The Value of Money
    Teresa Funke
Two teenage boys in a used hatchback idle behind a UPS truck. The tall one has spiked hair, an oversized T-shirt, and baggy pants. He’s drawing hard on a cigarette—he’s up to a pack a day now. The dark one wears out-of-style 501s and a T-shirt spouting, “Everything I need to know I learned in obedience school.” He holds a can of beer between his legs. They’ve known each other all their lives, these boys, but for years have had nothing in common besides Nintendo, and they’re bored with that, bored with each other.

The UPS truck lurches forward. They grin at each other. It’s been going so well, this thing that holds them together. A few days ago they were idling behind another slow-to-start UPS truck when the tall one said, “Come on, move it! Don’t you know Mrs. Halitosis is waiting for her case of mouthwash?”

The dark one hated this about his friend—he was always in a hurry. To go where? To do what? Then the tall one smirked his lop-sided grin and asked, “Suppose Mrs. H. never gets it? Suppose her Listerene just disappears off the porch and her husband can’t get within a foot of her face.”

“Whadaya mean?”

“I mean we lift the shit.”

And that’s how it started. It has turned out to be so much easier than the dark one expected. Not just the stealing, which is annoyingly easy, but the living with his conscience. He’s Robin Hood. Whatever doesn’t meet his needs, he gives to his family--a case of formula for his sister’s kid, a waffle iron for his mother’s birthday, stationary for his grandmother. He makes the money work, too. His take of the DVD player they sold for two hundred dollars paid not only for three new CDs, but school supplies. His mother is bragging about him now. She thinks he has a part-time job.

There’s too much money in this town anyway. It’s all about greed. Acquiring more junk. If the assholes paid for it once, they can pay for it again. If not, they probably never needed it. He’s doing them a favor, making them think about the value of money. They should thank him, these suburban yuppies. These hypocrites who donate money to the United Way but skirt his run-down neighborhood in their fancy SUVs. These fat-asses in manicured houses--bored housewives who order cooking gadgets, overpaid husbands who tinker with expensive tools, grandmas who shower spoiled grandkids with the latest “educational” toys? They should thank him.

Not until he brings the box to the car does he notice the name. “Hey, this guy has the same name as me,” the dark one says.

“So what? Half the spicks in America do.”

The dark one bristles and looks away. For the first time that day he takes in his surroundings and is shocked to realize he’s only a few blocks from home. There’s no SUV in this driveway, only a broken-down Chevy. There’s no sprinkler system ticking away, just a dried-up lawn. The return address on the UPS box is a medical supply company.

“Shut the fuckin’ door and let’s get outta here,” the tall one says. He taps the gas pedal and the car jumps forward than stops.

“No. I’m puttin’ it back,” the dark one says.

“What the fuck for?”

“Don’t you get it, man? It’s personal now.”

“You’re crazy,” the tall one says. “He’s got your name. It’s not like you know him.”

The dark one sets a foot on the curb and shakes his head. “Man, I thought you knew what it was about. I shoulda known better.”

He steps out of the car, breathing in the scent of cumin wafting from an open window, and slams the car door. Inside the house a baby cries, a woman calls in Spanish to an older child.

The only sound outside is the squeal of the tall boy’s tires as he peels away from the curb.

Teresa Funke's short stories and essays have appeared in several magazines including, most recently, personal essays in ByLine Magazine, Adoption Today and Authorship, with a short story forthcoming in Carve Magazine. She has also completed an historical novel, which won first place in the Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest, and is currently at work on "We Can Do It: American Women's Stories from World War II.


In Posse: Potentially, might be ...