I’d been a little smug about my activities I suppose, but not in a self righteous way; more in that ignorant know it all way that comes from walking through life while wearing blinders. I was just seventeen after all. I knew more than my parents as all teenagers do, and my mind was intellectually light years ahead of my friends’, but I was only privy to those things I had direct cultural access to, had lived through or had read in magazine articles, late at night, under the covers, with a flashlight. So there were a few holes in my logic.
First off, I
didn’t steal the things; I was just the guy trading them in. I didn’t
even steal the wallet that offered up the driver’s license signature I
learned to duplicate so that I could operate under an alias. We found
the billfold in a rest room, and luckily it was filled with signed, non
photo ID. So long as I could match the handwriting I could show a Sears
card for all it mattered to most cashiers, the forgery would be enough
to get me what I wanted.
And what I wanted was to cash in green
stamps, big ones, hundreds as I remember they must have been, as one
would fill an entire page. It felt pretty silly licking and sticking
enough stamps to fill stacks of books, but not as ridiculous as standing
at the redemption counter holding a microwave oven and 250 books of
Actually I felt quite the moron, compelled to
participate in the scam only because it was my friends who had dreamed
it up, and having friends required me to do stupid things on their
behalf. But though I saw myself an idiot, I wasn’t really afraid as I’d
not connected the dots until the moment my mother shook me from my sleep
and in a quivering voice told me I had unexpected visitors waiting
My mind raced to determine what I’d have done that
was so horrid that the big dogs would come to chat with me. Had it been
the local police stopping by to take a handwriting sample, I’d have
understood, and scribbled on their test paper as if I'd had MS. But I
hadn’t used the guy’s credit cards, only his name, and it was hardly
identity theft; it seemed a lot more naughty than criminal at the time
and naughty was a stern talking to from your father, not a night in a
cell with Bubba. And speaking of crime, I hadn’t been involved in a
Vegas Casino heist, it was just some stupid stamps like the ones a
customer would get as premiums when buying groceries back in the day.
Yet it was at that juncture the gears began to drop into place.
girl who’d snatched the pages of stickies in the first place, the girl
we called Mustang Sally to honor both her choice of vehicle and her
desire to hump anything that breathed while listening to funk music, the
girl we were splitting the proceeds with… worked at a bank. A federally
insured bank. A federally insured bank which was giving away 100 count
green stamps to new customers opening an account; a kind of choose it
yourself toaster reward. So what I’d failed to recognize in my haste to
satisfy my bosom buddies who'd have been happy to trade in 20 years of
my life for a few free cartons of cigarettes, was the idea that the
stamps, being bank property, were insured by the same federal government
that insured the cash in the vault; which made the filching of said
stamps a federal crime.
Who is it Ma, tell ‘em I’m still asleep
tell the FBI you’re still asleep son, I’ll be in the kitchen waiting to
see if they use handcuffs and rubber hoses when they talk to you.
Never start your morning by talking to two FBI agents; it puts a real damper on the rest of your day.