It was one of the Big Ones: Thou Shalt Not Steal, but I didn’t care. I wanted it so I was gonna take it, and planning was key.
There was no reason to steal something if you got caught and had to give it back. But that wasn’t gonna happen to me. Nope, my plan was perfect. All I needed was a big distraction, and Twin Brother Mark was that distraction. The fact he didn’t know he was helping me steal something made my plan perfect.
Growing up back on Flamingo, there were two things my parents refused to buy us kids. The first was a BB rifle. They said we would put our eyes out with it. Even after we explained it was impossible for anyone to reach the trigger and shoot their own eye out, they still didn’t buy us the rifle.
The second thing my parents never bought us was a Super Ball. For those of you who don’t know what a Super Ball is, it’s — well — a super ball. About half the size of a golf ball and made of hard compacted rubber, when thrown down on concrete or asphalt, the ball bounces so high it’s almost out of sight!
Our parents’ objection to buying us a Super Ball? It could put our eye out. We argued that the eye thing was what they said about a BB Gun, but it didn’t matter. For all the time we lived on Flamingo, they never bought us a Super Ball. Being eight years old at the time, it was all the reasoning I needed for stealing one from our local grocery store.
Every Saturday morning, Mom took all us kids to the A & P to buy groceries for the coming week. Usually stacked at the end of the aisles was a display of something currently on sale. The week I stole a Super Ball, it was cans of chicken noodle soup.
Normally we’d just follow behind Mom, putting stuff into her grocery cart before she told us “No” and took the items out. When her attention was on deciding which cereal to buy and not on watching us, it was the perfect time to put my plan into motion. I knew if I pushed Mark, he’d bump into the grocery cart then run after me. I did and he did.
Running to the end of the aisle, I took a sharp right knowing to go around the cans. He plowed into them, sending them and him to the floor in a loud crash. During the confusion, I quickly pocketed a Super Ball without anyone noticing. Once home, my brothers followed me to the end of our driveway where I started to play with my newly acquired, ill-gotten toy.
Word quickly spread, and in less than an hour, Bubba Hanks, Goofy Steve, Neighbor Thomas, and Ski also joined the fun. We took turns slamming the ball to the ground to see which of us could make it bounce the highest.
Dad came home early from work and saw us playing in the street, rolled down the window and asked, “Whose Super Ball is that?” No one answered as he pulled into the driveway. Bubba took his last turn, slamming the ball so hard on the street, it bounced out of sight! Eventually it was Older Brother Richard who found it when it hit him … directly below his eye.
Once we got a screaming Richard back inside, Mom put a washcloth full of ice on his eye to make the swelling go down. Dad asked again whose Super Ball it was and surprisingly, none of my brothers ratted me out. My secret was safe, or so I thought. In church the next morning, Richard’s eye was still black and blue. Don’t really know if that had anything to do with Preacher Jim’s sermon that Sunday or not: Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, and Honor thy mother and father. But that was the day I realized I’d broken not one, but a trifecta of commandments.
I never told my parents that I was the one who had stolen the Super Ball, and they never found out. Or so I thought. A few years before my dad passed away, we were in a grocery store at the beach. At the end of one of the aisles was a display of cans … chicken noodle soup. I remembered what I had done back on Flamingo and finally confessed to the childhood crime. Dad smiled and said he’d known it was me but decided not to say anything. When I asked why, he replied, “Feeling guilty is its own punishment.”
Dad was right. I’d felt so bad about stealing and then lying about it that I never did such a thing again.
After telling this story to our granddaughters, they got really quiet, exchanged worried looks, and said, “Papa, we have something to tell you.”
I smiled and replied, “Girls, I already know.” Then I assured them that “Thou shalt not break a Barbie then throw it into the trash without saying anything” wasn’t one of the Ten Commandments.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]