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  • My mother moved back home to my Pap's house in Florida after my parents divorced. I moved there too. First me, and then my sister. After moving in with Pap, my sister and I became rampant truants. We much preferred a day spent at the beach to a day of high school. We now took advantage of our mother because we could. Our mother told Pap we were just visiting. We ended up just visiting for a year.

    My mother, who had run a successful executive search company back home in Pennsylvania, a no-nonsense woman who in the past could have paralyzed you with one look, took a job waiting tables at a pink diner on Sunset Boulevard. In Florida, many of the buildings are flamingo pink. A wishy-washy pink. My mother paid for my sister and I with quarters, nickels, and dimes. My Pap never worked a day in his life. It's true. Pap's father had cornered the sauerkraut market during the Depression years, then fermented the money into a fortune in Texas oil. My grandfather lived a life of upper-class privilege, of tennis games, cotillions, and debutantes.

    My mother was an orphan. Pap was touring the local orphanage, the orphanage director was hoping for a donation. He stopped at my mother's cradle. She was just six weeks old and she reached up her tiny hand, taking hold of his finger. Pap decided to bring her home. My Nana, a second wife, agreed. Nana had no intention of having another child. The adoption made sense, securing her position with my grandfather. Now they were a family. Only, her parents sent my mother away to school at the age of four. The best schools money could buy.

    Pap wouldn't share his food with us. He guarded his fridge like a junkyard dog. He would turn off the lights in the bathroom while you were in there to save money on electricity. He may have been rich, but he was stingy, tighter than the bark on a tree. My Pap was not popular with his neighbors, either. He was too cheap to pay the water bill to water his lawn, and the Florida sun had scorched it brown. Plus, he had us, teenagers. And an ugly dog too.

    Pap would wake up every morning before dawn and start his coffee pot. Then he would go to the front door and retrieve the morning paper. My mother was already long gone, serving eggs over easy to the truck drivers at the pink diner. Pap's dog usually sat with him for coffee. He had found the dog wandering around in the rich gated community where he lived. We named her Honey Pie after the Beatles song. We complained to our mother that Pap loved that mutt more than he loved us. My mother sighed and said that Pap had always had a weakness for strays.

    That's what gave us the idea for the robberies. I would hold Honey Pie and listen for the signal. My sister would give a low whistle when Pap was on the move. I would let Honey Pie out the back door, then my sister would tell Pap that the dog was loose. The thing is, the dog would only come to the old man. Meanwhile, I would run into my Pap's room and lift a twenty out of his bulging wallet. The heist of his wallet became a weekly ritual. We decided that Pap went to the bank based on thickness not amount. Maybe he knew what we were up to, but if he did he never let on.

    Then one day, everything changed. My mother hung up her apron and cashed in her tip jar for the last time. She took a job in an office and began to make a salary instead of a buck a plate. My mother began to enforce rules again. My sister and I were back to attending school. After a few months, my mother had saved enough money to move back home to Pennsylvania. She was tired of pink. My mother had a desire for primary colors. She had found her strength again.

    On our last day there, we packed up the car. Pap didn't say too much. My sister and I were sad. My mother was too, but we were all looking forward to going home. After fixing food for Pap's dinner and freezing the leftovers, my mother told us it was time to go. As the car pulled out of the driveway, I turned around to wave. Pap was standing there in the burnt brown yard with his dog and he waved back to me. Maybe it was a trick of the light, or maybe it was just my overactive imagination, but I could have sworn I saw tears in my Pap's eyes.

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