— Wake up! You little piece of s___! — Judah’s father simply said waking him up abruptly. He was now 15 years old and it was early in the morning. — The breakfast won’t make itself!
Judah felt his face swollen, the open window showing the morning sun and a bright blue sky. He barely could open his eyes, but he knew he needed to get up ASAP. Whenever his father wanted something from him, something done, he acted like that. In fact, Judah’s father never told him what his blue eyes were to him, raised the kid as if he owned him something, and needed to give it to him no matter what. While “good parents” would try to force their kids to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, famous artists, or sportspeople with lots of medals, Judah’s fathers took the shortest way: stealing. At least he thought he could teach Judah to do it easily, as he used to, back when he was just a kid.
“Teaching him some manners”, he thought to himself whenever he saw the boy’s blue eyes.
That day, as every day since Judah’s grandmother died when he was 10 years old, Judah needed to go out, steal some bread and bread stuffing. Additionally, he was never supposed to get caught or he would be facing some good old beating. People in his town would always feel it suspicious when a Black boy with blue eyes would come near them at the parking lot. Eventually, all he did was ask for some changes. They never felt something wrong about him and just helped the boy who, in exchange, would steal only if the money they gave were not enough. One or two people thought he was the thief and yet, would never come at his face threatening him. His nice smile always disarmed them.
— It wasn’t I! I swear! — He always lied with no problem, without giving out a single hint it was he.
“No better disguise than to be a beggar and a thief”, he would think to himself.
Back from today’s stealing – an old lady that didn’t have a single change to give him suddenly forgot her bread somewhere – he was now at home and jumped over the couch before sitting. His father was already drinking his morning beer and watching some TV.
— What you got? — He said, opening the pack. — Loaf? I’m tired of loaf! Why don’t you get some croissants like those deep pockets?
— Really? Getting picky in the morning, boss?
— I didn’t ask you anything! — He shouted sharply. — I talk. You listen! You are missing the point! You need something bigger! Loaf is too little for you! You need to start bringing real money! You are old enough to bring something else home!
— Like those gold necklaces? I already got you a bag full once! And you never shared anything!
— Shut up! — He threatened him with his belt in hand. — Or you get me more or you will leave my house!
Judah wasn’t afraid of stealing, eventually, he was too afraid of his father to question him further. Always that cold look at him, and when he moved to watch some silly cartoons, he was laughing out loud, as if he still could be a good man. The boy couldn’t think too much, swallowed two pieces of loaf whole, and drank some water to make it go down faster. He went out to plan his next robbery without saying anything to his father. Nevertheless, before doing so, Judah liked to stare at his father, hoping he would notice he was going out, saying something like his grandmother used to say. But no, not a single movement.
Whenever he would try to question his father’s actions, he would remember his grandmother saying he was just being a lonely sad man. Her pure image would then be taken by what happened that night when Judah failed to do something his father had just said and then started to beat him too hard. His grandma tried to stop him and she was pushed back. She fell already not feeling good. Whatever killed her, a weak heart, the concussion or medical complications, Judah felt it was his fault and he should behave – even though, in his innocent mind, he wouldn’t realize that ‘behaving’ as his father insisted to reinforce, was about doing something bad.
At the street, a bus going downtown had just stopped near him. Judah ran to get in and, at the turnstile, he just got down and slid to the other side, still thinking about what to do. Already at the last stop, he didn’t have much in mind. All he thought was to get a ‘money cake’ and that would be the day. Last night he was thinking something similar, to get the chance to hit the jackpot.
— Forget it, Jay! It’s not like a chance like that would fall from the sky…
Judah passed by a big car, a white van, where a priest accompanied by a small boy his age and three other men were distributing food to a crowd of homeless people. He looked at the boy quickly, without trying to know what was happening. He looked to the other side and then back again. The boy was staring at him. He had wavy black hair mostly covering his left eye, very pale skin, pink lips, and wearing some school uniform, which consisted of a white shirt with collar, grey vest and pants, and a silly red bow tie. He was holding something with food, probably soup, Judah thought to himself, and suddenly he smiled at Judah. He found it strange, creepy even, and looked away. Some steps further and Judah’s curiosity made him look back at the boy. Still staring and smiling. He looked to the van and read Universal Church of the Lord – choirboys. Judah wanted to laugh and thought to himself that he would never wear something so silly. Never.
Judah was giggling to himself, and entered a small market; one he always went to whenever he was sent to steal at the moneyed side of the city. He got some energy drink and took some of his coins to pay for it. The clumsy cashier lady was too busy looking at his magical eyes to notice she had dropped one of the coins under her chair. Getting back to her senses, she got down leaving the cash register drawer open and Judah noticed a paper bag among the notes and coins. He stared at it for two seconds and reached out to get it.
— Keep the change! — He said and left in a hurry, even forgetting the energy drink at the cashier’s counter.
Judah looked inside and barely saw it while walking, but the curves of a money cake were visible.
“I got it!” he thought to himself, hardly holding back his emotions, already imagining himself saying, “Dad, I got it!” when he get back home.
However, a policeman nearby already looked at him with second intentions.
— Halt! What did you get there?
Judah didn’t think twice, he ran as fast as he could without looking back. Seconds after, while the policeman was deciding if it was worth the trouble or not, someone shouted:
— Thief! Thief!
The policeman started the persecution. Judah was way ahead and had just a curve before reaching for a crowded area, and he would manage to lose the police officer. Suddenly he felt someone grabbing his arm and he would hit a wall. Then darkness. Judah closed his eyes and felt something on his lips. It was like a dream, a nice and tender warmth, a gentle embrace holding him and making Judah lose his mind. The policeman passed by the unsuspecting couple having an intense affair. Judah didn’t notice the time pass and only stopped to breathe.
— So, it’s really true what they say in the movies… — said a boy’s voice.
Judah widened his eyes.
— AHH! — He shouted. It was the same short boy, pale skin, pink lips, dark eyes, and dark hair.
— Be careful — said the boy, stepping away with his hands in his back, still smiling. — Don’t fall in love with me! — He winked and disappeared away from Judah’s sight.
— WHAT. THE. HELL. WAS. THAT? — Judah shouted, still at lost. — The f___…
Judah took a while to know what happened and looked for the money cake in his pocket and had found something cold.
— Wait… — He looked at it and it was the energy drink he left in the supermarket. — No, no, no… He tricked me! Me! Me!
If Judah’s father never tolerated him failing, his son would be even more worried to be passed behind by someone.
— No! — And threw the energy drink at the ground, making the bottle explode.
Judah heard a police car following the street he was and ran again. A bus was passing by not far away and he got in, doing the same trick as before.
— I’m f___… — He looked at the police car passing by.
He took a long time to go back home, as the bus he was in took him way too far away. The hungry Judah was thinking about getting in as fast as he could or he could just wait at the house’s entrance all night. Either way, his father would be beating him too hard for not doing what he demanded.
He decided to try going in fast first. If his father noticed, he would run away and try to stay out. It was “take it or leave it”.
Judah opened the door and the TV was on.
“He must be watching it!” he thought to himself and tiptoed. Then “BAN!” made the door. His father knew he was there and waited behind it just to catch him in the act.
— I can explain! I… I… Was there… and… and…
— You! — His father took out a piece of paper.
— What’s that? — Judah said almost losing his voice and sweating a lot.
— I have something big for you!
— You do… Wait… YOU DO?
— Yes! You were trying to get into a good school for good boys, didn’t you?
— I… I… Did? Did I?
— Hahah… Stupid boy. Did you think you could get away from me so easily by going to a boarding school without me noticing?
Judah had no idea what his father was talking about.
— I thought I just needed to leave you alone, you know, have the house all for yourself and… and…
— Good try, little piece of s___! But I have better plans for you!
— You do? Of course you do! What was I thinking?
— Shut up! They sent me a letter inviting you to their stupid school. I was gonna beat you pretty hard today… — Judah swallowed dry. — But those stupid religious schools have something I want!
— Of course they have! I was thinking about that too! Heheh… — Judah pretended.
— You can’t fool me, you didn’t think of that! You are too slow to think about something like that! You need to think big! And those churches are filled with gold! Gold chalice, golden reliquaries! Saints made of gold! Silver! Jewels! The main church of the Universal Church of the Lord is one of the oldest ones in the city and they must have plenty of gold!
— Wait… what? — Judah remembered that name from the van and the church boy earlier.
— Always too slow to think, you little piece of s___. You are going to that school, as you wanted. But while there, you must steal their gold for me! Because of that, you need to keep your smartphone on all the time! Keep your eyes on it! And in one week I will be there nearby and you throw the gold piece you got to the other side of the wall. Simple! Even a worm like you should know how to do it!
— I… I…
— Yes, boss…
— Haha, obviously I’m the mind working here! — Judah’s father was so full of himself he left his son alone. — Loaf? Hah! I will be drinking in gold chalices soon! Soon!
— What the f___ng hell?! — Judah screamed to himself in a low tone to not let his father hear.
The church paper floated from a wind blow near him and he read it all.
— Through this letter… we wanted to let you know… we are admitting your son… Judah… And… He can start his school year ASAP. We apologize for the delay — He stopped midway. — I don’t want to know about that! What the freaking hell just happened?
— What are you mumbling there? — asked Judah’s father from his seat in front of the TV. — Go to sleep now! You are going to wake up early in the morning. We need to get this done by tomorrow! Hahah, my son, a church boy… Hahaha…
The joke was funny in his father’s mind, but definitely, it wasn’t for him.
— At least I didn’t get my s___ beaten out of my a__! — He breathed relieved.
He tried to get his smartphone from his back pocket only to discover:
— Nooooo…! — it was also gone. — If I see that bastard again, I will… I will…
— Thank you! Thank you! — Said the market owner to Jay. — You have no idea how much in trouble I would be without this money!
— You are welcome, mister! — Jay smiled.
— Are you sure I shouldn’t tell the police? That boy would come here again any time!
— Yup! Don’t worry about that. I guarantee you he had found the Lord’s son and asked me for redemption. I’m sure he will become a good boy under the Lord’s instruction pretty soon. He just needed some money ‘cause he’s too poor and needy, mister. You couldn’t know that all those people need is to find the Lord’s words of comfort!
— Oh, yes, your church is so great! Always helping me out! Even today the Lord was by my side! Please, pray for me! I’m sure my business will be prosperous this year!
— I will! I will also pray for all those people that have no one else to help them, sir. If they had someone to take care of them, you would never need to worry about this anymore.
— Oh Jay, you are such a good boy. How’s my son doing at school?
— Peter is doing very well, sir. He’s one of the best singers in our choir — Jay said gladly.
— When will you boys sing at the mass?
— Not sure yet, but soon. Probably on a Sunday, sir. You should come one of these days. I’m sure your son would like that.
— Not again… — and he started whispering. — You know I can’t…
— I’m sure the Lord will be waiting for you whenever you feel ready — Jay made a pause and saw there was nothing else to say. — Well, sir, I need to get going. I will tell Peter I saw you today!
— Thanks again, Jay. Take care of my boy!
Jay got out of the market and went directly to the van. One of the deacons, Isaiah, was laughing out loud:
— You are the devil himself! How could you lie so blatantly?
— Envying me, already? Take care, Isaiah — Jay pointed his finger to his lips. — Your poison is dripping.
The other two loved that burn. Jay then took out Judah’s phone and unlocked the screen lock at ease. He looked at the photo Judah took of himself and left in the background. Jay smiled.