Ok, this is a short story I wrote a few years ago for Papotage magazine, one of the few short stories I’ve ever written. Please forgive any spelling, grammer, or sucking errors, I can’t really say I knew what I was doing as a writer back then. But hope you enjoy nonetheless.
The morning I picked my first pocket I had to run a lap around the reservoir just to cool my jets. When I finished running, my breathing slow and laborious, I fished the wallet out of my jeans and looked at its contents. I wasn’t expecting much—pinching off a sleeping commuter at two-thirty on the six train didn’t seem to hold much promise—but when I opened the billfold and pulled out a crinkled fifty and a pair of tickets to an 8:30 movie I was overjoyed. I immediately called up Linda and told her we’d be going on a date that night and I’d be paying for everything. She didn’t believe me and said she’d bring her purse anyway. I’d never even heard of the film on the tickets but the purchaser looked reasonably hip so I figured I’d trust his judgment. Besides, I could always return them at the box office if I needed to.
The second was nearly as exhilarating as the first, mainly because of the danger of being caught. It was outside of a hot dog joint on eighty Sixth Street, a place I could case easily because there was always a line and the street was so crowded that nobody would notice me. I put my Yankee hat on to blend in.
My stomach lurched as I waited. There’s a big difference between taking money from a guy snoring through his headphones and someone waiting in line, fully awake and aware. I waited for the perfect moment to strike. I went to the corner and bought a Post, pretending to read the movie times while peeking out the corner of my eye as customers placed their orders. Then I saw her.
Older woman, late forties or early fifties, her handbag carelessly unzipped. I could even see the black trim of her wallet and the shiny metallic imprint of the designer on the side. God must have been smiling on me because just then her cell phone rang. When I heard the first ‘hello’ I moved behind her and dropped my newspaper. When I bent down to pick it up I swiped the wallet from her bag as my head came into contact with her backside.
“Excuse me,” she said, pulling the phone away from her ear.
“Sorry,” I replied, dropping Kate Spade into my pocket and holding the paper up. My alibi. As I walked away I overheard her telling the caller about some rude boy with the manners of a zoo animal.
At that point I was flying high as a kite. I went to a nearby McDonalds and ordered some fries. I paid for them with my own money, and when I was finished I asked the manager for the key to the men’s room. He obliged after being convinced that I was an actual customer and handed me a key attached to a six-inch plastic French fry.
In the bathroom I took out both wallets and emptied their contents out. The Kate Spade was a goldmine. I tossed the credit cards in the trash and was left with a hundred eight-nine dollars in cash, a card to a local sandwich store where one more purchase would earn a free meal, a hundred dollar gift certificate to a women’s clothing store and four peppermint candies. I tossed both wallets in the trash after carefully wiping off my fingerprints and buried them under a mountain of paper towels.
The third one was anticlimactic, a bunch of grade school kids in a clump when one of them happened to drop a bright orange wallet. I was about twenty feet away when I saw it drop. I picked it up and looked around, as if wondering who lost their money so that I might thoughtfully return it. Needless to say when I couldn’t find anyone I put it in my pocket and went off. I only got three bucks from that one but did happen upon a laminated autograph from one of the Yankees that I thought could fetch a decent price on eBay. I put it the cash and the tickets into my wallet and put it inside my coat for safekeeping.
I took the bus downtown to meet Linda, hoping I’d have enough time to check out what movie we were seeing so I could exchange the tickets if it looked bad. She was already waiting for me when I got there, arms crossed with an annoyed look on her face. I asked her what her problem was.
“You’re twenty minutes late,” she said. I hadn’t even noticed. I looked at my watch. The movie started five minutes ago.
“We’ll only miss the commercials, and I hate those anyway.” She squinted her eyes and finally went inside. She was acting pissed at me but I could tell she’d done her hair up and if I played my cards right we’d end up back at her place later.
“Tickets,” an acne-ravaged teen said, palm outstretched. I smiled at him and slipped my hand inside my jacket. Nothing.
I tried the other pocket, and both of the ones on the outside. Still nothing. I felt the lining up and down, hoping it might have fallen through a hole. Nada. I could feel Linda’s eyes burning through me.
“I…I…I think I was pick pocketed,” I said to neither Linda nor the kid. Linda snorted and went to the counter. The kid gave me a sympathetic smile. She came back with two tickets.
“You could have at least told me before you got here that I should buy the tickets,” she said as we walked to the theater.
We crawled over outstretched legs and took our seats in the dark. “You want some popcorn?” I asked her.
“How are you gonna pay for it? My money?”
“No…well yeah. I’ll pay you back later, don’t worry.”
For some reason I don’t think she believed me.
author of THE MARK
coming July 2007 from MIRA books
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