The Git-’em-Up Boys

Damon Runyon

All you can see in the papers nowadays is about how the git-’em-up boys are very busy around New York, the git-’em-up boys being a way of saying hold-ups.

A hold-up is a guy who goes around with a big cannister, sticking it in people’s faces, and telling them to git ’em up there, meaning to hold up their dukes. Then the guy goes through their pockets and cleans them, taking their dough, and one thing and another.

It is a very dirty business in every respect because if the git-’em-up guy is nervous the cannister is apt to explode and blow somebody’s block off, then the coppers come running, and make a guy very hard to catch, chasing him plumb out of breath.

Furthermore, there is very little dough in such a racket, especially in New York. A get-’em-up lad may follow some swell-looking duck with spats on for two hours only to find when he finally stands him up that he is nothing but an actor.

So nobody with any sense will be a git-’em-up guy when there are so many other ways of taking people’s dough, such as selling them something or maybe playing them a few cards. The git-’em-up boys you see around nowadays are either saps, or they need a little dough in a hurry.

Back in my old home town out West, a git-’em-up guy has no standing whatever in the community. In fact, our citizens regard such a guy as a person who is too lazy to work at blowing safes, or something that requires a little labor, and we think nothing whatever of sending them to the big house, which is a way of saying the pen, when we catch them.

In nine cases out of ten, a git-’em-up guy is a guy of no principle whatever, and if you do not believe it, look at what happens to my friend Chelsea McBride. You may not think that anybody can ever get so low as to stick up Chelsea McBride, but that is exactly what happens to him, and Chelsea is very indignant about this proposition, indeed.

It seems that Chelsea is going home about three bells in the morning last week with a bundle under his arm, and what is in this bundle but a big bottle of liquor, which a bootlegger friend of Chelsea’s gives him for a cold, and also to drink.

Chelsea lives somewhere along Sixth Avenue, up in the Fifties, and he is walking up the street thinking of nothing much except what a whack he is going to take out of this bottle when he gets home, when all of a sudden a couple of guys bounce around a corner and shove a cannister in his puss, which is a way of saying his face, and then they say to Chelsea, like this:

“Git ’em up!” they say.

Well, Chelsea does not happen to be rodded up, which is a way of saying he does not have a rod on him, a rod being another way of saying a cannister, so naturally there is nothing for him to do but to do like they say.

He sticks up one duke—which is all he can get up on account of the bundle—and then one of the guys takes the bundle from under his arm, so he can get the other duke up, too. Naturally, Chelsea does not wish to lose his bottle of liquor, so he says to the git-’em-up boys like this:

“Boys,” he says, “listen. I am Chelsea McBride,” he says, “well known to one and all. There will be no squawk whatever about this proposition,” he says. “You will find four bucks in my kick, and you are welcome to same, but,” he says, “kindly give me back my hooch as I wish to break up a cold.”

Well, one of the guys takes a good look at him, and then he says to Chelsea like this:

“Aw, shut up!” he says. “Shut up,” he says, “or I’ll bust you one. We got colds to break up, too.”

So they clean Chelsea of his four bucks, and one thing and another, then they give him a jab in the ribs with the muzzle of the cannister, and tell him to fan himself away from there, which, of course, Chelsea does, and glad to got rid of such ornery guys, especially as one says something about how they ought to put the slug on him for not having more dough.

Of course Chelsea does not mind the four bucks as much as he does the bottle of liquor, because you cannot get more liquor so easy nowadays, but there is nothing for him to do but go along.

Well, of course, Chelsea is mighty indignant to think that such a thing can happen to him right here in this town, but there is still more to come. The next night he gets a note from one of these git-’em-up guys, and it seems the guy is very sore at Chelsea, indeed.

“You call yourself a man,” the note says, “and you go around playing dirty tricks on people. I will get you yet. My pal takes one swig of this bum hooch you are carrying around and goes blind because it is nothing but wood alcohol.

“All right. I will settle with you the next time I see you. Your life is not worth a dime from now on.”

Well, Chelsea, says for less than a dime he will leave such a town as New York altogether because it is no fit place for a guy to live in nowadays. If he is not getting stuck up, Chelsea says, he is in danger of drinking bad liquor, and if he is not drinking bad liquor, there is no fun around here, anyway.

It is a tough life any way you look at it, Chelsea says.