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Published April 12, 2018

I’m going to tell you a story.  It’s not a story that I’m particularly proud of, but I will tell you anyway…

It was a hot summer day, so hot in fact that the back of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt was sticking to the seat of my mom’s minivan (I don’t know if I was really wearing a TMNT shirt, but let’s pretend I was).  I was probably five or six years old at the time and was being dragged along by my mom on a family trip around town to run errands.  My twin brother, Nick, and my sister, Madison, were also sharing in the suffering.

It was a typical To-Do List; run to the post office, buy some groceries, and fill up the van with gas.  But to my young and restless mind, this trip was about as fun as cleaning my room.  I was bored to death.  You know that feeling when you’re so bored that it’s affecting you physically and makes you so weak that you have to sit down?  Yeah, that was me.

We were on the last leg of the trip and I was fading fast.  My mom assured me that all we had left to do was to fill up the van.  We pulled into the gas station and parked in front of a pump.  Mom killed the ignition and the air conditioning along with it.  Ten seconds later, a bead of sweat rolled down my brow.  I threw open the sliding door and announced to my mother that my brother, sister and I would be waiting inside.

We breathed a sigh of relief as we crossed into the air-conditioned sanctuary of the gas station and started walking the aisles.  Nick and I giggled at the nudie magazines hidden on the top rack.  Madison scolded us and we made our way to the candy section.  To this day there’s just something glorious about a well stocked candy aisle to me.  The three of us surveyed all of the sugary goodness, indicating which were our favorites.

Shortly after, our mom came into pay for her gas and called for us to come to the front of the store.  As her bill was being rung up, I asked if we could each get a candy bar.  She promptly said no.  I was outraged.  You drag us along on this mind-numbing trip and won’t even reward us with one little candy bar?  Have you no sense of justice?!

I was floored.  I couldn’t believe my mother could be so cold.  I opened my mouth to retort, but she cut me off with, “James Michael, go get in the car.”  Damn, my middle name.  She meant business.

I hung my head and started to follow my siblings to the exit.  Just before we reached the door, an idea occurred to me.  A dark and sinister idea…

As the rest of my family was walking out the door I called out that I would just be a second, I needed to tie my shoe.  Of course my shoe wasn’t really untied.  I had long before learned how to tie a double knot.  No, I had an ulterior motive in staying behind.

I crouched down and pretended like I was tying my shoe.  I was right in front of the rack of candy they keep at the cash register.  It wasn’t as good of a selection as the actual candy aisle, but it would do.  I took a glance around the store to see if the coast was clear.  The person at the register was pre-occupied with some scratch tickets and there was no one else in the store.  I knew this was my chance and I grabbed the first piece of candy I saw, a Now & Later, and stuck it in my pocket.

To this day I don’t know why I grabbed a Now & Later.  I don’t even like those.  They’re like chewing on a piece of rock and don’t even taste good.  It’s like the worst candy you can steal.  A Reese’s peanut butter cup would’ve been great.  I would’ve even settled for a regular, old Hershey’s chocolate bar.  But, no I grabbed a single Now & Later.  Already my plan was going off the rails, but there was no turning back now.

With the candy in my pocket, I stood up and walked as calmly as I could back to the van.  Act cool, James.  Nothing going on here.  The adrenaline was flowing through my veins.  It was at that moment that I knew the thrill that criminals got from pulling off a big heist.  I got in the van and slid the door shut.  We drove home with one extra passenger in my pocket.

As soon as we got the house, I quickly went into my bedroom, which I shared with my brother, and hid the candy under my pillow.  I was a competent little criminal and knew I had to stash it away for later.

That night as my siblings and I were ushered off to bed, I couldn’t wait to enjoy my take.  When we turned out the lights, I didn’t go for the candy immediately.  I waited.  I waited long enough that I thought Nick would surely be asleep.  Then, I rolled over, tucked my hands under the pillow and started to slowly peel the wrapper.

I didn’t get the thing halfway open, when in the darkness I hear Nick say, “What’s that noise?”  My eyes went wide.  I assured him it was nothing.  He didn’t relent, “What is that?  Do you have candy?”  I told him no, of course not, but he had already sprung out of bed and turned on the light.  He ran to my bed and pulled the pillow away, revealing my stolen Now & Later.

It didn’t take Nick two seconds to put the pieces together and realize what I’d done.  He was horrified and just started screaming, “MOM! JAMES STOLE CANDY FROM THE STORE TODAY!”  I begged him to stop, but he only yelled louder.  My mom burst into the room to find Nick pointing one disgusted finger at his outlaw brother.

I didn’t even try to deny it.  I was caught red-handed.  My mom wasn’t so much mad as she was disappointed in me, which is always worse.  The next day she made me return the candy to the gas station and pay for it.  I cried like a baby the whole time.

I still don’t know how Nick knew that I was up to no good.  Maybe his twin senses were tingling or maybe I wasn’t as good of a criminal as I thought I was.

I resented him for a while.  Betrayed by my own twin brother.  Because of him I got in trouble and was punished.  It didn’t feel good, but in the end I knew I was wrong and was pretty ashamed of myself.

Looking back on it now, I’m glad he told on me.  Sure, it was just a piece of candy.  No big deal.  If I hadn’t been caught, would I have gone on to live a life of crime and evil?  Probably not, but who knows?

No, I’m glad, because it was in that moment that the two of us made an unspoken agreement with each other.  We are going to hold each other to a high standard and when one of us thinks that the other is acting in a way that we don’t agree with, we are going to let him know.

I’m glad that I have someone who knows and cares about me enough to call me on my bull shit.  Everyone needs someone like that in their lives.  We’ve stuck to our pact since we were six.  It’s benefitted me up until now and I know it will later in life.

Huh, I think I just realized why I grabbed the Now & Later.

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