Titee by Alice Dunbar
It was cold that day. The great sharp north-wind swept out
Elysian Fields Street in blasts that made men shiver, and bent
everything in their track. The skies hung lowering and gloomy; the
usually quiet street was more than deserted, it was dismal.
Titee leaned against one of the brown freight cars for protection
against the shrill norther, and warmed his little chapped hands at a
blaze of chips and dry grass. "Maybe it'll snow," he muttered,
casting a glance at the sky that would have done credit to a practised
seaman. "Then won't I have fun! Ugh, but the wind blows!"
It was Saturday, or Titee would have been in school, the big
yellow school on Marigny Street, where he went every day when its
bell boomed nine o'clock, went with a run and a joyous whoop,
ostensibly to imbibe knowledge, really to make his teacher's life a
Idle, lazy, dirty, troublesome boy, she called him to herself, as
day by day wore on, and Titee improved not, but let his whole class
pass him on its way to a higher grade. A practical joke he relished
infinitely more than a practical problem, and a good game at
pin-sticking was far more entertaining than a language lesson.
Moreover, he was always hungry, and would eat in school before the
half-past ten recess, thereby losing much good playtime for his
But there was nothing in natural history that Titee did not know.
He could dissect a butterfly or a mosquito hawk, and describe
their parts as accurately as a spectacled student with a scalpel and
microscope could talk about a cadaver. The entire Third District,
with its swamps and canals and commons and railroad sections, and its
wondrous, crooked, tortuous streets, was an open book to Titee. There
was not a nook or corner that he did not know or could not tell of.
There was not a bit of gossip among the gamins, little Creole and
Spanish fellows, with dark skins and lovely eyes, like spaniels, that
Titee could not tell of. He knew just exactly when it was time for
crawfish to be plentiful down in the Claiborne and Marigny canals;
just when a poor, breadless fellow might get a job in the big
bone-yard and fertilising factory, out on the railroad track; and as
for the levee, with its ships and schooners and sailors, how he could
revel in them! The wondrous ships, the pretty little schooners,
where the foreign-looking sailors lay on long moonlight nights,
singing to their guitars and telling great stories,--all these things
and more could Titee tell of. He had been down to the Gulf, and out
on its treacherous waters through the Eads jetties on a fishing-smack
with some jolly brown sailors, and could interest the whole
school-room in the talk-lessons, if he chose.