Author: Phil Temples

“What about her, Joey?”

Dickie and I watch an old lady shuffle slowly down the sidewalk near the park. She looks ancient. Dickie comments that she must be at least eighty years old. I’d peg her as older. She looks as wrinkled as a prune. I don’t have to get close to her to know that she’s probably wearing some stinky old-lady perfume. Somethin’ about old ladies that makes them want to smell sweet. Maybe their noses don’t work right when they get old, I don’t know. She’s wearing a red winter coat despite the fact that it’s a warm spring day. I reckon she’s probably sweating like a pig. The real object of our attention, however, is the oversized handbag she’s holding in the crook of her arm. The strap is hanging loose

Good. An easy mark.

“We’ll probably have to spend five minutes just going through all of the junk in her bag to get at her wallet,” I say.

“Hey, that’s half the fun, isn’t it?”

I shrug my shoulders. Dickie’s probably right.

I check the sidewalk in both directions, and across the street. There are no pedestrians in sight, other than some guy a block down the street walking away from us.

“The coast is clear,” I say. “Ready?”

“Sure. Let’s do this!”

We approach the woman quickly. When we’re about ten feet away, she notices us. She’s defensive. Her hands stiffen around the handbag.
She may be an old fossil but she’s no fool.

“Hey, lady—hand over the purse and you won’t get hurt!” says Dickie.

For a few seconds, there’s no reaction from her. Finally she scowls. Then she asks us, “What would your mothers think of you right now?”

Dickie chuckles and gestures at me. “I don’t know about his mother, but my ma is doin’ five- to ten’ upstate for forging checks. I reckon she’d be proud of me for carrying on the family tradition.”

The woman turns to me. As her gaze meets mine, I suddenly feel embarrassed and ashamed. I look down at my feet.

“Com’on! Hurry it up! Hand over the purse and we’ll leave you alone. If you don’t …”

Dickie uses his most intimidating voice. He lets his words trail off. The hunched woman draws herself straight as she reacts to Dickie’s latest threat.

“If I give you my wallet, will you agree to let me keep my purse?”

Dickie and I are suddenly thinking the same thought. There must be something else in that bag that’s valuable!

Dickie lunges at the purse, but the woman hangs on. She’s surprisingly strong. A tug-of-war ensues. Try as he might, Dickie is unable to dislodge the purse from her grasp.

“Give it here, you old bag!” shouts Dickie. He turns to me. “A little help here, please!”

I step forward and reach out with my hand to grab the purse.

“Stop!” She looks at us with a defiant expression.

“I’ll give you the purse. But first, you have to let me show you what’s inside.”
Dickie seems satisfied with her response.

“Okay. But no tricks. If you try somethin’, I’ll land you flat on this sidewalk. I know martial arts.”

The woman nods. She slowly opens the purse as wide as it will go and shows it to Dickie. He stares in. He’s immediately mesmerized by some kind of bright light shining from inside. My best friend and cohort in crime wears a look of surprise and terror.

I’m getting anxious, too. Just when I’m about to tell Dickie we should leave, an unbelievable thing happens—like we’re in some sort of cartoon. Dickie is suddenly transformed into something resembling a human balloon with all the air escaping! In a matter of seconds, he shrivels itty-bitty. Dickie’s remains fly up in the air then they land smack dab in the woman’s purse.

The woman snaps her purse shut. She seems pleased with the new prize she’s acquired. She smiles at me. I’m frozen by fear.

“Have a nice day now.”

She continues to shuffle slowly down the sidewalk toward the park.