I was once a thief, deliberate, conniving, and unrepentant.
I got twenty-five cents for a weekly allowance, and it was the good old days when that kind of coin really meant something. Well, . . . not really. It didn’t buy a lot even then. And hence the devilish temptation.
Between the one-room school and home was the general store where everything from gum to gum boots smelled like the owner’s cigars. There was cold soda pop in the cooler and a variety of gum and sweets under glass. Nothing was as good as an Orange Crush or Hires Root Beer after a grueling day of study under my teacher Aunt Luella in elementary school. But my twenty-five cents never lasted long.
Every evening, Daddy had this habit of emptying out the change in his pockets and placing the coins on a little ledge that ran along the bathroom wall. Those shiny silver quarters called to me something fierce. To be honest, I also heard the call of the tarnished ones just as clearly; and one day, I anesthetized the prickling of my delicate conscience with the anticipation of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit and a pop.
Having crossed the dark line, the second time was easier, and the third easier still. I got to the point that I did not even wait to see the money on the ledge. I would rifle through Dad’s pockets in the closet.
My larceny progressed day by day and week by week from one coin to two or three, and I stored them on a convenient little shelf inside the metal box spring that supported my mattress. I had found in the trash can this handy little cardboard box, which had a drawer that slid in and out—the perfect size for prepubescent contraband. As it happens, it was also the perfect size to house new condoms, but I did not know that at the time!
I was cautious not to let my candy spending sprees attract too much attention, typically only spending a quarter at a time; and if Mama ever asked where I got the money for that treat, I would just tell her I had not spent my allowance yet.
Sadly, my mom was much better at math than I was, and eventually my pernicious ways were found out. There was also the thing about my face turning red any time I tried to lie, which was a real deterrent to the life of crime I was bent on. When confronted, all my dark deeds came tumbling out in a sobbing, wet confession.
I fully expected a spanking and a repayment plan that would last into high school, but a fifty cent fine, a prayer, and a hug was all that was required to set things right. It was rather a relief to be caught since the cold, hard cash chaffed my sensitive conscience and never quite gave the satisfaction promised.
As it turned out, no sweet was as sweet as a pure conscience and the soft forgiveness of my parents and my Lord.