On one such afternoon, I was ambling down the alley with my brother Jim and friends, Paul and Jeff. The conversation went something like this, ” Whadda you wanna do?” ” I don’t know. Whadda you wanna do?” The sort of talk that made a boring day worse. As the oldest, it was up to me to come up with a good idea.
There was a Sinclair gas station at the end of the alley which often served as an entertainment center for us, and this time was no exception. We looked over their trash, as we usually did, and noticed several empty whiskey bottles. That’s when the idea came to me.
We would each take a bottle, and on the count of three, hurl it into the back wall of the gas station. Then immediately after enjoying the satisfying sound of breaking glass, we would run like mad up the alley. Everyone thought it was a great idea. We each grabbed a bottle, I counted to three, and we let loose our throws.
This is a good time to describe the back wall of the Sinclair station. It was composed of concrete blocks and was quite broad and sufficiently high. Oh yeah – it contained one small window located near the top and toward the middle. Perhaps you can see where this is going.
After hurling our bottles, we followed their flight. Jim’s whiskey bottle shattered against the concrete blocks as planned and so did Paul’s and Jeff’s. However, my throw was a little high, causing my bottle to sail right through the aforementioned window. This caused us to tear up the alley even faster than we had planned to. When we finally stopped running, we all had a good laugh.
Two weeks later, long after we had forgotten the incident, Paul and I decided to give our bicycles a good washing. Just as we finished, Jim happened to come along with his bike, which looked to have visited a good number of mud puddles. We started teasing Jim, and he didn’t take it well.
Within minutes, Dad poked his head out the front door and said, “Henry, I want to talk to you.”
Seeing the serious look on Dad’s face, I knew it wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation. He didn’t waste any time. ”Did you break a window at the gas station last week?”
“Actually, it was a good two weeks ago.”
“I don’t care how long it was. Get your piggy bank. You’re going to pay for that window.”
Thus it was, that I trudged down to the Sinclair station, piggy bank in hand. I didn’t know the cost of a new window, but I did know I wouldn’t be buying any new comic books for a while.
When we got to the station, Dad walked up to the first employee he saw. ”My son has something to tell you.” He motioned me forward as I had trailed behind him a bit.
Pointing to the single window in the wall I managed to stammer, ” I accidently broke your window, and I want to pay for it.”
The man chuckled! ”You don’t have to pay for it. In fact,” he said, turning to my dad, “The way the window got broken was kind of funny. There were four or five of us looking under the hood of a car. Just after we walked away, this whiskey bottle crashed through the window and landed right where we had been standing. We all busted out laughing.”
Seeing the big smile on the man’s face made me feel hopeful, but it quickly became apparent that my father saw no humor in the situation.
That window cost as much as fifteen comic books, but at least I learned my lesson. Always aim low!
Here are some books about people who always aimed low:
John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America’s First Celebrity Criminal by Dary Matera
Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald
The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust by Diana Henriques
Mr. Capone by Robert Schoenberg
Sutton by J. R. Moehringer
The Sixteenth Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist, and the Lindbergh Kidnapping by Adam Schrager
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn
Most Wanted by Thomas Foley
Moneymakers by Ben Tarnoff
Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton
The Fatal Gift of Beauty by Nina Burleigh
Death in the City of Light by David King