1923: The Gatsby Run

Jake D'Avanzo, guest writer

Throughout the commotion of the Roaring 20s lies an 18 year old teenage boy, Nathan James. The events that have occurred throughout Nathan’s life have been far from advantageous. His mother died during labor and his father died in WWI when he was only 9 years old. He was then raised in an orphanage, with hundreds of other boys from newsboys as old as 18 (History). In the blink of an eye, he was one of those boys and had to leave the orphanage. So, here he is, in the year 1923, a poor boy on the streets of Manhattan. Nathan wonders where God’s compassion could be that he was told of in Isiah 31:18. It says, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefor he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.” Now, Nathan is tired of waiting for God and takes matters into his own hands. He soon realizes the rapid financial and economic growth of the so-called Roaring 20s. Invest! Trade! Sell! Business was booming all around, but he constantly thinks of what trend he should invest in. Nathan, who has very little-to-no money, notices a boy his own age selling news papers on Broadway Street that runs through Manhattan.
“Any chance I could have 10 of those papers?”
“10? You got 10 quarters on ya?”
“Does it look like I do? Listen, uhh…”
“Reggie White.”
“Reggie, I have no money, I’m just in need of some papers for an investment. I’ll pay you back by tomorrow with fifty-cent interest.”
“Who exactly are you?”
“My name is Nathan James.”
Reggie looked Nathan up and down, giving a thorough and thoughtful look as he came to a decision.
“Well Nathan, I’m goin’ out on a limb here, but you got yourself a deal!”
The two shook hands with their faces full of smiles, and in that moment the two of them became the best of friends.
By the next day, Nathan was able to make a dollar profit and pay Reggie back every bit of the loan along with the fifty-cent interest.
“You sure are a natural at being a newsboy. Do you want to partner up and be my business partner?”
Without hesitation, Nathan took the opportunity.
“When do we get started, Reggie?”
“Today, of course! First, papers are needed, but money is needed for papers. So what I’m currently doing is stealing the tips from the diner down on 34th street. It’s easy money. Where do you think of getting your own cash and dash (Robberies)?”
Nathan paused in shock. He remembered the Bible text he was taught at the orphanage when he was just a boy.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. But then again, it’s just business.
“The Gatsby?”
“Are you crazy? Nathan, we are talking about small amounts, not big bucks. No way man, too risky.
“Come on, Reggie, no risk-no reward, am I right? Besides, practically everyone there is intoxicated (Avey).”
“Fine, but if this does not go smoothly, never again. You hear me? One chance, and one chance only.”
As the sun set, lights covered the streets and the main theater doors were opened by the owner, Mr. Jennings. Within minutes, the auditorium flooded with elegant, wealthy people. As the seats filled inside, Nathan darted through an alleyway, climbed up a brick wall, and pushed through a side window that appeared to be in a janitor’s closet. He sneaked his way onto the balcony and quickly snatched a necklace right off of one of the onlookers. He swiftly slipped off the balcony and back toward the window, but on his way out, something—someone—caught his eye. In just a moment, Nathan caught a glimpse of a girl who made his heart skip a beat.
“Hurry up, Nathan!”
Shaken, Nathan quickly came to his senses after hearing Reggie’s frantic voice.
“What was taking so long?”
“Nothing, don’t worry about it. Let’s cash in this necklace and buy our papers in the morning.”
At 6:00 A.M. sharp, Nathan went with Reggie to buy his daily newspapers. By the end of the day, all his papers were sold along with a $7 profit.
“Business is booming my man! Are you going to make another Gatsby run tonight?”
“Is it necessary? I have $7 right here.”
“The only reason you have those $7 is because of the Gatsby.”
“Alright, I’ll do it tonight.”
Nathan went through an identical routine. As the sun set, the auditorium began to fill, and the Gatsby began. Nathan went through the window, but this time, he was intrigued not by the performance, but once again by the girl. She sat on a personal balcony, all on her own. As Nathan glanced over, she got up and left. Realizing precious time was wasted, he snatched up loose earrings from inside the purse of a wealthy woman. Anxiously heading back towards the window, Nathan bumped into someone.
“I’m so sorry, I uh…”
Though, it was as if his words were frozen. There she was, perfect hair, flawless face, innocent eyes, but at the same time, she terrified him.
“Oh, it’s okay, um…”
“Nathan James”
“Well, Nathan James, you are excused.”
A quick pause lingered between the two for a second, but to Nathan it felt more like an eternity. As she walked away, almost out of sight, Nathan nervously yells, “ Hey, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Jess, Jess Jennings.”
Jess Jennings, that name rang in his head as he walked back down the alleyway.
Weeks went by as this became a regular routine for Nathan and Jess. Nathan would break into the Gatsby, steal a small item from the audience, and then go talk to Jess by the janitors closet. Jess would notice his dirty clothes, but never premised for Nathan to be a thief.
One night, Nathan went on with his usual routine. He broke in, snatched up a bracelet from the public balcony, and headed back to the janitor’s closet. Though, this time, Jess approached Nathan, but seemed nervous.
“Jess, is something wrong?”
“No, of course not, I was just…”
“Just what?”
“I was wondering if you wanted to come to the next Gatsby show with me tomorrow night.”
“Yes! I mean, yeah sounds cool.”
“Alright! I’ll see you at the entrance at 8:00 P.M.”
At the end of the alley stood Reggie anxiously waiting.
“Why do you seem to be in the best mood? Better have stolen something nice for as long as you were taking.”
“I’m sorry, Reggie, I got this ruby bracelet, but that’s not why I’m happy, I ran into the most amazing girl. She invited me to the Gatsby tomorrow night!”
“Oh yeah? Tell me more about her.”
“Well I haven’t told you, but every time I steal from the Gatsby shows, we talk for at least fifteen minutes every time and today we crossed paths while heading for the window. Her name is Jess, Jess Jennings.”
“Wait. Jess Jennings! Do you realize who she is?”
“Nathan, she is Mr. Jennings daughter, the owner’s daughter.”
“No, are you for sure?”
“Yes, I am positive. I have heard of her from the other newsboys. Nathan, you don’t stand a chance with her. I mean, look at us! Do not allow this fling to become a distraction, business is—”
“Booming, business is booming, I know.”
“Good, now go to that Gatsby tomorrow night with her and stick to the plan Nathan.”
The next day, Nathan cashed in the bracelet and took his dirty money to the Kingsman suit store. Spending the majority of his earnings, he purchased a tailored, fitted black suit.
“You got this, Nathan. This is by far your biggest investment yet. Don’t mess this up.”
The two departed as Nathan made his way toward the Gatsby.
“Well, Nathan, right on time, 8:00 P.M.”
Nathan nervously puffed his chest out to portray his confidence and turned to face Jess Jennings.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world, Jess.”
His business-focused mind soon shattered while he fell for her more and more. The two walked into the show hand in hand and took their seats on their own personal balcony overlooking the stage.
“Nathan, this is my father.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Son, I have heard a lot about you from Jess.”
Nathan, full of smiles, looks over at the blushed-faced Jess.
“Thank you, Mr. Jenkins, it’s truly an honor, Sir.”
“The pleasure is mine. Now you two enjoy the night, just don’t have too much fun.”
“Dad, leave.”
The chuckles of Mr. Jenkins faded away as the show began. Jess and Nathan, still hand in hand, were having the time of their lives. It seemed as if the world was at halt for them.
“I could get used to this.”
“Me too, Nathan, for a long time.”
As they shared an unfathomable connection, nothing could ruin this moment—except for Nathan’s greed.
A fifteen-minute break was given halfway through the show.
“I’m going to use the restroom, Nate, I’ll be right back.”
Nathan patiently waited, but his curious eye looked toward her purse. Diamond earrings and a gold necklace-she had it all. He went to take her purse but paused.
Is this really what I need? If steal her purse, I will lose Jess, but if I don’t take her purse, I will still be a poor boy in his newsboy cap. Yes, I must. I need the money.
Nathan took off in a full sprint out of the balcony. One of the men in the audience yelled, “Police! That young man is stealing Jess Jenkins’ purse!”
A dozen officers began running after Nathan. As he dodged through the crowd, he sprinted back upstairs and dove into the janitor’s closet. The men of the law ran past the closet, unaware of the thief who hid inside.
“I’ve done it,” whispered Nathan as he slowly opened the door.
Rounding the final corner, Nathan bumps into a calm, sad, disappointed man, Mr. Jenkins.
“Nathan, this is not the life you want to live.”

Works Cited
Avey, Tori. “The Great Gatsby, Prohibition, and Fitzgerald.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 14 May 2013, www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/great-gatsby-prohibition-fitzgerald/. Web. Monday, February 12, 2018.
History.com Staff. “The Roaring Twenties.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, web. Monday, February 12, 2018.
“Robberies.” Crime in the 1920s, crimeinthe1920s.weebly.com/robberies.html. N. D. Web. Monday, February 12, 2018.
Bennett, Jenn author. Bitter Spirits. Berkley Sensation, New York, 2013. Print.
Alchin, Linda. “1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition.” 50 Roaring Twenties Facts: US History for Kids ***, Siteseen Limited, 9 Jan. 2018, prohibition-era/roaring-twenties.htm. Web. Monday, February 12, 2018.