For as long as I can remember I have been a criminal. All my friends were, while I was growing up, but it was sort of innocent. We would have competitions to see who could steal the most gum from the convenient store without getting caught. Or, we would ask the guy behind the counter to get us a magazine that he kept behind him, like a Penthouse or a Playboy. He would turn around for a second and start to shake his head indicating we were too young to buy it, but we would have already reached up and stolen as many packs of cigarettes we could grab while his head was turned.
I don’t know whatever happened to all those cigarettes because I smoke like 5 of them from the age of 10-17. I don’t know of any of my friends dying from lung cancer, so maybe they didn’t smoke them either. I even used to steal the daily newspaper from the store, and I was a paperboy with a free copy already. I just loved that little thrill I would get from stealing from that store. My friends and I were little shits back then (some of us still are). Probably was one of the reasons we moved to the other side of town when I was 12. My parents needed to get me away from all the trouble makers. Of course, she didn’t think her handsome popular boy could ever be one of those trouble makers.
Anyway, I was born a criminal. If this is a nature vs nurture argument I would say for sure it was in my nature. I did not learn how to be a criminal from my dumb friends. If anything, I probably started some of them down pretty dark places. A few of them have died, been locked up, and I guess I have that on my conscious now, which only makes me a little tougher, a little more bad ass. Some of them got out, became normal functioning adults, but they had to overcome being associated with the criminal mastermind they knew growing up as Mark the Shark.
It all started for me back when I was around 3 years old. I was a good looking kid, not to brag, but yeah, wait, definitely to brag. I had this awesome bowl cut, the most stylish clothes, and patent leather shoes. I always got the cool color outfit and my little brother was stuck with whatever color I didn’t want. I mean, I really should have been in those Toys R Us commercials back in the day. I was breathtakingly handsome. If you don’t trust me just ask my Mom, she’s a saint and would never lie about that to anyone…
Anyway, I guess that is enough about my looks. You get the picture, I was a 3 year old stud. We lived in a really cool neighborhood when I was real young, in the town of Arlington, Massachusetts. My Dad and Mom, just as they do now with their grandchildren, loved to walk to the local stores and pick out something at a bakery or whatever local stores were in the little strip of stores near their house. For me, I remember walking around, and the way my Mom tells me I was known to everyone. Exactly like my little niece now. She walks around those stores like she owns them because that’s the way my parents treated us. They let us, me some 35 years ago, and my little niece now, just walk around, exploring what the stores had to offer and talking to whoever would listen.
On one of these occasions I was in a candy store with my parents. They were off talking to someone and I was left alone in a freaking candy store. If you know me, like my wife and kids do, they know leaving me in a candy store by myself is a very bad idea. Each time we would go on a vacation my wife hates when I see the local candy store, cause she knows I have to spend $50 on a million different assorted candies. Fun Dip, and bulls eyes, and hot balls, and candy cigarettes, and tootsie rolls. Basically, I turn into the kids who won the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka. My eyes light up. So, being left alone in this store at 3 years old is a very bad idea, but Mom and Dad had no idea.
I search for a piece of candy and walked to ask my Mom if I can have it, she says “No” cause she is the worst person ever, and I walk back to put it away, but then I notice she isn’t looking at me anymore. Boom, this is the moment. Who’s going to know, right? I take the York peppermint pattie and I slide it into the front little pocket located on the chest of my very stylish Oshkosh B’Gosh overalls I was rocking. We pay for whatever my selfish Mom needed to buy and I walk out of the store empty handed and with a little frown on my face to keep up the fascade of anger I have to keep up with for my parents benefit. Keep them off the scent of the stolen candy. I can’t show them I am okay with not getting a treat because they will know something is up. I’ve never been a good liar, so I needed my best poker face to get out of the store with my stolen peppermint pattie.
I hear the sound of the door opening as exit, that little bell signals I am home free. I am just a step or two from freedom and this new career I started of just stealing whatever I want. I reach into my front chest pocket to touch my stolen treat and just as I begin to smile I touch my chest. Why did I not feel that York peppermint pattie between my hand and my chest? I check my other pockets, maybe I spaced out and put it in one of the 6 other pockets on these overalls. No luck, I slowly start to lose all the color in my face. I begin to think that my life is over. My career as a criminal was over before it started. But then, I feel something weird on my side touching my skin, boom, it must be my stolen treat. I must have rushed it and put it down my shirt instead of my front chest pocket. So, I start to slowly shake my right side to move the peppermint down my side and out of the bottom of my pants. I’m Andy Dufresne dumping rocks out of the bottom of his pants in Shawshank Redemption. I wonder if I should have gotten some residuals from that movie since they stole the move from me. Anyway, I feel the pattie start to move, but I need to be careful, cause I have to drop it without it making a noise and pick it up and hide it again all before Mom and Dad notice they are raising a criminal. I start to walk behind Mom and Dad, I have to, so I can make this move happen. It slowly falls to the ground and I bend over to pick it up, I got away with it. I was home free! But, as I pick my eyes up from the ground I see my Mom staring a hole into my soul. I was busted.
I think that maybe, since it is a little 5 cent piece of candy I might be okay. Maybe I will just open it and eat it quick before I am murdered. At least my last meal would have been that deliciously chocolate and mint mix. I will die a happy little boy. But, it’s like my Mom could see my actions before I could make them. The candy was in her hands before I could even finish my dream of eating it. The only thing I had now was tears, maybe a temper tantrum would get me out of the embarrassment of having to return the candy. Maybe….maybe….Before I could really get a good quality loud scream going I was dragged back in the store apologizing to every staff member working. Cruel and unusual punishment if you ask me.
I still can’t look at a York Peppermint Pattie some 36 years later. It changed me, I went from a handsome boy to a hardened criminal. I grew up a lot that day…