One sultry night in late July (circa 1981) when I was 15, I was hanging out with my friend, Sally, and Danny*, in the basement of my parents’ house. We were watching MTV when we hit a BUMP in our Friday night revelry.
“This is the last beer, guys,” I said, cracking opening the last Stroh’s from my stash.
“Seriously? I thought you’d gotten more than that?” Danny asked rather perturbed.
“‘Fraid not.” I had a system for stealing beer. Dad bought a six-pack every night and a 12-pack on weekends, but he was rarely able to stay awake past the fifth beer. So, once he passed out snoring in his recliner, I would snatch one or two and hide them in a cooler in the basement behind the water heater. As long as I didn’t take more than two, Dad never noticed. Then, we’d drink them on weekends after Mom and Dad had gone to bed, but this particular weekend, Dad was out of town.
“We need to buy more,” I said. It was past midnight, and, of course, none of us had a driver’s license…but I had a plan…“Since Sally has her Learner’s Permit now,” I said, smiling.
“Really?” Danny said, an ornery glint in his eye.
Sally nodded, smiling. “But I can’t take the test for my actual driver’s license until November. But,” Sally’s said, her blue eyes twinkling, “We’re just going to Kroger, which is only about a mile, right?”
“If that,” I said.
“Let’s do it,” Danny said, grinning.
“But you’re getting the keys,” I said, aiming a purposeful look at Danny.
“Okay,” he replied with that wild-eyed GRIN of his.
Sally and I stood in the hallway watching as he crept into the master bedroom where Mom was sleeping rather heavily by the sound of her snore, luckily with her back to us. My heart was thrashing in my chest, and my palms became mushy with sweat. I wiped them on my jeans and took a deep breath.
Just as Danny leaned down to grab her purse, one of the floorboards creaked. He popped upright, his terrified eyes bouncing back at me. She didn’t move, so I beckoned him to continue with a wave of my hand. He studied Mom for a second then he yanked her gigantic purse off the floor without making a sound.
I shut the bedroom door and turned on the hall light. Danny handed me her purse, and I started plucking through the JUNK in her bag: wads of coupons, Kleenex, newspaper clippings, her compact, lipstick, a bag of peanuts, a scarf, a screwdriver, a notebook, a wrench, a dozen ink pens, a can of Raid (really?) a pack of Pall Malls and a lighter and even an extension cord. Seriously? Why?
“My God, what DOESN’T she have in there? What’s she gonna do with a wrench?” Sally mused. “I doubt she even knows how to use one.”
I laughed as I finally laid my hands on her keys. I closed up mom’s pocketbook, holding it out to Danny with a mischievous grin,”Your purse, sir?”
With an annoyed look, he opened the door and slid Mom’s handbag over by her bed and closed the door softly.
I spent the next hour getting gussied up. After donning a tight blue dress, I stood frowning at myself in the mirror. My eyes were heavily tarred in mascara, and my face was layered with enough of Revlon’s finest to rival the local PROS, now trolling the downtown alleys for Johns…
I turned around to Sally. “Twenty-two at least,” she replied.
I grimaced. “No, I think I need more mascara.”
“No you don’t,” Danny sputtered. “You look good enough to turn a gay man. Let’s go. You look fine.”
I tossed him a skeptical look and decided my current ensemble would have to suffice. We snuck out the back door into the balmy night and the sound of a thousand crickets chirping.
“Saddle up,” I said, handing Sally the keys, and we all hopped into Mom’s goose shit brown Pontiac. Sally drove 22 miles per hour, though there wasn’t ONE soul on the road.
“Good Lord, Grandma, step it up a little,” I said . “Speed Limit’s 30.”
“Okay, but not a millimeter past 30. A cop could be hiding anywhere along this road.”
“All right,” I said, rolling my eyes, knowing both the county cops were probably at the Donut Shack down the road…
“All right. Wish me luck,” I said when we reached Kroger, our closest grocery.
I glanced at the huge clock by the entrance that read 1:48 (AM) then nonchalantly sashayed into the beloved beer aisle. I chose a case of Natural Light. The only cashier working was 80 years old if he was a day. He was maybe five foot tall, and his HUGE black glasses seemed to squash his shiny, bald head.
“Is that all you need, Miss?” asked the old cashier.
“Yeah, that’s it,” I said smiling while thumbing through the cash in my wallet to avoid eye contact with the old man. I’d found on prior occasions if I didn’t look my target in the eye, I was less likely to get carded.
“That’ll be four dollars and 92 cents.”
I handed him a ten dollar bill. He gave me my change and bagged my delicious, rotgut beer. “Thank you,” I said in a blasé tone as I pranced toward the door. Once outside, I walked BRISKLY to Mom’s Pontiac and slid in beside Sally, who flashed a sweet GRIN.
“Any problems?” Danny asked.
“Nope,” I replied as Sally started the car.
“You’ll have to cut the lights before pulling into the driveway,” I instructed when we began to climb the hill to my parents’ house.
“Okay,” Sally answered hesitantly.
“The lights might wake her up,” Danny said. “Lights from the driveway shine right into her and Dad’s bedroom.”
Sally nodded, taking a deep breath as she pulled into the driveway and switched off the lights. She stopped a good two feet from the side porch.
I stepped out, quickly surveying her parking skills. The car looked as if if were parallel to the yard in a straight line. “Good job,” I said, giving Sally the high five.
Once we were stretched out on the couch in the basement, and I handed everyone a beer. Danny found an old Hitchcock movie on cable. Around 4 a.m., we slurped the last of the Natty Light and went to bed.
At the butt crack of 11 a.m., Danny came charging into my room, babbling about the Pontiac, but my thick-headed hangover prevented me from interpreting his rant.
Sally and I clumsily sat up on our elbows. I turned to her and said, “What’s he talking about?”
She shook her head.
“Mom knows we took the car! You parked the car like five FEET from the sidewalk!”
“Oh, shit,” I mumbled. “How do you know? What’d she say?”
“Is she really pissed?”
“I don’t know. She’s acting all weird about it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, just as Mom appeared in the doorway behind Danny in her baggy polyester pants and her toilet paper turban. Um, yeah, in order to keep her quasi-bouffant hair in place, Mom slept with toilet paper wrapped around her hair with bobby-pins, and sometimes she didn’t toss the turban until later in the afternoon.
“Morning, Mom,” I said, trying to sound calm.
“Who MOVED my car?” Mom snapped.
“We um, uh, went out for a frozen pizza.”
“Pizza?! What the hell were you thinking?”
I said nothing.
“Neither of you have a license! Who DROVE my car?”
“Sally did, but-” I replied.
“I knew it! You’ve been a problem since the day you were born Sally Anne Harvey, and you are a BAD INFLUENCE on my DAUGHTER!”
Danny’s eyes went wide, and he cupped his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing.
“Mom! It was MY IDEA, not HERS!” I shouted.
“No, you’re just saying that to protect Sally!” Mom screamed, the veins in her neck pulsing so hard it looked like it might just SPLINTER/explode right out of her skin.
“No, I’m NOT!”
“Mom, it’s true. It was Kennedy’s idea,” Danny interjected.
Mom shook her head, “Nope, don’t believe it for one second. Get dressed, Sally. I’m taking you home right this minute!” Mom hollered stomping out of the room.
Sally and I both busted out laughing. “What did I do?” Sally asked.
“I have no idea. But we’ve never gotten in trouble before,” I answered. Luckily, Sally was not the type of person to hold a grudge, much less a grudge for what your MOTHER did or said.
“I just don’t understand old people. Some kids might lie to save their best friend, but Danny backed me up.”
And little did Mom know, that wasn’t the last of MY CLANDESTINE CAPERS…two years later, Sally and I stole another car…only this one was owned by Hertz… 🙂 And, yes, procuring the rental car and taking off to parts unknown was TOTALLY my idea… 🙂
Luckily, we WEREN’T hauled in front of any juvenile court or were EVER sent to any kind of juvenile center for our misdeeds…
STAY TUNED, BOYS AND GIRLS, there will definitely be MORE chaos to follow…
Over and out from Kennedy’s Beer GARDEN…
* See https://tenaciousbitch.com/2011/03/16/danny-the-stolen-cash-and-the-stripper/ for the 411 on Danny, who unfortunately, is an addict and a career criminal.
© Kennedy Smith 2012