Oh, my goodness! Where did the time go? I thought that I would have several posts written in the meantime since my last one and this one, but...I didn't.
So...here is my quickly pumped out love-at-first-sight entry for this Valentine's Day Blogfest! Sorry--it's a bit long. And sorry--I finished this scene just minutes ago. Seriously. I have been busier than I expected I'd be!
Happy Valentine's Day!!!
Although he was 69, if he hunched over, he could make himself look 84. Put on the reading glasses he carried with him, smudged as they were, round his back, slow his walk. He could change himself completely, could put on a personality as easily as he could put on another shirt.
It was an art he had perfected over the years—changing who he was. It was the Game, the Big Game, the only Game he knew. How to survive. And he was the best at it.
Oh, there were others who played. Granted, they were not without their victories. He knew plenty, in fact; they frequented the same bars and restaurants and hotels that he did. They passed on the street, from time to time. The regulars. The others called him Con. It came partly from his name, which was Ray Conners, and it came partly from what he did.
“Hey, Con, what’d you get, this time?” they said, their greed for his success glowing in their eyes.
It was always something—whatever he wanted. His touch was light, his fortune fair; his memory for numbers and names served him well, and he could pick and pluck whatever he wanted.
After all, he was the Robin Hood of his realm. That’s what he figured. He took from the rich, the well-off. Most of the time. The middle class, occasionally. Only if they deserved it. If they gave off attitude, had a smug glance that proved they needed to be taken down a notch.
You had to be an observer to play Con’s game, and that is exactly what Con was. He took the time to get to know his next move. That was why he enjoyed his walks so much. He liked to walk downtown, along the busy fronts of the offices and stores. He liked to watch people interact with each other. They were awful, mostly; yelling and swearing, trying to get ahead of each other by standing on each other’s shoulders, grinding them into the floor.
It was especially good near holidays.
Con watched people, and he judged people. Who was an easy mark, and how, and why. How he could make his mark count. He was always on the lookout, and he paid attention to every detail.
That was just what he was doing on this particular Wednesday. He was noticing, allowing all movement, all noise, all facets of this new area to dissolve and assimilate into his mind.
That was when Con spied the young boy. The boy had a different look to him; his face was scrunched up in concentration, his baseball cap shoved on his head, his backpack dirty and thin. He was about 12, pushing between some people at a bus stop.
Typical latch-key kid. He looked off—like he had been cared for carefully, but yet like he was neglected. That he didn’t want to be noticed was obvious. Con paused, pretended to be interested in some flower arrangement in barrels that someone had thought would look interesting on the corners of the streets of this particular city. He looked down, and peered across the street.
Someone elbowed the boy—apologized by raising his eyebrows, his suit coat stretched tightly across the breadth of his shoulders and the bulk of his person.
The boy didn’t say anything, and Con squinted. He was confused—had he just seen what he thought he saw?
Then the boy glanced up, and looked at him, and Con smiled jauntily, pretending to be a bumbling old 84-year-old, nonthreatening and non-existent. He walked on, around the corner, continued, rounded the corner again, walked some more, and suddenly walked into someone.
He was a soft little thing, and he glanced up at Con and walked around him.
Con felt in his pockets immediately—and smiled. He turned to follow; the little boy hurried forward. As he walked, he reached up, pulled off the cap, and wispy blond shoulder-length hair fell down against his neck. He pulled his backpack off, and he looked like he could blend into the wall. He stopped slouching, and ducked into an empty alley.
Con, whistling, followed. And stopped.
A girl, a plain girl, but her eyes sparkling, a smile playing upon her lips, leaned against a wall. The boy’s backpack was on the ground, and she had set her foot on top of it. She looked like she was about 20. They stared at each other, for a moment. Then she reached into her pocket and held out a dilapidated old wallet—Con’s wallet.
“You’re the great Con.” She wasn’t asking so much as she was telling.
He felt his chest swell, his breath catch. His mind worked. And though he was 69, he realized that he was in love. Truly, dumb-struck, turned around in love. He had never felt it before, and it hurt, just as much it intoxicated him.
Drunken with emotion, he leaned forward, took the wallet from her soft white hand.
“Yes,” he said, standing straight and dropping all pretense. “I’m Con.”