It’s written that most every person has stolen something in their lives. It can be as simple as a box of paper clips or ink pens from work, but technically it’s still theft if it’s for personal use. Last week I wrote about my wife’s tendency to steal small furry rodents and I’ve stolen more than just a dime, (as I wrote about in this story), but this story is about stealing from me. I’ve had things stolen from me as a kid. On every occasion, every single time it happened, it ended up being someone I knew and trusted (at the time). I have a few of these short stories to share and am writing each one as they occurred in my childhood. In case you’re new to the site, my first exposure of a friend stealing from me was an attempted theft of a couple of coins way back when I was only 5 or 6 years old. Here’s the link
There might have been other times, but the next one I remember happened in 8th grade at school; WJHS, Wilson Junior High School. I’ve written a few stories mentioning junior high and overall, I’d have to say that they were my most fun years at school, (except maybe for sixth grade).
With junior high, came new rules and customs for us kids. Before the school year began, we all got to attend an orientation where these customs and rules were explained to us. It was our first time “changing classes” too and so while we were being herded through the hallways, I got to see many of the friends I had left behind a few years earlier at Fillmore Elementary.
“Hi Robbie! Are you still getting A’s in Math?” (That was a kid named Marc Mathews who used to get upset when I beat him in our second grade math challenge game).
“Hey Robbie – look who else is here” (that was a kid named Rick Grubbs and he was pointing his head over towards a little girl named Kathy – Kathy and I were 4th grade sweethearts).
“Whoa! Would you look at that kid!” (That was all of us looking up to a kid named Al Lee who stood about 6’8″ in 7th grade).
There were lots and lots of new rules such as – you all must use one of these official Dudley combination locks on your locker, no others. If you don’t have one, they can be purchased from the supply room which is open for business daily between the following hours. Also, you can buy these WJHS notebooks that have the official margins and line spacing you must use for all of your English classes. We also expect all of you to use blue ink for your papers that require ink. You can buy WJHS pens if you like, but it’s not required. If you must go to the bathroom, you must first purchase our toilet paper from the supply room, (ok, so I made up that last one).
Blue and gold, those were our school colors, good colors for a school, (just ask the kids at Notre Dame). They also made good colors for our WJHS blue ink pens we kids were expected to write our papers in. I’m not positive, but from memory, I think the top of the pen was blue and the bottom, (the part we wrote with), was yellow and it had Wilson Junior High written on it. Anyone reading this, feel free to set me straight on this point.
I liked our school colors and liked the pens. Evidently, I wasn’t the only person. For most of our classes, all kids in Section 1C were the only kids in the class. Recall that we kids were divided up based on our test scores from some sixth grade test. I want to say there were 11-13 sections in total.
In a few classes though, we had a few extra kids from other sections. Likely they were strong in some classes, weaker in others. Our American History class was taught by a barrel chested teacher named Mr. Deaton. He loved all the girls. All the boys were scared to death of getting swatted by him. So when Mr. Deaton said jump, we said ‘which window’. One of the illegal alien students in that class was named Brian. Brian was amiable enough I guess, but he was a little too slick for his blue and gold horn rimmed glasses.
There were about 500 kids in our school so feeding of the herd had to be performed in shifts. Each teacher was told what time his or her class would get its lunch break and then the teacher communicated with us. All throughout the long lunch period, bells would ring at 15 minute intervals. When our class’s turn came, we’d be allowed to get up for lunch. After our allotted time, we’d hear a bell that would signal we were expected to get back to our class – we had 4 minutes to get back.
Our school was old so most of the rooms had all the old timey accouterments such as those long vertical windows that could only be opened from the top by using a special long pole window opener thingie. Our desks were sturdy, connected to the floors and to each other, aligned in rows. They had a groove on the desk surface, made for holding our pens and pencils. Underneath the desk surface was a metal opening that we could stuff extra books or notebooks.
I guess I should have kept my blue and gold ink pen under my desk instead of in the pen groove but I was naive. We kids trusted each other, at least I trusted everyone in my classes. One day after lunch, I saw that my WJHS ink pen was missing. It wasn’t under the desk, nor on the floor. Hmm, I must have lost it at lunch, I’ll have to go buy a new one. I seem to recall a new school pen costing a quarter. It might not seem like that much to you readers, but every little quarter was precious in a household of 11 with only one ‘regular Joe’ wage earner.
It might have been the very next day or the one after that, but in short fashion, once again a pen was missing from my desk after coming back from lunch. Now I was getting suspicious. I began to think about the kids in my row and how easy or difficult it would be to steal a pen from a desk without another person seeing them. I came to only one conclusion; that it could only be done by the very last person in the row. In my row, the very last person was Brian. I decided to set a trap, see if I could catch him, see if I was right.
On the next time after I was able to get a new pen, I left it on my desk again. When the lunch bell rang and we kids all began our herding out the door, I made the mistake of looking behind me at Brian a little too early. He was watching me and so when I returned from lunch, Blue and Gold was there waiting for me. The next couple of days went without incident. Brian was no slouch where it came to the perfect crime. Over that same time period, I had practiced hiding myself from view in the herd and timing the moment Brian would walk past my desk.
The practice paid off because maybe two weeks after the second or third missing ink pen, Brian got comfortable again and, sure enough, I popped my head out of the herd right as I witnessed his lifting the pen in his left hand. I waited out in the hall so I could confront him.
You want to give me back my pen?
I saw you steal my pen off of my desk. You’ve been stealing them from me for the past couple of weeks.
The only pen I have is this one here in my pocket. You’re welcome to have it if you need one.
Yes, I do need one and I need you to keep your hands to yourself.
Or you’ll find out!
I guess Brian wasn’t too afraid of a little blond haired, smart mouthed paperboy because only a few days later, another pen was missing. Brian was wearing a shirt with a front pocket that day and in it was a Blue and Gold. He was just looking at me with a nasty smirk on his face, just daring me to say something.
It made me angry – I felt he was intentionally wanting a fight or to demonstrate that he could take advantage of me as he pleased. Class had not restarted and I just walked up to him and shoved him really hard using my fists and hitting him squarely in the chest. We were about the same size, Brian slightly taller, but I had made a decent connection with his chest and had either caught him off guard or surprised him. Either way, it seemed to have had an impact. He was mad and just got in my face, but he didn’t say anything and he didn’t do anything. If looks could kill though, you wouldn’t be reading this now.
Luckily Mr. Deaton wasn’t in the classroom yet because he would have taken matters ‘into his own hands’. If that happened, I might be penless and have a raw rear end. Another girl In class saw what was happening and stepped in to try to cool things down, I think her name was Tanya. I was really mad about feeling I was being taken advantage of so I said something to him that I really didn’t know was in me – “that was your last warning”. (ooh, I’m so tough)
I must have gotten Brian’s attention finally because after that incident, no more missing Blue and Golds. Brian is probably a decent enough guy today, but that was my first interaction with a person whom I would describe as an ‘asshole’. That’s how he acted – like he was too smart to get caught and even when I caught him, he wasn’t big enough to just admit it and apologize. I knew I could stuff those pens in my pocket or hide them inside my desk, but I didn’t like the kid’s attitude and I really wanted to catch him in the act.
It had to come down to my finally shoving him hard enough in the chest so that he had to think if the thrill of stealing my ink pens was going to be worth a potential after school fight. I hate to fight so I was glad he chose a path of following the law after that.
I guess some would have the opinion that I hold a grudge, but it’s a bit more complex than that. One thing I’m pretty strong minded about is accountability. If you make a mistake or if you wrong me, all you have to do is to own up to it and say I’m sorry. If you do, we can move on and put the wrong in the past, never to be brought back up. My focus tends to be on the current journey and the future. If you don’t, we can’t be friends. I’m an introvert and I don’t have a lot of friends so I’m not going to choose to be a part of someone’s life I feel cannot admit when they’re wrong. Maybe this characteristic of mine began in a junior high history class as a kid who liked his blue and gold school pens and felt he had to defend his honor against someone else who cared more about the thrill of stealing versus trying to be my friend. If he needed a pen, all he had to do was ask.
Sholom Aleichem wrote that when you die, others who think they know you, will concoct things about you…Better pick up a pen and write it yourself, for you know yourself best. I’m sure Sholom would agree with me when I say, make sure you hide your pen so you have one to pick up!