My life of crime

Rick Ryckeley

As you remember from last week, Dear Reader, my three brothers and I had “borrowed” a discarded coconut from the church.

Finding it out by the trashcan, we’d thought no one would mind us using it as a football. After hours in the hot July sun, we decided to stop playing and eat the ball. All who did were violently sick that night. My brothers and I were among the sickest. Confession is good for the soul; at least that’s what Preacher Jim said while confronting us the next day. So here is mine.

After Sunday’s services, Preacher Jim was giving his second sermon of the day in his small office to just my three brothers and me. We stood before him for what seemed like forever listening about the evils of stealing.

Finally, to atone for our misdeeds, we were to cut the grass at the church for the next month and promise never to steal a coconut from the church again. On the way home, Dad asked if we’d learned anything. We all said, “Yes” and that we were sorry.

What I didn’t say was how much I loved the taste of coconut … and how much I wanted more. Turning down the pathway of crime is one slippery slope. And just a week later, I was about to slide all the way down to rock bottom.

The location of my rock bottom was our local Piggly Wiggly grocery store. My brothers and I had promised Preacher Jim we would never steal a coconut from the church again, but we didn’t promise not to steal one from the Piggly Wiggly.

The following Saturday Mom took us to the store, and while she was grocery shopping, my brothers and I did what we always did. We played tag up and down the aisles. Soon, I found myself hiding out in the produce aisle when an uncontrollable urge hit me right in front of the coconut display.

I tried, but there was no way to hide the coconut under my shirt, in my pants, or even in one of mom’s grocery bags without being detected. Luckily for me, I remembered a radio commercial about a candy bar.

Mounds candy bars were full of coconut and located up next to the checkout lines. While no one was looking, I stuffed six in my pockets. It should’ve been enough to get me through until Mom went shopping the following week.

They didn’t last. Perhaps it was either the muggy July weather or the weight of the sin I had just committed, but either way, as I was walking to the car, I started to sweat and the candy bars started to melt.

As Mom drove, I kept sweating and the candy bars kept melting. By the time we all got home, I was almost melted and so were the Mounds.

Storing them in the freezer when Mom wasn’t looking was a good idea. They stayed there hidden under a sack of English peas until that night when Dad retrieved ice for his evening drink.

To say he wasn’t as forgiving as Reverend Jim about stealing would be an understatement. For my punishment, cutting our yard for the rest of the year was bad enough, but Dad also did something that had a far more lasting impression on me than just preaching about sins of stealing.

He marched me into the Piggly Wiggly, straight up to the manager, and he made me give back those melted, now frozen, Mounds candy bars. We rode back home almost in silence. The only words spoken still echo in my memory even to this very day, “I’m disappointed in you stealing, but proud of you being man enough to give them back and apologize.”

My life of crime ended that day, but I’m reminded every time I see a coconut or eat anything that has coconut in it just how slippery a slope a life of crime actually can be, even for someone who grew up living a magical childhood a long, long time ago on an old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

Special note to Readers: My brothers and I have been granted special permission to visit our old elementary school and dig for the time capsule.

As you remember from the story printed in this paper Nov. 13, 2018, over 55 years ago Big Brother James buried a capsule at the school, “Under a big rock,” right outside his third-grade classroom.

Finding something or not will bring closure to an important event left unfinished from our childhood and our memorable time spent growing up on Flamingo Street. Story soon to follow.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]