THE DRUG STORE BANDITS
There was a poster on the basement wall of Harry Belafonte. With a pair of bongos. That looked like Gabby Hayes. Which Teddy was holding between his knees. Gabby didn’t sound too pleased.
“So which bank do we rob?” Teddy asked.
Sean sat in the corner. His head buried in his sweater. Like thunder in the mountains. Snow capped. Watching a ball game. That was tied. Sean stared at Teddy. Like a pitcher from the mount. Waiting for a sign.
“Man, you got no rhythm. How can a guy who’s black have no rhythm?”
Teddy sucked the silence and continued to bang away.
Tony. Took a toothpick out of his back pocket. Popped between his two front teeth. Where there was a gap. Where settlers attempted to reach California before snow fell. Tony was so cool.
There was a plan. To be. Future criminal activities. The three boys had stolen bicycles in the area. What a reputation. Bicycle thieves. Sean enjoyed the name. But the bicycles proved to be more of a nuisance than a source of income. None could be sold in the local area. Sean had made the mistake of selling a bike. To its original owner. They had to take them across town. Had to take public transit. Too far for these three boys to ride. And sometimes they weren’t allowed on the subway. And the money. It was hardly worth the trip. Breaking and entering. With flair. The world was their oyster. Until one night. A house defended by two huge German Shepherds.
The toothpick rolled around in Tony’s mouth. There was a certain swagger in Tony’s toothpick. Picking.
“We ain’t robbing a bank.” Tony smirked.
A ball cap was adjusted on Tony’s head. Tony was a small good looking kid. Resembled a young Phil Specter. Leader of the pack. In his own mind. He hadn’t informed the other two boys. Certainly he was the brains. Of the operation.
Teddy stopped beating his bongos.
“I wanna rob a bank.”
“What gave you that idea?” Tony asked.
“That’s what respectable gangsters do.”
Tony straightened up in his chair. “We ain’t gangsters. Not yet anyway.”
He nudged the stool Sean was sitting on.
“What’s the score?”
“I don’t know,” Sean replied.
The muscle of the group. Sat like a fist on a stool. Sean took some pleasure. In enforcing his will on others. If they were smaller. Or weaker. Or were outnumbered. Sean didn’t believe in a level playing ground. Sean wanted to join a larger gang. The Bloods were his favorite. He had approached the leader of the Bloods. Made a proposition to him. The members of the gang circled around Sean. This was not what he had in mind. They started laughing. Sean had not found their reaction amusing. And was about to take his displeasure out on the face of one of the gang members. When he was dragged away. By Tony and Teddy.
“You’re watching the game and you don’t know the score?” Tony asked.
“I like watching the green in the field. Its so… green. Look at the way its cut. Real pretty.”
Tony shook his head. “It’s carpeting, stupid. You got to let up on the dope. You’re turning into a pot head.”
Sean turned to Tony. There was a kind of goofiness in his smile. That wasn’t a good sign.
“Okay. You’re not stupid.” Tony apologized.
“What about the banks?” Teddy repeated. “Why can’t we rob one?”
“Too dangerous,” Tony replied. “Banks got money. Lots of it. Buy expensive security devices. Cameras. Alarms. Maybe even a security guard. Maybe a dog. And people are always on edge. In a bank. Everyone has it in the back of their head that someone is going to take their cash. And then they hand it over to a teller. Go figure. You go robbing a bank, you’re as likely to get tackled by some local hero. Or set upon by an angry mob. Taken offence to anyone stealing their money.”
“Then why do they make movies about bank robbers? Someone thinks its a good idea.”.
“Oh man.” Teddy moaned. His voice wandering off into a whine. He laid his bongos out. Stretched down on a couch.
“We got to do something.” He cried out like a voice in the wilderness.
Tony grinned. Swirled his toothpick playfully around. A baton like kindling in his mouth.
“We’re going to rob a drug store.”
There was silence for a moment. But not long enough for Tony. Who thought that the moment should have been more dramatic. To recovered later. In a memoir about the birth of a criminal genius.
Sean sat up. Erect. “A drug store! Cool.”
Teddy grimaced. There was so much pain. In his teeth.
“A drug store? Oh man. I want to rob a bank. Who’s ever heard of anyone robbing a drug store?”
Tony slapped Teddy. Gently on the cheek. “Exactly.”
“But,” Teddy added, “Guys will laugh.”
“They won’t laugh if we’re rolling in dough.”
“I’ve never rolled in dough.” Sean said then added. “I never heard of a drug store having a lot of money.”
Tony stood up. And did a little dance. Which his two comrades didn’t notice.
“Drugs. A lot of drugs. Think. How much we’ll get for them. On the street? Plenty. More that you’d get from some local. Small time. Bank.”
“Well…” Teddy was about to argue. But had nothing to say. Yet. Had to go over the idea. In his head.
“Which drug store?” Sean played with the lighter he’d taken out of his pocket. He was flicking it off and on. The lighter looked like a handgun. Sean seemed mesmerized by the small flame.
“The one in the Six Points,” Tony responded.
“Knock that off,” Teddy said to Sean. Referring to the lighter. Trying to concentrate. “It’s getting on my nerves.” Then he turned his attention back to Tony. “Why we going to rob the drug store in the Six Points?”
“Because I say so,” Tony replied.
“But why?” Teddy repeated. “What’s so special about this drug store?”
“Nothing special about it,” Tony said. “Nothing special about any drug store. Except that it’s open 24 hours a day. We can rob it at our whim. We chose the time.”
Sean laughed looking up from his lighter. “I like that. We chose the time. Gee Tony, you sound like you know all about robbing drug stores. But. You ain’t never robbed anything important.”
“Keep your voice down,” Teddy said looking up at the ceiling. “My old lady listens. To everything. Her bedroom is right above us. She’s like the friggen FBI. J. Edgar friggen Hoover.”
Sean looked up at the ceiling. Like he was looking into heaven. Waiting for that infamous thunder clap. And a bolt of lightning to change all of their shapes.
“Why do they make you sleep down here. In the basement. Without a window. It’s not even a real room.”
Teddy shook his head. He didn’t want to answer Sean. And his annoying questions. But he couldn’t help himself.
“Because my sisters got the other bedroom. I like it down here. Me and the furnace. We’re fast friends. And I got the television. Some nights I can get porn.”
Sean giggled. His shoulders shaking. “The furnace got a name?”
“Mel,” Teddy replied. “The furnace is called Mel.”
Sean howled. Teddy put his fingers on his leps.
Sean continued to laugh. “You kill me, man.”
Teddy turned to Tony. “Where’d you put the gun?”
“Some place safe,” Tony replied.
“How come you get to use the gun?” Teddy asked. “I get stuck with a toy gun from a dollar store and Sean gets a lighter.”
“I like the lighter.” A flame flicked from the fake gun.
“We only got one gun and as the leader of this gang, I thought I should have the gun. Besides, you guys get a gun, you’re likely to shoot off your foot.”
“I don’t remember you being made leader,” Teddy said.
“Maybe you missed the meeting,” Tony said. “Sean didn’t want to run for the position and I voted for myself. It was very democratic. Sides, you never got passed grade ten, Teddy. What makes you think you got leadership skills?”
The blood drained from Teddy’s face. He responded sheepishly. “How’s a guy going to know if he would be good at something if he isn’t given a chance?”
Sean turned to Teddy. He looked concerned. “You going to cry?”
“I ain’t going to cry.” Teddy rose to his feet. Walked toward the furnace. Wiped his eyes.
“Every time I get serious, you guys think I’m going to cry. It’s not like that. My grandma says that I’m wound up real tight. That’s all.”
“Your grandmother!” Tony laughed.
“Where’s your grandma sleep?” Sean asked.
Teddy turned sharply around..
Sean shook his head.
“Didn’t mean that, Teddy. I like your grandma.” Sean turned to Tony. “We gotta stop talking about Teddy’s grandmother. She told me I was like a son to her. ”
“Fuck, Sean. Teddy’s grandma is blind.”
Sean blushed. All three boys were silent. Teddy and Tony’s attention returned to the ball game. Sean rubbed the lighter gun against his forehead. Then he turned to his bandit brothers.
“How do you dress for a robbery? I mean, what am I supposed to wear?”
Teddy looked at Sean.
“Wear what you’re wearing.”
“No, man” Sean shook his head. “I got to look good. We could end up making the evening news. I want to look good on the camera.”
“What do you care?” Teddy said. “We’re going to have masks on. Right, Tony?”
“Ya.” Tony turned from the television and looked at Sean. “That’s why we got those masks of President Nixon at the dollar store.”
“Fuck,” Sean said shaking his head. “But why do they all have to look the same? Any way I gotta get me some new threads.”
“You got money for new clothes?” Teddy asked.
Sean laughed. “Hey man, did you think I was going to pay for them?”
“No shoplifting!” Tony said.
“What?” Sean cried.
“We’ve got to stay clean before we rob the drug store!” Tony cried. “I don’t want the cops catching on to us over some nickel and dime robbery. First thing we’ve got to do is case the drug store. We’ll go in shifts. Find out when the most people are in the store. When their new supplies of drugs are brought in. What the security is like.”
“I ain’t taking the grave yard shift,” Sean said. “I don’t like the sound of it. Grave yard. Sends a chill up my spine.”