Ciro and I loved the arcade. Most of us kids did. We'd pick up pennies shining shoes for people or selling papers on the corner just so we could rush into the arcade to drop our pennies into the mutoscopes. I liked the ones that showed magic tricks, even though Ciro and Tommy thought they were fake.
One day Mr. Arnold added in new machines. These were taller than the rest, and had names above like
"The Exotic Dancer" and "The Dance of the Seven Veils". We didn't know for sure what that meant, but we saw more men in there. They'd line up to those machines, and each time we'd try and look atone ourselves, Mr. Arnold would shoo us away, saying it wasn't for kids.
Like that would stop us.
We'd distract him with some commotion outside, then two of us would slip in. One would get on the back of the other, and we'd look at pictures of ladies. That wasn't the important part, though.
One day Ciro remarked, "Y'know, those guys are saps. Their old ladies could walk right up on them and they'd never know until the dames clouted them."
We laughed, but it got me thinking, and Ciro noticed.
"What is it, Bennie?"
"Got me an idea. Maybe we don't need to shine as many shoes."
"Come on. Keep an eye out for Old Man Arnold. But zip it."
They followed me in. I motioned to them to stay next to the third row of machines, while I went ahead. I crept up to a guy with his eyes in the machine, feet wide apart, and hand going at the crank, occasionally pausing before moving on.
I went up to the guy, careful like, then slipped two fingers into his back pocket; I slid my fingers out again around his wallet.
He didn't notice.
I tucked it into my waist underneath my shirt, and ran to rejoin the guys. They stood in wide-eyed, open-mouthed amazement, and we took out of the arcade faster than if the cops had been after us.
Around the corner, we eyed our prize laid out on the alley trash can: twelve dollars and thirty eight cents.
"How did you do that, Bennie?" Tommy asked while Ciro clapped me on the back over and over.
"I don't know; I just slid it out."
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