALS. The boy's name was Andy, and the name was
written in black thread on the front of the jacket, just over the heart. Andy.
He had been stabbed ten minutes ago. The knife had entered just below his ribs, tearing a wide gap in
his flesh. He lay on the sidewalk with the March rain drilling his jacket and drilling his body and
washing away the blood that poured from his open wound. He had known terrible pain when the knife had
torn across his hody, then sudden relief when the blade was pulled away. He had heard the voice saying,
'That's for you, Royal!' and then the sound of footsteps hurrying into the rain, and then he had fallen
to the sidewalk, clutching his stomach, trying to stop the flow of blood.
He tried to yell for help, hut he had no voice. He did not know why his voice was gone, or why there was
an open hole in his body from which his life ran redly. It was 11.30 p.m., but he did not know the time.
There was another thing he did not know.
He did not know he was dying. He lay on the sidewalk bleeding, and he thought only: That was a fierce rumble1.
They got me good that time, but he did not know he was dying. He would have been frightened had he known.
He lay bleeding and wishing, he could cry out for help, but there was no voice in his throat. There was
only the bubbling of blood from between his lips whenever he opened his mouth to speak. He lay silent in
his pain, waiting, waiting for someone to find him.
He could hear the sound of automobile tyres hushed on the rainswept streets, far away at the other end
of the long alley. He could see the splash of neon at the other end of the alley. It was painting the
pavement red and green.
He wondered if Laura would be angry.
He had left the jump2 to get a package of cigarettes. He had told her he would he back in a few minutes,
and then he had gone downstairs and found the candy store closed. He knew that Alfredo's on the next
block would be open. He had started through the alley, and that was when he'd been ambushed3.
He could hear the faint sound of music now, coming from a long, long way off. He wondered if Laura was
dancing, wondered if she had missed him yet. Maybe she thought he wasn't coming back. Maybe she thought
he'd cut out for good. Maybe she'd already left the jump and gone home. He thought of her face, the brown
eyes and the jet-black hair, and thinking of her he forgot his pain a little, forgot that blood was
rushing from his body.
Someday he would marry Laura. Someday he would marry her, and they would have a lot of kids, and then
they would get out of the neighbourhood. They would move to a clean project in the Bronx, or maybe they
would move to Staten Island. When they were married, when they had kids.
He heard footsteps at the other end of the alley. He lifted his cheek from the sidewalk and looked into
the darkness and tried to cry out, but again there was only a soft hissing bubble of blood on his mouth.
The man came down the alley. He had not seen Andy yet. He walked, and then stopped to lean against the
brick of the building, and then walked again. He saw Andy then and came towards him, and he stood over
him for a long time, the minutes ticking, ticking, watching him and not speaking.
Then he said, 'What's a matter, buddy?'
Andy could not speak, and he could barely move. He lifted his face slightly and looked up at the man.
He smelled the sickening odour of alcohol. The man was drunk.
The man was smiling.
'Did you fall down, buddy?' he asked. 'You mus' be as drunk as I am.'
He squatted alongside Andy.
'You gonna catch cold here,' he said. 'What's a matter? You like layin' in the wet?'
Andy could not answer. The rain spattered around them.
'You like a drink?'
Andy shook his head.
'I gotta bottle. Here,' the man said. He pulled a pint bottle from his inside jacket pocket. Andy tried
to move, but rain wrenched4 him back flat against the sidewalk.
'Take it,' the man said. He kept watching Andy. 'Take it.' When Andy did not move, he said, 'Nev' mind,
I'll have one m'self.' He tilted the bottle to his lips, and then wiped the back of his hand across his
mouth. 'You too young to be drinkin' anyway. Should be 'shamed of yourself, drunk an' laying in an alley,
all wet. Shame on you. I gotta good minda5 calla cop.'
Andy nodded.Yes, he tried to say.Yes,call a cop. Please. Call one.
'Oh, you don't like that, huh?' the drunk said. 'You don' wanna cop to fin' you all drunk an' wet in an
alley, huh? Okay, buddy. This time you get off easy.' He got to his feet. 'This time you lucky,' he
said. He waved broadly at Andy, and then almost lost his footing. 'S'long, buddy,' he said.
Wait, Andy thought. Wait please, I'm bleeding.
' S'long,' the drunk said again. 'I see you aroun,' and then he staggered off up the alley.
Andy lay and thought: Laura, Laura. Are you dancing?
The couple came into the alley suddenly. They ran into the alley together, running from the rain. The
boy held the girl's elbow, the girl spreading a newspaper over her head to protect her hair. Andy
watched them run into the alley laughing, and then duck into the doorway not ten feet from him.
'Man, what rain!' the boy said. 'You could drown out there.'
'I have to get home,' the girl said. 'It's late, Freddie. I have to get home.'
'We got time,' Freddie said. 'Your people won't raise a fuss if you're a little late. Not with this
kind of weather.'
'It's dark,' the girl said, and she giggled.
'Yeah,' the boy answered, his voice very low.
'Freddie ... ?'
'You're ... you're standing very close to me.'
There was a long silence. Then the girl said, 'Oh,' only that
single word, and Andy knew she'd been kissed. He suddenly hungered for Laura's mouth. It was then that
he wondered if he would ever kiss Laura again. It was then that he wondered if he was dying.
No, he thought, I can't be dying, not from a little street rumble, not from just getting cut. Guys get
cut all the time in rumbles. I can't be dying. No, that's stupid. That don't make sense at all.
'You shouldn't,' the girl said.
'I don't know.'
'Do you like it?'
'I don't know.'
'I love you, Angela,' the boy said.
'I love you, too, Freddie,' the girl said, and Andy listened and thought - I love you, Laura. Laura,
I think maybe I'm dying. Laura, this is stupid but I think I'm dying. Laura, I think I'm dying!
He tried to speak. He tried to move. He tried to crawl towards the doorway. He tried to make a noise,
a sound, and a grunt came from his lips. He tried again, and another grunt came, a low animal grunt of
'What was that?' the girl said, breaking away from the boy.
'I don't know,' he answered.
'Go look, Freddie.'
Andy moved his lips again. Again the sound came from him.
I'll go see,' the boy said.
He stepped into the alley. He walked over to where Andy lay on the ground. He stood over him, watching him.
'You all right?' he asked.
'What is it?' Angela said from the doorway.
'Somebody's hurt,' Freddie said.
'Let's get out of here,' Angela said.
'No. Wait a minute.' He knelt down beside Andy. 'You cut?' he asked.
Andy nodded. The boy kept looking at him. He saw the lettering on the jacket then. THE ROYALS. He
turned to Angela.
'He's a Royal,' he said.
'Let's ... what ... what do you want to do, Freddie?'
'I don't know. I don't want to get mixed up in this. He's a Royal. We help him, and the Guardians'll he
down on our necks. I don't want to get mixed up in this, Angela.'
'Is he ... is he hurt bad?'
'Yeah, it looks that way.'
'What shall we do?'
'I don't know.'
'We can't leave him here in the rain.' Angela hesitated. 'Can we?'
'If we get a cop, the Guardians'll find out who,' Freddie said. 'I dont know, Angela, I don't know.'
Angela hesitated a long time before answering. Then she said, 'I have to go home, Freddie. My people will
begin to worry.'
'Yeah,' Freddie said. He looked at Andy again. 'You all right?' he asked. Andy lifted his face from the
sidewalk, and his eyes said: Please, please help me, and maybe Freddie read what his eyes were saying,
and maybe he didn't.
Behind him, Angela said, 'Freddie, let's get out of here! Please!' Freddie stood up. He looked at Andy
again, and then mumbled, I'm sorry.' He took Angela's arm, and together they ran towards the neon splash
at the other end of the alley.
Why, they're afraid of the Guardians, Andy thought in amazement. But why shouldn't they be? I wasn't
afraid of the Guardians. I never turkeyed out of a rumble with the Guardians. I got heart. But I'm
The rain was soothing. It was a cold rain, but his body was hot all over, and the rain helped cool him.
He had always liked rain. He could remember sitting in Laura's house one time, the rain running down the
windows, and just looking out over the street, watching the people running from the rain. That was when
he'd first joined the Royals. He could remember how happy he was the Royals had taken him. The Royals
and the Guardians, two of the biggest. He was a Royal. There had been meaning to the title.
Now, in the alley, with the cold rain washing his hot body, he wondered about the meaning. If he died, he
was Andy. He was not a Royal. He was simply Andy, and he was dead. And he wondered suddenly if the
Guardians who had ambushed him and knifed him had ever once realised he was Andy? Had they known
that he was Andy, or had they simply known that he was a Royal wearing a purple silk jacket? Had
they stabbed him, Andy, or had they only stabbed the jacket and the title, and what good was the
title if you were dying?
I'm Andy, he screamed wordlessly. I'm Andy.
An old lady stopped at the other end of the alley. The garbage cans were stacked there, beating noisily
in the rain. The old lady carried an umbrella with broken ribs, carried it like a queen. She stepped
into the mouth of the alley, shopping bag over one arm. She lifted the lids of the garbage cans6. She
did not hear Andy grunt because she was a little deaf and because the rain was beating on the cans.
She collected her string and her newspapers, and an old hat with a feather on it from one of the
garbage cans, and a broken footstool from another of the cans. And then she replaced the lids and
lifted her umbrella high and walked out of the alley mouth. She had worked quickly and soundlessly,
and now she was gone.
The alley looked very long now. He could see people passing at the other end of it, and he wondered
who the people were, and he wondered if he would ever get to know them, wondered who it was on the
Guardians who had stabbed him, who had plunged the knife into his body.
'That's for you, Royal!' the voice had said. 'That's for you, Royal!' Even in his pain, there had been
some sort of pride in knowing he was a Royal. Now there was no pride at all. With the rain beginning to
chill him, with the blood pouring steadily between his fingers, he knew only a sort of dizziness. He
could only think: I want to be Andy.
It was not very much to ask of the world.
He watched the world passing at the other end of the alley. The world didn't know he was Andy. The
world didn't know he was alive. He wanted to say, 'Hey, I'm alive! Hey, look at me! I'm alive! Don't
you know I'm alive! Don't you know I exist?'
He felt weak and very tired. He felt alone and wet and feverish and chilled. He knew he was going to
die now. That made him suddenly sad. He was filled with sadness that his life would he over at sixteen.
He felt at once as if he had never done anything, never been anywhere. There were so many things to do.
He wondered why he'd never thought of them before, wondered why
the rumbles and the jumps and the purple jackets had always seemed so important to him before. Now they
seemed like such small things in a world he was missing, a world that was rushing past at the other end
of the alley.
I don't want to die, he thought. I haven't lived yet.
It seemed very important to him that he take off the purple jacket. He was very close to dying, and
when they found him, he did not want them to say, 'Oh, it's a Royal.' With great effort, he rolled over
on to bis back. He felt the pain tearing at his stomach when he moved. If he never did another thing, he
wanted to take off the jacket. The jacket had only one meaning now, and that was a very simple meaning.
If he had not been wearing the jacket, he wouldn't have been stabbed. The knife had not been plunged in
hatred of Andy. The knife hated only the purple jacket. The jacket was a stupid meaningless thing Ihat was
robbing him of his life.
He lay struggling with the shiny wet jacket. His arms were heavy. Pain ripped fire across bis body
whenever he moved. But he squirmed7 and fought and twisted until one arm was free and then the other.
He rolled away from the jacket and lay quite still, breathing heavily, listening to the sound of his
breathing and the sounds of the rain and thinking. Rain is sweet, I'm Andy.
She found him in the doorway a minute past midnight. She left the dance to look for him. When she found
him she knelt beside him and said, 'Andy, it's me, Laura.'
He did not answer her. She backed away from him, tears springing into her eyes, and then she ran from
the alley. She did not stop running until she found a cop.
And now, standing with the cop, she looked down at him. The cop rose and said, 'He's dead.' All the
crying was out of her now. She stood in the rain and said nothing, looking at the dead boy on the
pavement, and looking at the purple jacket that rested a foot away from his body.
The cop picked up the jacket and turned it over in his hands.
'A Royal, huh?' he said.
She looked at the cop, and, very quietly, she said, 'His name is Andy.'
The cop slang the jacket over his arm. He took out his black pad, and he flipped it open to a blank page.
'A Royal,' he said.
Then he began writing.
Source: Diverse Cultures - Short stories by Jean Moore and John Catron, Hodder and Stougjhton, pp. 64-70
(Without the part with Angela and Freddie the story would be c. 660 words shorter.)
1. rumble - Schlägerei, Schlag
2. jump - Sprung-(schanze)
3. to ambush - jdm. auflauern
4. to wrench - entwinden, reißen
5. to have a good mind to - große Lust haben
6. garbage can - AE. Mülleimer
7. to squirm - sich winden
1. Briefly summarize the events as they chronologically follow each other?
2. Do you think it has more advantages or disadvantage to belong to a gang? Substantiate your opinion.
3. According to Andy's thoughts, why has he obviously been stabbed?
4. Would you have acted the same way as Angela and Freddie did?
5. Find one example each of dramatic irony, personification and symbol. Substantiate your findings.
6. What meaning did his jacket have for Andy before and after the incident?
7. How is suspense created throughout the story?
8. Concerning the composition/structure of the story, what are its typical features?