Family dinners were important in my house growing up. Dad worked nights, so when he was home mom wanted us to be the perfect family. Mom and dad would talk about taxes, mortgages, or whatever it is parents talked about, while my older brother and I made faces and picked at each other because he was clearly “not touching me.”
My parents were strict and they knew everything that happened under their roof, and until the age of six, I actually believed that.
“Pass the fucking mashed potatoes, please.” My six-year-old self knew exactly what I was saying. My brother’s mouth hung open as he waited for a response from our parents. My dad glanced over at me, passed the mashed potatoes, and carried on his conversation with my mom. From that moment on I’ve been on a never-ending quest to see what I could get away with.
When I was nine, I paid Cameron Juarez fifteen dollars and some Bazooka Joe bubblegums to punch me in the nose so I could leave baseball practice early. He only fractured it, but he still got the job done. At the age of thirteen I convinced my brother he had H7N3 — the goose flu — because he kept calling me the “family disappointment.” Weeks later when he confessed to our mother, tears running down his face, that he had contracted the goose flu because he went down to the pond to pet the geese again, she informed him that there was no such thing as the goose flu and he became the real family disappointment.
High school was two-fold for me. On one hand I loved to learn, especially things I had zero interest in. On the other, sitting for eight hours straight was torture. To make the time pass, my best friend Cheyenne and I would enable each other and cause a ruckus.
Cheyenne was five foot nine inches of intimidating teenage angst. If looks could kill, she’d be the last person on earth. Her source of confidence came from her perfectly applied eyeliner and her ability to say whatever she wanted without fearing repercussions. Her ivory white skin could be picked out of the crowds in the hallways as she cleared paths with her attitude.
We caused the most problems in study hall. Between a teacher who never came to class and our never-ending laughter, we achieved no studying that year.
Holt Fueler sat in front of us. Typically Cheyenne and I strayed away from the athletic types, but Holt had a bad attitude towards life and was always up to no good, making us the perfect friends. If there was a bad idea to be had, it was floating around inside his mind.
One day Holt turned around in his seat and, with wide eyes, looked Cheyenne in hers.
“I have a serious question,” he said. “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?”
“I don’t know. Probably ditch school to go buy more Klondike Bars.”
“Oh get more creative than that, Cheyenne. We could ditch this school every day and never get caught,” I chimed in.
“Then do it,” said Holt, turning his gaze to me.
Was he challenging me? The rebellious inner six year old inside of me couldn’t say no.
“Whatever. I’ll do it,” I said. “Cheyenne, you’re coming with me.”
And so it was.
Fifteen minutes into third period Cheyenne met me in the basement where I had independent studies. We snuck out the back doors, crawled up the grassy embankment, circled around the back to the parking lot, got in the car, and drove off school property.
“Now what?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Cheyenne said. “I didn’t think this far ahead.” Our town had only one stoplight, a bank, a church, and an antique store. Unless we wanted to open checking accounts or pray, the antique store was our only option.
We entered the store and made our way to the back where the records were. Cheyenne hated looking for records so she disappeared into the mass of dusty furniture and signage. This store had all of the goodies: Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Springsteen, Culture Club. I had just put down a Jimmy Durante record when something appeared in my peripheral vision. POP! Something shot at me and I jumped backward shattering a plate on the floor. Cheyenne found a child’s wooden pop gun.
The shop owner rushed towards the back shouting expletives as Cheyenne tried to control her laughter. He was a stout old man who had a vengeance for anyone under eighteen. The bald spot on top of his head and retro-framed aviator bifocals made it seem like he was born to play the role of crotchety, old man.
“Shouldn’t you kids be in school?” He shouted. Cheyenne and I moved towards the door.
“No, we’re sick,” I said.
“What’s your names, you little brats? I’m going to call your parents!”
We rushed for the door. “My name’s Holt Fueler,” I said as we left.
It was around our lunch period back at school and we had to claim defeat. Ditching school, in theory, was a ball. In actuality, it was the worst decision we had ever made. We drove back to the school.
As we drove up the school’s driveway we noticed a change in the aura. Something was wrong. As we got closer we noticed police cars and K-9 units surrounded the school and the administrators stood in the road. I tried to jerk the car around, but vice principal Lee made eye contact with me and pointed. We were caught.
Lee and I were on a first name basis since she knew my academically gifted side.
“Where have you been?” She shouted as I rolled down my window. She was the human equivalent of a Chihuahua. Her small frame and beady eyes were intimidating, but I had to play it cool. “We’ve been looking for both of you,” she shouted, with one hand on her hip while she wagged the other at us as if we were undomesticated pooches who had misbehaved.
“Oh, we went to lunch.” I had been practicing my whole childhood to tell a lie this good. “What’s going on?”
“What do you mean you went to lunch? Who told you you could leave school property?”
“No one!” Cheyenne blurted out. “We thought we could get out but we made a mistake and there was nothing to do and we’re sorry!” Cheyenne must not have been practicing as much as I had.
“I’ll deal with both of you later. You park your car now and go sit with the other students on the football field. There’s been a bomb threat and the cops need to clear the building.”
“What the hell?” I asked Cheyenne as we parked.
“I panicked, okay?” she said. “Sorry I’m not a filthy liar like you are.”
The next day after vice principal Lee told us she was calling our parents, Cheyenne and I walked into study hall to find Klondike Bars sitting on our desks and Holt giggling.
“I heard what happened,” he said.
“Shut up,” Cheyenne said.
I picked up the Klondike Bar, walked it over to the trash can, and tossed it in. I hate Klondike Bars.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, BFA Writing