--THE EASIEST STEAL I HAD WAS YOU
Lester has faster hands. His fingers be thin, too, long as turnips, and he can lift a wallet outta the back pocket of any man, no matter how fat they be, no matter how tight their trousers be. That’s why Momma like Lester best. Daddy stopped providing after Trina took the city under, and last we heard he’s shacking up with some rich lady who lives east of here in a pretty-sounding town called Violet.
Lester and me, we know the Quarter better than anybody, even the old codgers. Sometimes it feel like we was born in the middle of the Square, pushed through a crack in the white-washed cement without consent, like those wicked weeds that look plain until you touch them and invisible needles sink into your skin
At night, if Momma’s smoking the rock, I’ll come down to the boardwalk by myself. There’s a man who play banjo and harmonica, both at once, while he tap a cymbal with his foot. There’s a lady inside a cloth booth who’ll read your palm for a certain amount, dependin on what you want to know. When she read Lester’s, I watched her eyes get jittery in the lamplight, devil-spooked. She wouldn’t share what she learned, just made up something we all knew was a lie.
Lester and me don’t think we’ll make it to twenty years old. We only talked about it once. “Lives while you can,” he said, jutting his jaw all cocky like. “Lives.”
Tonight I see the lady whose purse I stole earlier in the day. She’s wearing the same floral-print dress and floppy hat, but she’s with a different man than she was before. This one’s got quite a gut on him. His outfit is a boxy t-shirt, cutoffs and white socks inside of sandals. Man do he look stupid.
They stop at a restaurant, taking seats outside on the patio. I already gave most of the lady’s money and credit cards to Momma, but I memorized her driver’s license. She’s Amy Jo Holmes from Seattle.
Amy don’t touch this man at all, don’t snuggle him or place kisses on his neck like the other guy. She eat without talking and I can tell she’s thinking about the handsome man from this morning.
I have a trick I play where I make myself someone else, so I do that right now.
I sit across from Amy Jo. I tell her she’s the most beautiful thing on the planet, not just people, but more beautiful than anything the Lord cooked up—the moon or sun or what have you. I watch her eat ice cream and smile. I hold her hand, nod toward the stars. I say, “Aren’t they something?” and she smiles back and agrees.