Read 9:41 Online

Authors: John Nicholas; Iannuzzi


Books by John Nicholas Iannuzzi


9:41 and Other Stories





Sicilian Defense

Part 35

What's Happening?


Handbook of Cross-Examination, the Mosaic Art

Handbook of Trial Strategies

TRIAL: Strategy and Psychology

Cross-Examination: the Mosaic Art


and other stories




Author's Note

November 20, 1960

May 27, 1957

June 11, 1957

Only a Matter of Time.
July 9, 1957

A Glass of Wine and Thou.
July 17, 1957

The Scepter of the Sun.
August 6, 1957

Weep Softly and Smile.
August 20, 1957

Youth, an Illusion.
September 9, 1957

Worth of a Being.
September 23, 1957

Annus Mirabilis.
Date Unknown

A Normal, Modern Boy.
October 1, 1957

A Gentlemen's Wager.
October 4, 1957

The Labyrinth of Happiness.
November 24, 1957

The Ballad of the Rumbling Subway.
December 4, 1957

A Woman Cries in Her Sleep.
January 10, 1958

A Night at the Carnal-ville


The Trip


Tennis, Anyone?


I graduated from Fordham College, Rose Hill in June 1956.

Following in my Father's footsteps, I entered Fordham Law School in September, that same year. By December 1956 I realized that toiling amongst the dusty volumes of boring law reports was an ordeal of overwhelming proportions; I quit law school. My Father, of course, was sorely disappointed.

For no apparent reason, and with no previous schooling or experience, I began to write—and experiment in writing—setting down, mostly in 1957, the stories recorded in this book. I didn't realize these stories were mental calisthenics, my preparing to steel myself to begin writing novels.

I completed my first novel,
What's Happening?
some time in the fall of 1958. Other than
, which I wrote the morning my daughter Andrea Marguerite was born in November 1960, I have never written another short story. When I completed
What's Happening?
I had just passed my 23rd birthday.



Agony strained through the gritted teeth of the woman lying on the bed. Glenn turned from the window. He gazed down compassionately. Her face was rippled with pain and fear and helpless resignation. Glenn reached for her hand. She loosed her grip on the bedpost and grasped his wrist, squeezing some of her pain into him. He wanted to take more of it, to take it all.

Glenn's eyes slid over her form to the swollen spot in the blanket that was her stomach. Come on. Come on. He thought of the nursery rhyme “Come Out. Come Out”, except now is was whatever you are. Come out now. His jaw set hard, angered at his inability to help her, ease her travail.

“It's okay”, she murmured, her grip relaxing as pain subsided. Her mouth flickered a vague smile. Her eyes batted closed a couple of times as she began to sink down again into that needed, wanted, half drugged sleep of relief.

Glenn turned to the window again, peering down into the night blackness dotted by streetlights and headlights of passing cars.

Someone knocked softly on the door. Glenn turned. Doctor Moore entered. The Doctor was a tall, slim, middle aged woman with a plain, serene face. She studied the sleeping figure for a moment, then motioned Glenn to accompany her outside.

“Mr. Alexander …” The Doctor studied his face. “… now she's all right. There's nothing to worry about. It's the normal labor. I don't think, though, that she'll have the baby just yet—not for some hours. She's under heavy sedation, so she'll probably sleep for some time—perhaps two more hours. I don't think she'll have the baby before then. She's doing just fine though”. The Doctor's mouth eased into a pleasant, brief smile. Her eyes were soft, understanding. “I'm going to leave for a little while”, she said. “One of my brothers passed away. The funeral service is …”.

“Oh, I'm terribly sorry …”

The Doctor smiled more briefly than before. It was a patient, yet tinged with sadness, smile.

“The funeral service is this evening. I'm going to leave for a little while. Your wife is going to be just fine. Don't worry, I'll be back before the baby gets here”.

“That's all right. Should I stay here?”

“Well, as I say, she's under pretty heavy sedation. Perhaps you can go and have a little dinner, come back a bit later. When you come back, just knock on the door at the entrance to this section. The nurse will take care of you”.

“Thank you, Doctor”.

The Doctor turned and walked toward the end of the hall.

A nurse helped Glenn remove the white smock he had been provided and held his jacket for him. He slipped into the jacket and walked through the quiet hall toward the elevator.

A few people sat at the bar, their conversation blending into a monotone of murmur. Glenn sat at the end of the bar, near a window, sitting sideways to look out at the passing traffic. He drank absently, munching on peanuts.

From the corner of his eye, Glenn caught a glimpse of a dark, hunching figure scurrying like a rat flushed from a tenement. The figure darted from the east side of Third Avenue across toward the west side. As Glenn's eyes snared the figure, his stomach tightened. Something was wrong—something incongruous—traffic was flowing—headlights shone all about and bore down on the silhouetted scurrying figure, hunched over, not looking at the traffic. The shadow of the figure and the hurtling juggernaut of cars blended into horrible focus. The figure was going to be run down!! A fantasia of white eyed monsters rose up to surround the frail, running specter. The figure, finally aware, eluded one onrushing car. Good Lord!—another car!! The figure disappeared. There seemed to be a white flash. A woman's pocketbook spun crazily in the air.

“Oh my God—Jesus Christ”, Glenn screamed, jumping from his seat.

The bartender spilled a drink on the bar, spinning with fright.

Glenn rushed out the door, looking to where the figure had been, a pocketbook lay in the street. A cab with a crushed hood was stopped in the middle of the street, the radiator fan rapping against something metal, water draining from beneath the engine. Off to the right, another fifty feet in the direction the cab had been going, a twisted, writhing mass lay sprawled on the white line of the avenue. It struggled, fought itself to a sitting position. Two men ran to the young woman, helped her to her feet. Each took an arm, supporting the limping, falling, lurching, staggering figure. Her head hung forward inertly on her neck.

“Daddy, … oh, Daddy, … Daddy”, she wailed mournfully. “Help, Daddy …”

“Put her down … put her down”, someone on the sidewalk advised.

“Don't let her walk … let her lie there”, called another.

A curious crowd milled around, gawking at the spectacle, as the two men eased the figure back down. On closer look, she was only a girl, about fifteen years old, dressed in jeans and a school sweat shirt. A man walking a dog spread his coat over her.

“Ohhh, … ohhh …” Her pained sobs pierced the murmur of the crowd. The girl's eyes were shut, her head twisting from side to side trying to shake the pain out.

Glenn ran to the light-green metal police call box on a lamp post and jiggled the receiver bar.

“Thirteenth Precinct”.

“A woman's just been hit with a car”, Glenn shouted. “… at Third Avenue and Seventeenth Street. You better send an ambulance right away. My God—she was mangled. Hurry”.

“Your name?”

“What the hell's the difference what my name is—Glenn Alexander—an ambulance. Hurry”. Glenn hung up the phone, sure the girl would be dead before the ambulance arrived.

“Ohhh. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy …”, she screamed in pathetic torment, her head writhing from side to side.

“It's all right, baby. I'm here”.

A kid, a boy, maybe fifteen, with sideburns and a square-back haircut, knelt on the street next to her, nervously rubbing her hand. “It's Eddie, baby. I'm here”.

The kid was trying to be brave, comforting. He was hardly able to overcome his own fright.

Glenn had seen the boy in the neighborhood before—poor, badly clothed, digging rock and roll, hunched over a little to look tough. This must be her boyfriend, Glenn thought. Poor kid—her insides must be crushed—left only to the frightened sympathy of a helpless kid.

“Call an ambulance. Call an ambulance”.

“It's on the way”, Glenn called out.

“Ohh … ohh …” Blood dribbled out of her mouth. Her head rolled from side to side on a newspaper someone placed under her head. Her hair streaked a design in the blood. The right side of her face looked mashed and pulpy, the right eye smaller than the left.

The crowd surged around tight, everyone both grieving and fascinated. Yet no one could relieve or share her anguish one whit. Glenn was rankled by his impotent bystanding at this unshrouding of life.

“Ohh, Daddy, … Ohh, help me. please help me …”.

“Why don't you call her father, Eddie?” Glenn whispered into the boy's ear.

The boy whirled about. “Shh, what's a matter wid you?” He gaped at Glenn. “Her old man died a month ago. Just like that, a heart attack”. Eddie's eyes swam with fright.

Glenn's stomach tightened harder with thousands of little, cold knots.

“Ohh. please Daddy, … don't let it hurt, Daddy, … don't let them hurt me, … don't let them hurt me, … please don't let it hurt … please …”. She was screaming in agony now.

“It's all right, honey. It's all right, I'm here”. Eddie rubbed her hand frenziedly.

The cab driver stood on the side, writing the names of the four girls that had been passengers in his cab. He glanced nervously from time to time at the girl laying on the street. His passengers were young girls, dressed up, going to a Saturday dance or something. They looked a little sick.

“Anybody else see this?” the cabbie asked the crowd. Police sirens cut into the night from far down the avenue. The cabbie rubbed his face nervously.

“I did”, said Glenn, walking toward the cabbie. The cabbie scribbled Glenn's name.

Two cops arrived in a squad car. They moved the crowd back, put a blanket over the girl, knelt and inspected her head. The younger cop looked to his partner. He lifted his eyebrows and nodded. The younger cop called the precinct on his car radio, then began asking the crowd for details. The older cop knelt next to the girl, trying to comfort her, watching her wriggle.

Can't anybody do anything for her, Glenn's screamed inside his head.

Finally, an ambulance arrived. The attendants perfunctorily lifted the girl onto the boards of a stretcher.

“Eddie. Eddie, … don't leave me. Eddie”. She still hadn't opened her eyes.

“Yeah. Eddie's right here … here he is”, the older cop said absently as he held up one end of the stretcher.

Eddie was looking around, hopelessly, embarrassed, searching for her shoes which the cops had removed.

“Eddie … Eddie, my shoes. Somebody took my shoes. Don't leave me, Eddie”.

“He isn't leaving”, the older cop assured her.

Eddie followed the stretcher to the ambulance, looking on, wondering what he could do.

The red light spun on the top of the ambulance; the siren wailed into the night; the crowd lining the sidewalk hesitated a moment, muttered, and dispersed.

Glenn stood alone; traffic streamed again on Third Avenue. He looked at his watch. The two hours were up. He'd have to get back to the hospital.

It was early morning now. The grey dawn was being forced higher into the sky by the light blue day. Glenn, sitting in the main reception area of the lobby, started to flip through “The Mirror” again for the tenth time, trying to find a story he might have missed. Once in a while, a phone rang softly and a nurse would answer. Occasionally, the vault-like elevator door slid open and soft footsteps disappeared into a corridor.

A cab pulled up to the front entrance. Glenn glanced up and watched as the driver pulled away from the curb and maneuvered back and forth. He stopped several feet from the curb. The cabbie got out and opened the passenger door closest to the curb. An old woman in the cab had crutches. The cabbie lifted her legs one at a time over the door sill and into the street. The woman propped herself up on the crutches, paid the cabbie, then hobbled toward the hospital entrance. Her left foot was twisted away from her body, pointing almost 90 degrees from the direction in which she was headed. Her right leg was thick, bandaged; the bandage seemed soaked with a stain of fresh blood at the shin. She tried to balance herself on the crutches and pull open the door. Wind held it shut. Glenn rushed to the door and opened it.

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