Short Story: The Delinquents

“Let’s snag ‘em,” Frankie says.

Jasper looks at him. “Again? What if he sees us?” The two sit in the shadow of the pier, watching the man make his way to the ocean. An ice chest swings from his hand. He looks over his shoulder as if he’s heard them.

Frankie keeps his eyes trained on the man, his disdain for him like a sour taste in his mouth. “He might see us, but he won’t catch us. Too far away.” He settles back and watches as the man, his arms tattooed, his belly hanging over his trunks, drops the chest and settles under an umbrella.

Jasper looks toward the fence where the water shoes hang. “They’re so high. I’m not sure we can reach them.”

“I can.” Frankie licks his lips, the taste of salt pleasant. “Look at him stretched out in the lounge chair. He’s got plenty of beer and no worries. He’s ready to do some serious girl watching.”

“Why don’t we take someone else’s this time? There’s plenty of sandals lying in the sand. Why trouble ourselves with his water shoes?” Jasper says.

“Too easy. Besides, he thinks he’s outsmarted me, hanging them there for spite. He isn’t even using them.” Children run along the beach, their squeals carried along with the ocean’s roar. “I want them.”

They watch as the man stands and walks to the water, waves lapping against his calves. Jasper wants to relax, forget about pranks. He stretches out on the cool sand, the smell of the humid, salty air and the gentle breeze making him sleepy.

“I’m going for them, with or without you,” Frankie says.

“Uh huh,” Jasper says, closing his eyes.

Frankie tenses. “Maybe I’ll ask Sarah to go with me. She’s not a coward.”

Jasper opens an eye. “Haven’t you cost him enough in beachwear this year? You’ve stolen every pair of shoes he’s left out, and even a towel or two.”

“He deserves it.” Frankie nods toward the waves. “He’s down there splashing in the water and we aren’t allowed.”

“We go in.”

Frankie gives him a look that makes him shrink back. “At night, or when it’s raining.”

Jasper huffs. “Okay. Let’s get it over with.” He gets up and stretches.

The two race out from the dark of the shade. “Can’t wait. I’ll tear into those water shoes with my jaws and rip them to shreds,” Frankie says. With great care, the Golden Retriever balances on the wire, nudging one shoe off the fence and tossing it to Jasper.

“Quick,” the Schnauzer says. “He’s spotted us and is running this way.” Frankie goes for the other one. He peels it loose, tearing the fabric a bit and causing the fence to bend downward.

“Got it. Run!” 

The Animal Control man races toward them, shouting obscenities, his shoes stolen again by the delinquents he’s been trying to catch all summer.