CRIME OF THE CENTURY

Monday after school my friends and I are in our usual hang out .. Carroni’s Grocery store. We go for snacks, gum .. typical things 10 year old boys like. I want chips but I forgot my money. My friends don’t have any to loan me so I just walk around the store .. but those chips keep calling me. Next thing I know, I snatch the bag of chips and bolt out the side door. Instead of running as fast as lightning, I toss the bag into a nearby milk crate and squat down next to it. Whew! I made it! Suddenly Mr. Carroni is looming over me. He grabs the bag of chips and snarls at me “Get out of here, you little thief, and never come back!”  

That night I prayed Carroni’s would burn down. No such luck.

Every day that week I gazed longingly at the store from my school bus. 

One thought kept haunting me: Sunday morning .. when Dad and I take our customary walk to Carroni’s for fresh Italian bread, a box of macaroni, cannoli and the newspaper. Maybe I should just run away from home. 

Sunday arrives and Dad’s calling for me to “get a move on!” I keep making up excuses why I can’t go but he’s not buying them. 

Dead man walking. I’m dilly-dallying the whole way .. watching caterpillars, kicking pebbles, stopping to tie my shoelaces … again. 

“C’mon, kiddo! What is this…a funeral?” Yeah. Mine! I start crying, blubbering gibberish. Taking hold of my shoulders, Dad looked me square in the eye and said “Ok, what’s going on?”  

Sobbing pathetically, I told Dad the whole sordid story. Taking out his handkerchief, he wiped my face, held it to my nose and said “Blow. Listen, kiddo, what you did was wrong but it’s over. Now we go apologize .. and not a word about any of this to your Mom. This stays between us guys.” 

We walked into the store, picked out our usual items and walked up to the counter. “Mr. Carroni, my son has something to say.” I managed to squeak out “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll never steal anything from you again” and extended my hand. An eternity seemed to go by but to my shock, Mr. Carroni took my little hand in his meaty one, gave me a solid handshake and nodded in agreement. 

Anything else?” he asked my Dad.

“Just this” responded Dad as he tossed a bag of my favorite chips onto the counter. 

To this day I don’t think Mom ever knew. 

NAR © 2018

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