Most of the time, an interesting event can elicit a coherent (and sometimes clever) remark from me. In this case, though, I’ll admit that I had met my match. I stared in silent wonder at the monochrome images that were flashing on the far-left monitor.
“Wow…how old do you think he is?” I asked.
Miguel chuckled. “Old enough to know better.”
Wishing that I had a fresh tub of popcorn to further enjoy this voyeuristic version of entertainment, I continued to watch the screen. When the recording had started only a minute ago, the screen had displayed the empty lobby of our building, with a lone package sitting on the top of a wooden table. Likely, it had been delivered by a lazy courier service who knew the panel code for the building’s door but who didn’t possess the stamina to bring it to someone’s front door. For some unknown reason, there seemed to be a correlation between apathy and the ascension of floors, even with the option of using an elevator. A few seconds later, Helga could be seen leaving the elevator with her two behemoth dogs, and after inspecting the package and determining it as unintended for her, she and her loyal steeds exited through the lobby door. The door would have slammed shut, but at the apex of its swing, the tip of something flat and thick lodged itself between the door and its frame. Prevented from closing, the door stood ajar as a miniature figure dashed inside, quickly scanning the area for any possible onlookers. Unfortunate for him, his wily plan to be covert was ruined by his soft childish brain, which hadn’t considered the chance of camera surveillance. Believing that the coast was clear, he sprinted towards the thin table, slamming the momentum of his body into the table’s feeble legs. (It would have been the perfect hockey check if he had only been wearing ice skates and shoulder pads.) Not having a chance, the table toppled over, and the package fell onto the floor.
“Hmm…that wedge in the door frame looks like a skateboard…and he’s got to be around six,” I remarked. “He’s seven, tops.”
Undaunted by the fact that the package’s dimensions nearly matched his own, the baby burglar used the few muscles he possessed to lift the small package and run out of the lobby with his prize above his head. It would have been a glorious exit if he hadn’t tripped over his own flailing feet and fallen onto the sidewalk. Wiping away some tears, he gathered himself (along with his new bounty and his skateboard), and he fled the scene in a run that resembled more of a drunken stupor. It was only at that moment when I realized the raucous laughter in the room was coming from me.
“Does Sesame Street have a jail?” I asked Miguel. “If I were our little friend, I’d be especially nervous about getting shanked by Oscar. Or worse.”
“No Bimbo cakes in the future for that guy.” Miguel whistled. “I know someone who is going to get a nasty pow-pow when his dad finds out. And, bad news for him, I know his dad.” After only living in Little Peru for a few months, I had become all too aware of the Hispanic love for onomatopoeia. Dogs were known as wow-wows, since supposedly they made a wow sound. (I’ve never experienced that myself, and I’m standing by woof instead.) A pow-pow, on the other hand, was supposed to be the sound of a spanking, though I’d probably vote for thump-thump or smack-smack as a more accurate depiction. Then again, I had never experienced the Latino version of a spanking, and I had no desire to verify my theory to that degree.
I turned to Miguel. “Really? You know this kid’s family?”
Miguel nodded. “Yeah…I think that the kid’s name is Pablo. His dad is a pretty good guy, but his grandpa is a mean son of a bitch and a thief. Well, he was a thief, before he got the…cómo se dice…” Miguel pointed at his knuckles and then slowly flexed his fingers.
I understood his intent. “Arthritis.”
“That’s it,” Miguel said, snapping his fingers. “I forgot. Sorry about that.”
“No worries. I wish that I spoke a fraction in Spanish what you know in English.”
“Thanks, amigo,” replied Miguel. “Anyways, yeah, I’m pretty sure the grandpa had a part in all this. The niño wouldn’t have done it on his own. I’ll talk to his dad…unless you want me to call the cops?”
I shook my head. “No, that’s not necessary. I trust you…if you vouch for the dad, then I’m sure that he’ll give the kid a good scare and maybe a good pow-pow. And I know that we’re not getting any of that stolen stuff back. To be honest, I’m more inclined to call the cops on this grandpa…”
It was Miguel’s turn to shake his head. “He’s too smart. He’ll deny everything and pretend to be old and crazy. Too slippery to be caught.”
“Aw, shit,” I grumbled regretfully. “Well…forget that, then. I guess that we’ll just need to send out a notice to all the other owners about getting their packages. By the way…why did you just approach me with this? Why not Brian and Babbu?”
“Well, as I watched the crowd, I thought to myself,” mused Miguel, “That the only sane person speaking was you. So I left them out of it.”
My shoulders shrugged under the weight of such a compliment. “Well…thanks. I appreciate the vote of confidence.”
Well, now that we’ve handled that, I guess that it’s time to get back upstairs and meet Rhonda at the taqueria blocks away. Since my body had a natural affinity for the cooler temperatures of this dungeon, it was dreading a return to the oppressive surface, and it encouraged me to further cheat summer of all its unpleasant weariness and warmth. My mind worked quickly to assist the machinations of my body, and in a moment’s time, it was able to excavate a tangential topic worthy of discussion (and, therefore, a delay to our departure from this chilly sanctuary). Oddly enough, despite being found with paltry intentions, I realized that my question was actually a good one; I could be moments away from resolving an issue that had haunted me (almost literally) for months.
“So, Miguel, tell me…you’ve looked through these video feeds, right? Seen anything interesting at all?”
He squinted as he brushed through the cobwebs of his mind. “Not really…a couple fighting in the hallway…I think that it was the fat man in the garage today…”
I nodded. “Yeah, that would be Mike and Lisa. Anything else?”
“No…nothing else.” Now his eyes squinted with suspicion. “Why do you ask?”
“You could say that I’m hunting down some ghosts. Tell me…how far do these recordings go back?”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.