Drake crouched behind the bricks and trash, nervously spinning his knife in his fingers with the ease of a pro. The Texas concrete seared his bare feet, but he was used to this by now. The market he had his eye on was about to be deserted at its usual time. Mrs. Martinez, as he had labeled the overweight Hispanic women that ran the particular fruit stand he was interested in, was two minutes away from her 10:00 bathroom break, give or take.
His blood-red pupils scanned the area to see who was watching. Everyone appeared to be minding their own business, but that wasn't good enough. He needed a distraction if he was to remain unnoticed. 15 year olds dressed in rags were noticeable, even in Dallas, and being noticed would not help his situation.
Searching still, his eyes met another Hispanic, this one older but skinnier than Mrs. Martinez. He had labeled her Ms. Gonzalez, and had more than once seen her socializing with Martinez over more than fruit. She turned her back and he saw his chance.
Picking up a rock, he flung it expertly at the carefully stacked oranges, hitting the pile in its epicenter. The heap wobbled for a split second and then came crashing down. One rolled to Drake. Smiling at the irony, he cut it in two with his knife and stuck a half in each pocket.
As Mrs. Martinez went to go help her neighbor, he walked casually to her fruit stand and grabbed an apple, quickly taking a bite out of it. He took two more for each hand and strolled off, another grin on his face. The women were still cleaning the mess up, a mere twenty feet away from him.
Just as he was about to turn the corner, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Whirling around, he was faced with a tall, sturdy cop at least fifteen years older than him.
"Son, I know I didn't just see you take those apples without paying for them."
Putting on his most innocent face, Drake answered, "Of course not, officer."
The cop smiled. "Good. In that case, I want to watch you go return those to Mrs. Rodriguez."
Rodriguez, Drake thought. Martinez, Rodriguez, whatever. He'd known it was a baseball name. "Sorry, officer, I'm afraid I can't do that."
The face grew sterner. "And why not?"
Drake put his whimsical grin back on. "Because I've got to run!" A swift kick to the gut doubled the cop over, and Drake was gone.
"Wait!" shouted the officer. "Stop;" but the cries fell on deaf ears. Drake had already turned the corner and was halfway up the fire escape home. Scrambling up the ladder, he reached the roof of the warehouse where he lived. The roof, that is, not the warehouse. Laying his apples on the concrete, he quietly looked over the roof to make sure that his pursuer had given up chase.
Satisfied, he pulled half the orange and his knife out of his right pocket and began peeling. Another successful lunch, he thought as he bit into the fruit. Puckering at the acid, he locked the black handled knife back into place.
"Wonder what time it is," he muttered. He pulled his gold pocket watch from his left pocket, wiping the orange juices off the metal. He took a moment to read the inscribed letters, TO DRAKE FROM DAD. The last thing he had from his parents. He blinked and opened it up for the time. 3 o'clock. A few more hours till sunset.
Enough time to scrounge money for a Coke.
He put the watch back in his pocket, the knife in the other, and finished his orange with a chomp. "I hate oranges," he said to no one in particular. He spit off the roof and started climbing down the fire escape.
An hour later and three blocks away from home, he was 37 cents richer. The Coke machine he usually frequented accepted pennies, which helped him tremendously on days when money wasn't growing out of the cracks. In truth, he had also found a nice, crumpled 5 dollar bill, but that didn't count. All bills went in his glass jar in the event of a real emergency, not towards food that he could just as easily steal.
The first day he went scrounging like this he had wondered how he must look to people on the street, staring at the ground and walking around. The third, he came to the realization that his ripped, never washed clothes were probably much more noticeable than his actions.
Reaching down again for a nickel, he realized he wasn't alone. Behind him, panting loudly and wagging its tail, was a golden Labrador, gazing at him happily.
"Scat, mutt," Drake shot at it. The dog barked in reply.
"Don't let me start to like you, dog." The dog sat more quietly, but the delighted grin remained. It rolled on its back, waiting for a tummy rub.
Drake's glare melted and he bent to give the dog what it wanted. The Lab licked its lips and panted in satisfaction. Drake stopped, and the dog hopped up to a sitting position.
"Well, see ya, pup." Drake turned back around to continue his quest for quarters, leaving the dog.
He had taken almost 30 steps when he realized the dog was following him. "Oh crap," he sighed in exasperation. "You can't come with me dog! I live on a friggin' roof! Unless you can climb, get going."
The dog's tail wagged faster and he stayed put.
Drake sighed and reached into his pocket, pulling out the other orange half. He held it up to the dog's nose to peak interest and let it fly about fifty feet away. The dog went scampering after it. Drake smiled in satisfaction.
"I wouldn't laugh so quickly, son," warned a middle-aged man on the sidewalk.
"What do you mean?" Drake questioned nervously.
The man laughed and pointed behind him. "You'll see."
The Lab was back, its mouth wet with citrus juice. "That dog'll never leave you now, son. You've fed it and made it feel at home with you. You're stuck with him."
"W-what? Are you sure?" Drake's face betrayed his feelings.
"'Fraid so. Sorry to break it to you. Your mom's gonna have a fit, I'm guessing." It was said almost as a question.
Drake paused carefully before responding. "Yes sir, she'll have a fit all right." He glanced at his imaginary wristwatch. "Well, I need to be getting home, I suppose." His face suddenly lightened with an idea. "Wait! Um, I was wondering, can you spare a dollar or so? I was supposed to be picking up fruit for my mom and that orange I threw the dog was what I bought. So I'm in major trouble if I come home with a dog and nothing to show for it, if you get my meaning."
The man fished around and pulled out a dollar bill and handed it to him. "Sure. Good luck with the dog and all." The man tipped his hat and the two—make that three—went their separate ways.
Despite his unwanted companion, Drake cracked a grin at his trick. Tying the dog and fruit into getting money was a nice touch, he thought. He whistled his way to the Coke machine and on top of it all found a quarter, saving him the use of his crisp bill.
Reaching home during sunset, he climbed to his roof, leaving the dog below. The Lab shot him a dejected look from the street, but kept quiet. Drake smiled guiltily. "What do you want me to do, carry you?"
Reaching the top, he split open an apple with the knife and took out the seeds. He looked over the rooftop and tossed the dog one half. The animal gave a leap and caught it in his mouth, chomping down. Looking satisfied for now, the golden dog sat up straight against the wall and looked ahead.
"Oh, so I've got a scout now?" Drake smiled. "Well, I guess I could do worse."
Scout simply looked ahead, but his tail was wagging and his ears perked up. Drake smiled and looked at his small little home.
All it really consisted of was a small gray tarp over a card table Drake had found at a dump. Inside, however, were all of his private things. His jar of dollar bills, to which he added his new 1. His other knives, the ones that held no sentimental value. A few batteries, a flashlight, a lighter, matches. Two blankets, one for warmth, one for a pillow. His only other T-shirt. And finally, his comic books, the only real entertainment he found in his survival-devoted life.
Most were X-Men and Superman, but his favorites were Spider-Man, Punisher and most of all, Daredevil. He loved the way the Man in Red used his senses alone and still managed to beat everyone he opposed. Besides, Elektra was hot.
Crawling under his blanket, he finished his half of the apple and set his knife and pocket watch next to him, kissing both before drifting off. The knife at the tip, and the watch right on the word DAD.