© Copyright 2018 by Susan Grant
This essay is about the free spirit we have during our childhood that sometimes goes amuck. Visit the crime scene and have a laugh or two with the Young Criminals.If “Most Wanted” posters existed for kids of middle school age and younger, my three siblings and I would have been plastered up in post offices around the country. My parents realized early in our lives that they were raising a bunch of young criminals. Roll call is as follows. Outlaw number 1, male, two years older than me, and intelligent, so the other familial young criminals trusted him. This trust was often not a good idea. Outlaw number 2 (yours truly), female and I plead the fifth here for obvious reasons. Outlaw number 3, male, two years younger than me, quiet and sneaky. Our parents rarely suspected that he ever was involved in devious behavior. Finally, there was outlaw number 4, female, seven years younger and the victim of blame whenever she wasn’t telling on us. Fortunately for our parents, we weren’t very good at the art of organized or even disorganized crime, but that fact never discouraged us. We continually found ways of getting into trouble.
The Great Microwave Crime. In the early 1970’s, my parents purchased their very first microwave. They quickly made it clear that the appliance was not a toy and we were not to use it without their permission. All of us stared in fascination as my mother quickly warmed up some leftover soup that would have taken three times longer to warm up on the stove. We watched our mother frequently use this wonderful product and were fascinated with the microwave’s abilities.
One day, when my parents were out, criminals number 1 and 3 decided they wanted to use the microwave themselves. We hovered around the machine, and Criminal 1 suggested we warm up one of his favorite treats, a marshmallow covered in a sugar coating. He placed the treat inside the oven and set the dial and pushed Start. Our eyes grew large as we watched the marshmallow swell and bubble in the heat the microwave produced. Criminal 2 removed the melted mess, and we all partook of the gooey treat. By this time, Criminal 4 arrived and demanded she have her share, too, or she would tell on us.
This experiment was such a success, Criminal 3 suggested we try something else, and he got a boiled egg out of the refrigerator. He placed the shelled object in the oven and pressed Start. Within thirty seconds, there was an explosion, and all four criminals went running for cover. The egg had blown up in the microwave, and its shrapnel covered the inside of the machine. Within seconds of the explosion, our parents showed up. Busted!
The Great Rice Caper. We always loved it when our parents left the house to run errands because we reveled in the freedom of not being watched for a time. On this particular day, all four criminals were playing with drinking straws. I’m not sure why we had them out, but it’s not a necessary fact for the criminal report that was filed later that day.
Criminals 1 and 3 (do you sense a pattern here?) thought about shooting spitballs at each of us, and they enjoyed this for a time, but they grew tired of having to make the wet ammunition. As we stood around, blowing air through the straws at Criminal 4, Criminal 3 spied a bag of rice on the counter in the kitchen. He grabbed the bag, and we all headed to the den where we could all sit around the room in the comfortable chairs. Criminal 2 gave out a cup full of miniature, yet potentially stinging ammunition. Criminal 1 counted down, “On your mark. Get set. Go!”
Rice flew through the air and pinged off of everything including each of the four criminals. Reloading the straws was easy, and the den became a rapid firing range. The criminals’ voices could be heard yelling, “Ouch!” “Missed me!” and “I’ll get you back!”.
When the war finally subsided, mainly because we had run out of ammo, the rice covered the furniture and shag carpet in the room. It looked like tiny hailstones had fallen from the ceiling, and we criminals giggled at the effect. Our giggles quickly changed to moans when we saw our parent’s car pull into the driveway. Painfully busted!
The (Not so Great) Bottle Rocket Conspiracy. In the 1970’s, it was illegal in most states to possess fireworks. In Louisiana, where we were living at the time, they were legal, and we would save our allowances and buy these fascinating and dangerous devices. For Criminals 1, 2 and 3, the explosive of choice was bottle rockets. We criminals rarely shot them out of bottles; that was too boring. Instead, we shot them while sticking them out of the ground, shot them out of mailboxes and laid them on the street and shot them down the road.
One day, all four criminals were in the house because it was raining outside. My parents decided they needed an escape from the housebound outlaws, so they left Criminal 1 in charge and enjoyed the quiet while running an errand or two. Not a good idea.
We had some bottle rockets that we had planned to use that day had we been outside, so Criminals 1 & 3 (you know the ones) decided that there was one place we hadn’t attempted a launch of said rockets and that was the chimney. All four criminals hovered together at the fireplace and, oddly enough, Criminal 2 suggested we use a bottle to position our missile. The first three criminals rubbed their hands together in anticipation, and Criminal 4 backed away from the opening with great apprehension.
We placed the bottle in the fireplace, Criminal 2 positioned the rocket, and Criminal 1 lit the fuse. There was a hiss, and the missile shot out of the bottle and up the chimney. Criminals 1, 2 and 3 cheered, but our cheers turned to screams as the rocket hit a partial obstruction inside the flue, and quickly shot down and out of the fireplace mouth and into the room. It exploded within inches of Criminal 4’s head. Smoke filled the room as the youngest criminal yelled, “I’m going to tell.”
Fighting our way through the smoke, Criminals 1, 2 and 3 dashed over to the windows and started to open them to clear the air. It was at this point; our parents pulled into the driveway. Our felonious record just grew longer!Our life of crime started at an early age, but my parents must have done some things right. Criminals 1 and 2 both became teachers at both the middle school and high school levels. Criminal 3 served in the Air Force and completed several tours in the Middle East. Criminal 4 has continually been successful in retail and education and has raised three beautiful, intelligent daughters. Our parents? They are happily retired from all the prosecutions and are enjoying their grandchildren because they can send this next generation of young criminals back to the original perpetrators and let them deal with them instead.
I have taught middle school English for more than a decade, and writing is an important part of my professional and personal life. In the spring of 2016, I attended the Maine Writing Project and participated in Maine Writing Project Summer Institute of Teacher Leadership that concentrated on honing this craft and how to teach students to become better writers. I have published creative non-fiction pieces with Longridge Review, Chattanooga Writers' Guild, Re:Fiction Magazine and Divine Connections.