The portrait of Alexander Hamilton

(From Portrait of a Young Con Artist)


Kenny always talks big , telling me about the money he steals the windows heís broken or the trouble heís caused at school.

This is not so much bragging as some need to tell somebody about it, and Iím the only one he can trust.

But when I listen, he never talks about the reasons why he does these things.

Kenny never tells you what he really thinks either.

So he always sounds like heís lying even when heís telling the truth.

This time he tells me heís just stolen $100 and I make him show me.

Nobody I know ever took $100 without the roof falling in.

He pulls out the bill with Alexander Hamiltonís portrait staring up at me like a dead fish. So I believe him.

Of course, I tell him he can never spend it since we canít walk into any store on either side of Crooks Avenue and pass that off without someone knowing we swiped it.

Ken, naturally, tells me heís got a plan.

Then he showed me the note he intends to take to the bank in the morning, asking the teller to give us five $20 bills in exchange for the hundred with his motherís signature at the bottom.

But I know itís not hers because sheís still in the hospital.

Ken tells me not be so stupid and says he wrote the note himself.

He says we wonít even try to spend the $20s on what want, but go buy something sensible at the supermarket until we get even smaller bills.

In the morning, he tells me to wait outside the bank, claiming two kids would look too suspicious. So I wait and wonder if Iím going to see a police care pull up before Ken gets a chance to leave the ban. But he pops out, carrying five twenties and wearing a grin to suggest he might have just robbed the place.

Sticking to his plan, we go to the supermarket and buy a big box of soap suds the kind Ken says his grandmother always uses.

Iím puzzled, but Ken tells me the check out clerk has a big mouth and talks to everybody about everybody else, and he figures sooner or later sheíll get to talking to my mom or Kenís aunt and what will anybody think if she reports us buying soap suds?

Who in their right minds would steal money for that?

Anyway, we eventually get to buy some candy and pea shooters, and a lot of other stuff we usually get when we get money Ė with plenty of money left for next week and the week after that, and may even a week after that.

Ken invites me to camp out in his back yard over night, though in the middle of the night, he freaks out and early tears down the tent trying to find the rest of the money he says heís lost.

Maybe I know I canít get away with it.

Maybe I should buy some soap suds instead of the candy the way Ken did.

And may be I feel ashamed when the store keep calls my mob to ask how I got so much money.

But Iím not ashamed.

I just say I found it, and Ken canít say a damned thing without giving himself away.

But I do feel bad knowing that Ken wonít ever speak to me again.



Street Eyes

Portrait of a young con artist (novel)

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