As a wee lad I cruised grocery store aisles like a slack shark, bored and hopeful that my Mom would allow me a sugar-packed lip smacking cereal. Moping through the bright lanes I gazed at glazed apples, boxed beans, and jumbo dog treats. It was during one such journey that I came upon my favorite sanctuary, the magazine aisle. Here I could jump through paper portals and reach the worlds of Mad, Cracked, and other fine, illustrated fantasies. Once locked into hypnotic pages time stopped. I flipped through inky sheets chuckling deep. Meanwhile, Mom was TCB (ask Elvis) while I sat wondering if I could sneakily crease Mad’s back page to see what graphic riddle Alfred E. Newman had up his sleeve. In the midst of all this fun I happened to glance at the stationary section beside me. An array of pens filled the racks but one called out with magnetic wonder. It was light blue and white number topped with a multi-coloured crown. Oh the splendor of such a spectrum! No longer would one need to carry around a pocket full of pens. This unit had it all. With dreams of lime colored lines and blood red scribbles filling my mind I reached a point of criminal frenzy. How might I possess this treasure? I had no dough and surely Mom wouldn’t recognize the value of such a developed device. Something needed to be done. The end justifies the means. I quickly grabbed the package and freed the genius plume from its bonds. It shall belong to me and no other. I slipped the pen into my front pocket and tensely made my way to the checkout line where Mom was filling the moving conveyor with bland delicacies. As muesli and apple sauce scooted by I suddenly became frozen in the intense grip of fear. Oh shit! I was a criminal. The florescent grocery lamps suddenly became searchlights scanning prison walls for ME the escapee. I was buzzing and blinded with nervous fear. I wouldn’t last a day in prison. Gangster gorillas would use my thin bones as toothpicks as they recounted my pummeling in the exercise yard. I was a goner and all for a stupid pen. “Let’s go,” barked Mom into my dazed existence. “Huh uh ah what? Time now? Go car leave store out how whayawha? Ok.” ZIP>> In a flash I was standing next to our car heart pounding, mind racing. The next moment I was home free cruising down familiar streets with nary a police light in sight. I had pulled off the crime of the century. I was invincible just like those leotard clad champs in the comics. A giant amongst sand crabs.
Over the following days at school I showed off my prize to collected oohs and aahs. I was Mr. Amazing to all the measly munchkins. “Wanna see me create a world in blue? click. A river in red? click. An army of green? click.” I was a legend in my own time but it wouldn’t last long. My Catholic soul was trained to scour sin. No number of Hail Mary’s would help me. I was an evil thief. God looked down and wept a flood of tears on his sorry creation. The pressure was much too much too much. I needed to be rid of my foul prize. I could have easily returned it to the store on bended knee but i wasn’t feeling quite that guilty. I could have thrown it in the trash but that seemed awful wasteful. What I did was turn my hot object into a sign of affection. Wendy Kramer sat ahead and to the right of me in homeroom. I spent many a day staring at her flowing midnight hair and milky, freckled cheek. Wow what a dream. It was glorious to watch her work. I had always been in awe of Wendy’s perfect pencil box filled with a cornucopia of the finest writing utensils daddy could buy. She had a strawberry shaped eraser that exuded a sweet aroma with every corrected answer and a glitter splashed pencil adorned with a head of glimmering streamers. But what she didn’t have and probably never dreamed of was a hi-tech multihued pen. A rainbow captured by science. Just before a poopy pop quiz I leaned forward and placed the pen gently on the edge of her desk. She glanced around with question marks popping into her pretty mind. “For me???” she seemed to ask. I nodded a confident yes and rode a white steed back to my desk. I had succeeded in a grand romantic gesture. My heart burst with gladness and a sliver of guilt, and it was this guilt that grew through the years. I always worried that I had transferred some element of evil to poor, gentle Wendy. Had I damned her to a hellish existence fueled by hand me down karma? Who knows, but it sure paved the way for many a romantic misstep to come. I guess it’s all part of this lovely foible we call life. Huzzah!