If He Hollers, Let Him Go
Phip and Patsy had been going steady for more than a year.
They were both seventeen years old and in their junior
year of high school. They saw each other every day in
school, almost every night and every weekend. Patsy was
short and fat, with dark frizzy hair and a sullen face
that only looked happy when she was with Phip. Phip was
tall and thin, with wiry black curls that rolled all over
his head and an almost vacant look that only changed when
he was with Patsy.
Before they dated each other, Patsy had been known in
the neighborhood as "Push", the gang-bang girl.
Phip had been a wild and stupid hoodlum, always doing
something crazy. After a year though, even the boys who
remembered Patsy's reputation no longer tried to pick
her up. And Phip had become so calm and quiet that almost
everyone had forgotten how he used to behave. When they
were together, Patsy was not plain and sullen and Phip
was not gawky. They created their own fragile little world,
sheltering each other, making each other beautiful.
Phip belonged to a gang named the Falcons, but he was
thinking about quitting. His childhood friends, Billy
and Tommy, who also belonged to the gang, were also thinking
about leaving. But there were obstacles. Other gangs remembered
earlier days, when the three boys were always looking
for trouble. At the same time, some of the Falcons didn't
want them to leave the gang. So the three friends and
their girls slowly became an isolated pocket in the gang,
constantly worrying about how to escape an increasingly
unwanted way of life that was starting to constrict them.
With the exception of Pony, leader of the Falcons, the
gang was disturbed by the problem of Phip, Billy and Tommy,
even though they hadn't said anything to anyone about
quitting. Tom-Tom and his clique of friends didn't like
the three friends and were always trying to start a fight
with them, that only Pony could stop. The rest of the
gang was afraid that if Phip, Billy and Tommy quit, so
would others and then the gang would break up. Only Pony
prevented what could be a confrontation between the gang
and the three friends.
Patsy worried about Phip. Even when she was with him she
often brooded about his belonging to the gang. She remembered
when they first became interested in each other, a warm
summer night when she and Phip were sitting on the Parkway
with some of the Falcons. A rival gang, the Goblins, had
come along looking for trouble and Phip had fought one
of them, pulling his knife and threatening to cut him
if they didn't let the Falcons go. She thought of other
fights....The party in Tommy's basement, the gang's clubroom,
that some of the Counts crashed. Phip tried to protect
her from them and when he pulled his knife he was knocked
unconscious with a chair. Many, many fights. She remembered
the night that she finally got Phip to throw away his
knife. What a night that had been. They were coming out
of the movies....
that a swell picture, Phippy?"
But why do those damn cowboys always get the girl at the
end? It's like there's some kinda law. The hero kills
the bad guy in a gunfight and the girl with big tits falls
all over him."
nice when everybody's happy," she murmured dreamily.
But there's always this bad guy who wants to go straight
an' he gets killed trying to help the good guy, as if
you can never get away from the gang any other way, except
ya mean, Phippy?"
I was just talkin' about the picture."
you liked it, didn't you?"
There was a mild spring breeze and it slightly stirred
the sparse leaves of city Sycamores. Patsy looked around
restlessly as they walked.
are we going now, Phippy?"
don't know. Do you want a soda?"
want to be alone with you. Somewhere where there's no
trouble, just us."
Patsy.... Jesus. One minute you're just talkin' regular
and the next your voice changes an' you say something
like that. Then ya look at me with your eyes all soft....
Where the hell can we go? The only place I can think of
is the clubroom."
there, Phip. I don't want to go there. We can sit on the
really being alone. All the guys an' girls we know comin'
by an' looking at us."
want to be alone with you so bad, Phip. I want to be your
little bunny rabbit, furry and soft and not have anyone
want to be alone with you, Patsy and play rabbit, but
we don't have any goddamn place to be alone together....
Are your folks gonna be up late tonight?"
don't know. Why?"
if they're asleep, we can use the couch in your living
be scared, Phippy. What if they woke up?"
wouldn't wake up once they went to bed, would they?"
be too scared."
it. I wish we had someplace to go."
Patsy waited a moment then changed the subject. "Phippy,
I want to ask you something."
you love me?"
know I do, Patsy. You're all I've got. The only time I
feel good is when I'm with you."
I want you to do something for me."
want you to throw your knife away."
want you to throw it away. I worry about you all the time.
I keep seeing you cutting somebody and getting caught
and going to jail. I don't know how many times I've seen
you put your hand in your pocket to feel your knife. It
scares me to think about your using it and getting into
I carry it for protection. There's a lotta guys who don't
like me, but they know I carry a blade, so they don't
won't know if you stop carrying it. They'll think you
still have it and stay away from you. I'm afraid for you
all the time, Phippy. I'm always afraid something will
happen to you and I'll be left all
Phip tried to dismiss Patsy's fears. "Nothing's gonna
happen to me, Patsy."
of these days the Falcons will get into a big fight and
you'll get hurt."
haven't gotten hurt yet."
you will sometime, or you'll hurt somebody else and get
into real trouble. If you don't have a knife, you won't
be so ready to fight all the time."
saved me from getting hurt lots of times."
you didn't have it, you'd stay away from the places where
you get into fights. And I wouldn't worry the way I do
I don't tell you to worry. And where could I go? The Falcons
are the only guys I know and Billy and Tommy are my only
real friends. Now let's not talk about it anymore. Just
can't. I worry too much to forget it."
Christ! What do you want me to do, quit the gang and all
my friends because you worry?"
been thinking of quitting the gang. I can tell."
hell I have. And stop talkin' about it. One minute you're
telling me you want to be alone somewhere, where we can
make out with nobody botherin' us, an' the next minute
you're nagging me about the gang."
because I love you and worry about you. I don't want to
see you unhappy all the time. I know you don't want to
be in that gang anymore."
stop worrying so goddamn much. If you love me so much,
why don't you think of someplace where we can be alone?"
Patsy was getting more and more upset. "Is that all
you want me to do, think of a place to be alone? You don't
want me to care if you fight or get hurt? You don't want
me to worry if you're in trouble or unhappy? Just find
a place to be alone, Patsy, so we can screw. I thought
you loved me and that it was different with us...."
Phip was unaccustomed to dealing with a distraught girl
and instantly tried to console her. "Aw, Patsy. Don't
cry. Please, baby, stop crying. I didn't mean that. I
want you so bad all the time that it drives me crazy.
Dry your eyes, please.... I'll tell you the truth....
I'd like to get out of the gang, but I don't know how
to do it without getting some of them after me. And there's
a lotta guys from other gangs who'd be looking for me,
once they found out that I quit the Falcons."
you love me and don't want me to be unhappy, you'll throw
your knife away."
you be unhappy if I don't?"
Phippy. And once it's gone, you'll change. You won't be
so quick to get angry and fight. Maybe you'll think more
about leaving the gang."
that's what you really want, baby, I'll throw it away...."
They had been slowly walking while Patsy persuasively
continued her efforts to get Phip to throw away his knife.
Phip stopped at the corner looked at her and said softly:
"I'll drop it down this sewer...."
Phip took out his knife, leaned down and dropped it through
the sewer grate. "Well, it's gone.... It was a real
good knife. I had it for a long time. It's gonna seem
real funny not feeling it in my pocket."
think about it, Phippy. Don't think of it anymore....
go to my house and if my folks are sleeping we can play
rabbit. Let's hurry, Phippy. I want to hold you tight
and feel you next to me...."
So Phip had thrown away his knife. For the next few weeks
he was tense and nervous when he was anywhere but home.
His hand constantly reached into his pocket, searching
for the cold, hard comfort of the knife, twitching when
it wasn't there. Everywhere he went he looked over his
shoulder, seeking lurking foes who might be stalking him,
knowing that he was weaponless. But weeks passed without
trouble and he began to relax. The weight of three years
of gang life, with the constant threat of violence, began
to disappear. Phip became aware that when he threw away
his knife, he lost his willingness to fight. He began
to realize that fighting didn't have to be an everyday
Phip discovered how to laugh happily, no longer as an
idiot attention-seeker, but from enjoyment of things.
When he was with the gang, instead of talking about old
fights and who could take who, he was so casual that the
gang gradually sensed that he didn't want to fight anymore.
His old friends Billy and Tommy, disturbed by personal
problems that were more important to them than the gang,
also lost interest in fighting. So the three friends became
an isolated fragment in the gang's life; unhappy, confused,
but slowly beginning to change and turning to each other
Phip's biggest problem was Patsy. He wanted to be with
her all the time. When he wasn't with her, he couldn't
do his schoolwork and his interest always wandered from
the people he was with. When they were apart he either
flamed with jealous rage, fearing she was with someone
else, or he daydreamed and had fantasies about her, growing
more and more excited as the time to meet came closer.
When they were together, time seemed to pass on rapid,
It always seemed to be a long and desperate wait until
they finally met again. Then the minutes raced away, separating
them so quickly that it felt as if they hardly had any
time together, leaving them to dream of the next meeting.
They had no place to be alone, so when they were together
and thought no one was watching them, they clutched each
other's hands, kissed hungrily, ran curious, shy fingers
on each others bodies. They alternated between tender
brooding and furious tension from wanting each other so
Phip spent many hours thinking about where he could be
alone with Patsy. He couldn't bring her to his house and
he certainly couldn't go to her house, except when she
was baby-sitting. Then they would lie on the couch, always
afraid of waking her little brother, always afraid that
her parents might come home early. They would neck and
rub against each other, until their passion flashed hot
between them, leaving them rumpled, sweaty and always
Then one hot, sleepless night, idly fantasizing on his
tenement house roof, Phip found the answer right under
his nose. There was an abandoned wooden pigeon hut on
the roof, left intact by a former tenant. It was only
closed by a rusty padlock. Phip easily snapped the lock
and discovered what could be a private meeting place,
eight by ten, reeking of pigeon dung, but ready to be
transformed by desire into a lover's hideaway.
The next night, when everyone was asleep, Phip went up
to the roof with a broom, mop, soap and a large pail of
hot water. This was the first complicated sanitary activity
he had ever attempted in his life. He wasn't sure what
to do, so he scraped and scrubbed until even the old paint
flaked off. When he was finished, the tiny hut, already
transformed into a secret cabin on an unscalable mountain,
was clean and ready to be furnished. He obtained an old
mattress, blankets, an oange crate to hold candles and
cigarettes and the mysterious cabin was ready for occupancy.
And Phip knew just how he would introduce Patsy to their
Phip met Patsy the next night at eight o'clock. They went
to Short-arm Louie's candy store, the Falcons' hangout
and sat talking over sodas. When Patsy began to get restless,
they left Short-arm's and went to the parkway, where they
stood around talking to some of the gang. As soon as it
was dark they moved away from the Falcons and sat on a
bench in the shadows between the street lamps that was
partly sheltered from view.
They started necking and soon were breathing heavily,
excited and wanting much more of each other than kisses.
Patsy was just beginning to get tense and irritable, when
I want to take you."
come with me and you'll find out."
honey. But can't you tell me where we're going?"
yet. It's a surprise."
have something for me? A present?"
what is it? Please tell me, Phippy."
can't describe it. When you see it you'll know why. But
I hope it'll make you happy, 'cause if it does, it'll
make me happy too."
Phip stood up and held out his hand. Patsy took it and
got up with a feeling of anticipation that grew as he
led her away to some mysterious destination.
hurry, honey," she urged. "I'm all excited to
see what it is..... Put your arm around me....."
When he obeyed, she whispered: "That feels good."
You shouldn't touch me there, not in the street. There
are people around. Wait 'til we're alone."
hard to keep my hands off you, you feel so good."
know, honey. Sometimes I want to touch you so much that
it could make me cry. But it's never enough just touching
you. I always want more and more. I guess we'll just have
to wait until we find someplace where we don't have to
stop touching each other."
Phip smiled inscrutably. "Yeah. I guess so."
doesn't seem to bother you very much. What are you smiling
about? Tell your baby. Tell your little bunny what makes
her big rabbit smile like that."
find out soon."
Phippy? Is it at your house? Is that where we're going?"
But it's near there."
think you're mean to make me wait. I'm dieing to know
what it is...."
When they turned the corner on Phip's street, Patsy squealed
with delight. "It is your house. That's where we're
We're going in here. Next door."
lives here, Phippy?"
a few more minutes and you'll find out."
He opened the street door and led her inside. "Don't
make any noise going upstairs. Just follow me and don't
They climbed four flights of stairs and Patsy was panting
heavily and moving slowly.
Stop for a minute. I can't catch my breath."
just one more flight."
is it? On the roof?"
We're going to the penthouse."
She looked at him as if he was crazy. "What are you
He opened the sagging door and led her onto the roof.
It was a cloudy night and pitch dark, so he guided her
cautiously. "Careful. Step over this wall.... Wait'll
I get the door open," which he did with a flourish.
can't see a thing," Patsy quavered.
we need is some light then. A match, a candle and presto,
Patsy looked around the small enclosure and pointed. "What's
lives here, Phippy?"
do, Patsy. Whenever we want to be alone."
Phip. Oh, honey. You mean it's ours? Nobody else comes
right. We can be alone here and nobody'll find us."
don't know whether to laugh or cry."
don't you kiss me instead. Then we can lock the door and
put out the candle, get undressed, get into bed and lie
with each other, all naked. No one will bother us here.
We'll play rabbit and I'll hold you so tight that I'll
don't have to hurry anymore, Patsy...."
Phip and Patsy spent many nights in their secret cabin
on the rooftop. And when no one came up and disturbed
them, they began to feel secure. They made love with wild
abandon, burying themselves deep in each others flesh,
calling each other silly names, touching and kissing constantly,
falling upon each other in sudden, urgent hunger, until
the whole world was shut out of their passionate meetings.
After a while, they no longer felt the tension of frustrated
desire and began to discover the deep pleasure of love-making.
They became more intent on pleasing each other. Then they
were able to go to school, meet the gang, or stay at home,
warm and fulfilled, knowing that they would soon meet
again in their refuge; their home.
Phip found it much easier to get along with the gang.
He could talk and joke and casually evade the questions
about where he and Patsy spent so much time together.
He avoided the gang whenever there was going to be a fight
and even left the Parkway when there was too much fooling
around. But he still brooded about belonging to the Falcons
and Patsy still talked to him about quitting the gang.
Billy and Tommy had also stopped fighting and acting wildly.
Only Tom-Tom, who hated Billy, ever said anything challenging,
but the rest of the gang ignored his provocations. Billy
was thinking about going to college. Tommy was planning
to start Radio and Television school. Now Phip was beginning
seriously to think about getting married. When each of
the three friends realized that they wanted a new way
of life, they decided to talk to Pony about quitting the
gang. One night, in Short-arm Louie's, they got their
As usual, Billy spoke for them. "Pony. Me, Phip and
Tommy want to talk to you."
take a walk an' we'll tell you."
Hey, Short-arm. When Jeanie gets here, tell her that I'll
be back in a little while...."
They went outside and walked around the corner and sat
on the low fence of a nearby apartment building.
what's botherin' you guys?" Pony asked.
been thinking about a lotta things lately," Billy
explained. "And we've been finding out all sorts
of new things. I guess we're still pretty mixed up about
some of them, but...."
the speechmakin', Billy, an' tell me what's on your minds."
like this, Pony. We want to quit the Falcons."
Pony nodded that he was aware of their recent restlessness.
long have you guys been thinking about it?"
a long time," Billy answered. "We're tired of
fighting and all the wild things we used to do. We're
changing somehow and it's time for us to get out of the
I knew you guys would want to quit soon," Pony said
thoughtfully. "I've been watching you for a while.
You've been jumpy for months...." He paused, then
looked at them significantly. "Tom-Tom and some of
the boys won't like it if I let you quit. They might want
to do something about it."
you care if we quit?" Phip blurted out.
We've been friends for a long time. If this is what you
guys really want, I won't stop you. I'm just worried about
what the rest of the gang will do."
not worried about them," Billy said. "We're
just concerned about how you feel."
you better worry, cause Tom-Tom an' his friends will be
looking for you, as soon as they find out you quit."
can we do?" Tommy asked.
think there's only one way to handle it," Pony replied.
"This is the end of May. You guys stay in the Falcons
until October or November, whenever it starts gettin'
cold. Once it's real cold, the boys won't be hanging around
outdoors and they'll have time to get used to your being
out of the gang. Until then, you don't have to fight or
even come around all the time, except if we need you.
there another way, Pony?" Phip asked entreatingly.
"Some way we can get out sooner?"
Phip. There's no other way. I've got to think of the gang
too. I won't let it break up. But you guys are my friends
and I'll do anything I can to help you. And you know we'll
still be friends, even after you leave the gang."
Pony," Phip said.
not going to stop being friends just because we leave
the gang," Tommy asserted.
anything else botherin' you guys?"
Pony," Billy answered. "That's all."
I'm going back to Short-arms. Take it easy."
too, Pony," Tommy said.
ya, Pony...." Phip added.
They watched him walk away, then Phip turned to the others.
"I don't know about you guys, but I don't want to
wait that long to get out of the gang."
I tried my best," Billy said defensively. "We'll
have to think of something else."
did good, Billy," Tommy assured him.
you have any ideas, Phip?" Billy asked.
But let's talk it over in a few days. Maybe we can come
up with something. I'll see you guys in school tomorrow."
Phip walked off and Tommy said: "So long, Phip."
you tomorrow, Phip," Billy called after him.
Phip left Billy and Tommy and went home, brooding about
what Pony had told them. October or November was a long
time off and even then there might be trouble with some
of the gang. Besides, Patsy would be too upset if he stayed
in the Falcons for six months, knowing that he would have
to fight if they needed him. He decided that if he, Billy
and Tommy couldn't think of a way out, he would tell Patsy
what Pony said and maybe she could come up with something.
Patsy had been incredibly happy since the night that Phip
had first led her to their secret meeting place. All her
feelings for Phip, which she once held in because of fear
and confusion, now came out with steady growth and fulfilling
passion. She began to develop self-respect and dignity.
Various people she knew sensed the change and treated
her more kindly. It was hard to believe, but life was
becoming beautiful and satisfying, except for Phip's belonging
to the Falcons. That was a constant, gnawing ache. Patsy
had seen boys hurt in gangfights, or arrested by the police.
She knew of boys getting injured, boys getting killed,
boys sent to jail, so she worried all the time. The specter
of the gang was the only haunt in her new-found house
Patsy kept asking Phip to quit the gang. She even nagged
him sometimes. She knew that it annoyed him and she also
knew how bad it sounded, but even when she hated herself
for it later, she had to tell him how she felt. The only
time that she didn't worry was when they were making love.
Then, caught in the slow ascent, moving faster and faster,
shedding the world, just one body in swirling motion,
floating in a delirious limbo, until great spasms of pleasure
brought them back to earth panting, silent and complete.
But soon afterwards, the disturbing thoughts came back,
keeping one part of Patsy completely insecure, always
fearing that something bad would happen to Phip.
A few days after their meeting with Pony, Phip met Billy
and Tommy to talk about their problem, but they couldn't
find any solution. So that night, when Phip and Patsy
were secure in their little cabin, he told her what Pony
had told them. She couldn't think of anything specific
that would help, but kept insisting that he avoid meeting
anyone in the gang....
Listen to me," Phip said reassuringly. "I want
to quit the gang. I don't want you to have to worry all
the time. I don't want to fight or act wild with them."
just don't go near them and they'll leave you alone."
believe me. They won't. I go to school with them. I eat
lunch with them. I go home with them. Every time I go
out of the house I meet some of them. They don't want
me to quit and I can't hide from them. Do you know what
they'd do to me if I quit now?"
if they make you fight and you get hurt?"
I'd get hurt, maybe. But if I tried to get out now, they'd
beat my brains out every day until they got tired. I guarantee
you that some of those guys wouldn't get tired for a long
you're going to stay in the Falcons?" Patsy asked
nothing else I can do, baby. I'll stay in the gang 'til
winter, then quit with Billy and Tommy."
and Tommy. You're always talking about Billy and Tommy.
Why can't you do it by yourself?"
if we don't stick together, Tom-Tom and his boys will
kick our asses one at a time. If we quit at the same time,
the gang'll know that Pony's letting us. Then only two
or three guys at most would help Tom-Tom and we can handle
them. Do you understand
Phippy. I don't mean to nag you. I love you so much. I
don't want you to get hurt. That's why I say those things."
going to happen to me, baby. You'll see how fast the time
passes. Then it'll be all over and we'll be together,
with nothing to bother us."
just wish it was now, Phippy. I'm still afraid."
So the summer passed, with bouts of tension and alarms.
Patsy worried and Phip brooded, but they were happy with
each other. Patsy looked forward to the time when Phip
would be free of the Falcons. All Phip thought about for
the future was to finish school, get a job and get married.
And all Patsy thought about was Phip, Phip, Phip.
Phip kept thinking about marriage, Billy was planning
on college and Tommy was ready to start Radio and TV school.
The three friends found themselves outgrowing the boys
and girls around them, who were only interested in having
a good time, with lots of excitement and no thought for
the future. The friends began to talk to each other about
serious problems, hopes and ambitions. They were no longer
just simple hoodlums, full of curses and violence. Even
though they had been friends since grade school, they
found new worlds in each other and became closer than
ever. August ended and Phip was almost content with his
girl, his dreams and his friends.
One night, early in September, Phip and Patsy were going
to meet Billy and Tommy on the Parkway. They walked slowly,
arms around each other, enjoying what might be the last
of the warm evenings of summer. When they turned onto
the Parkway, they saw a large crowd gathered near the
benches where the Falcons hung out. Then they saw Billy,
who always had a quick retort, who was always sarcastic
and clever, whether he was afraid, happy or angry. He
came staggering towards them. Tears were making shiny
streaks on his face. His body was shaking and his arms
were twitching in spastic movements.
Phip called out in alarm. "What is it? What's wrong?"
the matter? What happened?"
dead, Phip. He's dead," Billy mumbled in a broken
Billy? Tell me."
Tommy. He's dead. He's dead."
was stunned. "No. It can't be."
is. He's dead."
Billy pointed. "He's lieing in the gutter. They put
a sheet over him, Phip. They covered Tommy with a white
gotta see him. Take it easy now, Billy...."
Phip rushed through the crowd and Billy followed. They
knelt by the body and Phip pulled the sheet back. "It
is Tommy. Oh my God. It's Tommy."
A police officer noticed them at the body. "Get the
hell outta here, you kids."
Patsy had followed them and pleaded: "Let them stay,
officer. He's their closest friend."
have to see him later, girlie. Get them away from here
Billy. Come with me," Patsy said. She took them each
by an arm and led them off. "Come sit down on the
bench," she urged.
happened, Billy?" Phip asked in anguish. "How
did it happen?"
were sitting on the Parkway, waiting for you, when Tom-Tom
and some of his boys came along. They started fooling
around and made some remarks about us being punks for
wanting to quit the gang. Tommy got angry and wanted to
fight Tom-Tom, but I calmed him down. Then we got up and
walked away. We were crossing the street, when Tom-Tom
yelled that we were too scared to fight. Tommy turned
and started back towards him and got hit by a car. He
must have hit his head when he fell, 'cause the car wasn't
going that fast...." Billy sobbed and Phip could
barely understand him. "Now he's dead and they covered
him with a white sheet."
on, Billy," Patsy said comfortingly. "Me and
Phip will take you home."
Billy looked at her in horror. "He's dead, Patsy.
Our friend Tommy is dead."
on. Let's go home," she murmured.
Patsy slowly led Phip and Billy away. Both of them were
dazed and crying. They got to Billy's house and Patsy
made him promise to go right to bed. They waited until
he went inside, then they went to Phip's house. He said
that he couldn't bear to go inside, so they went upstairs
to their cabin hideaway. The shock was just beginning
to really hit him, and Patsy led him like a child.
He's really dead. We grew up together and he's dead. If
we left the gang he'd still be alive."
wasn't your fault, Phip. There was nothing else you could
do. Come lie down with Patsy. She'll hold you close and
you can cry for Tommy."
dead, Patsy. He wasn't even eighteen. He was going to
TV school in two weeks, and now he's dead.... Why didn't
they let us go...."
know, baby. I know. Come to Patsy and cry for poor Tommy."
He Hollers, Let Him Go
© 2006 by Gary Beck