She took a sip of tea. —It’s poetry.

—Poetry?

—Yeah, probably Dadaist.

—How do you know that?

—The French is the giveaway. My French isn’t what it used to be, but this line is easy to translate. It says: They eat brioche?

—What the hell is brioche?

—It’s an eggy sort of French bread.

—Eggy? What the hell does that have to do with anything?

—That’s just it. It’s not supposed to mean anything. That’s the whole point of Dada.

—Sounds like a crock of shit to me.

—A crock of shit is a perfect metaphor of Dada, actually.

—So what you’re trying to tell me is that all of this is supposed to be some work of art?

—Possibly. Or it could be a live semiotic text. Even performance art. Who knows? But those are just theories.

—Theories are all I’ve got right now.

—Well, theories are all you need in my field.

—Unfortunately, he said, sighing, they don’t satisfy grand juries like they used to.

 

Three days later, the sheriff called a professor of French lit at Notre Dame to decode the first line, which evidently was a Marie Antoinette quote (who knew?), which helped him figure out the correct order of the ransom notes. The sheriff arranged the four notes into a coherent message and laughed. Even when kids were robbing banks and stealing high-tech electronics, they were earnest little fuckers, too young to be indoctrinated by sarcasm or irony. Their sincerity, while misguided, was refreshing:

Qu’ils Mangent De la Brioche?
These Are Our Demands:
Bring Back Our Dads.
Stop Killing This Planet.
Give Us Art Class.
Quality Time Is Bullshit.
Poverty’s A Silent Bomb.
Everyone Is Someone’s Child.
Please, Get Over Yourselves.
 
::

 

The first place to get robbed was the Old Liberty Bank, but it was also the sheriff’s last piece of evidence, helping him solve the mystery of Indiana’s one and only documented child insurrection. By comparing alibis and attendance logs at school, he concluded that every kid had participated in at least one heist (probably more). Even worse, their parents were all hiding something too. That’s when he dropped the investigation. There was nothing he could do with the whole town guilty. In time, he learned to ignore the futuristic glow of sparkling plasma screens flashing through people’s windows. He stopped asking neighbors where they got the money to buy brand new pick-up trucks and state-of-the-art desktop computers, family vacation packages to Cedar Point, and new dental implants for grandparents used to gumming their syllables for years. The people of Muncie had never wanted him to ask too many questions, especially about their sudden fortune, and he really hated being lied to, so he stopped sticking his nose in people’s inexplicable cash flow.

 

After the security guard pressed the mythical red button and passed out, the Star-Spangled Banner blared over the bank’s PA system in a monophonic clamor. The customers lying on the ground covered their ears, wincing. Twenty minutes later, the fire department showed up after a tween called 911 using a stolen SIM card. Ten blocks from the bank, the sheriff saw a group of kids in Catholic school uniforms and cowl, Les Mis, and CEO masks trick-or-treating (their guns tucked inside bulging pillowcases filled with candy).

He stopped his car and rolled down the window. —Who are you guys supposed to be?

—The Crazy 88, they said, like duh.

The sheriff smiled and told them to be good. Then he shooed them away right as an armored SWAT van zipped by. They were just kids after all and kids were always the victims, even when they were the ones pulling the trigger.

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