We'd bought cake because we'd remembered it was momma's birthday next week and we wanted to get something to celebrate it. WE'd bought cake now because we had the money now and we were that we couldn't find someplace to hide it or keep ourselves from spending it and Kelly had proven that we couldn't save for shit.
No, I didn't mean that, but Daddy always said that money was like water, it'd flow through your hands if you're not careful and while Momma said that was why we had banks, as buckets to hide the money, and it earned interest there besides, and Daddy just made a face and said something about how he didn't think the bank charging him fees should be paying his wife interest, and then voices were raised, mean thing were said and doors slammed. Daddy didn't come round much anymore, but we hadn't bothered thinking of any of that when we asked the little girl for her money.
She was walking down the streets, and she looked nervous and we knew she had some. We'd seen her before going out to get ice cream, and we didn't think she'd ever noticed us.
She did just hand it over, though. Didn't ask questions. Didn't say "no!" Just "OK" and handed it over like it meant nothing to her. We didn't even want that much, just a few dollars to play video games with and split a donut.
"No, we don't need it all. Take this back," I said, because this was more than we could spend at the arcade before momma got home, expecting us to have dinner reading and on the table.
It spelled like spring. There was a sign for a fair behind us, and Kelly nudged my kidney, and said, "that'll be fine," and we took off.
I looked behind us. The girl just stood there for a moment and kept walking. Didn't cry or anything.
There were two cops on the corner, the opposite side of the street. I stared at them, fingering their night sticks. "Stop it! They're not looking at you!" Kelly whispered, as he took the money and pushed it into an envelope.
"Where'd you get that?" I asked. I'd never seen money in an envelope before.
"Mrs. Jones gave it to me for the permission slip for the trip. I thought it might come in handy, so I slipped it into my notebook. Stop staring at the cops. They don't know what we've done."
The cops weren't even looking at us. It was 1981 and they had bigger fish to fry; the "broken window" policy hadn't been dreamed up. These dudes were looking for actual criminals.
"She gave us $23!" Kelly whispered.
"Shit! What we gonna do with that? Momma'll know for sure"
"Wait! Didn't she tell us to get dinner going? She's working late tonight that's why we were out on our own. We could buy food with this!" Kelly's bright idea.
"Nothing too fancy," I warned. "I mean, if we go overboard,"
"Will you stop worrying? I say we can buy dinner!"
There was a bakery next to the Chinese restaurant. We stared into the window sometimes.
The man at the Chinese restaurant asked what we wanted. We looked at the menu, and figured we could get dumplings, beef with broccoli and that General chicken that Mom liked. We'd still have $12 left, and that was too much money to be caught with.
Passing the bakery again, Kelly said,
"We found a twenty dollar bill,"
"Who'd lose a twenty! Momma'll never believe that." I argued.
"Lots of people. Hell you mighta dropped it, running away from the cops like that," I fumed. I hadn't run from the cops. We hadn't even *seen* the cops when we were running, and when we DID see the cops we just kept real still. "But we found 20 dollars and decided to get dinner. Then we remembered her birthday is next week and I didn't think we could keep the money safe, so we'll buy her a cake."
"Can't keep the money safe. You mean, you think I'd spend it." Kelly always had to be the sensible one in his stories.
"You want to say that it was your idea? You think Momma will care which one of us bought her a birthday cake?"
I stared at him in awe.
"That way she can't ask where we got it and it leave $3 for later!"
The cakes in the bakery were amazing. All kinds. Kelly remarked that Momma didn't like chocolate frosting, but then I said, "it's our Mom's birthday next week!" and the lady said,
"Then I'll have to show you our birthday cakes," and took us over to a different counter.
We got momma a cherry cake with black frosting that said, "Happy birthday Mom!" and hid it in the refrigerator when we got home.
Momma got home about 20 minutes later and took one look at the carefully set dinner table, with the food laid out, and shook her head.
"I probably don't want to know what you boys did today. No, I probably don't," and sat down to eat.
She loved the birthday cake, though.