Mulberry Street

In Mulberry Street, Ben speaks to the audience about a story told by his grandfather shortly before he died about coming as an immigrant to Mulberry Street in New York and encountering a little girl afraid to go into the tenement because, she says, there is something in the dark of the hallway, two floors up, that whispers at her.  Little more than a boy himself, the grandfather agrees to precede the little girl up the stairs.  The light in the second floor hallway had burned out, and the grandfather heard something like a whisper as he stood in the dark, listening, trying to see, and suddenly felt that he had been in this situation before, back in Italy.  He remembered that the boys of his village, Savignano, would go down from their village and up the other side of the gorge to Greci, a village that was mostly Albanian.  When they were younger, they fought with the Greciboys, but as they got older they would sneak over to meet the Albanian girls.  They would meet the girls in an abandoned house halfway up the Greci side of the hill, a dangerous adventure because they might be caught.  One night the grandfather had walked to the abandoned house and heard a whimpering sound, strange and unsettling.  He had a choice:  he could go into the house or he could turn around and go home.  He recalled a story his mother had told him about David being told by the Lord to wait until he heard the wind stirring the tops of the mulberry trees where his enemies were hidden and then to kill all he found.  Perhaps the sound the grandfather had heard  was a ghost, or a girl, or an animal, or a trap.  He hesitated for some time then turned and went home, but he wondered if he’d done the right thing.  Going back in the daylight, he found the house empty except for a small pile of bones, perhaps from a small animal.  Now, in the hallway, he faces an uncannily similar moment of truth and this time he moves purposefully into the darkness.

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