Old Man Hillen

“Are you gonna pay for that gum?”

Phyllis and I turned to see Billy’s cheek bulging. His eyes got big and a stream of purple drool ran out of the corner of his mouth. The three of us stood horrified before Old Man Hillen, the proprietor of the Variety Store. It was obvious the sour old geezer took no prisoners where pilfering children were concerned.

“Spit it out.” Phyllis demanded, her face as hard as the old man’s. She hurriedly paid for our purchases as Billy and I beat her out the door. We knew there would be Hell to pay. Phyllis aligned herself with our parents and could be depended upon to report any infraction. This one was huge.

The situation was made more ominous since our business in the first place was the purchase of Mother’s birthday gift. The three of us had walked to the Variety Store after school. Mother was to pick us up. The wait seemed endless, knowing the catastrophe that was brewing.

“Billy Ray stole a piece of gum!” she exploded before she even got the car door shut. “Mr. Hillen made me pay for it!”

Mother was appalled. “Oh no. I hope you’re ashamed of yourself. I’m gonna have to tell your daddy about this.” A pall hung over us, dreading what was to come.

Justice was swift and sure. Daddy was enraged as he railed at Billy, before strapping him with his belt, then pausing before giving him a few more. Worse yet was the pronouncement that they’d be going back tomorrow for Billy to apologize and make it right. It was a terrible night at our house. No one escaped Daddy’s black mood.

Daddy was waiting for Billy when the bus ran, always dependable when punishment was due. He led the small boy into the Variety Store and announced to Mr. Hillen, “My son has something to say to you.”

Humiliated, Billy managed to stammer an apology.

Rather than accepting Billy’s apology, the hateful old man launched into a tirade against thieving kids and the way sorry parents were raising them. Daddy was infuriated and told him they’d made it right and he wasn’t listening to anymore of his mouth. They left. We never went back in that store.

The Great Gum Heist

Linda First GradeMy mother broke me from stealing. It’s just as well. I wasn’t any good at it anyway. She was having coffee with her friend, Miss Frankie. I was bored and used my ingenious ruse. “I gotta go to the bathroom.”

Mother warned me. “Okay, but don’t meddle and don’t touch anything!” No wonder I took a wrong turn. She never trusted me. I dawdled as I made my way to the bathroom off Miss Frankie’s bedroom. This was the 1950s. This wasn’t the master bathroom. It was the only bathroom in her Quonset hut with an add on in the back. Delightfully, for me, Miss Frankie was a relaxed housekeeper so I could see a lot without meddling. Clothes and shoes covered the floor. The open closet doors displayed shoe boxes, handbags, dresses, and nighties. I walked around in her red high heels while I surveyed the lipsticks, lotions, scarves, and a hairbrush decorating her dresser. I considered trying her lipstick when I spied an open pack of Dentyne Gum. Immediately, I peeled a piece and popped it in my mouth.

I shed the shoes. Chomping my gum happily, I strolled back in to join Mother and Miss Frankie at coffee. “What is that in your mouth?”


“Where’d you get it?”

“Uh…I found it….on Miss Frankie’s dresser.”

“You are not allowed to take things. That is stealing. Take it out of your mouth and tell Miss Frankie you’re sorry.”

i took the gooey wad out of my mouth and held it out to Miss Frankie. Reluctantly, she accepted it. “I’m sorry, Miss Frankie.” I’m sure she was, too.

“That’s okay , Honey.

That was the end of my stealing. I have never even wanted to steal again.

The Sticky Tricks of Dirty Chicks

imageNo little kid should ever be allowed a small, defenseless duck, chick, or bunny for a pet. One of those four hundred pound tortoises would be a far better choice. It could protect itself and the kid couldn’t pick it up. Porcupines or crocodiles should be fine, too. They could probably hold their own against a four year old. Case in point, when I was four, Mother went to the farm supply store to get baby chicks to raise for the freezer. They came in a brown cardboard box with air holes. Naturally, I fell in love with the chicks and begged for one of my own. Thinking I would quickly lose interest, Mother had one put in a paper bag just for me.

As I sat on the backseat of the car with my chick, I took it out and admired it, putting its tiny, fluffy body next to my cheek. It was so sweet and smelled so chicky. Mother made me put it back in the bag, saying it needed to rest. Reluctantly, I set it to the side. We stopped by another store and Mother let me get some gum. I can’t imagine why she couldn’t predict the future. I was well-pleased with the situation since I usually never got two goodies in one day. I chomped the gum till my jaws were tired. As we headed home, Mother noticed I was getting sleepy. She told me, “Don’t swallow that gum. Just wrap it in the gum wrapper and drop it in one of the grocery bags in the back next to you.” I couldn’t find my gum wrapper, so I just dropped the wad of gum in the nearest bag, the one with the chick, and nodded off.

When we got home, I woke up and remembered my precious chickie. I opened the bag and found the chick, gum in his fluff. His tiny feet stuck to the bottom of the bag. When I pulled him out, gum ribbons stretched from the bag to his little feet. I wailed in dismay. Mother was disgusted and took the chick, cleaned the gum off the best she could, confiscated him and returned him to the troop of chicks as she’d intended from the beginning. I wanted to trade for one of the fresh, clean chicks, but Mother said, “NO!!!!!!” He suffered no real harm; just shared his gum with the other chicks till quite a few of them had combination chicken poop, dirt, and gummy fluff accessorized with tiny bits of biddy food. The gummy little chicks stuck together when they touched and sometimes had to struggle a bit to get apart. I was ashamed of my former friend as he scurried around the nastiest of all his little biddy friends. However, in a few days, once all the chicks feathered out, I couldn’t tell him from the rest. I was a little hurt he didn’t seem to have any special feelings for me, after all we’d been through together.