Dre couldn’t sleep either. All he could think about was what he would do with the money if that old white dude died.
He wasn’t sure how much money they had in total, but he was pretty sure it was more than a million dollars. A million dollars didn’t take up as much space in a briefcase. He’d watched enough television to know that.
High on his list was a car. You couldn’t get anywhere in life without some means of travel. Even the hollow-eyed men who passed through his neighborhood on stolen bicycles knew that. Better to ride on a child-sized dirt bike, looking as ridiculous as a circus clown, than to be a grown man forced to walk.
Dre would have a car.
He knew that he would have to wait until he could drive his car. The law was the law, unfair as it was, but that was really just a few years away.
When he got his car, it would be the biggest, flashiest thing in the neighborhood.
The problem, of course, was telling his Mama. She would wonder where such a vehicle had come from. She would wonder about the money and just saying “finders keepers” wouldn’t cut it. They’d have to tell her something. Dre and his grandma needed to get their stories straight and be prepared for anything short of waterboarding.
Dre briefly considered just telling his mother what happened, but he knew how that would play out. Two years ago, they’d been in the Sav-a-lot and Dre had spotted a twenty-dollar bill on the floor of the store, peeking out from under the bottom shelf.
Twenty bucks seemed like a lot of money to him at the time. In the kid economy 20 bucks it was still a nice chunk of change, not enough to buy a new Playstation game, but enough for a trip to McDonalds, some Redbox with snacks from the gas station.
It was mad money, but not baller money.
Two years ago, when he was younger, it seemed like a small fortune and he’d been excited to find it, but Dre’s mama made him take it to the customer service desk.
“Somebody lost that,” she told him. “They might need that money to eat, this week.”
“We need that money,” Dre reminded her.
She shook her head. “Really, we don’t. I make enough to take care of the both of us. You don’t go hungry and you got a roof over your head. Whoever dropped that might not be so lucky.”
“But they might not need it at all,” he complained.
His mother just looked around the store, which wasn’t quite as nice or fancy as the rich people’s Kroger’s. Rich people’s Kroger’s didn’t sell chitterlings. It didn’t sell jarred bologna that looked like somebody’s guts. You could get sushi at Rich People’s Kroger’s, fifty kinds of cheese and boxed cereal that didn’t have Spanish writing all over it.
“You might be right,” she said. “But it’s still not our money.”
To soften the blow, his mother bought ice cream. It was tin roof sundae, which wasn’t Dre’s favorite, but Sav-a-lot didn’t have Moose Tracks. If they got the money, Dre definitely wouldn’t be shopping at Sav-a-lot anymore, but he figured if his mother made him turn in 20 bucks because they didn’t know who it belonged to, she’d made them call the cops about a briefcase full of hundred-dollar bills.
So, they needed a good story.
Laying in Grandma’s guest room, his mother’s old bedroom, he looked at the ancient Britany Spears poster on the wall and tried to dream up one.
They couldn’t say they found it in the house or that it was something Grandma already had. Grandpa and his girlfriend would want a cut because of the divorce.
Dre had spent large chunks of his summer at his grandma’s house watching television crime shows and shows about lawyers. He didn’t know a lot about divorce, how it worked or why it happened.
While Grandpa had run off with Grandma Charlie, Dre knew his parents hadn’t split because of his dad’s girlfriend Teri.
He did know, however, that when marriages ended, all the stuff they’d collected together got divided up in some way. Most of the time, one side of the marriage got the shaft, apparently, but a lot of that seemed to depend on the lawyers. A good lawyer could really stick it to the other person, if they wanted.
In his grandparents’ divorce, Grandma got the house, which Grandpa didn’t want anyway. She kept all the furniture and the television; everything inside the house, except for Grandpa’s clothes and his collection of dirty magazines that Dre wasn’t supposed to look at.
Grandpa had been a Playboy subscriber since the early 1970s and had boxes and boxes of the magazine, and a few others that seemed like cheaper copies of the same thing. The pictures didn’t look as good or maybe it was the women, who all looked like they had the flu or something.
But Dre didn’t know about how that worked with the money.
Dre loved his grandfather and sort of loved Grandma Charlie or Champagne or whatever her real name was. She was always nice to him, gave him presents, but that didn’t mean that he wanted to share the money.
They hadn’t gone out in the rain and dug through the crushed car, which could have exploded, caught fire or something. They hadn’t been in the gas station when the old dude starting firing bullets. They hadn’t lied to the police.
He supposed they could just say Grandma won the money, but his mother didn’t really appreciate or support Grandma’s gambling hobby. She never said anything directly to Dre about it, but she got all funny and tense whenever the subject came up. She would not have approved of her leaving Dre to fend for himself at a gas station (or more specifically, the crappy restaurant of an ex-boyfriend), while she dropped quarters and dollar bills into a machine to play poker.
When they thought he wasn’t listening, he’d heard them talk about Grandma’s hobby.
“Can’t you just play at home on the computer?”
“It’s not the same,” Grandma complained. “It’s kind of weird just sitting at the house playing by yourself. Going out and playing a little is social.”
“Who is with you when you play the poker machines at the Hot Spots?”
The truth was there were seldom more than a handful of players in these places where Grandma played and none of them were people anyone would want to get to know.
Dre thought real hard about it. There had to be a way for them to keep the money without getting tripped up some way.
Of course, they could just not tell anyone. If they were quiet about it, they could just spend what they wanted. They just couldn’t attract a lot of attention, but Dre figured that the longer the money was strictly in the hands of his grandma, the more likely it was that she’d either blow the money or do something that got them in trouble.
Sometimes, she’d get in a mood where all she wanted to do was play the games. It didn’t really matter to her whether she won or lost. She just wanted to play. With the poker machines, she really couldn’t lose too much money in a single hour, but with thousands and thousand of dollars to spend, Dre doubted that the poker machines would be enough for her.
He sighed. Probably, the old white guy in the suit with the busted-up car would know exactly what to do. People like that always knew how to make the most of their money.
The old guy had offered to put Dre through college, if they helped him out. That was something, he supposed. College would be something. He could learn how to become a video game designer or how to be a music producer. There was a lot of money in video games and rap music and Dre had some ideas.
So, that was something to fall back on, if the dude didn’t die.
“Not up to me,” he said and rolled over.