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The Tinker Band of Tiny Thieves This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Boston, MA
One thing that you can’t do, is walk around barefoot. That always confused me. Being a child, I loved bare feet. It made me faster and swifter, and it was a lot easier then putting on shoes every time you went outside. Of course, I was at that age when your parents didn’t trust you with flip flops, seeing as you could trip and kill yourself. So I ran around barefoot. We all did. My sisters and cousins, friends and class mates. I remember the first day of kindergarten, we all ran to school, nervous, but excited. We wore our Mary Janes’. Boys wore their sneakers. But soon as that bell rang, our shoes were off. It was still hot like summer, we thought it was still summer. And the reaction we got from our teachers was very unexpected. We were yelled at, a bunch of little kids, all for not having our shoes on. And for the rest of our school days, and sometimes for the rest of our lives, we had to wear shoes. Fast forward a few years to when we were twelve and it was summer again, we were still shoeless. I remember running to the Packy to get milk, and outside was one of the old Irishmen, who won’t stop telling stories about the homeland. “Fookin’ tinker.” He said under his breath. Was I really a tinker for not wearing shoes? Did that make my whole block tinkers? I was confused. Never call an Irish person a tinker or a pikey, or gypsy as what they’re called in America. Because that is the biggest insult for some reason. Maybe it’s because they take pride in their socioeconomic stand point, maybe it’s because pikeys cheat everyone and are dirty liars. That’s what my dad said at least. Truth be told, I’ve never actually met a tinker, only these romanesque gypsies, who sell homemade crafts in Harvard square (I don’t even think they are real gypsies). Supposedly we had relatives in Ireland that were Tinkers, my great grandmother was one. Nonetheless, I took pride in my run ins with gypsies. Whenever someone buys off a gypsy, they take me with them to haggle the price. Gypsies love to argue, and to feel like they are outsmarting you. But despite the fact that they are cunning and laid back, we still don’t like them. We call the poor kids from the projects “tinker trash”. The middle class kids from the hill call us “tinker trash”. One of the kids from our neighborhood liked being called a tinker though. He played his homemade banjo with pride. He could con like a pikey, and talk like one to. They have their own slang. And he called us The Tinker Band of Tiny Thieves. While that only lasted through junior high, we still refer to our group of friends like that. The harvard square gypsies would disappear when we came. No one was safe. I was the pick pocket, being tiny and quick. I never really used my skills much though. The only time I’ve ever actually robbed someone for money was when I was lost in New York City with my sister last year. I took a business man’s wallet, but I doubted he would miss it if he was as rich as he looked. Then there was Mickey, the con man. He could convince anyone to do whatever he wanted. He was a cute little thing with bright blond hair and big blue eyes. He walked around in a flat cap waving hello to all the strangers he saw. Our more quiet member was Patrick. His specialty was not talking. He offered words of wisdom at times, mostly to the extent of; “Quit being stupid,” Or “Don’t f***ing do it.” He kept us out of trouble. And surely the more eccentric member of the group, second only to me, was Rusty. He was named Rusty by neighborhood kids the first day he arrived, because his hair was the color of rust, and his voice was oddly deep for a kid. He was from Connemara, which is where some of my family is from, so we automatically bonded. He had a country brogue and was the idea man. I’ve never met a kid that crafty. When he was as young as eight, he ran with his brother, who was a bit shady. I never met him because he was still in Ireland, but supposedly he was a criminal. And last but not least, our leader, Vincent O’Riley. He was a year or two older, but he loved us. His specialty was being a tinker look alike, and we looked up to him for being so smart and outgoing. All through junior high, he would sit on street corners, playing his banjo for money. He was a really young street performer, and people loved him. He loved the attention. Our parents would roll their eyes at our ideas, and be in shock over our actions, but they couldn’t resist the group’s charm. Together, we were a dream team. A child version of the rat pack, the usual suspects, and ocean’s eleven. Vinny had us convinced that we would someday pull off an elaborate bank robbery like the Irish mobsters we looked up to and retire young in South America. We had everyone else convinced we were to end up in prison. But the one event that ended our gang, was when Rusty decided to piss off the wrong man. We had always stood on the flat roof tops of Boston, throwing stones, beer bottles from our older sibling’s previous night, candy, even school supplies at random passerby. If they came after us, we would hop to another roof, or climb down and have an exhilerating chase. That day, Rusty threw a beer bottle at a car. The alarm went off. We laughed and hid, waiting for the owner to come out and flip out. The owner came out alright, with a sawed off shotgun. He yelled at us, told us to come down using the most colorful language. We complied, not caring to get shot in the face. Mickey nearly fainted, and we tease him about it to this day. “Why did you do that?” He demanded. We shrugged out shoulders.

“No reason.” Rusty said. “I just thought it was getting to quiet.” The man could’ve, no, he should’ve smacked him. “Please don’t be angry.” Rusty pleaded. “You know how these car fights are, next thing we know, a hockey sticks’ gone through the window, and someone is impaled with the Irish flag.” To our surprise, the man laughed. Relief flooded our bodies.

“Do that again, and I’ll f***ing kill you.” The man said. We complied, not caring to get killed. And that was the end of The Tinker Band of Tiny Thieves. Thank god, we’d be dead by now.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Snikerdoodle said...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm
Nice article. What does the red check beside your title mean?
 
sorlageal This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm
It's editor's choice, but I don't know what that means.
 
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