I parked my green Schwinn bike out front. I crossed my fingers on both hands as I walked in and passed the quiet machines. The last time I was in here with Mommy I spotted the half full rack. That’s when I got the idea to come back later. This place could save me a lot of time.
SHINE LIKE NEW by SARAH KORF REATIVE COMMONS WWW.FLICKR.COM
Why was I feeling so guilty?
Not many thirsty people as I eyed the rack. Sweat trickled down both sides of my red face. Nervously I looked out the big front windows. Nobody in sight. Carefully, I slid three bottles off the rack into my left arm and one for each hand.
These few wouldn’t be missed.
My feet carried me fast out the door. I felt like a crook. My daddy would definitely kill me but my sweet tooth didn’t care. For the hundredth time I wished my bike had a handlebar basket. How was I going to ride my bike with my hands full? I forgot to think my crime through.
I looked down at my elastic waist band and quickly stuffed three half-way down my shorts. My chubby fingers would hold the lips of the other two while the palm of my hands guided the handle bars. It wasn’t easy peddling my bike down the long alley and up the steep hill.
Do they arrest nine year olds, I wondered?
I was glad to reach the corner grocery store. The owner was used to my bartering visits and he said I had “ten-cents worth”. If he knew he was dealing with a thief he wouldn’t have sent me alone to the candy section.
I filled my little bag with a strawberry Kit Kat stack, a black licorice roll with a red jawbreaker, three grape flavored sugar straws, Bazooka bubble gum, and pastel dot candy. I showed the store owner my purchases and he nodded. Rolling free along the sidewalk I enjoyed my bag of candy.
Why did the fresh candy taste so blah?
TWO WEEKS LATER my writing hand was numb! I was on sentence number 668. I couldn’t hold my pencil any more. I was having trouble with my school work, too.My punishment was to write one sentence over and over until I got to 1000.
“I WILL NOT STEAL POP BOTTLES FROM THE LAUNDRY MAT EVER AGAIN.”
I didn’t know how my daddy found out but he did. I got up from the kitchen table with the thick writing tablet and short pencil to go talk to Daddy. I needed some sympathy or my hand was going to fall off. I stood there in the semi-darkness of the bedroom staring down at him while he slept.
When he opened his eyes and saw my face of pending doom he grinned. He asked me how the sentences were going. Dramatically, I lifted my withered hand. When he laughed I laughed, too. His good mood inspired me to mention I had learned my lesson. Daddy asked me what I had learned.
I told him I learned it was wrong to steal bottles that belonged to the laundry mat. I could have been arrested and sent to kid jail and it would have embarrassed the whole family. Also, I caused five people to go without a cool refreshing Coke because of the five missing bottles. My daddy chuckled.
Daddy said I had disobeyed one of God’s Ten Commandments. I didn’t know much about God nor did I know anything about his ten mints. I was just glad that God liked candy, too.
I told my dad I was sorry for stealing the bottles and I would never do it again. I promised him I would never go in a laundry mat for as long as I lived. I would stay in my dirty clothes for punishment and ask Mommy to teach me how to use the ringer washer. He laughed.
TEN COMMANDMENTS BY WCM 1111 CREATIVE COMMONS WWW.FLICKR.COM
When Daddy relinquished me from finishing the rest of the sentences I sighed with great relief. I thanked him several times and started to leave before he changed his mind but, he stopped me. I couldn’t believe what he wanted me to do. He said for two more weeks he didn’t want me to collect any more discarded bottles lying around in Oakley. It was something about sugar being bad for my teeth?
At nine, I didn’t know that much about God. I was already learning to ignore my conscience. My daddy’s talks and punishments helped me behave but I still felt bad inside.
I needed something to take away my guilt and shame.
What do you think I needed?
COKE BOTTLES SISTER BY DON GRAHAM CREATIVE COMMONS WWW.FLICKR.COM