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And out of my coat pockets they fell. Four colorfully adorned, crisply illustrated packs of NFL trading cards: The fabulous Fleer Ultra, the uniquely hologram-cornered Upper Deck, the timeless Topps, and last but not least, what collector could forget the generic looking Pro Set? All the cards were in the new-age crinkly wrappers, the style of the late 80s, early 90s, just waiting to be painstakingly opened and their contents extricated with the yanking lull of gentle fingers.

I got right into the initial pack— the Fleer Ultra—slid the cards from the foil wrapper and my eyes were baptized by the first card of the tiny stack, none other than number 22 for the Dallas Cowboys, Emmitt Smith. The NFL’s current all-time leading rusher was caught forever, chipping off a chunk of that famous 18K plus yards in a ball cradling, sideline tiptoeing gallop, feet hovering off the surface of the dirt like Muybridge’s horse. A split second after the picture was snapped, Smith could’ve been lambasted by a coke-frenzied, frothy-mouthed Lawrence Taylor, which may have resulted in a fumble and a six for the other team for all I knew. But that particular moment was Emmitt Smith’s moment, and now my moment, laying stats’ side down on my sheet-free full sized mattress. With my hard earned mix of impatient caution, I thumbed over a Bart Oates here and a William Roaf there, followed by a Kirk Lowdermilk, and a Via Sikahema. Two mediocre cards later, up popped a Barry Sanders, the crown prince of the shake and bake, the five-foot-eight, 203 pound, rolling bocce ball of a running back, revered and feared for his ability to leave stutter stepping linebackers and safeties hunched over clutching their groins by the end of the second quarter. When I was 11 years old, he was my boyhood hero. When all the other kids wanted to be like Mike, I had dreams of being like Barry, though by that age, I was as gangly as a frilled toothpick and already two inches taller than him. A locker sized pin up of the Lions’ great number 20 graced the wall alongside my bed, his high top Nike turf cleats captured in a vivid attempt to plant both feet and blast to the left or to the right, to both sides at the same damn time, splitting his molecules in half and breaking down either sideline for 12 points. Sanders was good like that. Still to this day, his prowess is unmatched, and just like Emmitt Smith, I owned him for the time being. I continued my flipping through the cards, making certain never to mash, or let alone touch their ever so holy edges, treating each one as if the overabundance of oils in the whirl pools of my fingerprints could stain and vacuum the value right out of them. I noticed jack pot after jack pot, money card after money card. In the 20/20 of my hindsight vision, the feeling could only be equated to that of a slot machine gambler’s after they’ve jerked that arm one last time, and they’re suddenly engulfed in the myriad casino noises, that clatter-clinking waterfall of gold tokens, the blinking lights that seem to never cease. I was only lacking a wide-smiling body guard to politely escort me to the nearest card shop to cash in my royalties. With my stash safely on my bed, I shoved my hands back into my pockets, turning them inside out, revealing nothing but crumbs and dirt. I laughed at the notion that with the packs, and my seemingly monumental bonanza, came no receipt. Yes, while my dad was sashaying through the clearance aisle at target, hypnotized by the sight of all the red tags and the savings they stood for, trying to piece together a deal on lawnmower parts, or just find the world’s best bargain on a one pound bag of black licorice, I helped myself to a ten finger discount like none other on record for anyone in my group of young cohorts, at least not in terms of football cards.


The van ride home was nothing more than me being forced to heed the words of my dad’s lectures about the usual issues of my 11 year old life: vanishing homework assignments, dismal grades, and my omnipresent lack of interest in anything of productive consideration, or in his eyes, anything positive for that matter. I was with him and not Tim and Drew that evening as a punishment of sorts. He steered his giant blue Dodge Ram 1500 van through the back streets of St. Louis like an off-duty bus driver on his way back to the terminal, raking me over the hot coals of responsibility, telling me exactly what it meant to be almost grown up, and about my latest bit of responsibility evasion, something I did with precision and mastery. "Remember my rules of thumb?" He said, lifting one thumb from the steering wheel. "If it’s on the floor it gets stepped on." Earlier that day, I stepped on a musical Mickey Mouse watch my grandmother had given me as a present. The face was shattered on the hardwood floor of my bedroom; the watch would never again chime the tinkle of "It’s a Small World."


"I know. I know."


"If it’s on the couch it gets sat on. Doesn’t It?"


I shook my head. "If it’s on the toilet seat it gets pissed on." I thought to myself. I knew where the conversation was leading. Right down Initiative Avenue, some place I rarely rode my bike. "When are you going to start taking initiative for things?" I heard the word taking, gonging loudly within my head. "Or seizing opportunities that come your way?" Seizing sounded good to me. "And stealing the scene. Stealing important moments." Okay, it was getting ridiculous. That was one of the things I did best, and unbeknownst to him, I had the bustling pockets to prove it. "Where do you honestly see yourself in ten years, or fifteen years Tony?" I hardly ever looked into the crystal ball of the future, not at that age, and not upwards of a decade, so I decided to give it a go. I envisioned myself holed up in a rundown apartment, the door barricaded shut, spinning police cherries beaming redness through the slits in the blinds, searchlight equipped SWAT choppers propelling up tornados of dust, loudspeakers telling me to come out with my hands up. I’m hunched with my feet against my chest, on the dusty floor, back to the wall, gun in hand, and a crate of stolen Barry Sanders cards next to me. "I… I don’t know," I told him."In college I guess."


The next day was a Saturday. Craig Jorgensen came to my house from his parents abode several blocks over. He pedaled his black Dyno VFR up my 45 degree slanted front yard and got to feast his eyes first hand on what I had plundered—the Lufthansa heist of sports trading cards.


"Dude, this is one of the biggest scores I’ve ever been a part of. Check out what I got when I was with my dad last night. I set the money cards out on display on my old oak dresser. "Emmitt Smith, Barry Foster, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman. I practically got all the best players on the Cowboys in four packs," Then I slapped down a Daryl Johnston. Big number 48."Even got the moose. Probably not worth much, but who doesn’t love Moose Johnston?" I set two more down, both encased in hard plastic sleeves that protected soft plastic sleeves, a dual layer of impregnable, angelic fortification, designed to keep them free of dust particles and Cheeto-orange dyed little brother fingers. "And a Barry, don’t even have to say his last name. And a Neon Deion. Prime time baby."


"Must be the money." Craig added.


"Must be something. Good luck for once."


"All those in one score huh?"




"Any Bo Jackson’s?" Craig was a huge Bo Knows fan, the biggest in south St. Louis to my knowledge, considering that Bo routinely busted bats over his knees and helmet for Kansas City back in that era.


"Broke Hip Jackson. No way. His card’s not worth shit anymore. I’ve got one of his rookie cards. I took it to the baseball card guy down the street and he wanted to buy it for $125. I told him no and two weeks later Bo got hurt."


"All your stupid luck."


"All he knows now is the bench. I never got the hype about him. Never one 1000 yard season."


Craig stared wide-eyed at the collection on my dresser, nervously biting at the planter’s warts on his cuticles. He was a bit of an oddity in shape and stature. His wide head was crowned with thin brown hair that he’d gel up and part down the right side. He had a fuzzy peak that crept beneath his bangs, jutting out into a triangle on his forehead. He routinely shaved it and often had two-day-old stubble above the contours of his brow. A stocky, pressed-down bowling pin of a guy, he’d keep his baby blue Catholic grade school shirt loosely tucked into his navy blue trousers long after the final bell rang and the sun went down. His facial features were similar to those of a Pac-Man frog. Thin mustache hairs grew on his upper lip, nearly invisible but darkening as they curved downward to the tip of his mouth. In all honesty he looked a lot like Sydney Crosby in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: fish-lipped with a really bad stache. "Did your dad finally give you some allowance for once?"


"No way man. I’ve gotten used to the fact that that’ll never happen. These…" I fanned my hand in front of my cards. "Are all stolen."


"Shut up."


"For real. Last night."


I started to piggy-back the cards on top of one another to adequately fit them into the Samba Classic shoebox that lurked in its dark quarters beneath my bed, selfishly and protectively hoarding my card shop of a collection. Craig unbuttoned his silver Los Angeles Raiders Starter jacket, revealing the red outlined number 21 of his Deion Sanders jersey. "Let me get that Deion card. I’ll trade you a Tommy Vardell rookie. It’s an Upper Deck. The one where he’s in his Stanford uniform."


"Forget that. No one gives a crap about Tommy Vardell. Quit trying to rip me off fool." I said. "You can come to Target with me and maybe you’ll get your own Neon Deion."


"My parents grounded me from allowance."


"For what this time?"


"Not letting the dogs out before school yesterday. They crapped and pissed all over the house," He explained. "And my dad was so pissed because you messed up his Civil War revolver. He could tell you were playing with it. I told you to just put it down."


"Forget him."


"Forget you."


"Craig Jorgenson. The spoiled only-child, grounded from allowance. How does that make you feel?"


"Like crap I guess. I was at Mc D’s the other day and I couldn’t even super-size my drink and fries."


"Come on. Let’s get on our bikes and go to Target." I goaded.


"I can’t. I’m not gonna be teased by a bunch or cards I can’t buy and I’m not stealing either."


Craig’s mom and dad viewed me as the gatekeeper of Dante’s fourth circle of the inferno. They were always good at maintaining their sunny morning, bacon, eggs and orange juice for breakfast vibe of positivity about themselves, never missing an opportunity to ask about my day, or about how my mom and dad were, but behind my back they whipped their long forked tongues in and out of their smiling mouths, slandering my name and the very foot prints I would leave caked on the bone-white carpet of their pristine living room. I acquired this notion from the end of a phone conversation I had with Craig one evening. I hung up my end of the land line— back in those days prior to the cell phone boom, when everything was so gloriously simple— and then I tried to rotary dial another friend immediately after, only to be brick-walled by the fact that Craig, trapped in the clutches of a berating session that was being doled out by his parents, failed to hang his end up all the way. My ear was pencil-jabbed with all the vitriol his mom and dad could spew. "It was that Tony DiSalvo wasn’t it? I know that’s who you were talking to. Just admit it Craig and your punishment might not be so bad. We know you’re with him every day after school. I see his monstrous size 12 mud prints on our carpet. Those aren’t your foot prints. No, you wear a size 8 like a normal 11 year old boy," Mrs. Jorgenson gabbed. "What kind of heathen boy wears a shoe that huge? A devil child that’s who. That awful excuse for a young man. The teachers at school say he plays with his genitals in class and wipes boogers under each desk he sits in. That good for nothing bastard child. Oh my, he’s making me swear."


"Good for jack shit. I’ll do the swearing around here," Craig’s dad chimed.


Mr. Jorgenson, a beer-gut-busting-over-his-beltline Harley Davidson mechanic was never any poster parent for responsibility. The man lived for chips and salsa. He’d sit awake late at night, channel surfing, usually making a stop at the Spice channel, all while digging his fingers into a bag of Tostitos. He’d often play Craig’s Sega Genesis, and instead of walking up the stairs to use the bathroom like a normal human being, the fat bastard would keep a urinal by the couch, piss into it when he needed to, and dump it out the window behind him, all in one ergomatic thrust without rising. I envisioned him with his black, rounded-edged Sega controller in one hand, manipulating a puck carrying Jaromir Jager into the perfect wrap-around score on NHL ’93. The jug of salsa rested in the other hand, and he’d dredge Pace picante sauce into his mouth, all of this done with his flaccid penis lopped into the opening of his urinal. "He eats my salsa doesn’t he? I measure the jar with the same dip stick I measure the oil in the El Camino with. Don’t you lie to me."


I could see the scene: the kitchen phone not completely hung up, the helpless Craig rendered silent as his overbearing parents descended upon him, backs arched, claws and fangs drawn, lurching closer with each prying question, blocking out the glow of the overhead light in a solar eclipse of interrogation. "Uggghhh, I feel sorry for his parents," Mrs. Jorgenson added. "You will go to confession this Sunday and tell Father Deerdorff each and every god awful sin that brat makes you so much as think about committing. I feel so sorry for his poor mother. I bet she…" The must have noticed the phone at that point. "Finally!" I said aloud to myself. "I can make a friggin phone call to see if someone wants to go break something or steal something, or light some shit on fire. Geeeez. What’s a kid gotta do?"


But after that verbal ambuscade into the holes of my phone’s earpiece, it was I who would begin feeling sorry for Craig’s parents because I would make him my latest project, working on him until he was a cat’s cradle of Silly Putty, intertwined around the knuckles of my concupiscent fingers.


"Are you going to be a pathetic slave to your parents forever?" I asked him. "They’ve got you seriously in check man. Live a little."


"What do you mean?"


"I mean come with me to Target and I can show you how to get your own Deion cards, free of charge."


"What if we get caught?"


"We won’t. Only retards and little brother decoys get caught. People that know how to properly steal walk away with their pockets loaded." A bold statement from a master purloiner who cut his baby teeth with penny candy at 7-11, and subsequently climbed the theft ladder to Bubble Tape and Tic-Tacs, before finally breaking into the majors—the world of Topps and Upper Deck.


"But what if we do? My mom and dad will ground the shit out of me." He added.


"What’s the worst that could happen? Your dad won’t let you eat salsa for a week? Holy crap, what a death sentence."


"Shut up man."


"Or he’ll put you on urinal detail duty?"


"Dude scrotum you." Craig had this weird infatuation with saying the word scrotum. To him, everything was scrotum this or scrotum that. He’d say ‘scrotum you’ instead of screw you, and ‘scrotum off’, or sometimes, ‘man what a crock of scrotums,’ and so on. He would basically take the word scrotum and let it hang onto any phrase where a cuss word would properly fit. It was his way of cussing without really cussing—a parental defying, ingenious cop-out.


"Look," I said. "I’ll give you that Deion I just showed you if you go with me." He was a cheap whore. That was the clincher—the Bruce Sutter sinker, popping into Darrell Porter’s glove—though I never admitted to him that it was solely because I had triples of the card, doubles wouldn’t have cut it. Had that been the case, I probably just would’ve offered him some diminished in price Bo Jackson third year card.


I pulled my initial Target heist wearing my Starter Dallas Cowboys parka. Unbeknownst to many Wal-Mart shoppers the country over, there was a time in the bowels of urban American history when Starter actually stood for something as a brand, before they coughed up their nuts and sold out to Sam Walton’s boys, lassoing a side-smirking Tony Romo into being their official mascot. Back in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, Starter carried with it the prominence that its wearers were either A: Ass kicking, brim tilting gang bangers, or B: were going to get peter-rolled in the middle of the street for their brand new Georgetown Hoyas jacket by some ass kicking, brim tilting gang bangers. If you ever found yourself encircled by a swarming brood of hoods, pounding fists into open palms—with their rank indicating Starter logos worn like rings on a pimp, brims so low that you could barely catch a glimpse of their beaming, blood shot eyes—it was best that you either set your gear slowly on the sidewalk or got on your bike and pedaled like hell. My Cowboys coat was a plush, down feather stuffed Cadillac of a stolen card hauler, but it was cursed with only one vital defect—it had just two small side pockets. That was unacceptable for what I planned to do that day, so I dug into my younger brother’s closet and found his coat, nearly my size, specifically purchased for him to grow into. But most importantly, it housed four outer pockets and two covert, James Bond-esque inner pockets, surly tailored for thieves like myself. It was rather pinchy around the armpits but it would do. I shoved my fingers into two of the front pockets in a test drive gesture of sorts, and felt what seemed to be tiny rocks. I pulled them out and upon further inspection, realized they were all dried boogers. My brother had been secretly stashing his boogers into his coat pockets for who knows how long because there were a lot of them. I just scoffed and decided I had no choice but to weather the snot storm. Beneath the coat, I wore my J.C. Penny catalogue ordered Barry Sanders jersey; some off-brand made of that starchy feeling, practice jersey style mesh that would tattoo my arms with micro-dot bruises when I played tackle football. It had a cheap, painted on number 20, and had a smudge on the lower corner of the 0 on the front. I imagined some seven year old Taiwanese kid lost a finger in the searing hot number press, and the smudge was the result of his attempt to yank the finger free. Craig on the other hand, always swaddled by his helicopter parents, wore his authentic, NFL sideline Atlanta Falcons Deion Sanders jersey. As he buttoned up his jacket, I could hear the jersey’s full volume taunts get quieter and quieter, until they were suffocated to a muffled whisper.


We hit the streets of the south side on our Dynos, Craig on his VFR and me on my Compe, the red headed step brother of the high powered Detour, for those in the know. The long, house dotted, tree landscaped hill of Nottingham Avenue was vibrant with people out doing yard chores and such, soaking in the infant spring afternoon. We laced in and out of the street, darting between parked cars, horse-hopping curbs, off the sidewalk and back onto the grass. The triangular edges of my open coat fluttered in the wind, giving my shadow the appearance of a flapping manta ray, calmly navigating the open waters. The majority of the uphill ride was us rolling parallel, knifing the breeze and rapping Public Enemy songs word for word. Yes, the flour-whitest honkey kids west of the muddy Mississippi, infatuated with the sharp-tongued, political waxing of the group that took black America by beat storm with their torrents of race inequality charged lyrics. Chuck D’s method of spewing hardcore rhymes and blanketing the airways with a volcanic ash of opinion had us hooked from the first time we pressed play on the JVC tape deck. Their anti-establishment ideas and overall seething for "the man," who I personally translated to be the school faculty and my parents, plucked a chord on the harp of my rebelliousness like none other.


"Fight the power! We gotta fight the powers that be." We sang together in our prepubescent boy voices. "Elvis was hero to most," Craig repeated three times. "But he never meant shit to me you see," I added, standing on my pedals, calf muscles pressing onward up the asphalt hill. "Straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain. Mother fuck him and John Wayne," We announced in unison. "Fight the power!" And so on.


By the time we started reciting Shut ‘em Down, we could see the big red bull’s eye of the Target store on Hampton Avenue, firing towards it like two proton blasts at a Death Star exhaust port. We ditched our bikes and hit the entrance fully coated up on an April day that by that time had a temperature of 75 degrees. We walked by the row of cash registers, nonchalantly rapping the lyrics to N.W.A.’s Boyz-n-the-Hood. It was a streetwise joint— the solo performed magnum opus of the grand master of gangsterdom— the king of the Jheri curled mullet that dripped oil behind the snapback of the L.A. Kings hat, my mother’s most hated rap artist, Eric "Eazy-E" Wright. I took pride in wearing my hat just like his—forward, brim flat, propped up on my crown as there was a tall eared rabbit standing beneath it. He slapped the hos and clocked the dough, and his marvelously stinking breath, reeking of 8-Ball malt liquor, is exactly what I wanted my breath to smell like, despite having no clue of what 8-Ball was at the time.


"A car pulls up who can it be?" We rapped. "A fresh El Camino rollin’ key low-G."


"Hell yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. My dad’s got an El Camino." Craig reminded me.


"I know. I’ve seen that oil leaking turd pile a thousand times. Keep going."


"He rolls down the window and he started to say," We continued, hard-stepping forward on the speckled tile of the store’s floor, jerking our hips into it, shoulders popping, wrists whipping with each word, fingers locked closely together, tomahawked out in front of us as if we were sporting diamond studded, four-finger rings like Sir-Mix-A-Lot. "It’s all about making that GTA. ‘Cause the boys in the hood are always hard. Come talking that trash we’ll pull your card. Knowing nothing in life but to be legit. Don’t quote me boy ‘cause I ain’t said sheee-it." We were sucked into the moment, oblivious to the amount of undue attention we were attracting to ourselves. "Compton… Compton… C…C… Compton." We went on and on.


The fact that we were a couple of kids was bad enough by itself, but by gallivanting through the store, rapping and wearing winter coats, we painted targets on our backs bigger and brighter than the one on the front of the building. But we were caught in the yanking tractor beam. There the aisle was before us, seeming to give off a glow that was attached to a siren-like beckoning of a hundred sexy women curling come-hither fingers at us. I planted my feet in the center of the aisle, right in front of the football card section, and glanced to the left and to the right to ensure both coasts were clear. Without wasting another second, I began shoving packs into my pockets, first into my front ones, and then into the hidden depths of my inner pockets. Craig filled the side pockets on his Raiders jacket and then switched to his Levi’s. He looked over to where the card aisle met the main aisle. I watched the rosiness of his chubby cheeks begin to be squeegeed away, replaced with the skin hue I became familiar with throughout my years of pitch-forking my peers down my shenanigan laced path: a tone I came to know as "about to shit your pants white."


"What’s wrong with you?" I nudged him. "Quit looking like you’re about to have a conniption fit."


"I just saw someone walk by and look at us, and then walk by again. The same guy."


"Someone who works here?"


"Yeah. Like one of those parking lot guys. A cart pusher."


"Who cares," I said. "He’s probably on his way out to the lot. Quit noiding me out. Keep filling your pockets." I whispered.


"I’m done. We gotta bounce. I’m telling you, he saw me put a pack in my pocket."


"You’re crazy salsa boy," I told him as I fed two more packs of Upper Deck cards into the voracious fabric of my brother’s oversized, over-pocketed coat. "That’s your parents getting into your head again." I grabbed both of his silver jacket sleeves and shook him. "You got held back a grade. You’re the oldest kid in our class. Act like it. Be a leader."


He wouldn’t relent. I had no choice but to follow him toward the exit doors. We scurried, trying as hard as we could not to look too nervous. With the exits in plain sight, we upped our stride, breaking into a brisk walk, and then into a trot, and finally into hyper drive—a full on mad dash. All I could think about was pedaling our Dynos back to my place and safely unloading our stash onto my bed. As my Samba Classics clopped along, some vintage Eazy-E was bumping in the speakers of my overly excited mind, sounding like a tape being played at high speed. "Easily I approach… the microphone because I ain’t no joke. Tell your mama to get off of my tip…" We were ten feet from the doors, and from freedom for that matter. I was behind Craig and I grabbed the back of his jacket, knees slightly bent, tailing him like a halfback does to his tackle when he busts through the six hole and hits the sideline, poised to point out potential blocks. An encroaching lot attendant was helming a train of red shopping carts—fifteen deep at the least— commanding them forward like an Iditarod racer standing behind his mushing huskies. He was coming at us from the opposite direction, gaining ground on our position. He threw his hips into his carts, shifting the entire load, bending it in the middle as the wheels squeaked and scraped along the tile floor. The basket train shot across the entire row of double doors like a deadbolt into a lock, trapping us in and sealing our fate. When I tried to hurdle the row of carts, I felt a large hand clutch my arm and yank me backward. "You ain’t going nowhere Flo-Jo. Get your little ass back here." A stocky man wearing an old St. Louis football Cardinals jacket quickly corralled us past our portholes to freedom and forcefully shoved us into a hidden room, through an unmarked door by the restrooms. "Have a seat boys." He demanded. His face resembled that of a thirty-something-year-old Jon Lovitz, all the way down to the pencil thin mustache; his Cardinals jacket was tattered and crusty, like the team represented on it. "Take off your jackets. Let’s see what’s in those pockets." He grinned sheepishly, outwardly revealing his sick amusement, the growing satisfaction he gained throughout the years from busting store thieves day in and day out. We did as we were told. Craig tossed out a measly three packs while I unloaded a commanding 20, the amount of card packages mirrored the number on my blue Lions jersey. "Wow you two are some serious schmucks you know that?" He shoveled all the packs together on the table, stacking them in piles of three or four. "You know what a schmuck is Barry Sanders?" He leaned in on me. I was blown back by a gust of Cool Ranch Dorito breath. "What about you Deion?" We looked at each other and shook our heads accordingly. What that loss prevention specialist said next would wrecking-ball me and resonate for the rest of my life, forever blistered onto my brain and whipped back out time and time again like a shiny badge, resurfacing as a joke, an insult to someone, or just a hoarse-throated tale of belligerent, gut busting laughter, regurgitated at 2:30 a.m. on many rum-drunk, last call occasions. "It’s a word that gets tossed around too loosely in my opinion. I like to reserve it for the stupidest of my busts," He leaned back in his chair and snorted, poised to take us to school whether we liked it or not. "It’s a discarded foreskin. The piece of the pecker that gets thrown away. When they snip the little babies, it’s the piece that goes in the trash. The Schmuck. You two Sanders brothers are nothing more than a couple of discarded foreskins."


"Um, thanks." I said.


"It’s not a compliment schmuck," He banged his open palm on the wooden folding table. The cards hopped from their stacked formation like the ham and turkey and cheese of a quadruple decker cartoon sandwich, before landing back down all catawampus. "Look up there." He pointed to a closed circuit television that was attached to some cameras. "Check out this new movie starring your dumb asses. It’s called Sanders and Sanders go shopping. Coming to a theater near you."


We watched the small black and white screen as it played back images of us carelessly gorging our insatiable pockets, actually believing that no one in the world could’ve been staring us down. "You know how long you guys were in that aisle?"


"I don’t know," I replied. "Like five minutes or something I guess."


"Try 45. 45 minutes ass bag. I sat back here with my bag of Doritos and ate my lunch for 45 minutes watching you two snipped foreskins and laughing the whole time. Siskel and Ebert give this one two thumbs up… way up your asses. Thanks for giving me time to eat."


I sat back, crossed my arms behind my head and in true devil child fashion, swallowed his petty trash talk like a garbage disposal and kept my eyes on the screen. Craig, red in the cheeks, sat next to me and openly sobbed, crying his tears in advance, knowing full well that a serious ass whooping and some extra chores that possibly entailed de-scaling the calcified piss stains from the walls of his old man’s pee can, were cascading down the pipeline of his near future. "Oh quit crying you cry baby," Lovitz said. "You were man enough to stand in my card aisle and jam your pockets." He picked up one of the packs, an Upper Deck, one of the most valuable of the stash, and began to finger it open. "Let’s just see what you two brats could’ve had if you would’ve gotten away with your little heist." He pulled them out with a hideous amount of uncouth touching, not properly babying the edges, surely smudging the cards with his Cool Ranch dusted finger tips. I nearly gagged. To me, that sort of improper care was like nails tearing south on a black board. I was eager to see how my usual foul luck would come out to play. If I saw a Barry Sanders, or a Thurman Thomas, or even a Bret Favre rookie, I would’ve surly shit. But he slapped down a Pat Swilling, a Bruce Smith, both noteworthy, but nothing to sneeze over; they were followed by a Mel Gray, a Marion Butts—big number 35 for San Diego, a multi-season 1,000 yard rusher but still no value in his cards—next came Mark Duper, I had doubles of that card, and then a Reggie Roby, the only black man to ever punt a football to my knowledge, and finally the big, blundering Leon Lett. I gasped a sigh of relief. The tedium was over. That pack of cards wasn’t worth the paper any of its contents were printed on. The LPS guy ended up calling our parents and we got a yard stick to the wrist to the tune of a lifetime ban from the Hampton Avenue Target store. Never the less, I’ve ventured in there a few times in the past few years, and each time I grace the store with my presence, I have this vision of running into that now aged loss prevention guy, still giving punk kids the business, letting them know just what kind of trimmed piece of penile hood they are, still rocking his thin, Lovitzy mustache, his thinning black hair having left in its wake a few strands of hasty comb-over wires, and of course, still sporting his St. Louis football Cardinals jacket, three decades after they hightailed it to the desert and Neil Lomax took his last snap. But each time I return I have this wet dream of seeing, on some wall or bulletin board by the drinking fountains, a sign with a photo of my badass 11 year old self that reads: THIS PERSON IS PERMANANTLY BANNED FROM THIS BUILDING. Next to that would be an artist’s sketch rendition of "What this disgusting perpetrator might look like today," though it’s best if it’s read in the voice of John Walsh, or better yet, Robert Stack.








Comments (2)

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Great story! It drips with late 80s & early 90s references. The character development was good too. "Schmuck." Who knew?

Joshua Hennen
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Thanks Joshua.

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