It was a clear Autumn day just like today. I had seven years of wisdom behind me. In those seven years I had learned the single most important lesson: candy was life. Philip was patiently waiting for Halloween. In fact, his supply from last year's Halloween stash was just now depleting. He had, as usual, timed his gratification periods perfectly. I know this because at my weaker moments I would steal from his well organized loot. The chocolate was placed on the left hand side. The hard candy was alphabetized and color coordinated. And of course, the Razzles were hidden in a special location. He always knew when, and exactly what, I had eaten. "My Reese's Pieces are turned upside down" he would say accusingly.
And so it went. A game of cat and mouse. I didn't bother with Jacob's stash. He traded most of his prized pieces, such as Blow Pops, King Sized Snickers, or Fun Dips, for the new Ninja Turtles Pizza Thrower. All that was left were scattered wrappers of Twizzlers and pumpkin taffy--the lowest caste in the hierarchy of candy.
My options were limited. Jason Webster, however, had an idea. But as always, he needed an accomplice. The spirit spoke to me that day. It was my first true conversation with a higher source. "This will not end well" it whispered. But candy's allure was all too powerful and Jason Webster's idea seemed fool proof.
A local entrepreneur had recently began a successful candy venture. His assets consisted of a garage, his mother's Costco card, and a secure chain linked fence. Every Friday he would open his doors as if he was Willy Wonka's understudy. Kids flocked from all areas of Farmington. It wasn't uncommon for the gangs from the neighborhood over to cause a fight. After all, candy was on the line.
We coordinated the plan during recess. There was no way this would fail. After school we walked home casually, but our minds were focused on the task at hand. I wore sandals that day--a tyro's mistake. We grabbed our bikes and on the way out Philip yells, "you still owe me Reese's." I grinned at the thought that within the hour I would have all the candy. Candy debt, like its cousin financial debt, is crushing. It wears you down and it never sleeps. Philip had the currency, and therefore, the power. "We'll see who has all the power" I thought.
I remember the crowd behind the fence. I remember the children's anticipation. There was a sugar frenzy. Cash and quarters were exchanged with rapidity through the chains like it was the Venitian or Luxor Casino. We waited our turn. I began shivering with nerves and anticipation. Nothing a Sour Apple Bonkers wouldn't fix shortly. Jason Webster seemed so calm. He was so deviantly experienced.
It was now our turn. I looked at Jason for one final nod of approval. The young business man stated his usual line. "First row is a quarter, everything else is 50 cents. The King size are a dollar." Jason went into character immediately--like Corey Feldman as Ricky Butler or Val Kilmer as Batman. He was born for the role. "Um, what about over there" pointing nonchalantly to the inconsequential "five centers" that lay at the far end. It was just enough to distract the salesman. He began assisting his thief. Oh the irony. There was just enough time for me to fulfill my role. A smash and grab job. I slipped quietly into the open garage door. Walked past the parked cars and outside into the backyard. I had breached the vault. "So this is where all the action happens" I thought. "How is this so easy?". I half expected guard dogs or sirens. But I was left with my conscience and silence. Only a few more steps to sensory overload and debt reconciliation. Jason continued distracting the boy as I pulled my plastic bag from my pocket. But the plastic crackled under the crisp autumn breeze. The boy shifted his gaze to me unexpectedly. First surprise, then panic and then his face showed violent anger. Fort Knox had been infiltrated. I was on my knees filling the bag as quickly as possible. "Why the hell did I start at the Hershey's section!" I explicitly remembered Jason and I discussing the need to start at the Laffy Taffy's. I was only half full when the boy was on me. He lunged at the bag screaming nonsensical obscenities. The other side of the fence looked like the chimpanzee exhibit. Kids were screeching. Girls had tears in their eyes. It was hysteria. With a simple shove I kicked him aside--my sandal flying into the weeds. And then my mind went blank...darkness...muddled footsteps...and Jason in slow motioned baritone "Did you at least get me a Big League Chew!"...silence...clanking of our bmx pedals...cool wind...darkness..
I awoke from my possessed state in a fury on my bike. My left foot was bare and I peddled so hard it slipped sending my big toe across the pavement. Blood and pain. I would eventually loose that toenail as a memento. I kept peddling. "They are behind us", Jason screamed. We were so close to the house. Yet like a nightmare we weren't getting any closer. In our anticipation of candy we had failed to devise a getaway plan. How could I have been so stupid. Throwing our bikes to the ground we finally ran into our opened garage. I dashed to the garage door button near the door. Why does it take so long to close. The chains moving ever so slowly. The door creaking downward. I see the gang on their bikes riding up our driveway. "They are going to make it" I yelled. Jason was gone. He had hid behind the van. It was then that I knew he was a fraud. There I was scrambling and he is sucking his thumb in the fetal. Our relationship would never be the same. Their shoes ran back and forth, their anger rising, as the door finally closes them outside...muted voices...banging on the garage....silence.
I ran inside leaving Jason to his demons. Instantly, I heard the doorbell ring and banging on the knocker. Its so loud. Please tell me Mom has left for home teaching. "Wait a minute", I thought, "Hometeaching...prayer...prayer and primary....primary....primary...fasting....pray...tithing...That's it!" I clambered to the den reaching inside the cupboard. "Where is it! Where does Mom keep Jacob and Philip's tithing?" There it was behind the files. The red check box with a white sticker in sharpie "Kid's Tithing". It could have as well said "Use in case of Emergency's". I grabbed two $5 bills thinking nothing of who I was now bilking. To a seven year old this was an answer to a prayer. My life, after all, was so close to its end. The rowdy pack of boys had moved to the back yard. Then to the front again. I saw their heads jostling through the tinted glass. With all the confidence I could muster, and believing that God was on my side, I jostled the door and threw the wadded up blood money in their direction. "Take it!" I yelled, "and get out of here." There first inclination was to run down the door. But they saw that I had paid them a full $10. Consider it interest! I locked the door again and slid to the floor. The yelling soon abated.
I never learned what happened to Jason. We didn't speak much after the incident. I think he was embarrassed that he'd been found out--he was a con; a charlatan.
As I sat at the foot of the door sweating I thought of my misdeeds and overall purpose. "Maybe I can wait for Halloween" I thought. I can pay Philip back his Reese's then. I settled down yearning for a lesson in this experience. I wanted to gain wisdom from my mistakes. And then it hit me. Candy wasn't the issue. My thievery wasn't the issue. My impressionable nature or addictions weren't the issue. No, I had learned that throughout it all my primary teachers were right. The Lord will open up the window's of Heaven when you pay your tithing. Thank goodness Jacob and Philip were listening.