The grocery store’s security guard looked me in the eye and repeated his question. “Where’s the magazine you were looking at?” He assumed I wasn’t perusing the pages of Good Housekeeping or Ladies Home Journal that were in front of me on the magazine stand. He was right, I hadn’t been looking at those magazines. I was much more interested in Tiger Beat and the secrets of Donny Osmond’s purple socks. As the guard confronted me,my brain started to whiz around inside my skull. I was nine and not an experienced liar but I sure didn't want to get arrested for shoplifting.If ever there was a time for a big fat juicy lie, that time was now.
“It's right here” I said, pointing to a Life magazine. Then in order to back up my claim, I pulled some crumpled dollar bills out of my shorts, putting them into my grubby palm and showed them to him. “I have money, see.” I said it a bit belligerently as if I was some sort of 1940s wise guy. He didn’t question that the pile of ones was enough to pay for the magazine but wondered if I was one of those kinds of kids who was a thrill-stealer. The guard stood for a moment considering me, the magazines and the money and finally said " This isn't a library if you want to read it, you'll have to buy it." Then being satisfied that I wasn’t the thief that he suspected, he turned away and went towards the produce aisle.Perhaps he could catch someone sampling some raw almonds or eating a berry or two before purchase. What a fool! I had outsmarted the copper and had discovered a talent I hadn’t known I had-lying!
After taking a minute to catch my breath, I had to decide what to do next. I had avoided capture and jail-time all while the magazine sat hot against my chest. The hard corners were digging into my flesh but I couldn’t chance removing it until I got to a safe place. There might be some kind of magazine censor at the door of the store. Clearly, I had to dump the stolen goods and fast. But where in the grocery store was there a safe place for me to unload my ill gotten media?
As I was making my way to the coffee and baking products aisle, the 7th aisle in, I remembered that I hadn’t come to the store to shoplift and even worse that I hadn’t come alone. I was there with my father and I was supposed to be getting some cereal. He was probably wondering what took me so long in deciding between Captain Crunch classic and Captain Crunch with Crunchberries! My father could be searching for me in the store right now! Ugh my lying skills had improved but my timing skills still needed a lot of work.
After making sure I was alone in my aisle and that there wasn't any security camera capturing me, I slowly pulled the magazine out from my shirt and casually placed it on top of some of the pre-ground generic coffee. It would take them hours to discover the misplaced magazine! I pretended to be carefully considering some baking chocolate as I slowly walked down the aisle. In reality, I was waiting to see if I had truly committed the perfect almost crime.
I came up with a Plan B and the B stood for breakage! If the FBI or store security had caught me removing the nearly stolen magazine from my shirt and came from the back with their guns blazing (well it never hurts to dream big) I didn’t want to go down like those other infamous thieves, Bonnie and Clyde.
My plan was that I would spill any glass jars I could find, making a breaked goods obstacle course and hope that the lawman would slip on the big clean up on Aisle 7. It would hilarious and give me some time to hijack a shopping cart and use it as a shield helping me to get past anyone who might try to stop me. " Ha ha you'll never get me alive and I'm going to take this cart out of the store, maybe even out of the parking lot!!" But no one came and I didn’t have to resort to slapstick. But It never hurts to live your life like a 1930s movie anyway.
I went to go look for my dad.
I found him checking prices on some pickled red cabbage in a jar. It was one of those foods that proved that even though he had lived in the United States, he was still an Austrian at heart. He loved his red cabbage, his pickled herring and his brown bread. Luckily or unluckily there were always plenty available to purchase. There's never a huge run on red cabbage unlike canned pumpkin or brown gravy.
We had walked to the store together. As he had never learned to drive, we walked almost everywhere and quickly. He’d tell me stories on the way to and from. A lot of the tales he told me were allegorical stories that he used to show me how much he expected from me and how he believed I would be the hope of my family.
As my father continued to choose groceries, and put them carefully in the cart I suddenly realized what it would have done to my dad if I had been caught shoplifting. He would have been devastated and even worse--disappointed.
I was the only person that my father could pin his hopes onto and I had almost ruined it all. He would not have looked at me in the same way and there would have always been a shield of sadness covering his eyes. I’d always be his Christine, his daughter, his thief.
It would be great if I could say that after that moment in the store, I never shoplifted again but it wouldn’t be true.I never shoplifted again with my father( or any adult I was associated with) in the store but I still shoplifted.
I stole a lot of Ho Hos, marshmallow pies and those pocket sized apple pies. There was no big incident that made me stop, though maybe it was having baby-sitting money that allowed me to purchase any of the treats I desired.
Luckily I was only caught that one time and even then I was able to talk my way out it. But I never stole anything big or anything that really would have affected anyone’s life negatively except for the fact that I nearly stole my father’s hope away.