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Crimes of a four-year-old

August 25, 2016

SCN_0031About 60 years ago when the Gaul family children were my best friends, Johnny Gaul taught me a valuable skill to use at the Sunshine Store, a mom-n-pop across the street from our house.

You could pick out whatever you wanted and you wouldn’t have to give the lady any money if you said “charge it.”

I immediately put it to use.  On various trips to the store I got a comic book, a bottle of pop, an ice-cream cone, and plenty of candy.  “Charge it.  Charge it.”  I chirped.  Of course the owner, a frequently divorced and remarried woman named Dorothy, asked me if it was okay with my mother.  I answered “yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I lied.

I distinctly recall mother cursing at me when it came time to settle up her account at the Sunshine Store.  “God DAMN you,” she said, “You are NOT to charge anything else at the store unless I send a note along with you.”

Well, I did try to charge a few more after that, but Dorothy stopped me at the cash register, demanding a note which, of course, I had only when my mother demanded that I buy cigarettes for her.

The memory of Johnny Gaul and the charge account at the Sunshine Store followed a painful memory of an event that took place around that time, one sunny day.  My friends Johnny and his sister Martha and I were playing on the sidewalk near our house and my mother and another adult were chatting away when Martha smacked me on the top of the head with a croquet mallet.  Made me cry.

I cried so hard that I couldn’t make myself understood when I tried to tell the adults that I had just taken a whack to the top of the head.  Worse, while I was trying to tell my story, Martha let me have it again and again, perhaps not as hard, but it still hurt like hell.  I don’t think the adults ever suspected what was happening right in front of them.

In a kind of cosmic retaliation,  I remember chasing a kid out of our yard when I threw a good-size stick at him.  I led him just enough so that the stick hit him on his head as he ran away, probably a good thirty feet.  This caused him to bellow with pain and run all the faster.  I felt pretty good about my throw, right then.  Oh, maybe my mother got after me.  I don’t know.  I do remember feeling satisfied that I had made a cool throw.

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Another time I was feeling peckish toward my friend Mike Kohler.  We played together for many hours at a time, making up elaborate games of cowboys or spacemen, or even atomic scientists.  One time when he was angry at me and turned to leave I tossed our cat at him, which dug its claws into his back, thus making him run away crying.  I had forgotten this crime until a year ago, or so, when he reminded me of it on Facebook.

Actually, we didn’t even have a cat then.  I think he was thinking of the time I hit him with the dart.

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