Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Todd Mercer

Four nights we dug a tunnel from the basement of the Jolly Roger pub to a spot directly below the vault of a bank. If you read the news much, you know which bank. We dug it quickly, so it was barely wide enough to pass through. The earth we cleared was painstakingly shoveled into the trunk of a Pontiac in the alley.

The kid who thinks he’s grown drove each load away, and there were many. But that’s all we let him do.

Ronnie hired a specialist who joined us the fifth night. This guy who we were told to call Guzman packed a little tech suitcase. “Proprietary equipment,” he said, when I asked him what was inside. He didn’t want any of us near him to see how he did his magic, but the man was highly effective. Guzman got us through the reinforced floor and into the steel-cased vault in under fifteen minutes. That takes mad skills, my friends. No idea where Ronnie found him.

Before we went in to empty the place, Ronnie handed Guzman a fat envelope. They shook hands, then Guzman rode off, chauffeured by the kid who thinks he’s grown.

Me, Ronnie, and our crew beat the alarm systems and crawled back to the Jolly Roger with around two and a half million in cash and prizes. It nicely made up for all the days we didn’t steal anything at all. This haul was the high-water mark of our careers. It was almost problem-free.

Fast-forward several years when Ronnie was doing time. I tried to find Guzman when I saw a job he’d be ideal for. Yeah, he was not too findable and for sure he had a different name. I left word for him, but a cat with his skills was probably beyond extradition on his own Caribbean island by now with no motivation to look for more work.

The kid by then was actually grown. He was my assistant and a very capable one. He clearly relished our work, and everything about being a member of the organization. That made me reflect. “Don’t bullshit yourself,” my Dad used to warn me. And I don’t do it more than the next guy does. I don’t comb a long strand of hair over my bald spot, things like that.

I’d spent too much energy looking over my shoulder. Had a crick in my neck from it. The Feds, the competition. Maybe Ronnie would get the idea that I was a part of how they got the goods on him. Ronnie still had the power to send people after his enemies from prison. If he felt that way.

Following best practices, I visit Ronnie every other month. When I do I’m Mr. Positivity. I tell him he’s going to coast through, grind out the hard time like rock to powder. I see that his family has whatever they need. You name it. Hopefully these measures are enough.

It’s almost time to change out everything.


Todd Mercer’s short collection, Ingenue, was a winner of the Celery City contest. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance is available free at Right Hand Pointing. His poem “Overextended” won a Dyer-Ives Poetry Prize in 2022. Recent work appears in Literally Stories and MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Spartan.

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