People think my Dad is an austere, strict man. He looks like that, doesn’t he? But he says we all must look serious, to keep up appearances. Especially if you consider we have to start all over again – in a new town.
Now, Lilly, my sister, she’s a bit young for this game. She’s not so fast, see? That’s why she gets caught so easily; and it spoils the fun, if you ask me.
When Mom was still alive, things were different, of course. She was an architect and she brought in a lot of money. She told Dad to be the stay-at-home-mom, and I remember them arguing about that. She told Dad he should have finished school, but he said he didn’t want to become another brick in the wall. I don’t understand that, but Dad says I mustn’t worry, he doesn’t either. Sometimes – with Dad – it’s better to nod than to argue.
So, when Mom stepped off that girder on the building she designed, it changed a lot of things. At first Dad sat at home, reading the papers and saying words we children aren’t allowed to. He said reporters always go for the kill, but I know Mom died from that fall. That’s not what Dad says. He says there was nothing wrong with Mom’s drawings and she fell accidentally. He always cries when he says that.
After the funeral, we had to move to a trailer outside town. It wasn’t so bad. There were lots of other shacks and many other children. Dad said we must stay away from them, because they sniff things and do ugly stuff with litte girls. That’s when he came up with the plan.
We practised a lot, see? While the other kids kicked a ball around or went swimming in the creek, we practised. We practised until Dad said we were okay and that’s when we started going into town every day.
It’s not as easy as it looks. You have to reach up to slip a hand into somebody’s pocket, and when you’re as short as Lilly is, you get caught – every time. That’s when Dad would run up, give her a spanking and apologise to the person who started hollering that the little girl tried to rob him.
Now, that was quite brilliant. Who would go to the police to lay a complaint against a four-year-old? They don’t do that. They’d scold her, give Dad a stern talking-to, and then walk off.
With me, it was different. I’m quite good at sidling up to some kindly old gentleman in the park and ask him if he was Father Christmas. They always go ho-ho-ho and lift you on their laps. I had this story about my dog that died and how much I’d like another puppy. It brought tears to their eyes, it did. And then, while they’re telling me it’s alright and they’re sure I’d get another dog, that’s when I lifted the wallet.
Dad always said I was the best.
Lilly actually got a bag. Right there, in the middle of town, she got a a very neat suitcase. It was in front of one of those fancy shops where people buy jewellery, expensive stuff, just because they can. Dad says I won’t believe how much money some folks have.
Lilly was walking past the shop when she heard the shot. Dad was on the other side of the street, watching her, but he was too late to stop her. When the shot rang out, Lilly had such a fright that she ran straight into that shop. Yes sir. Straight.
Dad says he reached the doorway just as the men stormed out. Two big men, with guns. They wanted to get to the car that was parked outside, you see? I know I mustn’t say halluva, but that’s the crash they had. Huge. Those men ran straight into Dad and the next thing you know, there are bodies sprawled all over the pavement. The two men over there and my Dad over here. And in the middle, there was this bag.
Well, Lilly grabbed it and scampered off. She says it wasn’t such a big thing to, it just seemed as if nobody really wanted it. Yeah, right. I know she’s lying.
Oh boy! Then there were sirens and hooters and policemen all over the show. Dad says that is what panic buttons are for, but I’ve never seen one. They grabbed Dad and the two men and had them in the back of a van in no time while some other men with guns watched them. Dad tried to say something, but the one policeman gave him a smack in the face and told him to shut up, they know what they’re doing.
I think it must have been the shop owner who snitched on Lilly. He started shouting and pointing at her as she struggled to drag the heavy bag into a blind alley. She’s not that big, see? Now that was plain stupid. Dad told us never to run into anything we can’t run out of. Of course they caught up with her in no time.
Now, here’s where I have to take my hat off to Lilly. She did what Dad said she must do when she got caught. She sat down and cried. And, may I add, real tears. Real tears. That’s something I hadn’t seen since Mom stepped off that building. What with Dad locked up in that van, I suppose you can’t blame her.
I knew it was up to me, then. The policemen didn’t want to listen to me at first, but with the people crowding around saying ‘aaw’ and ‘shame’ and all that, I suppose they had to.
So now Lilly is a hero. Dad says the papers made her one, just like they made Mom look bad. I’m not sure how it works, but they write about the little girl who saved the fortune in jewellery instead of mentioning Dad, who stopped those crooks.
So, here we are, all dressed up in the new clothes that shop owner gave us. Dad has a pocket full of money from the insurance company; at least they know how brave he must have been to storm into that shop.
You can see we’re all trying to look serious. Dad says if we laugh too much, somebody may figure out we were just lucky. He also says we now have to move to another city – people will recognise us here.
I’ll miss our trailer.
It’s not that easy to smile, now that I come to think of it, anyway.