"What's your name, boy?"
"They call me 'Gato'."
"I asked you your name, not your gang tag."
They walked a bit farther in silence, while the boy hung his head.
"Tomas. Mi nombre es Tomas."
"No hablo mucho Espanol, hable Ingles."
"Sorry. My name is Tomas."
"Do you live around here somewhere, Tomas?"
"Nah. I live a couple of miles south of here - on the other side of the Burlington tracks."
"How old are you? 14 or 15?"
Tomas straightened up a bit.
"No. I'll be 17 in three weeks."
"Are you in school?"
"Yeah. I go to Central. I'll graduate in 3 months."
"That's if you don't wind up in jail, first. Central High School?"
"Aren't you a little young to be graduating?"
"When I was a kid, I skipped 3rd grade. I was smart."
"Smart? Was that smart, trying to hold me up on the street?"
They stopped in the light spilling out onto the sidewalk from display window of the old fashioned drug store. The kid turned to face him.
"I'm hungry. My Mom's a junkie and my old man hasn't been home in weeks. There's no food in the house and Mom is strung out and I ain't got no other way to get anything to eat - so what am I supposed to do?"
"That's a hard question to answer off the top of my head, but I'm pretty sure Armed Robbery is NOT the path to take - unless, of course, you want three squares a day at Juvenile Hall."
"At least I'd get fed."
"Or you might get killed before you ever get to Juvey. Let's cross the street and go to McDonald's. You need something more than an ice cream bar."