Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sticky Fingers (Part 3)

We walked along the banks of the American River, taking breaks under the bridges and huddling together for warmth. Nightfall neared and we headed off the unlit trail back into town in Rancho Cordova. There was a grocery store near the trail and we decided to stop there and see what we could beg borrow or steal. We asked around the people who were in front of the store to see if any of them would donate to a not so worthy cause, enabling us to get something to eat. We even tried proposing we sing for our supper. The only offer we received was a couple pesos from a Mexican guy who was leaving the store after a beer run. (I still have one of them.) It was cold. We were ready to find somewhere warm to sleep for the night.

A young couple came out of the store on their way to their car and noticed us. Baby walked over to them and struck up a conversation. They only had a sedan, but were willing to stuff us all in and get us the last few miles to where we needed to go. The warmth of the car felt good as we all piled in onto each other's laps and squeezed anywhere we could fit. They drove us to Baby's Uncle Herb's house and wished us luck as we all unloaded in front of a small row of apartments on a rundown road behind a gas station.

I think it was around 10pm by that time and we stood in a tight little circle on the sidewalk as Baby knocked on the door and waited for the man inside to answer. After a few minutes she looked carefully around the parking lot to try and spot his vehicle, wondering if he was home.. She spotted a light blue truck in the corner of the lot and decided that it was his, she knocked again a little harder.

After a good 10 minutes or so, he finally came to the door. If I've ever seen a stereotypical man that one would assume to be a pervert or pedophile.. this was him. He was older, probably a great uncle (if they were even related) and hygiene was obviously not at the top of his priority list. He was short and heavyset, his leering gaze fell on each of us, one at a time, lingering a bit longer on Patty and I.. just long enough to make me a little uncomfortable. He didn't hold his head up and look at our faces, but rather kept his chin close to his chest and kind of looked at us up out of the corner of his eyes. He had very thin greasy white hair that was just long enough to need combing, but had not received it, and some stubble on his face and neck. He wore a dingy wife-beater tank top and some rather worn out gray sweat pants. Certainly not clothing appropriate for such a cold evening.

"What's all the racket about?" he grumbled in a raspy and barely coherent voice.
"You took a while coming, I was starting to worry you weren't home.." replied Baby.
"These yer friends??" he asked, tossing a thumb in our direction.
"Yeah.. can we stay for a night or two?"
"One night. I don't want yer mama callin' here again."

We all walked slowly into the small dwelling, it smelled of smoke and alcohol and there were pornographic magazines and videos strewn about the living room. But it was warm.

"I don't got a buncha beds er nothin'.. So you'll hafta just sleep where ever you'll fit." it was almost as if he was talking to himself, the way he mumbled half under his breath. "There's a couple of couches out here and one bed in the back room... What time can y'all be outa here tomorrow?"
"I don't know Herb.. depends on when we can get a ride. Can we say, 3? Hopefully earlier..?"
"Make it 1."

He waddled off down the dark hallway and we heard his door shut.

"He's harmless, really. He's just a sweet, lonely, old man." Baby told us, as she fidgeted and scratched her head. I don't think any of us were buying it.. "I'll sleep back in the bedroom, if anyone wants to join me, there's room for two."

Patty went back to the bedroom with Baby and the rest of us hunkered down about the living room. There were a few blankets on the backs of the couches and some throw pillows. We used those and our jackets and backpacks and made ourselves as comfortable as possible.

I didn't sleep much.

I lay awake in the dark thinking about the fact that my family most certainly knew I was gone. The afternoon had passed so quickly that I hadn't had much time to think about 'now we'd be out of school', 'now I'd be getting home', 'now Mom would be home from work'... I wondered what they were thinking. I knew they'd be worried and probably angry.. I knew they'd be disappointed, but that I was accustomed to. The future seemed so uncertain and frightening that I chose to focus on just one step at a time.. The plan for tomorrow was relatively simple: get up and ready to go, walk to the nearest store and get some hair dye, get back to Herb's and do some haircuts, then dye our hair while arranging a ride.

Dawn seemed an eternity away, but it eventually arrived. I woke in the early morning darkness to the sound of Herb scuttling about the place as he prepared to leave.

"There's some cereal.. I think." he mumbled to Baby who was up and standing at the entry to the hallway.
"Ok. Don't worry. We'll be fine. We'll be gone before you get back."
"Jus.. Just stay outa trouble." the exasperation was heavy in his voice.

I closed my eyes and tried to fall back asleep but just as I started to doze off, I heard the others around me start to stir. Honestly, I was a little relieved to begin the process of leaving.

No one had any desire to linger about, so we got ready to leave quickly. Devon and I were the first who were ready to go, so we figured we'd head to the store.

"Any requests on hair color?"
"Well, why don't you just get some of everything.. black, brown, red... and we'll figure out what everyone wants to use when you get back."
"Sounds good.."

We got some basic directions on how to locate the nearest grocery store and headed off on our way. We were walking along and suddenly Devon stooped and snatched up something off the sidewalk.

"What are you doing?" I asked.
He flashed a $10 bill at me and grinned. It was always this way with him. What he lacked in luck with his home life and family, he made up for in the smaller things. Devon was incredibly bright. He was intelligent and articulate and had an incredibly deep soul. He masked this with his off the wall wacky outbursts and feigned stupidity, but I could easily see through his facade. I liked him and we were fast friends, as they say. It was on this walk to the store that I first heard some of his stories about how he'd come to live with his aunt. How his much older brothers would terrorize him and hang him upside down from the iron railing outside their second floor apartment, and how how father would send him to buy his drugs when his mother was away driving her semi. It was an odd life, but it was all he'd really known. He had no idea how to fit into his aunt's suburban single family home and way of life.. It was almost as if he couldn't stand the stability of it, it also felt so fleeting to him. He knew they were frustrated by his presence and he quickly began to feel as if he'd be better off on his own. His story made me feel so petty and out of place. He was so much worse off than I was.

We got to the store and found the aisle with the hair dye. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no experience with this sort of thing.. luckily, Devon's aunt was a professional hair dresser. He knew how to decipher the labels and such. We looked at each other in dismay when we saw the size of the boxes. Neither of us were very big and didn't have much in the way of bulky clothing for concealing anything.. but we were happy for the winter coats. Devon's eyes lit up.

"Cover me." he said. He crouched down in the aisle, close to the shelf.. but not too close as to not look suspicious, and started opening the boxes and removing their contents..

"Come here.. quickly."

I looked up and down the aisle quickly and then knelt down beside him. I casually took what he handed me and put it into any pocket I could find room in. Once we had all we needed, we headed to the front of the store. I grabbed a Cherry Coke, a Jolt Cola, a bag of chips, and a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms and we got in line. Devon had that 'you're clever.. I'm impressed. I never thought of that' look on his face and I smiled back. I could tell that he was more than a little taken with me and my shoplifting prowess and was definitely revved up from pulling off the stunt. I informed him as we walked down the street on the way back, enjoying our snacks that it is always better to purchase something when you're shoplifting so that you look less suspicious when you leave the store. To this day, I feel incredibly awkward walking out of a store without buying something.


steenky bee said...

Who would've thought? The closest thing to shopplifting I've done was to be accused of it at a ShopKo. In the middle of them questioning me, they brought in another lady that the clerk said he had mistaken for me. She was 30 years my senior and hispanic. Nice. Also? ShopKo gave me a $50 gift certificate for my troubles. I asked the store manager if I could apply that to my lawyer fees. He then gave me an extra $100 gift certificate. Yeah, I thought so.

Pamela said...

Oh my good Lord. What would Jimmy Dean say?

ChurchPunkMom said...

He'd say 'Here, babe, have some more SAUSAGE!'

Home Contests About Me Awards Writings Contact