Born into a family of modest means and respectability, Danny Fisher was gradually driven downward into the world of crime, racketeering, and poverty. His bitterness, his homesickness over the loss of the house in Brooklyn that was given to him for his eighth birthday, and his feud with his harsh father, pulled him one way; his natural decency and his love for a sweet Italian girl, Nellie Petito, pulled him another. Danny was a boxer--a sensational amateur and potential champion--and he might have gone straight had the fight promoters not tried to exert pressure. Nevertheless, the driving force behind Danny's actions was always his sustaining love for Nellie. In a story that is realistic and yet compassionate, Harold Robbins reveals what makes the Danny Fishers what they are.
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Harold Robbins (1916-1997) was a bestselling author whose novels about sex, money, and power were scorned by critics but loved by readers. His most notable books include Never Love a Stranger, The Carpetbaggers, and The Betsy. Several of his novels were made into movies, including A Stone for Danny Fisher, which became the film King Creole, starring Elvis Presley.
Charles Leggett is based in Seattle where he works onstage at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, ACT, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Portland Center Stage, The Empty Space, and Book-It Repertory Company, among many others. Charles' voice work is also featured in the video games Dungeon Siege I and II, and in Hoyle's Casino Empire.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A Stone for Danny Fisher
There are many ways to get to Mount Zion Cemetery. You can go by automobile, through the many beautiful parkways of Long Island, or by subway, bus or trolley. There are many ways to get to Mount Zion Cemetery, but during this week there is no way that is not crushed and crowded with people.
"Why should this be so?" you ask, for in the full flush of life there is something frightening about going to a cemetery -- except at certain times. But this week, the week before the High Holy Days, is one of these times. For this is the week that Lord God Jehovah calls His angels about Him and opens before them the Book of Life. And your name is inscribed on one of these pages. Written on that page will be your fate for the coming year.
For these six days the book will remain open and you will have the opportunity to prove that you are deserving of His kindness. During these six days you devote yourself to acts of charity and devotion. One of these acts is the annual visit to the dead.
And to make sure that your visit to the departed will be noted and the proper credit given, you will pick up a small stone from the earth beneath your feet and place it on the monument so that the Recording Angel will see it when he comes through the cemetery each night.
You meet at the time appointed under an archway of white stone. The words MOUNT ZION CEMETERY are etched into the stone over your head. There are six of you. You look awkwardly at one another and words come stiffly to your lips. You are all here. As if by secret agreement, without a word, you all begin to move at once and pass beneath the archway.
On your right is the caretaker's building; on your left, the record office. In this office, listed by plot number and burial society, are the present addresses of many people who have walked this earth with you and many who have walked this earth before your time. You do not stop to think of this, for to you, all except me belong to yesterday.
You walk up a long road searching for a certain path. At last you see its white numbers on a black disk. You turn up the path, your eyes reading the names of the burial societies over each plot section. The name you have been looking for is now visible to you, polished black lettering on gray stone. You enter the plot.
A small old man with a white tobacco-stained mustache and beard hurries forward to meet you. He smiles tentatively, while his fingers toy with a small badge on his lapel. It is the prayer-reader for the burial society. He will say your prayers in Hebrew for you, for such has been the custom for many years.
You murmur a name. He nods his head in birdlike acquiescence; he knows the grave you seek. He turns, and you follow him, stepping carefully over other graves, for space is at a premium here. He stops and points an old, shaking hand. You nod your head, it is the grave you seek, and he steps back.
An airplane drones overhead, going to a landing at a nearby airport, but you do not look up. You are reading the words on the monument. Peace and quiet come over you. The tensions of the day fall from your body. You raise your eyes and nod slightly to the prayer-reader.
He steps forward again and stands in front of you. He asks your names, so that he may include them in his prayer. One by one you answer him.
My sister's husband.
His prayer is a singsong, unintelligible gibberish of words that echoes monotonously among the graves. But you are not listening to him. You are filled with memories of me, and to each of you I am a different person.
At last the prayer is done, the prayer-reader paid and gone to seek his duty elsewhere. You look around on the ground beneath you for some small stone. Carefully you hold it in your hand and, like the others, one at a time, step forward toward the monument.
Though the cold and snow of winter and the sun and rain of summer have been close to me since last you were here together, your thoughts are again as they were then. I am strong in each of your memories, except one.
To my mother I am a frightened child, huddling close to her bosom, seeking safety in her arms.
To my father I am a difficult son, whose love was hard to meet, yet strong as mine for him.
To my sister I am the bright young brother, whose daring was a cause of love and fear.
To my sister's husband I am the friend who shared the common hope of glory.
To my wife I am the lover, who, beside her in the night, worshiped with her at the shrine of passion and joined her in a child.
To my son -- to my son I know not what I am, for he knew me not.
There are five stones lying on my grave and still, my son, you stand there wondering. To all the others I am real, but not to you. Then why must you stand here and mourn someone you never knew?
In your heart there is the tiny hard core of a child's resentment. For I have failed you. You have never made those boasts that children are wont to make: "My daddy is the strongest," or the smartest, or the kindest, or the most loving. You have listened in bitter silence, with a growing frustration, while others have said these things to you.
Do not resent nor condemn me, my son. Withhold your judgment, if you can, and hear the story of your father. I was human, hence fallible and weak. And though in my lifetime I made many mistakes and failed many people, I would not willingly fail you. Listen to me then, I beg you, listen to me, O my son, and learn of your father.
Come back with me to the beginning, to the very beginning. For we who have been of one flesh, of one blood, and of one heart are now come together in one memory.
Copyright © 1951 by Harold Robbins
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