Well those are dollars ala the year 2015. In truth, I stole one bill. But, since I was too young to read and know my numbers I didn't know how much I stole. It could have been a twenty dollar bill, or, less likely, a fifty. It's the 20 from, perhaps, 1947 that would be worth (from the expert I checked) anywhere from just under 200 dollars to well over a thousand dollars in 2015 currency. By the most common measure it would be $212. In any case, a lot of money. I believe it was a little more or a little less than my father earned in a day fixing boxcars on the Northern Pacific Railway.
All I know for sure is that I could tell it was worth a whopping amount when I went into the “milk store” on Snelling Avenue—three blocks from my house—handed the man the stolen bill and said, “I want this much candy.”
Not only could I not read, I didn't know the names of candy. Occasionally I'd be in a store with one of my parents, and either they'd buy me a piece, or the store person would ask me if I wanted one. When we bought it, the store man would point to one bin and say. “these are two for a penny; these are one for a penny; these are three for a nickle.” Whatever the situation, I would simply point at a piece that looked good.
The store man was startled, of course. His eyes got big. He tried to smile. Maybe he cracked a little joke about not having that much candy. He continued to be nice, but I was scared.
“What's your name?” “Bobby Komives”
“Where do you live?” I had that memorized. “1469 Van Buren.”
“Do you know your phone number?” “Nestor 3679.”
“Is your mother at home?” “Yes.”
“You wait right here.” He had the bill in his hand as he went behind the milk counter to the phone hanging on the wall.”
Hello, Mrs. Komives, … … … .”
I know my mother knew I was dying a kid's version of a thousand deaths. I also knew that I I could be trusted to walk home--as slowly as I could--with the $20 bill secure in my pocket. In any case, there is no way she was going to lessen the duration of my suffering by going to the milk store to get me.
The store man wasn't so sure. He decided to walk me home, shouting his absence to some unseen person behind the cold room.
I did not get spanked. My lesson was learned--to my mother's obvious pleasure. Not just the lesson about stealing, but about trying to win when she said “no.” She was smarter than I.
I don't remember what came before my crime. I assume I got it in my head that I deserved candy and I wanted my mother to take me to the store to get me some. I don't know if I was in full tantrum or just obnoxious whining. Maybe I was trying to impress a friend. All I remember is my I'll-show-her attitude.
You see, I knew there was this little cedar box in which she kept some important things. She kept it in the bottom drawer of the china closet. I snuck into the dining room when she was nowhere near, opened the box, and, sure enough, near the top of the papers was this bill. I knew well what money looked like even if I could not tell how much one piece of paper money was worth. I remember that I did worry that what I found in the box might be one of the big ones and that could be a problem in the store. But what was I to do? There was nobody who could read who would not crush my crime before I could commit it.
I had to take the chance, and I lost.
:: :: :: ::
In the days and weeks after I wrote this story from my memory a ghostly figure began to appear in the story. I knew right away who it was, but I doubted he should be there. A couple of months later I decide he most likely does belong there. As I see myself approach the store man and get “caught” for my crime, I see someone lurking in the front of the store. He came in with me and instead of walking with me up to the candy at the counter, he disappeared behind a rack of bread shelves or the like so he could not be seen. Sometime during my interview by the store man he disappeared. Who? It was Buddy. I now see myself coming out the house with the bill, meeting Buddy as planned on the sidewalk, and marching rebelliously with him to the store. Coward! After all, bullied by his enthusiasm, I had raided my mother's money to prove I could get us the candy we deserved and wanted. Then he chickens out on me.
Too lazy to change the sole-perpetrator version of the story, I only invite you to add a lurking, hiding Buddy into your image of the scene at the store. I believe he was there.
:: :: :: ::
Now, picture this image. Picture my mother at the end of this story when I arrive home with the store man. She stands in the half-open front-porch doorway talking to a neighbor. That's how the next story begins.
(c) from date of posting, by Bob Komives, Fort Collins