The day began with a groan. Dad’s groan, specifically. I didn’t quite wake up then, though. Last night was pretty rough. The thud, though. That got me out of bed. He needed my help.
He had fallen, again, of course. It happened pretty regularly. He forgets that he can’t walk, and tries to get up and make me some eggs before school, like he used to. I wish he wouldn’t. I don’t need that any more. It was my job to take care of him, now.
“Dad, it’s okay. You should get back in bed.”
“Yeah, Dad, it’s me. Now rest, I’ll make it to school on time.”
School had changed a lot since she left. I had to make it there myself, for one. That meant I went a lot less. Especially on days like today. The rain and thunder told me that today was a good day to skip. But that’s okay. I had other plans anyway. And the rain would help. I threw on that old coat and the torn pants, rubbed some mud on my cheeks, and set out. I didn’t need to look nice today.
It had been awhile since I had stolen. The last mark was some girl from Dreamwood who thought she was cool for “slumming” around Winthrop. She had been a laughably easy job, but she carried a fair bit of cash on her. It was probably just her day’s spending cash over there, but it would last my dad and me over a week, if I stretched it. But it had been two weeks since then, and I made my last pack of instant noodles last night. I needed cash.
The rain kept me from going to the nicer parts of town, but that’s probably for the best. The marks were richer, but the cops actually liked to spend time there. Some of them even had their own security. And the rain made my job easier. I walked down the street, looking for anyone who had an umbrella. I wasn’t the kind of thief who would sneak up on you and take your wallet while you never knew he was there. I had a different skill. I could run.
I walked through the neighborhood, looking for someone or somewhere that wouldn’t recognize me. I didn’t particularly like stealing, but it’s not like it actually hurts anyone. Well, anyone I care about. I see an umbrella walking by, here and there, but most of them looked more disheveled than me. Winthrop isn’t really the best place to look for marks. If you have a nice amount of cash, generally, the first thing you do is get the heck out of here. Really, I was mostly looking for someone passing through. There’s a train stop nearby, and occasionally someone tries to walk through here to it.
It didn’t look like that was going to happen in the rain, though. It really was awful out, and the townies seemed to understand that. I turned around, resigning myself to going hungry. I’d done it before, I could do it again. But you know, being hungry really sucks. And my dad needed to eat too. I really didn’t know where our next meal was going to come from. Maybe it wouldn’t come. Maybe we’d go hungry again tomorrow, and the day after. Maybe we’d starve. Maybe I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t support my dad and me. Maybe I should just give up. Maybe I should just call her. I hated it, but maybe I just wasn’t good enough.
And then it happened. I was looking down at the ground, trapped in my thoughts rather than the road, when something knocked me straight back onto the pavement.
“Oh! Sorry! Sorry! I’m just in such a rush, and I don’t know where, I’m going, and…”
It was a woman, a few years older than me. She didn’t have an umbrella, and with her glasses, she probably couldn’t see a thing in the rain. She had fallen to the ground too, with some of her belongings lying beside her.
“... and I just don’t know where I’m it is and I really have to get there or I’ll miss my interview, really, I’m so sorry…”
I put on my best face and went to work.
“Ma’am, it’s okay, calm down, I’ll help you pick up your things. I was going to get wet in this weather anyway. Where were you headed, the train station?”
“Yes, yes, how did you know? Do you know where it is?”
“Yeah, it’s over there, just go straight until Greystone Avenue and take a left. It’s around a half mile down the street. Here, here’s the last of your things, you can still make it!”
“Oh, okay, thank you so much! I’ll make sure to repay you when I come back!”
She seemed nice enough, I reflected after she left. Although I didn’t think she’d come back. Not after she realizes that she doesn’t have her wallet. I looked down and my prize. It was too easy. I didn’t even have to run. I almost felt bad for her. Almost.
What little guilt I had disappeared when I thought of the food I could get with this. I looked through it as I walked back to my apartment, through the twisting streets. It had a nice sum in it; she probably planned to stay a few nights in the city. A card, but using that would lead police right to me. A driver’s license, too, for a different state. She must be from out of town. Probably wouldn’t be here long.
I took my time on the walk back home, taking in the environment. Things happen in this part of town, y’know. Things like that strange glow coming from the abandoned old apartment building, or the stain by the fountain from something I don’t want to know about. I try not to get involved. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, part of living here. But today, I had something else.
(“Dad, I’m home!”