No less than three cop cars surrounded the Browns’ house, each car’s lights flashing blue and white beacons into the already-foggy night air. Mr. Brown’s profile could be seen in the window, laughing, as Mrs. Brown led the police inside. Everyone knew what would happen next—the climb to the second floor, the stop at the last door on the right. Mr. Brown had been talking about it for over a week.
Daniel woke up, confused. Was this a new part to the T. Rex dream? It was completely dark except for two lights shining into his eyes. A voice he didn’t recognize said, “Daniel Brown? Son, get up.” Were they here to save him from the dinosaurs? But then his bare feet hit the familiar freezing floor. And he could see guns, their metal reality zapping him with the certainty that he was no longer dreaming.
The overhead light flipped on. He squinted.
“Get the box out, Daniel.” His mom said.
His heart sank. “What box?”
Her voice came back with an edge. “You know what box I’m talking about, young man. The one under your bed.”
He thought back two weeks, when he was standing in the checkout line at the IGA. As usual, his mom gave excuses. “We don’t have extra money for luxuries…It’s too close to dinner…You’re already so spoiled.” At these moments—staring at the candy bars stacked on top of one another in their little bins, their shiny color wrappers with silvery tin-foil peeking through—he’d never wanted a Hershey bar more.
“Young man!” He startled back to attention. “The box—now!”
He bent down, the top of his pajamas riding up to expose his lower back. Underneath the bed was an old Pampers box he’d taken from the trash pile. Inside were at least 30 Hershey bars.
As soon as he pulled it out, the officers shined their lights inside. “Son, you realize how serious this is, don’t you?” one said. “We’re taking this in as evidence.”
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to take you in as well.” Another officer put handcuffs on Daniel’s wrists. He cried, but knew it would do no good.
His mom scowled at him all the way down the stairs. As the officers took Daniel outside, she stopped and whispered to his father, “Are you sure this is the right thing?”
“It’s a good way for him to learn his lesson!” He laughed. Officer Robbins came back in. “Dale, we’ll scare him good and proper for you tonight. What time do you want to pick him up tomorrow morning?”
“Ten will be fine.” Dale said, putting his arms around his wife.
Daniel’s wet cheeks made him feel even colder. He’d sworn he’d told them the truth so many times that he’d finally broken down, crying so hard they’d had trouble understanding anything he said. He was now back in his cell, and the officers were raiding his chocolate bars.
“Hey kid—you better pray the judge is lenient. Wouldn’t want to get sent to juvie.” He and the other officers laughed. The man licked his fingers, then wiped his face.
Daniel closed his eyes. Every summer he spent three months with his grandparents in Virginia. And once a week he and his grandpa would visit the feed store, where in addition to feed they carried coca-cola in recyclable glass bottles and exactly one kind of candy bar: Hershey. His grandpa always treated him to both. Daniel would then sit on the front porch, watching the wind blow sawdust-like particles in swirls at his feet. Inside, through the open door, he could hear the men laughing, swapping stories of cows getting stuck in the creek, the effect of the drought on the corn crop, the closing of yet another neighbor’s dairy farm. His granddad would take up to an hour there, although Daniel would only know that by looking at his watch. Time seemed suspended, a gentle, supportive thing buoying him up against the heaviness of gravity and the mosquito-buzz of restlessness.
Not like here.
He’d made his decision two summers ago. He began saving Hershey bars from visits to the feed and grocery store with his grandpa. Every now and then he’d eat one, but mostly he saved them. Once back home with his parents, he’d pull the box out each night and stare. If he did that, he could sleep. Even the T. Rexes didn’t bother him.
Then, one night over a week ago: “Where did you get these, young man? Where?!”
He said nothing.
His mom was furious. “You stole these, didn’t you?”
“Your father’s going to hear about this!” She turned and stormed down the hall.
He’d told the policemen that he hadn’t stolen the candy bars, that he’d saved them from Virginia—with the exception of one. That one he’d taken from the IGA two weeks ago—but he’d hurriedly left money for it on the conveyor belt a few minutes later, once his mom had turned to go. He hadn’t meant to steal, he just didn’t want his mom to know.
His parents picked him up the next morning and his father said, “Daniel, I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
“Good. But your mother and I have been doing some talking and we think that it would be best for you to learn the value of hard work. We’re sending you to your grandparents’ farm for the rest of the school year. We’ll see what you think about stealing when you’re milking cows at 4:30 every morning, year-round.”
Daniel thought about how visits to the feed store always ended. As they were leaving, his grandpa would put his arms around him. “I’m so happy my grandson’s here,” he’d say to his friends. His wrinkled, sunburned face would beam. The men then said goodbye to Daniel almost like he was one of them.
Clearly, this is where he would belong.
- Current Location:Atlanta, GA
- Current Mood: exhausted
- Current Music:Radiohead (Pablo Honey)