Sebastian Holst

Son of Painter Beate Wheeler Holst and Writer Spencer Holst
Lived at Westbeth from 1970 to 1984

[1973]

He was out-of-his-head-crazy-mad — there really was no other way to describe him; and the gun he was waving in our nine- and ten-year-old faces didn’t soften his image one little bit. We were cornered on the street-side edge of the “third floor” Westbeth roof. It was late, dark, and cold with a thin coating of snow blanketing the tar-covered floor under our feet. Our backs were pressed against the low rise parapet that had, until only seconds before, hidden us from the dozens of cars that we had been pummeling with gravel-filled snowballs for most of the night. Now, lined up against the wall as we were, execution style, with piles of snowballs waiting to be thrown clearly visible behind our little heads, that very same roof wall seemed to visibly fuel the rage inside our armed, angry, and — most likely — stoned intruder.

“They’re just keedz, man — what are you doing? They’re just keedz!” Andre was pleading our case and, quite possibly, for our lives as best as he could in his heavily French-accented English. Andre was a Westbeth guard and, in a misguided attempt to put an end to our childish shenanigans, he had led this latest victim of our snowball assaults right to us. I imagine Andre had a love-hate relationship with us — but not necessarily in equal proportions and probably not in that order.

We did our part to save our skins — we cried and begged for mercy. He’d say something like: “Do you know who you’re fucking with? I’ll kill you all right here and now!” And we’d come back with: “We’re sorry; we didn’t know!” And Andre kept reminding him of how young we all were.

As furious as this man was, eventually even he started to have second thoughts about killing four kids and a guard over snowballs — or, who knows, maybe he just wasn’t sure that he had enough bullets to finish us all off. He agreed to let us go but swore that if he ever saw us on the street, he would kill us on sight. We thanked him profusely for his mercy and ran from the roof as fast as our legs would carry us. But we didn’t go too far beyond the stairwell door.

Andre led our new friend down a second stairwell and back out onto Bank Street, where he had left his car, directly under our rooftop. When we heard the second stairway door close, we all ran back to our original positions — and we waited. We waited until he sat himself behind the wheel of his ride, and then we unloaded. We shelled him with everything we had — with the very snowballs that had taunted him behind our little heads just minutes before. He exploded from his car, gun drawn, looking for a target — but we were already long gone, home to bed. It was, after all, a school night.

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