In the 1969 movie “Midnight Cowboys,” Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso Rizzo, a New York street conman befriends naïve Texas cowboy played by Jon Voight. The latter’s character had gone to the city to hustle his living but finds himself out-hustled by the crippled Rizzo who also suffers from TB or pneumonia—result of a tough street life.   

I always remembered this movie….

In 1985, while teaching school, in one of the worst years in my personal life, I lost  20 pounds…became ill… but kept trying to go into school and do my job. Sometimes, I’d stand at the chalkboard and proceed to cough, uncontrollably. My kids (7th and 8th graders) would say “Miss Mellor (you’re always a “miss”—no matter how many times you’ve been married,) you’ve got A-mmonia.”

Finally, I went to a doctor who confirmed what my kids apparently knew: “Mrs. Mellor…You’ve got pneumonia.”

During that period, I felt a kinship with Ratso Rizzo for his vulnerability…his weakened condition…the life situations that can kill.

That year I seriously doubted whether I’d make it.

From “In the Shadow of Princes”…a future book, about a girl raised in a family of male superstars….

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