If Benny hadn’t been quick on his feet, the Mercedes would have run him down as it slewed violently sideways to stop half on and half off the pavement in a residents only parking zone. The driver took only seconds to slide off the leather seat and slam the door behind her. She strode off in the direction of one of the many over-priced eateries that populated the commercial side of the street. He gave her the stink-eye for a moment, taking in every detail of the rich bitch furs and fuck me shoes. Oh yeah, this one represented just about everything he despised in a human being. It was with some relief that he turned his attention back to the car. It was sleek, and black, and he had even caught a whiff if the smell of excellence when the door was open. He wanted that car so much it hurt, but he had promised his momma so all he could do was look.
On an evening of what ifs it’s also true to say that if he hadn’t been fucking the car with his eyes he would never have seen the keys its driver stabbed at her handbag fall into the gutter instead of the bag. He couldn’t believe his luck, and as soon as her expensively maintained ass disappeared behind the darkened glass of the trattoria he was on his knees scrabbling. Within seconds he had them in his hand. But what to do with them? He knew what his heart was telling him, and he also knew what a stupid idea that was. Even with the keys it’d still be theft, and the gates of the detention centre were always open for juvenile car thieves.
While he was thinking he heard the measured tread that indicated the imminent arrival of a beat cop. That sort of made his mind up for him. He trotted to the middle of the pavement and waited. When the cop turned the corner it was a face he knew and he heaved a sigh of relief.
“Officer. Sir. I got problem. Rich bitch drops car keys. She gone in that place. Can’t follow.”
“Indeed you can’t.”
The burly cop held out a large red hand and Benny dropped the keys in it. As if pulled by an invisible string, both officer of the law and street kid turned to look at the Mercedes with identical expressions of longing on their faces.
“Some car, boy. Some car.”
Benny ducked his head.
“Sure is, sir.”
“Where you sleeping these days Benny?”
“Okay. Now you just stop here and let me see if I can’t get you a decent meal at least.”
The cop took out his personal mobile and had a long conversation in Italian. Benny started to fidget, and the man held up a thick finger.
“How many in your old lady’s flop these days?”
Benny did a count up in his head.
“Seven. Ma. Me. Little ones.”
It was very quiet in the street now and Benny could quite clearly hear footsteps coming along the alleyway between two restaurants. A brilliantined head shone in the streetlamp as the white-aproned figure of a gold-toothed waiter slipped quietly out onto the street. The cop went over to him and they held a brief low-voiced conversation.
The cop came back with a big takeaway food bucket in one hand and some folding money in the other. He handed Benny the bucket.
“You think you can get that home safely?”
Benny nodded emphatically. The cop slipped two tens off the roll of bills and slipped them into Benny’s top pocket.
“Better scat then. You’ll be wanting to eat that before it gets cold.”
Benny dipped his head and went, covering the ground like lightning.
Later that night he lay on his bed with his belly full of pasta. Life was funny he mused, he sure as hell wanted that car but he wasn’t sure that he hadn’t wanted pasta more….