The Kissing Bandit
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"You're my last customer, Mr. Kias."

"Hey, Tony. Just trim the back and sides with the machine. How are the Italians doing? Do you think they'll take the Cup."

"We're the best in Europe. You know, Mr. Kias, U.S. soccer is starting to take off. In California, they are packing them in. Next year, you wait and see. How are you doing? What's new with you?"

"I'll tell you what's new, Tony. It's one crazy story. You got to keep it under your hairpiece. Promise?"

"Sure, Mr. Kias. You and me."

"At 7 o'clock tonight, I'm on my way to Louisville to a reunion of my old outfit. This morning I stop at the bank and withdraw $500 bucks for my expenses and to do a little shopping in West New York. You know, outside of Miami, there are more Cubans in West New York than any other town in the U.S. I bus it down to West NY and hop off in front of Models. I'm looking for a pair of sneakers. As I get off the bus I slap my back pocket for the feel of my $500 dollar wallet.

Damn it! I had done it again. I realize my wallet is gone and it must have fallen on the seat of the bus. For the third time in thirty years I have left my wallet on the damn bus. Up until now the wallet had always been returned to me, sans money.

My body vibrates with anger, panic and utter disgust. It's amazing how you can feel three different emotions at one time. I have the choice of two things: one, going over to the curb and throwing up and then proceeding to bang my head on the pavement or two, chasing the bus down Burgenline Avenue.

I take off at a speed that makes the road runner look like a slow sloth. With my lungs on fire and the old ticker ready to blow, I am closing the gap. I'm steadily gaining, thanks to the congested traffic. I finally run down the bus in the middle of the avenue. I pound on the door until the bus driver reluctantly opens it. Bounding on the bus, I run to the back where I had sat. There is no wallet on, under, or in back of the seat.

I think it would be kind of stupid after my frenzied behavior to ask if anybody has seen a wallet. I glance at the people who are now quietly staring at me. I had checked my pocket when originally boarding the bus. I am mad as hell and completely frustrated. I think someone on this damn bus has my wallet."

Tony has stopped cutting my hair. He is now holding dormant scissors and comb in either hand. He is on the bus with me.

"Just then the driver yells to me. 'Hey Senior', as he holds up the wallet. A shabby old woman that I had rudely brushed past while running down the aisle has just given it to him.

I rush to the front, grab the woman in my arms and give her one big hug and a kiss. God, I am in ecstasy. I tell her she has saved my life, then I realize she has not understood a single word. It's time to celebrate. Despite her protest, I flip the wallet open to reward her, only to find it empty.

To quote Bill Gates, 'Speed is God and time is the devil.' It is amazing how fast the brain works in a state of crisis. My plan of operation is conceived at a speed that made a Pentium look like an abacus.

I feel I have no choice in what I must do. I am in a no-win confrontation with a bus load of Cubans and a Cuban bus driver. I feel extremely helpless. I have to take control and right the wrong.

In desperation I snatch the woman's pocketbook from her grasp and jump off the bus. I head down the yellow line at top speed with the bus driver in pursuit. After running two blocks, I realize the bus driver's hysterical screams had coerced a posse to form behind him. I top my top speed.

I think If I can only reach Hudson County Park where it borders the avenue, I can lose my pursuers in the thick wood. I know I need at least a hundred-yard lead. I have two things in my favor: the posse cannot make time on the sidewalk because of the crowd of shoppers, and running on that yellow line through intersections takes the edge off the pleasure of the chase.

God, there it was, the woods. I suddenly realize that there could be no sanctuary there. They would surround it and I would be trapped. They would beat the bush 'til I was caught. I could not stop. With a superhuman effort, heart pounding, fighting for air, I run and run. I suddenly realized how Frankenstein's big friend felt when all those bastards carrying torches were pursuing him.

Finally, I crash out of the Park, into Fairview, hoping I have left my pursuers combing the woods. I continually glance back in search of the dreaded posse, keeping the pocketbook under my shirt. I run down Fairview Avenue. I feel as if I'm painted red and twenty feet tall. This is what nightmares are made of.

Reaching my home, I go directly up to my room and rip open the pocketbook, only to find three bucks. There on the dresser, still in the bank envelope, is my $500 bucks.

Tony, you know what this means. I have to spend the rest of my life skirting West New York. They will always be looking for that stranger, the kissing purse-snatcher who can run like the wind."

Tony stood there stunned.

"Hey Tony, close your mouth. When are you going to cut my hair? I got to get to Louisville. Keep cutting, Tony, and I'll tell you the true story. Everything I told you up until I opened my wallet on the bus was true. The truth is my wallet still contained the $500 bucks. I gave the old lady twenty bucks and stepped off the bus. Tony, when you tell a story, never let the truth get in the way."


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