Wyatt Wyndham

Submitted for Contest #18 in response to: Write a story about a very skilled pickpocket. ... view prompt

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Wyatt Wyndham is not a lad you’d be quick to bring home to ma’ and pa’, and he most certainly is not the type to bring you home to his, that is, if he had either a place or parents to bring you home to at all. His parents left, or rather, he left his parents, a few years ago now, and since then, he’s never looked back, at least not in that same figurative sense, for, as his current occupation demands, looking sideways, up, down, around, and especially back, is a necessity. But, more on that later, let us first, unlike Wyatt, look back to his parents.

He and his parents were said to have lived quite well, but never well off, which, for young Wyatt, was the utmost of contradictions, as, for the young boy, ‘wealth’ and ‘well’ went hand in hand. And so, if you ask him, he’ll tell you he never lived with his parents at all; in fact, according to young Wyatt, his parents never even existed, for, so he claims, he was ‘born on the streets and born by the streets’. Although, more recently, people have come to assume he means ‘born on the streets and born to the streets’, as his being born both ‘on’ and ‘next to’ them seemed rather contradictory; however, I wouldn’t put it past him, as the man himself is a walking paradox. Nevertheless, as biologically implausible as it may seem, Wyatt maintains that he emerged out of nothing but asphalt, which, might have actually been quite believable had he claimed to have been ‘born to the sewers’ instead, for Wyatt Wyndham, comparable to a rat or rodent of any sort, is as deviant and duplicitous as they come.

He’s slick, sly, slimy, and slippery, and just about every other sibilant, snakelike sounding word that could be used to describe a young man as sneaky and shifty as he.

If that’s not enough, he’s also dirty—about as dirty as he is deceitful in fact. He picks his nose, and, if he likes like the look of it, he eats it, savors it, and swallows, and, if he doesn’t, he flicks it at the nearest passerby. He picks his hair, too, with a grimy old plastic hair pick, which, with its numerous missing teeth, is not far off in resemblance to his own crooked, yellow-stained smile. As he runs the comb’s broken grin through the mangled mess on top of his scalp, Wyatt, with every stroke—in direct contradiction to the purpose of hair brushing—somehow manages to leave his hair looking messier and more manky than it was before. He loves to pick his scabs as well, of which there are many—most from tumbles and falls he’s had while running (usually away from an angry someone or something), others coming from hits from handbags, and some from hands themselves—be they scratches from the nails of hands that have slapped him, or gashes from the knuckles of fists that have whacked him. Whatever from, they’re all there, from head to toe they disfigure, or perhaps decorate, his mangled, lanky body.        Each one a story of their own—although not the kind of stories worth telling, or at least not the kind worth listening to. Either way, he picks, picks, and picks at those scrapes, scabs, and bashes, lets them scar, waits for the next one, and picks and picks again.

In light of all this picking, and as dirty as it may be, there is one thing, more deceitful than it is dirty, that Wyatt loves to pick more than all the others combined; however, it is a thing, unlike the others, that cannot be satisfied by himself alone, as the mere act itself would defeat its very purpose, albeit, once again, I wouldn’t put it past Wyatt to be the first one to try, for the thing that Wyatt loves to pick more than anything in the world, as much as I wish I could tell you was flowers, is pockets.

If it is not already evident enough in the vulgarities previously described, Wyatt is not particularly picky about, well, really anything; however, let me be the first to tell you, and hopefully not the last, he is even less picky when it comes to picking pockets, for young Wyatt will pick, or at least attempt to pick, almost every damned pocket he sees. Big or small, front or back, pants, shirt, jacket, coat—you name it, and it pains me to say, to give him even the slightest credit, Wyatt is damn good at it too.

He could pick the wallet out your back pants pocket without you even noticing. Even if you were somehow wearing the damn things back-to-front, with the pocket right there before your eyes, he’d still manage it, somehow. He could nick the nickels, pennies, even dimes out your coat pocket if you had the damn thing on inside-out, one by one, with his eyes closed. This man, an expert of deception, a master of manipulation, and an absolute wizard at stealing people’s shit, was as brilliant as he was horrid, and for all the wrong reasons. In fact, I once saw the fellow nab a purse out a lady’s handbag, take out the notes, count them one by one, organize them all the same with the presidents facing one direction, slip them into his own pocket, and slip the purse back into her bag—all the while making conversation to that very same broad he was stealing from—asking her for directions down to Fifth Ave, and doing the deed—the counting, the shuffling, and all—behind his back.

But, as skilled and as artful as he was, he wasn’t perfect. Even the best of the best bomb, choke, or flop from time to time, and there was one time in particular where I witnessed him do all three.

It’s early morning, Sunday, and I’m setting up shop on Eighth, expecting a big rush. I’m moving fast, stocking the stand, and out the corner of my eye I see this blurry patch of yellow race past me. I look up and see that scrawny son of a gun Wyatt. He’s barely balancing himself on some bicycle, weaving through cabs, nearly killing pedestrians, wearing nothing but his drawers and an oversized, bright yellow raincoat, which, in hindsight, probably wasn’t too big for him at all, rather, he was just far, far too small for it. My eyes locked onto him, my jaw dropped down, and my brows shot up, scrunching my forehead tightly upwards, folding itself together like an accordion. My head slowly shook in bewilderment, and I couldn’t help but sigh—thinking to myself, ‘what in God’s name has this damned child of a man done now?’.

It was safe to assume at this point that the bike he was riding hadn’t come from a pocket, and, by the looks of that yellow coat of ‘his’, he’d not just picked the pocket, but the whole damn thing. What’d gotten into him? Were pockets no longer paying the bills? (not that he had many to pay anyways). Had he gotten overzealous? But before I could even start to assemble even part of an answer to any of the questions I had about Wyatt that were flashing through my brain, he zoomed back into sight, flashing instead, before my eyes, although this time, he wasn’t alone. Trailing close behind this blob of yellow floating on two wheels, were three subsequent blobs of red, white, and blue, and they were on four.

It didn’t take long for the cop car to catch up to him, and in one last desperate attempt to flee, Wyatt ditched the bike, sending it ramming into Joey’s hotdog stand across the street, leaving condiments, in bright yellows and reds, coloring the concrete. I’ve known Joe for a while, and, although, as competitors, we never got along too well, I felt for him at that moment, for as much as I disliked him, I hated that ratbag Wyatt tenfold.

Wyatt started running as fast as his scrawny little sticks of legs could carry him, as his torso, which didn’t appear to be much thicker than his thighs, sliced through the city wind like a javelin. Ditching the sidewalk, he took his getaway to the streets, the same blessed grounds from which he had allegedly came. Each of his blackened bare feet smacked the pavement with a noise far too audible to be coming from their fleshy soles, sounding more like that of a wooden clog or a Japanese ‘geta’, as his boney, skeleton-like frame came in contact with the street, stride after stride. His stolen yellow coattail was flapping in the wind, appearing to be one strong gust away from taking flight, and taking Wyatt’s pencil of a body along with it.

Then, in the only instance in which he ever did, Wyatt snapped his head around, and looked back, peering over his shoulder at the two boys in blue, who had now parked their patrol car to continue their pursuit on foot. They ran, or rather, jogged after him, with their half-strides totaling almost double his pathetic, fully-extended leaps. The scrawny boy was blessed with agility, skill, and swiftness when it came to movements on a minor scale—be it with his fingers or his hands, in and out of pockets—but when it came to anything physical of any other sort, he was utterly hopeless.

           He gazed back, trying his hardest to focus his eyes on whatever was behind him, as each jolt of bone to gravel rattled his brain. As he squinted and struggled to make out the blurry figures in the shaky frame through which he was seeing, he became so focused on what was going on in his rearview that he failed to notice what was coming up in front him, or rather, what was coming out in front of him, for, just then, a pretty young woman arriving early for work had just barely began stepping out of a taxi cab, when Wyatt’s half-naked body, with head still turned, went slamming into the outstretched door, collapsing over itself like a lawn chair.

           The cops caught up to him not long after, with chuckles in their throats and grins on their faces. They helped him up, and, still dazed and wobbly, he clung to their bodies as he slowly stumbled to his feet. They cuffed his hands behind his back as he leaned against them, swaying from one side to the other, from one cop to the next, barely able to support his own weight. Stunned as ever, he continued this excessive groping and clinging the entire time it took the policemen to walk him back to their car. Still watching attentively—completely baffled by the events that had just unfolded, but secretly cheering on the inside—I observed all three of them closely as they arrived back at the car, standing directly adjacent to the rear door.

The bigger of the two cops fumbled around in his pocket, and then began patting down every inch of his pants, which, from across the street, resembled the playing of some sort of percussion instrument up and down the length of his thighs. I gathered rather quickly that he had lost his keys.

After a while, his initial searches began turning slightly more frantic, and now, the other cop, questioning whether he himself had been the one driving, started searching his own person with the same intensity. After a couple minutes of scouring every inch of their bodies and checking the ground under and around their car, the cops, and even myself from across the street, heard a slight jingle. Their heads shot up immediately and spun around, trying to navigate precisely where the sound had originated from. While holding the still loopy Wyatt close by, they looked down under the car and by their feet once more, in case either of them had just stepped on or kicked the keys accidentally; but, just as soon as they bent forward to look, they heard that familiar clinging of metal once more—the same jingle again. The cop with a firm grasp on Wyatt’s arm now turned himself around completely, looking for the origin of the noise, and, as a result, Wyatt’s own body spun around too, leaving both their backs facing towards me. I stood quietly, observing closely, from across the street, and, at that moment, with Wyatt’s hands, cuffed behind him, now facing me, I knew exactly where those car keys were, and exactly where that jingle was coming from, and I couldn’t help but smile.

I went back to setting up the stand; it was getting on now and I knew it was going to be a busy one, although probably not nearly as eventful as what I had already witnessed. I heard the keys jingle a few more times while I set up shop, each time getting progressively louder and more obvious, and then finally, after one final jingle and bit of bickering, I heard the cop car drive off about five minutes or so later, presumably with Wyatt Wyndham in the backseat. I didn’t see him for a while after that, but eventually he was back out here, picking at both himself and people’s pockets. He was, after all, a damn good pickpocket, but, in every other way, an absolutely lousy thief. It’s always best to stick with what you know, I guess.

I hear he sticks strictly to pockets now anyways, which, frankly, I’m okay with. If he wants to pick people’s pockets, I don’t mind at all. As a matter of fact, I pick people’s pockets too; the only difference is I give them a bun full of mystery meat and mustard right after. He does his idea of work, I do mine. The only issue I ever had with that slimy son of a gun was when he would hang around Eighth Ave, loitering about my shop, picking every pocket of every potential customer or passerby before I even got the chance to. You know how many times I served someone a hotdog, only for them to slip their fingers into their wallets or purses to find empty spaces where old Wyatt’s had just been. That little bastard cost me a fortune, but I’m over it now, because ever since that run-in with that cab door, he doesn’t come around Eighth no more, and business is booming.

I still see him around every now and then though, usually down in the subway, but, nowhere close to the shop. He’s probably still too busy picking the scab that car door left him to even think about coming around here picking up any bikes or flashy coats again. He earned a heck of a scab that day, and a pretty good story to go along with it—one that was finally the kind worth telling. I can only hope it has been the kind worth listening to as well.

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