I Used to Steal

My parents don't know this but I used to steal. It was nothing big, nothing that could ever get me in serious trouble with the law, mostly just candy. It wasn't something I did a lot, just something I did when I was really jonesing for some sugar and didn't have any money. And what 8 year old actually has money? And besides I almost never got caught.


I was obsessed with candy as a child. I used to get a 2 dollar allowance for doing my chores which included cleaning the bathroom and taking out the trash. I spent most of it on a candy called Nerds, tiny neon colored shaped pebbles of pure sugar. I bought boxes and boxes, often finishing them before I could walk the 2 blocks back to my house. I also bought War Heads and Tear Jerkers and other violently named candy.

I remember one night being in the car with my family coming home from some function. We all were in our usual seats. Dad was driving, I was in the backseat behind him, mom rode shotgun, and my sister behind her. We were almost home but for some reason we stopped at a 7-Eleven convenience store.

As soon as we got in the store I saw a gigantic York Peppermint Patty. One of the big ones. The ones they ate in the commercials where people bit into a York Peppermint Patty and immediately launched off a ski jump or dove off a cliff. I wanted one so bad. So when nobody was looking I grabbed one and discreetly put it in the pocket of my coat.

I was so eager to eat it I was nearly convulsing. We got back into our car and as soon as our doors were closed and the dome light was out, I turned toward the door and discreetly unwrapped my treat. I could barely contain my excitement.

I took great pains to not make noise when unwrapping it, and even greater care not to breathe out in the general direction of the car. I knew that if anybody smelled my minty exhalation I would be found out. So I took small bites and carefully exhaled slowly into my shoulder so as not to scent the air too much. And amazingly, I made it all the way home without being found out.

I had tempted the gods of candy and gotten away scott free. However the next time I tempted the gods, I would not be so successful.

It was the holidays. My dad, sister and I were at Roosevelt Field Shopping mall to find a gift for my mother. I was wearing my black, white, and hot pink winter coat along with my matching hot pink knitted hat with the pom pom on the end of it.

We went into a store called World Imports. It was a store that sold things that might be classified as novelty. Posters, and figurines, gag gifts and those knocked over cups with the spilled beverage that looked real, but weren't.

As a child it was a fun store to be in. Never had so much useless stuff been gathered in one place.

We entered the store and while my father and sister actually went to find a gift, I drifted off to look at random crap. As usual. I gravitated towards the candy. The candy here was different than the candy I was used to. Here it was more unique, more playful, contained in little dispensers that were wholly unnecessary but incredibly appealing.

My eyes settled on a tiny gumball machine no taller than a salt shaker filled with miniature hard pieces of colorful gum. I wanted it. Knowing my dad would probably not agree to it. I discreetly (or so I thought) slid the candy piece off of the shelf, and into my pink pom pom'd hat.

In retrospect, dressing in hot pink is a bad way to avoid the attention of others. Trying to steal something by hiding it in a hot pink transportational device is even worse.

I had barely turned around when I saw him. A big bald security guard dressed in plain clothes who quickly took the hat out of my hands. He got on his radio and immediately called his manager.

This was it. I was going to jail. My Christmas present was going to have to be bail. My heart raced but I said nothing. I didn't plead my innocence or beg for forgiveness. I just stood there like the neon criminal I was.

Meanwhile I panicked that my dad and sister would come back to the front of the store and see me standing next to baldy. By some stroke of luck they hadn't yet emerged from the back of the store.

And the whole time the security guard just stood there, shaking my hat like a day-glo woolen maraca. The rattle of that piece of candy was the rolling thunder of my rapidly approaching fate. Every time he shook it my heart rate spiked. I wanted to scream at him to stop shaking that hat.

We stood there for what seemed like a half hour. I was hot, my face red, my heart the base drum to his maraca.

Thump THUMP shicka shickaaa
Thump THUMP shicka shickaaa

Finally a tall woman with blond hair walked up to us. This was it, the manager had arrived. The security guard explained my crime and showed her my tools as well as the item I tried to take. She looked down at me and asked me where my parents were.

Maybe I told the truth. Maybe I lied. Either way she let me off with a warning. I was embarrassed and relieved all in one fell swoop. As soon as she walked away and the security guard went back to his post, my dad and sister emerged from the back of the store.

Are you ready to go? he asked.

Yes, I said.

Very much so.