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Altogether Ooky

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Steve has just turned seven when his mother dies. The parish priest performs her funeral, then ensures that all her things are sold and the money set aside for Steve. There isn’t much, so after his mother is buried at Holy Cross, he goes to St. John’s Home for Boys, just a few blocks away on Troy Avenue. On his second day there, he gets into a fight with an oversized nine-year-old who was picking on a five-year-old and Bucky Barnes (age eight, left behind when his older sister married and moved away with her new husband) comes flying in to help. Between the two of them the older boy takes a licking, and after the scrum, they shake hands and are immediately the best of friends.

Bucky sells newspapers - the Daily Eagle - to make pocket money and Steve starts going with him. They sometimes go to lessons in the afternoons but mostly they don’t; instead, they run wild across the neighborhoods like so many other children their age. Despite the neverending ache of missing his mother, Steve enjoys an almost idyllic four months in the constant company of Bucky Barnes.

And then it’s November and they’re all shivering in too-thin worn-out hand-me-downs and folding up newspapers to tuck in their shoes to try and keep out the cold and the snow, and three days before Thanksgiving, a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost pulls up in front of the orphanage. The driver gets out and opens the back door, and the boys who are watching will always remember that he was the tallest and strangest man any of them have ever seen.

The man who gets out of the back seat is fairly conventional, as rich men go: a black pinstriped suit, shiny shoes with spats, a tall, shiny black hat, a very thin mustache, and a fat cigar. The boys can’t imagine why he’s there, unless it’s to donate money. A man like that doesn’t adopt an orphan boy.

The man enters the main hall of the orphanage and is met by the brown-robed Brother Mark, who shakes his hand and seems a bit dazzled and confused by the man’s effusive demeanor. “Gomez Addams,” the man introduces himself. “I’m looking for a boy. My cousin’s boy. We just heard he was here and I’ve come to take him home.”

“Certainly, we’ll be happy to - if you know his name?”

“Steven,” Gomez Addams replies. “Surname Rogers.”

Brother Mark nods, pointing to one of the loitering boys. “David, do you think you can find Steven Rogers?”

“Oh, sure,” David replies. “He’s at the sandlot with Bucky Barnes. I’ll go get him.” David takes off running, and Brother Mark invites Gomez Addams into his office to take a seat and have a drink.

After about half an hour, David comes back again, and he’s followed by Steve and Bucky, who are clasping each other’s hands and looking frightened. The rest of the boys all watch as Gomez Addams hitches his trouser legs and crouches down to put himself on Steve’s eye level. “Your father was my cousin, Steven,” he says. “I’m your Uncle Gomez. And I’d like you to come and live with me and my family.”

Steve’s eyes go big. “Really?”

“Oh, yes,” Gomez Addams replies, grinning around his cigar. “We have a big house over in Flatbush, and you’ve got an Aunt Morticia there, and an Uncle Fester, and Great Auntie Eudora, and two cousins your age to play with - Pugsley and Wednesday.”

Steve’s face falls, just a little. “Oh, but. But I play with Bucky.”

“Bucky, eh?” Gomez Addams leans a bit to the side, studying Bucky. “Likely looking boy, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” Bucky says stoutly.

Gomez Addams considers him for a moment, then says, “How do you feel about an octopus?”

“Oh, they’re keen,” Bucky says. “I saw one at Coney Island once, with all the legs.”

“We’ve got one called Aristotle,” Gomez Addams replies. “Would you want to come home with Steven and see him?”

“Well, sure!” Bucky exclaims.

Gomez Addams stands up. “Steven, do you need to get anything before we go?”

“Yes, sir,” Steve pipes. “My baseball cards and a picture of my Ma.”

“And you, Bucky?”

“No sir,” Bucky replies. “I got my marbles right here.” He pulls a threadbare bag out of his pocket and displays it proudly.

“Go get your things, Steven,” Gomez Addams says, smiling around his cigar. “I’ll wait for you in the car.” He claps a hand on Bucky’s shoulder. “Come along, son, you can wait with me.”

The boys all follow them out, swarming around the car to examine it and ask loud, fast questions of both owner and driver. The driver says nothing, though he does smile at them, but Gomez Addams patiently answers all their questions.

And then Steve arrives with his cards and picture clutched to his chest and Gomez Addams helps him into the car to sit beside Bucky. He climbs in as well, the driver shuts the door, and moments later, the car is gone.

It’s only then that Brother Mark seems to realize that Gomez Addams took two boys when he should only have taken one.