It was a warm Monday morning. I was five and already I was a thief. I stood in the kitchen with my mother as she prepared breakfast. The sausage and toast were done. The skillet heated as she stirred the eggs in a glass bowl. I stood beside mama with a stolen pen in my pocket. It was an ink pen with three colors and I was just itching to tell somebody about it. I’d stolen it the day before with the help of my friend, let’s call her Jennifer. So the night before my mom had some of her friends over and while the ladies were talking and eating Jennifer and I stole not one but TWO three colored pens. One for her and one for me. Jennifer had already written two cuss words with her pen. I would’ve written one too but I didn’t quite know how to spell the one I wanted to use. It’s kind of hard to ask your mama how to spell son of a b_ _ _ _.
The next morning in the kitchen I moved from side to side. My palms were sweaty. I just had to show the pen to mama or bust. So I showed it to her. She was mad. Jennifer told me this would happen. I should’ve listened. Mama went straight into the “This is Not How I Raised You” speech. I listened a minute then I got mad. I mean there she was yelling at me all I had done was stolen a pen out of somebody’s purse. I was a good girl except for when I lied on the teacher; except when I tried to explain to the teacher that apples came in more than one color; except for when I threw my doll on top of the house; except when I slapped the boy next door; except for when I went to the store and didn’t come home until I was good and ready. Except for those one or two things I was a model child but she couldn’t see my goodness.
“You do not still,” she said angrily slinging egg shells into the garbage. Some of the juice landed on my hand. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t she was still hollering. “I ought to call the police.” She said.
“Jennifer stole one too,” I said mainly out of fear of going to jail alone.
“Well, what Jennifer does is her business,” Mama said. She was mad. She poured the eggs into the hot skillet.
“Well, what I do is my b—“ I never saw it coming. A hand that had to have possessed the strength of ten thousand men made contact with the side of my face. My head went clean to the left and for a minute and forty six seconds I couldn’t say a word. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t hear. If somebody would’ve asked me my name I wouldn’t have an answer. I wasn’t sure I was still alive. The idea of dying with a stolen pen in my pocket scared me. I just knew that there was a special corner in hell for five year old girls who stole pens.
Mama was still fussin’ but I gathered from the fact that shoved the plate of eggs, sausage and toast at me that she wanted me to eat. So I ate. My cheek burned like it had been stung by a thousand bees but I ate. I was scared not to.
Some thirty six years later I think back on that day and I say thank you to my mama. Jennifer kept on stealing. I didn’t. I was too scared to.