Short Cons 

 

     McGready had the world by the short-and-curlies. 

     Some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple. McGready was born with his ass on home plate and acted like he’d run the bases. 

     Thanks to a large inheritance and a brazen combination of wheeling, dealing and stealing, he was awash in other people’s money. His Rolex cost more than the average working slob makes in a year. The diamond on his pinky ring could choke a brontosaurus.  He carried half a dozen elite executive gold cards in his wallet, and never lubricated it with less than about ten grand in cash, just for sundries. His suits were custom tailored; his baby soft hands, which had never seen a day of manual labor, were impeccably manicured, He fucked $1000 per hour escorts two or three at a time, and could tip them well enough that there was no whim they would refuse to satisfy, no matter how far he colored outside the lines.  

     Yeah. 

     It’s good to be a rich prick. 

     His newest toy was a classic Jaguar for which he’d paid in the low seven figures.  It could easily do 200mph, though there wasn’t a public thoroughfare in the country on which you could legally drive at that speed. The twenty-five families he’d recently made homeless could eat for two years on that, something he didn’t know and about which he didn’t care. 

     Sometimes, usually early on a tranquil Sunday morning, he liked to drive around to look at his real estate holdings, the way a kid might assemble his collection of marbles, just to admire them and enjoy owning them. He liked to roll down a window and light up an Arturo Fuente. He didn’t really care for cigars, but the thought of almost literally burning money gave him a distinct tingle in his private parts. 

   On this particular Sunday he was driving a little too fast, as usual, while still keeping half an eye out for dogs, cats, or kids jumping out from between parked cars. Not because he cared about dogs or cats or kids, but because he didn’t want any dents in his knew Jag.  He thought he saw some movement out of the corner of his eye, slowed down a little, just in case. But it was nothing. 

     As he passed that spot, what proved to be a football-sized chunk of concrete smashed into his passenger side door. 

     McGready slammed on the brakes with a squeal that caught the attention of some folks coming out of the coffee shop on the corner. He rammed the gear shift into reverse and burned up a week’s worth of rubber going back to the place the chunk had come from, then leaped out to confront the culprit. 

     It was a kid. 

     Dressed in faded jeans too big for him, a blue Cubs t-shirt, ragged canvas tennis shoes, no socks. Maybe nine or ten years old. Unkempt dark brown hair, almost black, shorn shaggy. Deep brown eyes, perpetually sad.  Dago? thought McGready. Spic? Half-nigger? 

     Didn’t matter. 

    McGready grabbed him by the “Cubs.” 

     “You little shit,” he growled, “I oughta beat your ass…” And he cocked a fist to commence the ass beating. 

     “Please, Mister,” the kid wailed, with tears streaming down his slightly dirty face, “I didn’t know what else to do. Nobody would stop. My sister rolled her wheelchair off the curb and fell over and she’s hurt and she’s too big for me to lift by myself! Please help!” 

     McGready was suddenly aware that several by-standers had gathered and were watching him. One of them had his damn cell phone out. Was he recording this? McGready lowered his first and patted the kid on the shoulder instead, hoping he’d made the switcheroo seamless. 

     “Take it easy, kid,” McGready said.  Maybe I can use this, he thought. Recently he’d given a big anonymous donation to charity -- and then made sure the story “leaked” to the press. Anonymous donations are pointless if they remain anonymous. His lawyers said that might have been the thing that had tipped the jury’s scales in his favor in that civil suit. Not the first one, the other one. Though he didn’t actually give a good damn about anyone but himself, McGready was very aware of the importance of faking it. He turned a little so the guy with the cell phone could get his best side. 

     “Please help, Mister,” the kid pleaded, tugging him by the hand. 

     “Don’t worry, son,” McGready said, loudly enough that he was sure the by-stander’s phone camera mic would pick it up clearly. 

     McGready found the kid’s sister laying on the pavement. No family resemblance. She had auburn hair, blue eyes and freckles. She was a little scraped up, but  seemed otherwise uninjured. McGready righted the wheelchair and easily lifted her up into it. “You okay, kid?” he asked. 

   No answer. 

   The sister wasn’t quite right. Seemed distant. Unfocused. Retarded, or something. It made McGready’s skin crawl. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce. 

   “There you go,” McGready said. He even took out his fine linen handkerchief to wipe the blood and crap off of the scrapes. 

   “God bless you, Mister,” the kid said, and wiping tears away with his arm. “God bless you.” He wrapped his arms around McGready and hugged him like he wasn’t ever going to let go. McGready tolerated it by grinding his molars and forcing a smile. “God bless you,” the kid said again. 

    For the on-lookers’ benefit, McGready tried to appear appropriately emotional, but couldn’t quite force a tear, so he pulled what he had practiced as his sad face, blinked his eyes a lot, a dabbed at one eye with his fingertips. It wouldn’t pass muster if anybody looked real close, but nobody ever looks that close. 

     “You’re welcome, kid,” McGready said and patted his little head like it was a puppy. McGready hated puppies. 

      The kid went on his way, pushing his big sister in the wheelchair. Pausing at the corner, the kid looked back and waved. McGready waved back. Then the kid took a left and was gone. 

     McGready climbed back into his Jag, collecting a bunch of nods and smiles from the witnesses.  It’s that easy, he thought. What a bunch of suckers. No wonder they’re poor. 

      Hoping this episode hadn’t made him too awfully late for brunch, McGready glanced at his Rolex as he tooled along a few blocks away. That is, he glanced at his wrist where his Rolex should have been but wasn’t. 

     What the fuck?  Hadn’t he worn his watch? He was sure he had. He looked around the cockpit to see if he’d dropped it. Had the band broken or…? 

     Then he noticed that his pinky ring was gone. 

     Gone. 

     It started to dawn on him. 

     He hit the brakes and a yellow cab almost rear-ended him. The cabbie swung out and went around him, giving McGready the traditional single-finger salute as he passed by. 

     McGready was oblivious. He was patting his pocket, feeling for his wallet. 

     Yeah. 

     Gone. 

    It was a thing of beauty. 

    Like poetry. 

    My sister and I split the take. 

 

- 30 -