By Joy Monica T. Sakaguchi
It was a Sunday when I saw the kid and the man with the bulging wallet. I remember because Sunday was usually the only day that I don’t work. Not for religious reasons… well, maybe it is. I don’t go to church, but I do need a day of rest just like everyone else.
I started pickpocketing when I was only five. That’s when Pop first showed me how easy it is for a small kid to get his tiny hand inside a man’s coat without even touching the material. By the time I was seven I had an easy time snatching people’s wallets right from beneath their damn noses. I used to save the wallets until I saw my pop once a month and then shove them in his hands. Boy would he yell at me.
“Hey, stupid, how many times I gotta tell you not to keep the wallets? Whatcha gonna tell your ma if she finds them? That your old man’s got you stealing for him?” Then he would proceed to whisk the green bills from the thin partitions. Usually he would hand me a couple of bills and I would absently stuff them in my sock without counting it. Of course I should have counted the money. I just didn’t want to know how much Pop thought I was worth.
My ma tried to raise me well. I have to give her credit for trying to make me an honest boy. She’s this ugly lady who wears a black curly wig and cries constantly. I only call her ugly-and only I can-because I inherited her looks. Crooked teeth, oily hair, and bony knees are my curses.
I remember she cried a lot because she was always worried that I would turn out like my “stinking, rotting, lout-of-a-father.” I never could figure out who she wanted me to turn out like. Uncle Barney? The only job that I ever knew he had was working as Santa Claus once a year. It’s not like he was any good at it either. Good ol’ Barney couldn’t walk straight thanks to the flask of whiskey he kept hidden inside his red Santa suit. He once told me that the pillow he had to wear was like a shelf for his liquor. What did I know? I stopped getting excited at the sight of Santa Claus walking through our trailer door when I was five and Santa pulled of his beard and asked me to get him a stiff drink.
So I’ve pretty much been pickpocketing all my life; even after my old man skipped town without so much as a damn note or phone call for his only son. I don’t keep the wallets anymore, but I do keep the cash. Literally. I have this huge cardboard box full of money that I have hidden in the room I rent. I don’t know how much is in there, but it’s a helluva lot. One day Pop will show up again. I’ll hand him the boxful of money, he will throw me some bills, and then I’ll just stow them away without counting them. That’s what I think.
Like I said, it was a Sunday when I saw this man and his son walking around an outdoor fish market. I’d just had a meal across the street at a Chinese restaurant. The food there sucks but they’re pretty generous with their fortune cookies. It’s like they have to make up for the lousy food by burying their customers in cookies and all the packets of soy sauce you can carry. That’s fine by me. I love those stupid fortune cookies. Today mine read, “A change in your daily routine will lead you to treasure.” I memorized it and shoved it in the back pocket of my faded camouflage pants. I like to read them to my ma when I visit her at the trailer, but she usually doesn’t get it. She always thinks I’m trying to tell her she was a bad mother. I don’t know where she gets ideas like that. I just want to share my fortune.
The kid caught my eye first for some reason. He was about seven, and he wore a blue cap that covered most of his neatly trimmed blond hair. He followed his dad quietly. Almost too quietly for a kid his age. From the moment I saw him I felt that there was something familiar about him. His dad was one of those really yuppie-looking guys with thin hair covering his head. He wore a stiff white shirt, loose jeans, and loafers with no socks. His back pocket was...