There still was some sting in his slap, but all I could do was laugh. We stood and talked for some time, chatting about the past, present and future. How their kids were doing, who I’d grown up with, who were married now and provided them grandkids. I had spent a good chunk of my life in this store and several of the others in the area. I had helped my parents keep the place going and got in trouble many times while growing up. Been in a few fights out on the streets and in the neighborhood. They were mine and I owned them, so I’d thought. I’d been wild and undisciplined; probably still was in some ways. This was where I became who I was.
Around the age of fourteen I thought I was the cat’s meow, with way more confidence than I should have. I strutted my stuff and thought I was tough. I was still small in stature, around 5’6”, a late growth spurt still a year or two in the making. Being a bit on the pudgy side, my weight was my advantage. When perusing the neighborhood, there had been times I’d searched for trouble. Someone left a bike out, I would debate stealing it. An unattended football or Frisbee and it was mine. A jacket left behind and it would be a new addition to my closet. I wanted to be in control and take stuff from others, exerting my perceived notion of dominance. I’m not certain why I felt or acted this way. I certainly wasn’t raised like that. My parents often preached right and wrong, since the time I could understand them. Something had gone off inside saying I was better than others, deserving what I could take. If I was sharp and strong enough, then so be it. I got by on cockiness and sarcastic attitude. If they weren’t strong enough to fight back, oh well. The problem, though, was I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was. I’d often run into someone who could kick my ass and did. I came home with bloody noses and black eyes on several occasions. I could hold my own with the best of them, but not for long, losing the battle often.
One summer day, I ran into a kid older than me by two years, he and his buddies ready to push me around. They wanted my baseball glove and hat, along with my bike which I used to ride to the ball field to play for my team, the Braves. The kid’s name was Corey and he shoved me to the ground, knocking me off my bike. It was a nice eighteen speed unit which I gotten for my birthday.
“Jarvis, you better stay down,” he said after a couple of well place shots to the stomach.
“I’m not afraid of you,” I answered defiantly while rising from the pavement.
“You should be…”
Between him and his two friends I didn’t stand a chance, but I tried. In the end, I took a beating I’d never forget and the items were no longer mine. I didn’t like what happened, but it didn’t deter me any. If they could take from me, I could take from others, including my own family. I had plotted my revenge, but against someone other than Corey.
There were many types of shops up and down The Valley Junction. Several other antique shops like my parents’, but also dining, bakeries, arts and crafts, jewelry; the variety was endless. Some of the shop owners knew me. I decided to secretly take an antique from my parents’ shop and look to resell it at one of the others, where they didn’t know me. I’d use the money to replace the stuff stolen from me. I worked out the details and was able to sneak out the back with an expensive vase one afternoon while my mother was busy with a customer. I immediately took it to one of the other shops to see what they would give me for it. I hadn’t thought it through very well, and the owner took one look at me and the vase, asked to have it so he could study it in the back, and called the police without me knowing. They arrived a few minutes later, the black and white parking out front. When I saw them pull up, I panicked and ran out the door. They caught up with me and dragged me back to the store.
“Where did you get the vase, son,” asked one of the officers with a stern expression.
I played dumb. “I found it.”
“In a dumpster a block or so away. Thought it might be worth something, so I brought it here.”
“What is your name?”
“I need your full name, please.”
I hesitated. Should I lie? If I didn’t, they would recognize the last name and could connect me to my parent’s shop.
“Smith,” I answered.
It was the best I could come up with, and wasn’t real convincing. The two officers looked at each other in disbelief.
“I guess we’ll need to take him in,” said the second officer. “We’ll leave him to stew in a cell for a while. Once he breaks, we can call his parents from there.”
I was cornered now. They took me to the car and started to put me in the back seat. All I could do was fess up.
“It’s not Smith. The name is Jarvis Mann.”
They pulled me back into the store and told the manager. He looked my way and told the officers there was Mann Classic Antiques two blocks away. He got the number and made the call. In about twenty minutes my father showed up. When he stepped in and saw me, his reaction was of disappointment.
“What has he done now, officer?” he said.
This was not my first run in with the authorities, though it would be my last. For my father would bear down on me teaching me a lesson forever, with the help of a friend in the county sheriff’s department, changing my path in life.
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