I walked down the rural road from the prison that lead into the city. There was tall grass and open, downhill fields which afforded me a great view. Every mile or so I’d pass the odd mailbox, only a small hint that anyone actually lived on this much land. Their long driveways disappeared seemingly miles away into small specks that vaguely resembled enormous country manors. I remembered those from my ride in to prison 10 years ago. And just like 10 years ago, the thought crossed my mind of how many valuable things they might have, how easy they might be to take, if they would even miss those things once I had . . . .
I snapped to. I shook my head and tried to place that thought behind me. That was a thought I hoped to leave behind me along with . . . well, everything else. Only a handful of automobiles actually drove by me on the road. A few them, appropriately, drove down the long driveways toward the country estates. The type to own estates in the country are some of the few wealthy enough to own one of those automobiles.
By the time I had made it to the edge of the city, the sun was high in the sky and I was feeling ready for a sandwich. I sat down on a bench on a street corner and took my sandwich out of the sack. It was warm. In a bad way. I peeled the bread apart and looked at what was on it. Some ham, a slice of cheese, and some mustard. This was significantly better than prison food. I took a bite and leaned back on the bench. I spread my arm along the back of the bench, crossed my legs, and looked around.
This side of town was quiet. I was still far from downtown. There was a small convenience store, a bank, and couple other buildings I couldn’t identify. I guessed they were offices. There were only a handful of people out walking around. They looked like they were far too busy going somewhere else to possibly want to hang around here. I could relate. A kid selling newspapers caught my eye. This didn’t look like a busy part of town to be trying to sell papers. I take the final bites of my sandwich and brush the crumbs off my lap. I walk over to him.
“Hey, kid,” I say.
“I’m not a kid, I’m fifteen!” he retorted, indignant.
I just stare at him for a moment. “Yeah . . . anyway, can I buy a paper?”
The kids eyes brighten up. He apparently forgot that I had insulted him. “Yeah! Of course! Just a nickle.”
I reach in my pocket and feel the lint. I wince. The only money I had was the $100 bill in the sack. “Listen ah, you don’t have change for a hundred bucks, do ya?” I say.
The kid laughs out loud and looks at me. I just keep looking right back at him. “Oh, you’re serious,” he says. “What are you, some kind of high roller?”
I feel puzzled look cross my face as I consider what I’m wearing and how long it’s been since I had a good shave, but nevertheless, I decide I’ll play.
“Yeah, of course I’m a high roller,” I assert confidently, “Do you have any idea who I am?”
The kid opens his mouth and begins to form an answer. I interrupt him, “Doesn’t matter. Now you got change for me or am I buying my paper somewhere else?”
The kid’s frazzled and tries to pull himself together. “Uh, yeah, yeah, sure. Of course I got the change.”
“Let me see it first”
He pulls a pouch out of his pocket and opens it up. I quickly tally it. He’s got more than enough. I hand him my bill. He hands me a paper, and some crumpled bills. He starts counting coins out of his purse, but I see him do a sleight of hand and count the same nickel three times. He’s trying to short change me figuring I won’t notice 15 cents in 99 dollars. Smart kid, I think to myself. He’s probably been doing this all morning. He holds his hand out to drop the change in mine. I open my palm and let it fall.
“Thanks kid,” I say.
“You’re welcome, mister!”
“But can I have the rest of my change?”
He stares at me, confused, “Wha . . . um . . . what do you mean?”
“Your sleight of hand was slow. Also, you counted each coin individually and drew my attention to it. You were too thorough.”
I reach my hand in his purse and grab 15 cents. I lean in really close to him and quietly say, “Next time, kid, distract me from what you’re doing. Get me to talk about the weather or my family. Anything to take my eye and my focus away from your play”
I lean back and smile really big. Loudly, I say, “Yeah, I hope this weather holds too! I’ve got a fun trip planned for the family this weekend! Thanks again!”
I walk away. After a bit a turn around and smile and wave at him. I shoot him a wink and smiles back. Kid’s good. I was around his age when I started.