My own juvenile delinquency was tame, compared to Antoine Doinel’s in The 400 Blows.  I had the benefit of loving, if perhaps at times smothering, parents, so my naughtiness and rebellion never came to a head.  Conjugating verbs wouldn’t have seemed that bad of a punishment; I did quite well in English.  But maybe conjugating them in French, in three different moods, would have made the task more unbearable.

That’s not to say that I didn’t raise hell in my own  non-confrontational way.  My equivalent to Antoine’s Rene was Danny, whom everyone else knew as Aaron (whom I just friend requested on Facebook, since this is the first I’ve thought of him in years).  He, similarly, knew me by a nickname as well.  He had lived across the street from me for over a year before we became friends, but once we did, we were inseparable. Danny was always a little more wild than I was, and he’d get in trouble more often, but he liked to bend rules until they were malleable, following the letter of the law, if not the spirit.  For instance, if he was forbidden to leave the house, we’d play in the doorway of his house until his father came home, whereupon Danny insisted:  “But you said…”

Our hobbies revolved mainly around X-Men comic books and getting in trouble.  During the summer, we walked from our house to the Kmart about a mile away.  And there, we’d shoplift.  Mostly Legos (me) or G.I. Joes (him).  I took Lego sets into the dressing room, and under the guise of trying on an ugly t-shirt, I stuffed the component bags of bricks into my pants, while Danny stood  outside.  He and I chatted loudly, asking how the shirt fit, to cover the sound of the crinkling cellophane.  It itched my thighs as I walked.  Danny, on the other hand, liked to duck behind the beach towel displays, a terrycloth curtain, and, there, extracted action figures, yearning to breathe free.

We nearly got busted once.  Danny had already gotten his stash.  He’d hidden them in the handpouch on the front of his sweatshirt.  And as we roamed the toy aisle, Danny said, “That woman is following us.”  I didn’t know which woman he was walking about, and he pointed her out:  middle-aged, curly henna hair, chubby.  “No,” I said.  “Are you sure?”  We waited in an aisle and saw her pass by.  She looked directly at us as she walked, true, did it mean anything?  Returning the G.I. Joes would have been foolish; look what it did, after all, to poor Antoine.

So we left.  And a few feet outside the door, she called out after us.  “So, you guys have any toys in your pockets?”

“No,” I said, because I didn’t.  “No,” said Danny, because technically, he didn’t either.  We turned our shorts pockets inside-out, and Miss Undercover Security looked disappointed but let us continue on our way.

That close call marked the end of us aiding and abetting each other’s shoplifting, even if the shoplifting itself didn’t abate.  Not on my part, at least.

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