Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Unexpected Visitors

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 trading stamps.

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 downstairs.

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.

The 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

You 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.

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