“A most dreadful thing happened – the glass in the door splintered right before our faces, and the Raspberry Kid disappeared into a bush.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 4, 1937.

“Have you noticed,” inquired Jimmie Frise, “a boy around this neighborhood, a kind of a big kid for his age…?”

“You mean the one with the loud voice?” I asked.

“Loud voice,” agreed Jim, “and red hands and insolent manner.”

“The Raspberry Kid, I call him,” I said. “Every time he passes me on the street, he lets go a quiet but none the less disrespectful raspberry.”

“That’s the kid,” cried Jimmie. “And he bullies all the smaller children. And every time you see him, he is doing something he shouldn’t. Yesterday I looked out the back window and saw him cutting a stick out of my beautiful orange blossom bush.”

“I caught him throwing rocks at our dog,” I added.

“Last week,” stated Jim, “I actually caught him in my garage cutting a couple of short lengths of rubber hose off my garden hose. For new handle-bar grips for his bike, if you please!”

“Why didn’t you give him a licking, there and then?” I protested.

“I asked him,” said Jim, “why he didn’t I cut up his own hose at home, and he said his father wouldn’t let him.”

“Ah, his father,” I agreed. “Hmmmm.”

“His father,” stated Jim, “is that biggish, sulky-looking man that drives the green car. They live down at the foot of the street.”

“I know him,” I assured him. “I figured he was the father of the Raspberry Kid by the resemblance.”

“You hardly know what to do with a kid like that who has a father like that,” ruminated Jim. “It’s a kind of a ticklish problem.”

“I don’t think,” I admitted, “that I would care to get into any kind of a muss with that father.”

“He looks,” said Jim, “as if he would just clip you and then mow you down.”

“Yet probably,” I presumed, “he wouldn’t.”

“I’ve seen him for the past year,” said Jim, “and passed him maybe twenty times. And every time, he looks straight at me, never a smile, but just a cold, straight personal look, as if he were sizing me up for a suit.”

“The same here,” I confessed. “I know the feeling exactly. One night, in the cigar store, I said to him, ‘It’s a fine night’, and he took a look out at the weather, and then turned and looked me up and down, from head to foot. That’s all.”

“In a way,” said Jim, “how can you blame a kid for being the way that kid is, if he is born that way. Maybe it runs in the family.”

“If I see him heaving rocks at my dog again,” I said, “I am going to take after him and beat the tar out of him, heredity or no heredity.”

“As a matter of fact, something must be done,” stated Jim firmly. “The reason I brought the subject up was that last night, three of my neighbors called on me to help form a committee to deal with that kid.”

The Raspberry Kid’s Father

“A committee?” I exclaimed. “To deal with a kid?”

“Well, of course, it’s the father they have in mind, the same as us,” explained Jim. “None of them ever met the big guy. They’ve looked him up in the directory, and he is harmless enough. Accountant in an insurance company.”

“Look out for accountants,” I warned. “They lead such a funny life, bent over ledgers all the time, that they are liable to get violent on the slightest provocation.”

“I wish you had been at this committee meeting last night,” said Jim. “We telephoned to all the immediate neighbors of the big guy, and they could give us no information. None of them are on speaking terms with him, though he has lived there three years.”

“Are any of them on your committee?” I asked.

“No,” said Jim, “they said they thought the matter could be better handled by neighbors living a little farther off than them. But they are with us, heart and soul. They say we have no idea what a pest that kid is.”

“Did they say the father was tough?” I inquired.

“They don’t need to say it,” stated Jim. “They can see it, as easy as us.”

“I hate neighborhood rows,” I muttered. “I’d rather keep clear of them. That big bird looks as if he could make it mighty unpleasant for the whole street.”

“What could he do?” demanded Jim.

“Well,” I explained, “if he can make a whole neighborhood self-conscious, without any provocation, what would it be like if we came to an open row with him? If all of us are made to feel intimidated by just passing him on the street or meeting him in a store, how would we feel if war was declared?”

“I wish you would come to my house the next time the neighbors call,” pleaded Jim. “It’s your wits we need. Your foxy way of looking at situations like this.”

“Well, Jim,” I confessed. “I see what you mean, and if you really think I could solve the problem for you, I would be glad to sit in; but strictly on the understanding that I am not involved. Because, after all, he has done nothing to me personally.”

“No?” cried Jim. “Just heaved rocks at your dog. That isn’t personal, of course.”

“I told you what I’d do if I ever catch him again heaving any rocks,” I informed him firmly.

But that very afternoon, as I turned in my own front walk, I was met by a wild scattering of small children who clustered around me for shelter, while out the drive came the Raspberry Kid, armed with a long gad of rose bush, covered with thorns, with which implement of delight he was chasing the entire child populace.

“Ah,” I said, as he skidded to a halt and stood guiltily before me. “Caught red-handed, young man.”

“Thoooop,” he raspberried me.

“Here,” I shouted, “come here!”

But he just turned and started to walk off down the drive, my drive.

“Listen, young fellow,” I roared, “this neighborhood has had enough of your high jinks. We’re going to deal with you.”

“Yah, yah, yah,” the little brat mimicked back, as he vanished around the corner of the house.

“We’re going to call on your father this very night,” I bellowed furiously.

But he was gone.

“Why didn’t you catch him,” demanded the little ones, clinging around me, “and spank him?”

“You can’t spank other people’s children,” I explained gently.

“You spanked me one time,” protested my little friend, Billie.

“Ah,” I elucidated, “but your daddie and I are the best of friends. See?”

But I am afraid they did not see, for they fell away from me rather embarrassed and looking down and away, and at supper I caught my own boys looking at me with a strange surmise. So when Jim telephoned to say another committee was gathering at his house in a few minutes, to decide on immediate action, due to several outrages committed during the day. I agreed to attend.

And such is the power of eloquence, I found myself gradually being jockeyed into a position of direct relationship to the problem. A man with the gift of speech must be very guarded. I think that in cases of this sort the gathering should be divided into two sections. Those who can speak should do the speaking. Those who can’t speak should be the ones to take action as the result of the speaking. Don’t you think so?

There were half a dozen quiet, angry men there, at Jim’s, but it was not they who were elected to act as a committee to wait upon the father of the child. It was Jimmie and me.

“What would be the good,” demanded one of those wordless birds, “of any of us going when we couldn’t speak? All we’d do would be to get into a fight.”

So Jimmie and I went.

We left the committee at Jim’s, waiting, in case there was any trouble, in which case they agreed to come if called, and we would gang up on the big guy.

That time of night all little boys should have been in bed, yet Jim and I, as we walked slowly and firmly down to the end of the street, distinctly saw the stocky figure of the Raspberry Kid lurking out amongst the bushes on the lawn of his home.

“There he is,” I hissed.

“He’s hid,” said Jim.

We paused out on the walk and went over briefly what we were to say. We were going to be quite friendly and polite, no anger or provocation in our manner or words, so as to give the big guy no reason for taking offence.

“Okay.” said Jim. And we marched up the walk.

We went up the steps. cautiously.

“You ring the bell,” said Jim.

I reached out and, with a deep breath, pushed the bell.

There was a moment of pause.

Then, a most dreadful thing – the glass in the door, right before our faces, splintered with an awful crash.

“The kid,” gasped Jim. “The kid. I saw him. He threw a stone through it.”

We were really starting off the veranda to chase the kid, where he had been hiding ready to put us in this horrible embarrassment, and when the big man opened the door he might reasonably have supposed we were merely trying to make a get-away.

In fact, now that I come to think of it, we probably did look exactly like two men who had come up and smashed the window and were trying to flee.

But the door opened violently and there stood the big guy in his shirtsleeves.

And behind him, breathless, was the Raspberry Kid, screaming past his father:

“I saw them, daddy. I saw them heave a rock through our door!”

Which so astounded Jimmie and me that we halted in our tracks and just stared.

“Gentlemen,” said the big guy in a deep voice, “this is unthinkable. Unthinkable.”

He had switched on the veranda light and was staring down at the shattered glass while the kid continued to babble: “I saw them; I saw them.”

“How can you explain it?” said the big fellow, whose voice had that deep, kindly quality that is in the voice of the radio singer, Singin’ Sam1. “How on earth can you explain an outrage of this kind?”

Jim and I were too astounded to speak. We just came forward and assembled, as it were, at the foot of the steps.

“I have lived in this neighborhood,” said the big fellow, sadly, “for three years. In all that time not a soul has come to visit me, not a neighbor has spoken to me. I have been greeted with nothing but frosty and bitter looks as I pass you on the streets, and now, now you come and smash my windows.”

He stood there, gazing mournfully down on us like some great human St. Bernard. And the Raspberry Kid, I observed, suddenly and very quietly, sneaked back into the house.

“May we come in?” I asked.

“Most certainly,” said the big fellow, with a great awkward eagerness.

He threw his shattered door wide.

And we went in and explained, to the astonishment of the big fellow, the facts of the broken window to him and recounted, item by item, the depredations and scalawaggery of the Raspberry Kid.

“My, my, my,” said the big man, eyes popping in dismay. “I knew Elmer was an energetic child, and I gathered from his conversation that he was not on the best of terms with the other children of the neighborhood. But I sympathized with them there, gentlemen, because I felt that were some sort of unexplainable antipathy to us on this street.”

“Antipathy?” Jimmie and I cried, reproachfully.

“As I say, everyone seems to regard me with hostility,” said the big fellow.

“Nonsense, my dear sir, nonsense,” Jimmie and I insisted heartily. “It is just one of those false impressions we all get amongst strangers. We can prove it. Put on your coat and come on up and meet some of the neighbors who are at the house. A little party. Come along.”

The big fellow got up with alacrity.

“I’d be only too delighted,” he said in that deep voice. “But first I have a small job to attend to with Elmer.”

He went upstairs and Jim and I sat listening.

But no sounds came.

“He’s a very kindly man,” whispered Jim.

“Maybe,” I said, “he’s got the brat across his knee, holding his mouth with one hand and whaling him with the other. Maybe he’s got the kid’s head muffled in a pillow while he…”

“What a blood-thirsty beggar you are,” said Jim, getting up to listen out the living-room door.

But the big fellow came downstairs, not the least ruffled, and said, as he threw his coat and hat on:

“I think you will have no more trouble with Elmer.”

And after briefly telephoning the hardware store about the broken window he joined us and we went up the street to Jim’s and we had a grand neighborly evening, all about politics and business and things, and Elmer’s name wasn’t even mentioned by anybody.

Editor’s Note:

  1. Singin’ Sam was a popular early radio star, actually named Harry Frankel. ↩︎