LJ Idol Exhibit A | week 10 | 1671 words
We wound up drawing straws for it, because Jimmy was always ready to reap the rewards of our crazy ideas but never willing to take on the risk. "Short straws go," I said. I wasn't about to let him skip out on this one for any reason but dumb luck.
Jimmy pulled the shortest straw—about time—but the other one went to me. Crap, I thought. Of course it did. If Jimmy was the guy who avoided getting hit with the hard side of reality, then I was the guy it always fucking found. I had a railway network of cuts and bruises that never quite healed, because new ones always added on.
"So, how're we going to do this?" Jimmy asked.
With an actual plan this time, I thought. Most of our antics were simple enough to barely piece together, but not this one. The hell if I was going to let Jimmy or some kind of vague, chickenhearted panic take us down.
The rest of the guys were eager to put things in motion, but only John knew something helpful: "The whole place is deserted about an hour after they close." We'd finally catch a break.
Now, some of the newer places in town had those burglar alarms, but they were expensive. The thrift store on L Street didn't bring in that kind of money, and what was there to steal? It was all secondhand stuff. We weren't looking for any kind of big score, as much as finding out whether we could pull it off. There'd probably be some money in the register, and maybe a few other things worth grabbing. Nothing obvious that might be recognized later, but maybe a couple of cassettes or household appliances. Stuff like that.
We decided that one of us should go in a few days beforehand and look around. Duane volunteered. Duane looked like about twenty other guys you might find walking around this town, and sure enough, nobody noticed him.
"There's a window around the back, a transom. You can get in through there," he said.
"I checked the police patrols the last couple of nights, and they come around every two to three hours," Earl added.
That meant Wednesday night was a "go."
The thrift store closed at eight, so John drove Jimmy and me around the area starting at nine, just biding our time. The cops came by at nine-thirty, and as soon as they left, John pulled in behind the store and dropped us off. Not too suspicious, as long as we were fast.
We'd brought gloves so we wouldn't leave fingerprints. Mine were a pair of rubber kitchen gloves my ex left behind when she went home to her mother, but Jimmy's were work gloves at least one size too big. Figured, didn't it? He'd be messing stuff up right and left pawing around with those Mickey Mouse mitts, but what could you do?
I stood on Jimmy's back and pried the window open with a screwdriver. Had to claw my way in, and the damn thing nearly sliced me in half a couple of times. Then I let Jimmy in the back door, and we got to work.
It was hard to see much with just flashlights, but I found the till and busted it open. There was about fifty bucks in cash—could've been worse. I went to the front of the store, careful to stay away from the window. There was a set of golf clubs in the display window, but golf was for squares. There was a nice-looking leather jacket too, but I figured it'd be too recognizable. Same for the pair of fancy cowboy boots, though what would I want with those anyway?
I kept looking around for something interesting, but most of what was worth taking would have been impossible to use later. This wasn’t the smallest town ever, but it was small enough, and we weren't exactly criminal masterminds.
I could hear Jimmy on the other side of the store, bumping into stuff and knocking half the contents of the shelves onto the floor. "Jimmy!" I hissed. If I lived to be eighty, I would never understand that chump or his talent for accidental destruction. "Quit breaking everything!" I said.
I spotted a catcher's mitt that looked like something Duane might want, and a portable radio for John. There was a decent-looking duffel bag next to some other luggage, so I took that for Earl. I stuffed everything in it and emptied the bin of cassettes in there too.
I checked my watch, and sure enough—it was time to get going. We just needed to add a few final touches to this little adventure first.
You could call this last part our trademark. It was kind of stupid, but still—we thought it was fun.
"Time to finish up, Jimmy," I said. Where was he, anyway? A moment later, something smacked the back of my head. "Ow! What the hell?"
Jimmy was carrying a pair of skis. "See what I found?"
"Those're way too big for the car," I said. "And besides, you don't ski." Jimmy frowned, and dumped them in the middle of the aisle. "Come on," I said. "We have to hurry."
I found a saxophone in one of the back corners, and raided the toy aisle. Soon, I had a plush cow sitting in a highchair with the saxophone propped in front of it. I also drew a Snidely Whiplash mustache on a manikin using a felt pen, put a pair of trousers on its head as a hat, and balanced an ice cube tray on its hand. There's no real mileage in dumb pranks, but we'd been doing it since high school. It started with hiding eggs all over the science room (took about four months for the first one to break—it was foul), followed by sneaking into the English room one night to flip all the desks and leave dead flowers on the bottom of each one. We were good for about two or three outbreaks a year, now. Back in the spring, we broke into Old Man MacAnally's house while he was out of town and found a huge stash of girlie magazines—so that was all we stole. During the summer, we swiped all the flowers from Miss Hernbreak's garden and replaced them with golf tees. Two years ago, we drove to the big city and mailed a box of bacon to the chief of police. Hey, they couldn't all be winners.
I checked Jimmy's progress. He'd put a Barbie and a Ken in a compromising position (like that had never been done), and provided a lawnmower with a dress and a floral hat. Not bad.
Suddenly, I saw something moving outside the front window. A police car—the patrol was back early. Crap!
"Hide," I said, which sent Jimmy off into some sort of spasm. He barreled toward the back, throwing a couple of clothing racks into the aisle and knocking down two whole display areas. Great—just the kind of commotion we needed to attract more attention.
"Quit it!" I gathered up our spoils and cracked open the rear door to see if John was back yet. Nope. This was shaping up to go the way of our infamous after-hours diner bash, in the days before we realized what night watchmen were for.
I heard a car door slam in front of the building. That was it—we'd have to run for it, and hope John caught up with us later. I opened the back door. "Come on!"
"What?" Jimmy said. "Where's the car?"
"We're not waiting for the car. Hurry!"
I was halfway down the next street and ready to dive into some bushes if need be when I noticed that Jimmy wasn't with me. I leaned around a tall hedge to look for him, and spotted him running awkwardly down a different street, his arms flailing. What—
Oh, come on! He'd lost one of his shoes and his half of the night's haul. The guy was useless.
John came by then, driving as slowly as any other person on the road after dark. I stepped out toward the street, and he stopped and opened the door like a pro. I slipped in fast and shut the door, and pointed him around the corner where Jimmy had gone. It was hopeless, though—he'd already disappeared. John drove at a crawl while we both looked, but we still couldn't find him. We finally had to give up.
Earl and Duane were waiting for us back at my house. "How'd it go?" Earl asked. "Hey, where's Jimmy?"
"Jimmy." I shook my head at the whole fiasco. "Your guess is as good as mine…"
I gave each of the guys what I'd chosen for them, and took first dibs on the cassettes. There was some good stuff there—Led Zeppelin, the Boston album, Abbey Road. I already had all the Rolling Stones on LP, so I let the guys pick up anything else they wanted. I saved the Four Seasons for Jimmy, though, because Frankie Valli bugged the crap out of me and it seemed kind of appropriate.
Jimmy eventually showed up a couple of hours later. He'd apparently escaped the cops, which was a damn miracle, but when I asked him what the hell had happened, his eyes got big and all he said was, "I dunno."
The rest of us had already decided that it was safer if Jimmy just kept sitting on the sidelines when we put our schemes into play. Not that we'd be planning anything new for a while, after how this last one had turned out.
And Jimmy? All he got out of our little adventure was his share of the money from the till.
When you figured he'd have to use it and then some just to buy a new pair of shoes, it didn't amount to much of anything at all.
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