1993: ATM

Dad grins ear to ear as he waves a letter in my face. “Jenny! Oh boy! Just wait ‘til your Father tells you what I have here.”

Please let it be about us getting a new car. Fully working transmission and brakes.

I stare at him blankly while the corners of my mouth turn up slightly. He’s never this happy about receiving a letter. Only bills and threats come in the mail.

“This, my child, is your Mother’s new bank card and pin number!”

My eyes narrow into a squint. Huh?

“Jenny, don’t you get it?” No, not yet. “The bank sent your Mother’s new card to the house. They don’t know that the bitch moved out, yet. We’re gonna eat like kings this month. Daddy might even buy us a steak for tonight. Now hurry up and get your shoes on.”

Think. Oh my…no! He can’t be thinking of…because that’s illegal.

I catch myself shaking my head no as Dad replies to my silent protest. “Come on, Jenny. You’re not going to wimp out on your Father now are you?”

Flinching, “Dad! Won’t you get in big trouble?”

“No! You know your Father is a genius. I have a plan. I probably could have been mafia or a perfect thief. But God had other plans for your Father, I guess. Damn shame, too. I would have loved to be real mafia…just like the Godfather. Make my whole family bow at my feet!”

Yes, thank you God for allowing him to be violent and insane…but not mafia too.

Dad hurries me into the car. “Come on, Jenny. I want to do this in the middle of the day. Nothing suspicious. Here’s the plan. We walk up to the ATM together at Price Chopper. You’ll stand off to the side. Daddy will stand in front of the camera, but I’m going to keep wiping my face. They won’t be able to get a clear image that way. They’ll never prove a thing. Just like Uncle Fester.”

What more can you say? He’s made up his mind. If he goes to jail…you’ll end up with her. What if she doesn’t want you? Used goods…

 “Now, Poppa doesn’t want you feeling bad over this or anything. This is between your Mother and me. Daddy’s glad you’re a good girl and that I raised you right, but this is not the same as stealing. Do you hear Daddy?”

I shoot Dad a side glare. Thud. Ugh. The car’s rear end bottoms out at every road bump. “Goddamn, Jenny. We got to get the back shocks fixed!”

Dad resumes his tirade. “Let your Father tell you why this is not stealing. I want you to understand the difference between right and wrong. Your Mother has never given us a single dime. All the times I called her in California…when you and Dad were homeless…starving…she didn’t give a shit…she said ‘Tommy what I don’t see, doesn’t bother me.’ What kind of a fucking Mother says that about her own child? So this, Jenny, is just money that’s rightfully ours. She owes us this. And I know Deborah too. She never has less than a thousand or so in the bank. She’s better with money than a goddamn Jew.”

She never gave us money. That’s true. Probably wrong. But you lied to her about getting pregnant, and then you made her give birth to me. Stealing is stealing. It’s still wrong. But I can’t stop you.

Dad confidently strolls into Price Chopper and makes a beeline for the ATM. I scan the place with only slight turns of my head. Don’t look suspicious. If you blow his cover, he’ll kill you.

My heart pounds rapidly as I see Dad punch in the pin #1224.

Withdrawal Amount?

He enters $300.00.

Three hundred dollars!!! Is he out of his mind? She’ll have him hung for this.

A man walks up behind Dad. Oh no, it’s a cop. They know. We’re done for. I’m innocent!

 Jesus. Calm down, Jenny. It’s just a man waiting to use the ATM.

The machine spits out twenty-dollar bills in rapid succession. 5 make 100, 10 make 200, 15 make 300.

Dad grabs the bills without hesitation. He folds them in half and sticks the bulging wad in his right pants pocket. The man behinds us takes his turn at the ATM as if we’re all here conducting the same business.

“Hey, let’s go see if they have any of that bottom round that’s expired for half price. You know Daddy can cut the steaks so they taste almost as good as filet mignon.”

Yeah. Better than chicken livers, anyways.

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