Back in the car again, the boy couldn’t believe he’d actually gotten away with it. He handed the roll of money over to the driver. “Never again,” he grumbled, remembering the terrified face of the young girl at the till. A pretty girl, too; he could have liked her – if they’d only met under more decent circumstances.
The driver laughed. “Why quit, now that you’ve got some practice? We’re going to need more gas, you know.”
The boy looked him square in the eye and vowed, “Never again.”
They skimped for awhile and managed from paycheck to paycheck for the next several months, but one Tuesday evening, after an especially long weekend ride, the car ran out of gas again. The boy cringed when he heard the motor start to sputter. What would his friend suggest now?
The car came to a complete stop and they sat in silence for about ten minutes. Crusher sat up in the back seat and started to rumble in the boy’s ear.
Then his friend pointed to an apartment building. “See that old dame waiting at the bus stop there? She just cashed her pension check and she’s carrying most of her money in her purse. She’s heading downtown to buy groceries, but if you’re quick, you can borrow a bunch of twenties from her before the bus comes.”
“Borrow? She doesn’t look like the type to led a few hundred bucks to a complete stranger.”
“What’s wrong with you, kid?” The driver sounded really annoyed. All right then, take.” Then he changed to a smoother tone. “Like Robin Hood, you know. The government gives those old folks a great pension – and most of them have half a million squirrelled away in the bank from selling their house or farm. They can share a little with us.”
The boy watched the old lady for a moment. She didn’t dress like she had half a million in the bank. In fact she looked very average – maybe a lot like his own grandmother. “It can’t do that. It would be like robbing my Granny,” he exclaimed.
“So go ask your granny for a couple grand.”
The boy sighed. “She wouldn’t give it to me. She doesn’t think I should be in this car with you.”
“Then go ask that old lady. You don’t even need a gun here. Just take this.” The man handed him a hunting knife with a wicked blade.
“And what if I won’t? You know, we’ve had some great times but I’m starting to not like your company. Maybe I should just get out and walk from now on.”
“Yeah, kid. Maybe you should just try that for awhile – see how far you get.” His sinister laugh echoed in the car.
The boy took the knife and stuck it in his pocket, but still hesitated. Cruncher was slobbering on his ear now, so he shot out of the car and slammed the door behind him. He’d had enough of this guy and his dog.
He started to walk down the sidewalk, but the heat hit him like the wind from a passing semi. He almost fainted, being so used to the car’s air-conditioned environment. The wind blew dirt in his face and stung his eyes. Before long everything looked gray and dismal. He’d forgotten what the real world looked like. Folks glanced in his direction and seemed to frown. They stepped aside as he passed; no one had a smile or kind word for a hoodlum like him.
Then his stomach started to heave and he knew he needed to get back into that car. Whatever it took. Far off he saw the bus heading his way – it would soon be at this stop – so he clutched the knife handle in his pocket and ran toward the old lady.
Her face registered sheer terror when she saw the knife, but she hung onto the purse straps and begged him not to rob her. This cash was all she had to pay her rent, to buy month’s food. He hardened his heart to her loss and yanked the purse out of her hands.
As he ran back to the car he could see the driver smirking and a feeling of disgust washed over him. He opened the door of the car, threw himself down onto the seat and tossed the purse at the driver. Then he rubbed his hand over his face to wipe away the tears that were washing the grit down his cheeks.
“I’ll work more,” he said. “I never want to go through that again.” He shook his head, but the old lady’s pleas kept re-echoing in his ears.
“Aw, kid. You’re so soft. It’s just an old lady. Don’t worry about her. She’ll get lots of help from the community.” He opened the purse and pulled out the wallet. “Nice haul. We can go some great new places with this.”
Then he reached over and patted the boy’s shoulder. “I’m glad you decided to come back. I was about to send Cruncher to fetch you.”
To be continued…