It was Pauly what got me into safes. He used to line ‘em up in his warehouse and just go down the row, bum bum bum, like a machine or somethin’. He has these hands–I gotta tell you, his hands are soft, like leather gloves, real leather. It’s like he was just tappin’ those safes, like they listened to him, did whatever he wanted. He used to say that you had to know just where to touch ‘em. He always elbowed me and winked when he said that. I knew what he meant. He was the king of dropping tumblers. That’s what he liked to call it. I always thought that sounded classy. Is that recording? We starting now?
So, all I know is the explosion was supposed to go off at 10:42. Daytime gigs always make me nervous, but whatever. It’s a job, right? Pauly said it’d be an easy gig–nobody was gonna be home that day ‘cause the guy was on a business trip, and the wife was gone, really gone–filed for divorce, moved to Boca. It was somethin’ about a tennis pro–but here’s the kicker, wasn’t the wife, it was the guy and the tennis pro. Ain’t that somethin’?
Yeah so, like I said, the charge was supposed to go off at 10:42–boom–and just like that we’re out. I was on the drill because that’s my thing and Pauly said he needed me on this one ‘cause he can’t handle the drill on his own anymore. He’s getting up there and I’m good with the drill. You know, when I started out in this business, I just wanted to drive getaway. What can I say? I was young.
Pauly taught me everything I know, but I wasn’t so good with the tumblers. I couldn’t see nothin’ in there, maybe my eyes are no good. And I couldn’t feel it out like he could no matter how hard I tried. I think he got tired of trying to teach me, and truth be told I got tired of trying to learn so I stuck with the drill. This was a scope job, I drill in, Pauly takes it from there. He can’t work that drill so much anymore but his eyes are still good for the scope, and, plus, those hands, well you know.
So who’s gonna hear this? I mean, if word gets out about this, I’m dead in the water. Nobody likes a rat–no offense.
Right, so, I just went for the drill instead of the tumblers. That takes some skill too; nobody really talks about that. They just think it’s rammin’ it in and firing away, but it’s not. You gotta know where to put it in and how deep to go, too. It sounds bad when I say it like that, but you know what I mean. It takes some skill, or the whole thing goes to hell. You hit that relocker wall, and it’s all over. Might as well pack it up and go home.
Yeah, so, the explosives were Jackie’s area of expertise. He got ‘em from, God, I don’t know, he got ‘em from around the docks probably. There were always guys down there looking for some extra cash because, you know, the dock pay was shitty to begin with, but also traffic really slowed down after that last dust-up with the Feds. Trading legislation is fucking ruining this country, I’ll tell ya. You vote for that bastard, Collins? I didn’t. I don’t know anyone who voted for that bastard. How do these jokers get elected anyway?
Okay, sure, so 10:42 was when the explosives were supposed to go off. Pauly said the score was big. I mean, really big. You never saw a score like this–diamonds, gold, what have you. We had it all timed out, down to the last minute, which is why the explosive part was so important. Well, that and I didn’t want to lose a hand to the whole operation. Or worse even, I heard about guys wearing the safe door for their funeral when the explosives went off bad, you know what I mean? So it was pretty crucial we get that timing right, you know?
I felt pretty good about the whole thing, I gotta say, because we had inside information from this guy who worked at the house. I never met the guy before, but I did see him once when I had to drop off Pauly for a meeting. I didn’t get a real good look or nothin’ but maybe good enough for a line up, who knows?
Pauly said the guy was the gardener, maybe the lawn guy or the pool guy, I don’t know. He worked on the property, he said. He had the keys, so he’s the one who let us in. Pauly said the guy came to him. Pauly thought maybe he was disgruntled, or somethin’. He didn’t even want a major cut, just a finder’s fee, which was weird, but again, Pauly set it up, so who was I to say?
We were parked in the back by these overgrown azaleas; I only know that because my grandma had a whole bunch of those in her yard when I was a kid. I know that’s what they were called because of all the times I almost got skinned for tearing ‘em up too bad. I was the guy who trimmed ‘em at Gran’s house, so I know how they were supposed to look, cut back and nice so they bloom right. These here were overgrown, which was weird since the guy who let us in was a gardener and all, or maybe he was the pool guy. I don’t remember exactly. That was all Pauly’s department.
Okay, so we were in the back and I was on the drill and this big Kenyan guy was on explosives because Jackie got the croup. Can you believe that? It’s a fucking kid’s disease. What are you, a toddler? Anyway, we got this Kenyan guy because nobody coughing like that ought to be handling explosives. You know what I mean? Sounded like a fucking seal. Pauly wanted to get Marko Fontaine but that guy is a clown. I mean it. You know, not like a joker or somethin’ but a clown, like an actual clown, but just on the weekends. Kids parties and all that. He does this ‘Jocko the Clown’ act, and it creeps me out. I always had a thing with clowns so I just couldn’t do it. Every time I looked at that guy’s face I just saw the big red nose and fuzzy wig, so we went with the Kenyan guy. I didn’t get his name. Jackie or those guys down at the docks might know. You think he was in on it?
Right, so anyway, the Kenyan said the timer was the best way to go, and he seemed okay to me. We get there and he says he’s gonna go set the charges. I was busy with the drill. It’s heavy, heavier than it looks. I have this crappy leather bag for it. My dad had a tool bag that would be perfect, but who knows where that is now. He probably left it in the garage when they sold their place in South River. His whole garage was filled with stuff. Don’t worry. He paid for it all. He wasn’t like that. He’d kill me if he knew I what I got into after I left home. I left when I was like sixteen. Don’t get me wrong, he was good to me, I just wanted a different kind of life, you know?
Hey, so you said something about a sandwich before, can we get that going? I haven’t eaten since they patched me up, and that was like–how long ago? I know I said I’d come clean, and help you guys out, but I have this stomach thing. My hands shake when I’m hungry. It pissed off Pauly so bad once on a job because I didn’t eat breakfast, and when I had to do the drilling it was like wah wah wah, the drill back and forth like that, and me all shaky, and man, I thought I might puke. We didn’t get in that day, had to pack it up–’cut bait’ my dad used to say. He said that was a fishing thing, you know, cut the line to the bait and just start over. We didn’t start over on that job though. Once you got a drill hole started in your safe, you tend to get wise that somebody got their fingers on it.
If you got turkey, I’ll eat it but you know, whatever you got. I’m not picky. Except I don’t like pickles, never did.
Right, so anyway, you were asking about the crew. Well, apart from Pauly and that Kenyan guy, we had Joey on the getaway. He’s a young kid, way younger than me. He’s got skin troubles, I mean, really shitty skin. Poor guy couldn’t get a date if you paid for it. Maybe that’s why he turned to a life of crime, huh? Twenty years old, shitty skin and a life of crime–that’ll bring in the ladies, huh? He’s a nice kid, though, and smart, reminds me of myself, ha. The guy really has a future. No offense. I forgot to mention no mayo on that sandwich. I break out in hives from mayo. My Ma said it’s probably the eggs. I don’t do so good with eggs. I love ‘em but I can’t eat ‘em. Isn’t that the way? Everything we want we shouldn’t have; my ex-wife, for example. Ha! She was amazing, long legs and a face, I can’t even tell you, so beautiful. She was older than me when I met her. It was like that movie, what was it? With the college kid and the hot older chick? I wasn’t in college though. I never went in for that. My dad wanted me to try it out, but I didn’t have time to sit in a chair and listen to some Tweed talk about, oh shit, I don’t even know what! Look, there’s my hands shaking, see?
Okay, back to Joey. We called him Joey, but he didn’t like it. He said his Mom called him Joey and it made him feel like a kid, which he was, but you know, we tried to call him Joe to his face just to keep the peace. On a job, it’s good to keep the peace. I been doin’ this for a lot of years, and been pretty good at it, I have to say, no offense. Till now of course, ha, and then that time with Pauly and the shaky hands on the drill, right?
So that was the crew, all of us, well, not including the gardener, lawn guy, pool guy, whatever. I never saw such overgrown azaleas in my life. If he was the gardener, that guy was the real criminal.
So yeah, Pauly took it ‘cause he thought it was a big score. I was already thinkin’ about gettin’ out of the business, I gotta say. See, there’s this girl. I can’t even tell you, so beautiful and smart too. But Pauly said this one was a cakewalk, so I thought, “why not?” The explosives were expensive, top rate stuff, had to smuggle those in special on the dock, I guess. Jackie said that it would only take a little of the stuff, but that Kenyan–he had other ideas. It would go off, you know, not to blow the safe, ‘cause we were busy drilling and then scoping it out, but like a distraction at the back of the house or something after we were all clear. Seemed complicated to me, but I’m not really in on the big picture, you know, that was all Pauly–and that gardener.
It was supposed to be an easy score, but there was a lot of eyes on this one because of all the publicity, which we did not expect. What are the chances of the job we spend three months planning–guy keeping all that loot in his safe like that–and the day before the gig, story shows up in the paper about him filing for bankruptcy? Pauly said the gardener told him that got nothing to do with the loot in the safe, but I wasn’t so sure. I mean, my old Dad filed bankruptcy after that real estate deal went south back in the day, and he was stone-broke. If he had loot like that in his safe he’d of headed straight for it before filing papers with the government, I can tell you that, but what do I know?
Pauly said that the explosion would be just enough to get people to pay attention to something else after we drilled and dropped the tumblers and got out with the loot. And it was supposed to happen on the other side of the wall, you know, which I thought was brilliant but then again, what do I know? I’m just there for the drilling. Pauly is the one with the magic digits. He knows just where to drop those tumblers. I guess he won’t be droppin’ tumblers anymore though, huh? How many digits he lose? Six? What was it, three on each hand? Poor guy. There goes his future, huh? No offense. And the Kenyan? No sign of that guy or Joey, huh? So, all you got is me in here, and Pauly in a bed at St. Joe’s. Right, but he won’t talk. He’s a professional like that. Even if he can’t be droppin’ tumblers, he’s smart. He’s still got a future, no offense.
Lucky for me, I just got that bump on the head. Who knew the door would fly off like that, right? That Kenyan must’ve got his numbers wrong. I mean, I don’t know much about explosives or nothin’. Doc who patched me up said it was physics. I never even got that far. Is that math or science or what? I did one year High School math before I got into shop and the math there is different, you know? If I’d gone to college, maybe I’d learn something like that, right? Make me a better burglar! Ha, but no, I’m done with that. There’s this girl. I told you about her. Yeah, no offense to Pauly, and the business and everything, I just want a different kind of life, you know? So, yeah, I’ll help you find this gardener, no problem. I could use a break.
Right, so no loot in the safe, which I submit was probably because of the bankruptcy, or maybe the divorce–and that door, flying off like something out of a movie, and at the wrong time–way too early. And Pauly in there, still droppin’ tumblers. Poor Pauly, man. He’ll kill me for only getting off with a bump on the head and nothin’ else because of immunity. “I’ll give you a knuckle sandwich,” he used to say. I guess he’s not gonna be sayin’ that anymore, huh? Speaking of, these hands are shakin’ pretty good here. So, you know, I’ll take that sandwich anytime now. Turkey’s fine. No pickles, no mayo.
Angela Doll Carlson
Angela Doll Carlson is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose work has appeared in publications both online and offline, such as Thin Air Magazine, Eastern Iowa Review, Apeiron Review, Burnside Writer’s Collective, St. Katherine Review, Rock and Sling Journal, Ruminate Magazine’s Blog and Art House America as well as on her own blogs “Nearly Orthodox” and “Mrs Metaphor.” Her first book, “Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition” from Ancient Faith Publishers is a memoir of her spiritual journey into Orthodoxy and is available now. Her latest book, “Garden in the East: The spiritual life of the body” is expected in September 2016. Angela and her husband David currently raise their four outrageously spirited yet remarkably likable children in Chicago.
3 thoughts on “Dropping Tumblers”
Great Runyanesque tale. Colorful characterization faultlessly laid out. And the truly wonderful confession. Wow!
Great story, stylishly written with amusing asides. Thoroughly enjoyable. Well done.