The Laundering Cycle – Todd Mercer

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Delacruz shakes weaker kids down for lunch money. But then he’s also a gentle protector of his brother with Down’s Syndrome. They come through my Dad’s bowling alley on weekends. The brother loves to bowl, he’s a natural.

Delacruz scores about a hundred, a hundred-twenty, passable. He cheers as the brother clears spares.

I realized that cash the Delacruzes spent at the alley, which buys plenty of hot dogs and French fries, must’ve been taken from the pockets of the kids he terrorizes at school. Maybe some of that money is tainting my allowance. I imagined those kids going home hungry and either telling or not telling their parents about the bullying problem. Mostly not telling, I bet you. If they were embarrassed or didn’t want the hassle that comes with that, they said everything was fine.

Yesterday the brother and Delacruz did an elaborate hand jive routine when the brother hit two strikes in a row. It was pretty cool to see. After that I took thirty dollars in ones from the cash register that’s in front of the shoe rental racks.

It doesn’t explain good, hearing myself say it out loud, but someone had to complete a circle, and that someone was me.

When the kids Delacruz takes from came into the cafeteria today I gave them each a buck so they would eat for sure for once. The shop teacher saw me and said to go down to the office, so here I am.

When the brother slipped and threw a gutter ball, I thought he was going to start crying, he got so upset. But Delacruz touched their foreheads together. He said, “Heart of a champion, heart of a champion,” and the brother calmed down.

I’m not sure who the villain is in this.

About the contributor: Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. His collection of pre-owned Italian ties purchased for $2 each is probably the most bad-ass pre-owned Italian tie collection outside of Italy. Just sayin’. Recent work appears in: The Lake, The Magnolia Review, Praxis and Softblow.

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