Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Life of Crime

Before the invention of gummy bears, there were sugar-coated orange slices. To my mind orange slices were (and at least in my memory, still are) way beyond delicious. But they were also waaaaaay up on the top shelf of the cupboard where Mom figured we'd never find them. But in that Mom had underestimated this particular five-year-old. I, being too short to reach the bottom shelf of the cupboard, was in the habit of hopping onto the countertop whenever I needed a jelly-jar drinking glass. And thus from that perch I spied Mom's pogey stash in the space above the drinking glasses. I filched two and slipped out of the kitchen undetected. But though I eluded the kitchen's distracted maternal guardian, I didn't get away clean. Moments after I'd slipped from the kitchen, my two older brothers observed me licking the sprinkles off the gelatinous fruit.

To secure my siblings' silence I was compelled to procure them some of the cupboard's booty, so I fetched three more slices. When they protested that I'd brought them only one slice each but I'd already had three myself (two from my original foray and one on my return trip), I explained that I didn't dare get more than three, since the loss would surely be noticed. And besides, after all, I was entitled to some recompense for risking my life. (Actually, I felt confident that as long as one slice remained, Mom'd be none the wiser -- five-year-olds just instinctively know that all grown-ups are lousy accountants -- but my ruse worked and the brothers grim accepted my argument.)

That evening, long about an hour after bedtime, Joel and Roy got a renewed hankerin' for the spongy treats. So I was dispatched downstairs to forage in the grove of orange slices. You probably figure my brothers were once again taking advantage of gullible little Bobby (e.g., my adventures as a geonaut), making me risk a confrontation with the family patriarch just to gratify their lust. But there you'd be mistaken. I was an eager volunteer. You see, as the youngest of the non-toddling children, I intuitively understood plausible deniability. If I were caught, I'd immediately rat out the forces of evil who'd inspired my larceny. Dad (as a youngest child himself) understood the bullying that little guys fall victim to. On the flip side, my brothers would be technically innocent of committing the crime themselves, so commissioning me to commit the crime made a lot of sense. Joel, Roy and I easily grasped just how practical the Christian doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice can be (though here I might be standing on shifty theological ground).

So just as Peter and his guardian angel strolled unhindered past the guards of Herod's prison in Jerusalem, so my demon and I tip-toed down the stairs -- untroubled by the authorities parked in front of the living room's black-and-white TV. Once in the sanctum of the kitchen, I ascended the countertop with cat-like stealth and secured the booty -- three in sweaty fist and one in mouth. On my return trip along the downstairs hallway, I saw Mom in the living room, bathed in the blue glow of "Gunsmoke" (and listening to the muffled voices of Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty). Mom turned her head, looked straight at me and smiled. I smiled back, flashed her my gummy orange overbite, then disappeared up the stairway.

My return to the upstairs dungeon was greeted with jubilation. I magnanimously shared the orange slices in my tiny paw with my two older brothers -- one for each of us. (The wedge so recently in my mouth was long gone and forgotten.)

4 comments:

buffi said...

OMG! Those orange slices were heaven! My grandfather always had a stash of them that he gladly shared with the grandkids. As long as we didn't rat him out to Maw Maw.

LadyBugCrossing said...

And she let you get away with it...
Amazing...
My mother would have grounded me for a week!

Hula Doula said...

EEWWW orange slices. Fake fruit gives me the willies.
What an awesome story. FUnny how memory of the forgotten fruit slipped the brain with the thought of another treat was in front of you. YOu were a naughty bugger weren't you?

Barbara said...

Those are the same orange slices you sold to me as when you were a teenager. You older boys had a way to go to the store and buy those things. You also use to sell us glasses of coke.