I think everyone has a they forget - or want to - and as a kid I had tons of them so I figured you might like to read about how life truly isn't "a box of chocolates" after all.
I grew up in poor man's Monterey - the lettuce pit of the west coast - Salinas, California where they cash in on Steinbeck and say Ro-day-oh instead of Ro-dee-oh.
My mother's purse must've been conveniently left open - or I was looking for her stashed Hershey bar again (my uncle worked for Nestlé’s) - but I truthfully recall that it was the local toy store by my elementary school that called out my name so fiercely that day - when I was in second grade.
My eyes went straight to her wallet and I found myself lifting a $20 bill. I snatched and ran straight to tubby Norah's house. Why? She was younger and more.
Off we went to toy store. I had been there daily for what seemed like an eternity eyeballing a doctor’s kit that had a candy filled syringe. I hated needles due to my childhood asthma – it kept me home sick a lot. My German mother would lie and trick me with things like: “Let's go get strawberry shortcake at zee dime store!”
Next thing I knew a with me kicking and screaming my head off while being held down by a doctor, his nurse and -my mother.
Why did I do it? I felt that kit would . Norah was looking at some toys in the display case when the owner – a large, old man behind the counter -loomed over us. I think he had glasses on and his hair was thinning but I could be off on that – besides, everyone seemed old and heavy in our town at that age.
I took a really deep breath – risking an asthma attack – then slapped my $20 on the counter - okay, my mother’s $20 – and asked for the doctor’s kit. The toy owner’s face scrunched up as he looked up at the case and back down to me. With rapid fire he hit me with questions. “What’s your name? Where do you live? How’d you get $20? Huh??” I wasn’t stupid - I was in the midst of making up an alias when Norah started to blab our street information and I grabbed her chubby hand and off we ran.
I was crushed – devastated over the loss to my salvation. We – okay – I decided that we needed to eat and Norah didn’t complain so off to the liquor store we traversed four blocks away as I told Norah to keep her big mouth shut when we went inside to purchase a big box of mixed chocolates. Success…
We crossed the street to the hamburger stand and I bought burgers, fries and soft ice cream cones. We stuffed ourselves and that’s when the magic happened. A boy rode by on his bicycle with a small black dog trailing behind that stopped to eat with us. I admit I plied him with leftovers because I wanted a new dog. You can have tons of pets but being without a dog is awful. With three brothers I needed a pet – they made better friends were a better sibling and never, ever ratted you out.
Full and happy – we headed home and the boy on the bike never came back and we weren’t running. We shared the chocolate and then I tossed the box in a field around the corner from my house because it was evidence and we weren’t feeling so hot.
I dropped Norah at her house and took my new dog home.
A prison guard sitting in wait is not a pretty sight. Usually on Saturdays my dad worked or slept in. But, no, the one day I take a little dough to heal myself and find a new friend and he had to be waiting there – just for me!
The drill began with me as the little convict: “Where’d you get the dog? Where did you get the dog! You stole him! Don’t lie to me. I know you stole that f***ing dog!” “No, I didn’t!” I thought hard and fast, “I got the dog from Candy’s!” Candy’s dog just had puppies.
A perfect answer – except I forgot how old the puppies were. Then he asked me what they ate and I couldn’t remember what the commercial said. My dad jumped up and angrily said, “You go over this very minute and ask her what that damned dog you stole eats!”
I raced to the corner and sat, crying and scared. I felt invisible on the curb two houses away – like I felt most of my life. I couldn’t go to her house because she’d know it wasn’t her dog and I couldn’t hide in my usual hiding places – the television or a tree – my dad would come after me.
It never occurred to me that my dad might be watching me through the curtains.
It seemed like hours but was probably less than five minutes when it hit me. The commercial said to feed your dog – Skippy dog food!
Triumphantly, I returned to the living room of our house. My dad peered down at me with my mother nearby. “Okay, what does the dog eat?” Man, he seemed like a giant. My answer flew out with a smile: “He eats Skippy dog food, daddy!”
I remember the hard slap across my face. It didn’t hurt as much as being called a f***ing liar and that I stole someone’s dog. I stole my mom’s $20 and I almost told him that. I was sorry but I knew how he hit my mom when he drank so that confession was out.
I stuck with Skippy because I couldn’t remember Purina and he kept yelling at me. He could make me cry but not crack. I didn’t steal the dog.
My mom stood by and asked him to stop a few times – as usual- which accomplished zip. The end of it was the lesson.
I got to keep the dog and named him Sparky. My parents never found out that I stole the $20 and I never got healed by that doctor’s kit that I wanted.
Years later, I concluded that life wasn’t a box of chocolates.
It’s just one smack away from spilling the beans on what crime you really committed that will get you.