Friday, November 06, 2015

Once upon a Crime

This is an exercise on the idea of taking a common phrase -- in this case, once upon a time -- and changing no more than three letters. Kudos to the Internet Writing Workshop's Practice group for offering this and other great writing topics.

Once upon a Crime


There it was, a nickel bar of peanuts and caramel whispering my name. Psst! Hey Ricky, take me home. Mom stood ahead of me in the grocery line, and no one noticed as the Payday bar slipped into my pocket.

And so began my career in crime. I saw a girl drop a quarter and I snatched it off the dirt. The loss must have crushed her, but it was a big score for me. The change slots in the pay phones were often good for ready cash. Sometimes I could shake the whole thing and unstick a couple of dimes, or even a quarter. Walking through the left field during a baseball game that older kids were playing, I saw a half-dollar coin laying in the grass, Lady Liberty looking up at me. There was no doubt it had belonged to the left fielder, but finders keepers was as good as law. I told my friends of my find, and we spent it on a plain cheese pizza at a place on Rantoul Street. We’d heard that the pizzeria owner had killed a man, which made my escapade even more exciting.

My friends and I had a legitimate business, too. We collected Coke bottles and redeemed them for two cents apiece, and sometimes we’d collect old newspapers, bundle them up, and sell them to a dealer for a penny a pound. To relax, my gang and I would light up the half-smoked Pall Malls we found in the gutters – not a crime, of course, but our moms would kill us for it.

Maybe my longest-running caper was unscrewing the little caps off the air valves of tires. At one point I must have collected hundreds of them. We’d hear news accounts of grown-up criminals going to prison for stealing hubcaps, and I fervently hoped we’d never be caught. As a good Catholic boy, I confessed all my sins, but told him I’d been stealing hubcaps. Is it a sin to lie in confession?

Then one day, my gang and I got caught stealing nails from a construction site. The cop made us get in the cruiser; we were going down to the station and on to jail. But he drove us around the corner and let us out with a warning. Meanwhile, I’d peed my pants.

That close call ended my criminal career.


D.G. Hudson said...

Sometimes we need a scare to shock us out of a bad habit. I never tried 'lifting' anything, but was quite annoyed when my best friend told me she had stolen items when we went shopping. I assumed she had bought them. I watched her after that and told her if she didn't stop when with me, I'd ditch her as a friend. She had also stood behind me in class on some tests and copied my answers as a fifth grader. I sat last in the row and she used the excuse that she wore glasses and couldn't see the board. The teacher didn't wise up either.

Guilie Castillo said...

This is so, so good... I wonder how many careers in crime start out exactly (or more or less) like this. And how many could've been avoided by more law enforcement personnel willing to exercise compassion instead of brute force. Neat narrative, Bob. Kudos!

Bob Sanchez said...

Thank you both. This was a writing exercise, mind you, not necessarily what I'd have put in a memoir.