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I was only four when my tiny fingers committed their first crime. My eyes were looking up and down the aisles as I walked beside my mother’s shopping cart, trying to keep up. The store smelled sweet and everything seemed so large and foreign to me. But something in the aisle we were turning down caught my attention. There it was. The prize I had to have. The thing that would change everything and make my life complete!
A pink kazoo.
We were in the garden aisle of Dollar General, searching for some outdoor décor when among the copper frogs was something bright and pink. I had always wanted a kazoo. For, after all, who doesn’t? They were fun to play, people give them away as party favors, and everyone liked them! And everyone had one… but me.
So, with that mindset, I casually walked up next to the copper frog, looking down at its webbed feet where my target lay. I glanced over my shoulder but my mother was not looking at me. Quickly, without really thinking it over, I grabbed the kazoo and stuffed it into my jean pocket. Fore, even though the kazoo had no price marked on it (the previous owner probably left it in the aisle by mistake), I knew that what I was doing was wrong.
We left the garden aisle and made our way up to the check-out counter. I pushed the kazoo farther down into my pocket, afraid someone might notice. But no one did. After having paid for our goods (all except one), we made our way out of the store, bags in hand, as we loaded up the trunk of our Bonneville.
My mother unlocked the car and I opened the back passenger door, hoisting myself up into my car seat. I held my breath as my mother leaned over me to buckle my seatbelt. I looked feverishly at the small bump in my pocket as I glanced up at her face. Would she notice? Is she going to get mad? I bit my lip as I heard the click of the buckle and she pulled away, closing my door and opening the driver’s door. I sighed with relief and laid my head back against the seat, touching the kazoo as I smiled.
The drive home was agonizing in the four minutes it took us to get from point A to point B for I so badly wanted to play the kazoo. My kazoo. But I knew that I couldn’t play it with my mother around, so I waited. We arrived at our humble abode and I quickly unbuckled myself, impatient to get inside. My mother handed me a few small bags and I took as many as my tiny arms could carry, the kazoo burning my thigh in anticipation.
At last, the trunk had been unloaded and everything had been put in its rightful place. I rushed to my room, giddily shutting the door as I pulled the kazoo out of my pocket. Oh, it was so beautiful. So bright and pink, the hole near the end of it was crisscrossed nicely with thin white plastic strips. There was not a scratch on it, for I had prided myself in transporting it safely. Not able to stand it any longer, I put it to my lips and blew. Oh the sound it made! How lovely it was!
I was beside myself with happiness as I pranced around the room, blowing my kazoo and laughing at the sound it made. The room that I lived in was rather small and my bed took up about half of the room so there was not a lot of satisfactory prance space. Therefore, I made the bold decision to go out into the living room. To play the kazoo right under my mother’s nose! Oh, how daring I was!
I opened my door and peaked down the long hallway, seeing if there were any signs of life. But I did not hear any sound from living room so I bolted, the wind streaking through my short brown locks as I ran into the middle of the living room. Seeing the coast was still clear, I preceded to prance and play. Life was beautiful, life was grand, life was-
“Where did you get that?” Her tone sucked the happiness out of the living room like a vacuum and I felt cold inside as I took the kazoo out of my mouth.
“From Dollar General…” I whispered, not able to look into her deep blue eyes as mine stayed fixated on the carpeting.
“Did we pay for that?” She asked and I heard her step closer, making me want to flinch away as I had the sudden urge to burst into tears and confess.
“No…” I whispered, my voice barely audible but somehow she heard it. She didn’t make a sound for a few seconds and then she suddenly took my hand, leading me towards the split-entry stairs. “Where are we going?” I asked her, trying to keep up with her pace as we made our way down the steps, my mother walking and me being half dragged.
“We’re taking that kazoo back, Missy.” She said matter of matter-of-factly as we went down the second flight of steps and were now in the basement where my mother promptly began to put on her tennis shoes. I was flabbergasted, standing there as I looked at her. Take the kazoo back?! But we had just gotten home! Needless to say, I was beside myself with grief as my mother helped me tie my shoes. “Do you know why we’re going back?” She asked me, her eyes looking intently down at my tiny feet.
I shook my head and she sighed, standing up, as we walked to the door that led into the garage. I knew that taking the kazoo was wrong, I had made that realization even before I had taken it. But I did not see the logic in taking it back. Why would Dollar General want my already used kazoo? Germs, saliva, cooties. It didn’t make sense to me.
“I’ll explain it to you on the way there.” She told me and I swallowed, opening the back passenger door as I climbed into my car seat for the second time in half an hour. My mother leaned over me and buckled my seat, opening the driver’s door as she got in, starting the car. The car was silent for a few minutes as we made our way down our street. It wasn’t until we were stopped at a light that my mother broke the silence.
“I am very disappointed in you.” She said, the light turning green. I hoped that she would stop talking to me once we started moving but that was wishful thinking. “You know that what you did was wrong, don’t you? People all over the world get in very big trouble for taking things that are not theirs. And that kazoo is not yours, we did not pay for it. People go to jail,” there was an edge to her voice that made me look up but her eyes were on the road, “and people get taken away from their families. Stealing is a serious crime. What you did was very wrong and against the law. You are going to give that kazoo back to the manager and apologize for what you have done.” And with that she was done as we stopped at the light right before the Dollar General.
“I’m sorry, Mommy.” I mumbled, looking down at my lap.
Now I felt horrible. My conscious was weighed down by all the guilt I felt and the other issues she had voiced to me, making my mind feel heavy. I let go of the kazoo in my hand, hating it now. How could I have wanted something so bad? A kazoo? Or jail? I had never been to jail but I assumed that bad people went there and I did not consider myself a bad person, just a person that had wanted a kazoo. But even with that thought, I knew that I did not want to go to jail, even if all I had taken was a kazoo.
The car slowed and we turned into the parking lot, pulling up in front of the Dollar General. My eyes grew as wide as saucers as I saw the car parked next to us. My pulse pounded in my ears and I felt as though my heart would explode it was pounding so fast. “Mommy, please don’t let him take me!” I cried, the dam breaking as tears flowed freely down my cheeks, my vision blurred so I could no longer see the police car parked next to us. Looking back on this experience, I do not know how my mother smothered her laughter at the coincidence of this situation but somehow she held it together.
“I’m going to go get the manager.” She said, opening the driver’s door as she got out. “I’ll be right back.” And then she was gone, the doors locking, as I watched her walk into the store.
I dared not look to my left, terrified that a police officer would jump out and ask me to put my hands up. I whimpered, hating myself for taking the kazoo. Never again! I told myself, looking at the kazoo with disdain and malice. I’m never stealing again! It isn’t worth it! I thought as I saw my mother come out of the store. I grabbed the kazoo, unbuckling my car seat by myself as I prepared to face the manager and apologize for the misdeed I had done her.