They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So this ought to save me a few thousand words of typing. Not that I don’t like writing, but, well, just look at it, okay? Go on. Scroll around a bit.
Are you starting to get it?
See that ditch? That dinky little ditch. Between the two parallel roads. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what makes life so difficult for me.
That’s why I’m a teenage criminal.
Yeah. A ditch.
You see, that ditch, that ditch and nothing else, is the border. Between Washington and British Columbia. Between Canada and the United States. Between my country and my boyfriend’s country.
That road, the one underneath the streetview camera, that’s in Canada. A meter or two away, you see that other road? The almost identical looking one? Running parallel? That’s in the USA.
Not very imposing, is it? Not intimidating at all. Nothing to worry about. No fence. No razor wire. No guard dogs. Just a little hop, and you’re there, right?
That’s what I used to think, too. Back when I was young and innocent instead of a wise and jaded fourteen year old like now.
At least the prison food is bound to be better than the cafeteria food at my school. I hope my cellmate isn’t named Bubba. Or Butch.
I don’t think I’d like that at all.
It all started a real long time ago. Way, way back. Back before the internet was any good, back when movies and music were all weird, and civilization barely existed.
All the way back to eleven months ago.
I know. The dark ages. But bear (or is it bare? I dunno. I should ask Ms. Sisko. Except she smells funny) with me here. It’s important.
That’s when he moved into his house. My boyfriend. Angus.
He wasn’t my boyfriend then, of course. I mean, I hadn’t even met him. He’s my boyfriend now. After we met. After we got to know each other. You know what I mean.
And yeah, Angus.
His parents loved MacGyver. That old TV show. What can I say?
Now, I don’t have a picture for this part, so I guess I’ll have to write it out. I hope it doesn’t take a thousand words.
The streetview can’t show it, because there’s no road there. But my house is just down the road a ways. Not too far.
His house is right behind mine. Almost right up against it.
My backyard and his backyard face each other. Only a meter apart.
Only, there’s a problem.
The Canada-USA border runs right between our properties. Right down between our yards.
So we’re neighbours. Immediate neighbours. But in completely different countries.
There you go. Seventy-seven words. I counted. Not a thousand. That wasn’t so bad. I’ll have to tell Ms. Sisko. Sometimes a picture is only worth seventy-seven words.
Except she smells funny.
We didn’t meet there though. At home. I didn’t even know he lived there yet. We met on that road. The one from the start of this story. In the picture. Pretty much at that exact spot.
I was pushing my bike home from school. Walking. Because I had a flat tire.
It was a good long walk too. Well over a kilometer. Or, as Angus would say, about a mile. He talks weird like that.
So I was pushing my bike along, trying to figure out which swear words worked best for the situation, when he rode up on his bike from behind me.
He rode up from behind me, yeah. But he was on the other road. The one in the US. I was on the one in Canada.
He saw me walking. Desultorily, I think is the word Ms. Sisko would have me use. Except I don’t like it. And she says too many adverbs isn’t good.
He slowed down, looking at me.
Then, he stopped, hopped off his bike, and walked alongside. But across the ditch, of course. On the other road.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I said.
International relations had begun. And we didn’t even need a diplomat.
He was cute, too. I saw that right away. Black, curly hair. Tiny little nose. High cheekbones. Black eyebrows, kinda pointed in the middle.
I’m a sucker for dimples.
“What’s wrong with it?” he asked, pointing at my bike.
“Flat tire,” I answered.
“Oh,” he said.
We walked along, sneaking looks at each other.
“I gotta pump,” he said. He pointed. His mountain bike had one of those little portable stick pumps attached to the frame.
I frowned. “Great. Lotta good that does me.”
He frowned too. “So? You wanna use it?” he asked hesitantly.
I know. Another adverb. So shoot me.
I looked at him. He must be an idiot. Or maybe he’s just new here.
“You’re in the U.S.,” I said, a tone of exasperation in my voice.
He looked puzzled for a second, then looked at the ditch, then at me. “Oh, yeah” he said.
I guess he figured it out. Maybe someone had said something. His parents, probably.
You see, there’re rules.
More and more all the time, too.
Dad says it wasn’t always like this.
Back when he was a kid they used to run around back and forth like it wasn’t even there. They’d pop over the border, buy a chocolate bar, I guess they call them candy bars there, and pop back. All during lunch hour at school. Didn’t even need passports. Weird.
Or, people with backyards like ours, they’d jump over the fence and go visit or have a barbecue or whatever.
Not since 9/11.
Now there were cameras. Every hundred meters or so. Even between yards like ours. And cars drove along, where there are roads, on both sides. Patrolling.
So you weren’t supposed to do that. What the kid was suggesting.
Us kids that lived near the border like we did have been grilled about it since we were little.
You didn’t jump across the border.
You didn’t throw things across the border.
You didn’t play near the border. ’Cause if your ball bounced across, tough beans. It was gone. Don’t go get it. Just don’t
Or you’d bring a shitload of trouble on yourself.
I should know. Dad’s a border patrol officer. Down at the crossing.
He looked at me. The kid, I mean. “So, who would know?” he asked.
I just pointed. Up. On the nearest pole. At the camera.
I looked at him. That was real easy to do. “You new?” I asked. “Around here?”
“Yeah,” he said. “We just moved here. From Oregon. Dad works for the DHS. He was assigned to the border here.”
DHS. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I knew. That meant his dad was in drug enforcement for the border.
“I’m Stevie,” I said.
“I’m Angus,” he said.
I stared at him. “You kidding?”
He laughed. “No.”
“I know. It’s from a dumb old TV show.”
“When we get to the next pole, throw me your pump,” I said.
He gawked at me. “Serious?” he asked.
“Yeah. The camera can’t see that spot. I know.”
“Won’t we get in shit?”
“Only if we’re caught,” I said.
I liked this kid.
He threw me his pump and I quickly pumped my tire. We didn’t want to stay in the blind spot long. That would bring a patrol for sure. On both sides.
Then I slid the pump into the leg of my jeans and we kept walking.
“At the next pole, walk almost exactly two meters past it. Then I’ll throw your pump back. Another blind spot,” I said.
He looked at me like I was an alien. “Uh. What?” he said.
Maybe he was an idiot after all. Too bad.
“Past the next pole!” I said, my voice emphasizing the last word.
“Yeah. I got that part. What’s two meters, though?”
Oh yeah. He’s an American.
“Uh, about six...six and a half feet, I think,” I answered.
“Cool,” he said, nodding.
Not an idiot. Maybe there’s hope. Too bad he lives in a different country.
I threw the pump back past the next pole. He caught it neatly. I said, “Thanks. You’d better split. The patrol will be coming. They’ve seen us talking.” I pointed at the camera.
He frowned, staring at the pump he just caught. Oh yeah. I just pulled it out of the front of my pants.
“Sorry,” I said, blushing.
“’S’okay,” he replied.“Maybe I’ll see you again. Nice meeting you Stevie.”
I nodded. “You too, uh, Angus. Thanks again.” I couldn’t help smiling when I said that name. It was so funny.
He rode off.
Just in time, too. A border patrol rolled past on his side, the guy in the car staring hard at Angus as he drove past. And at me.
Less than a minute later a Mountie drove by on my side. His eyes were boring into me.
You’d think I was a drug dealer or something.
Oh my God! I smuggled a bike pump!! Lock me up!
So, I’m sure you want me to get to the point. Enough of the boring stuff, right? You want to know how it all happened. How Me and Angus became teenage criminals.
How we became notorious international candy smugglers.
Well, tough. I’ll get there. But I’ll do it my way. You just follow along, okay?
Okay. That’s settled. So, here’s how it happened.
It was later that same day that I saw Angus again. Only a couple of hours later, as it turned out.
After supper, I was looking for Dad. I wanted help with my math.
“Mom, where’s Dad,” I asked.
“He’s around somewhere, Stevie. Why, what did you need?” she asked.
“Math,” I said.
“And I can’t help you with that?” she asked, her eyes dancing.
“Mom....” I said, rolling my eyes.
She laughed. “He’s out back. Talking to the new neighbour. You’d better go get him before I start trying to help you.”
“I’m going! I’m going!” I said, and slipped on my shoes.
Mom’s great. But not at math. Take my word for it.
Dad was out by the back fence. He was talking across the border to a man in the place that had been vacant for a while, just on the other side.
Dad was still in uniform. So was the guy across the border, a DHS uniform, so I think that’s why the patrol on either side didn’t check out what was going on.
See, there’s kind of a loose pact. For the people like us. Living right here. We kind of watch out for stuff. Strange goings on. Near the border. It’s like a responsibility. A few big drug busts have happened that way.
Not far from here, a few years back, these guys, they built a tunnel. Yeah. From a barn on one side to a barn on the other.
They used it for drugs, of course.
But neighbours nearby on both sides started noticing the unusual traffic. Too much. And at weird times.
That’s how they got busted.
In turn, as long as it’s low key, things like what Dad and the other guy were doing were pretty much ignored, even though the camera could easily see both of them.
And the uniforms didn’t hurt, either.
So they were talking shop. Border stuff.
I was waiting, not wanting to interrupt.
And then Angus walked out of his house.
His eyes lit up. He waved, “Hi Stevie!”
I waved back. “Hi Angus. So this is where you live?”
“Yeah. We just moved in.”
Dad interrupted. “How do you guys know each other?”
“We met today,” I said. “On Boundary Road and Zero Avenue. I had a flat tire, and he rode past.”
Both our dads nodded.
Then Angus unknowingly threw us in the shit.
“Yeah,” he said, “I lent him my pump.”
Dammit. New kid. Doesn’t know enough when to keep his mouth shut.
Our dads were both frowning mightily at us.
“Across the border?” Dad said to me.
“Angus, didn’t we talk about this?” his dad said to him.
Dad was squinting at me, “You used the blind spots, didn’t you?”
“But he offered!” I said.
Weak. I know.
Then, at the exact same time, and in the exact same ’you’re in trouble now, mister’ tone, my dad said, “Steven!” and his dad said, “Angus!” and then they looked at each other.
And they laughed.
So did we.
It really was funny.
So that’s how we got away with it.
Me and Angus traded internet chat info. ’Cause talking over the border without our dads there just wasn’t a good plan.
And phoning, despite the fact that it was only meters away, was actually long distance. That’s so stupid. But it was. We did it anyway though, as much as we could get away with it.
So we got to know each other.
It took a while.
Visiting was so funny. And so frustrating.
Because, even though we lived within spitting distance, to visit we needed to convince a parent to drive one of us to the border crossing ten minutes away with our passports, wait in line forever to go through customs and get across, drive all the way back on the other side, and then park, literally twenty meters away from where we started. Just to visit. And our parents needed to come across with us, and stay with us, because we weren’t allowed across without a parent.
So we didn’t get to actually see each other physically very often. Because it was a pain. And took half a day just to organize.
So it took a while.
Before we became boyfriends I mean.
So anyway, after we became boyfriends.....
Okay, wait a minute. You want to know how that happened, don’t you? How we became boyfriends.
Okay, fine. That’s a little personal though, don’t you think?
It happened because of a stapler.
A stapler. One of those things you use to staple pages together.
Well, that and Angus’ American History homework.
What’s that about, anyway?
I mean, we have history. Though here, at least in my school, it’s part of Social Studies. But Canadian history and all the other history is all together. Same class.
Angus though, he has American History. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because....
The stapler. Boyfriends.
I accidentally poked staples into myself and he helped me pull them out and put on a band-aid. Then we were tight.
Fine, I guessed you wouldn’t be.
Okay, here’s how the saga unfurled:
I was at his house. Mom brought me. She dropped me off with Angus and his mom, then she went shopping for a few hours.
This was maybe six weeks after we first met.
We’d talked a few times on Border Road, and over the fence, but mostly over the internet. At least we both had webcams, so we could see each other.
We’d visited each other a few times. When we could talk our parents into it.
We went into his room. He wanted to show me the new game he got for getting an A in Math. He went over to his game console and slid the disc in. I sat down on his bed.
Then immediately jumped up again, screaming, “Yeowww!!!”
I was on my feet again real quick, which immediately slid out from under me, due to a suspicious looking sock on the floor right there.
So I fell down again. Back on the bed.
I screamed again. I think this time it was more like, “Whaaaa!!!”
I was smart enough this time to not jump to my feet. I pushed myself up with my hands.
One of which pushed down on his backpack. His pencil case was in an outside pocket. On top. It was torn. A pencil was poking out.
The pencil syringing into my palm resulted in my hand’s rapid ascension from the backpack. Which resulted in the rapid descension of my butt back onto his bed.
Which resulted in the third scream. This one I’m sure of. It was a definite, “Fuck!!!!”
I rolled over onto my side. My ass and my hand vying desperately for the championship crown of stabbing throbbing pain.
Angus wasn’t helping.
Actually, he really couldn’t.
He was on the floor.
Rolling. Holding his gut and laughing hysterically.
I understood. I even empathized. So I gently told him what I thought.
“Asshole!” I said.
He laughed harder.
I looked behind me at the source of my mortal wounds.
There, lying innocent as a live hand grenade on an elementary school playground was a stapler. Opened up, you know, the hinge opened so the two sides were opposite. It was, for some completely unfathomable reason, upside-down. So the business end faced straight up, right towards any unsuspecting ass that might come down upon it.
“Do you always keep staplers there? Ready to inflict grievous damage on your friends?” I asked.
In between nauseating guffaws he managed, “Sorry. I was putting staples in when the doorbell rang. When you got here. To staple my essay for American History. I threw it down on the bed when I went to answer the door.
I had to admit it was hilarious.
I might have even laughed, myself. Except my ass was hurting way too much. Not to mention my hand.
Now, my hand I could deal with. But, I had three staples in my butt, too.
They needed to come out.
I reached round behind me and felt around. Very carefully.
I managed to pull one out with my fingernails. The other, not so much.
It was the third one that was the killer though.
I mean, I got part of it out. But one of the little spikes broke off.
Yeah. It was still embedded nicely into me.
I wasn’t about to ask Angus’ mom for help. Not with this. Hell, no.
So, I’d have to get Angus to help. To have him use his nicely slender and smooth fingers back there on my butt and fiddle around and....
Oh, damn, damn, and double damn. Now I’d done it. Well, this was embarrassing.
I curled up in a fetal position and pretended to be in excruciating pain for a minute. Until I could uncurl again. I don’t think he twigged.
“You done laughing at the wounded?” I asked.
“Yup,” he answered with a smug grin.
“Then help me pull out the rest of the results of your carnage.”
“Okay. Let’s go in the bathroom. More light. And I might need tweezers. And antiseptic.”
So I waddled into the bathroom. Walking hurt.
“Uh, how are we going to do this?” I asked.
He was busy in a cupboard, pulling out antiseptic, gauze, tweezers, band-aids. A regular little doctor.
He looked at me. Then grinned an evil grin.
I kinda liked it. It made his dimples stand out.
“Bend over” he said.
I bent over.
“No. Over there. On the counter.”
I did as ordered.
He kneeled down behind me. Then nothing.
I turned my head round to look at him.
He was staring at my butt.
I raised my eyebrows. “What are you doing?”
He seemed to get a little pink. “Huh? Oh, uh, just thinking about how to do this.”
“Uh, Stevie?” his voice was all weird.
“What?” That’s odd. So was mine.
“Uh. I’ll need to pull your shorts down a bit.”
“Cool...” Oh shit. “Uh, I mean, okay.” I answered smoothly.
Well, I guess we’d about covered that.
I felt his hands on my waistband. Then they tugged. Then they tugged hard. My shorts came down, along with my boxers.
“You said a bit!” I protested. But I didn’t move.
He giggled. “Sorry. They slipped.”
Then nothing. I turned my head around.
He was doing it again.
Staring at my butt. Only, it was kinda bare at the moment.
“Angus?” I said. Damn. Why was my voice like that?
He looked up. “I’m going to have to emigrate,” he said.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Well, if all Canadian butts are like this, I’m gonna have to emigrate.” He didn’t seem the least embarrassed by this statement.
“Just get the staples out,” was my clever and enticing rejoinder.
So he got the staples out. Then he carefully cleaned the area with gauze and antiseptic, and applied a couple of band-aids. Very professional. I was impressed.
Then he kissed my owie better.
“What the hell?” I said, making my subtle play to let him know I wasn’t exactly offended.
“What,” he said, his eyes looking all innocent, “My mom always does that to me.”
I giggled. “Kisses your ass?”
“No! You know....”
He was looking a bit flustered.
I pulled up my shorts. And stood up.
“You gay?” I said.
He stood up all straight and proud. “Yup,” he said.
“Cool. Me too,” I said. “So...wanna be boyfriends?”
“Yup,” he said.
So there. Happy? That’s how it happened. For real.
Oh. Yeah. We kissed a bit. That was cool.
Anyway, that’s almost all for this scene in the story.
Except for the fact that there’s another part. Kinda important. Well, not important at the time. But it turned out to be what Ms. Sisko would call, “a subtle, at the time unknown, but key turning point of the story.”
She still smells funny though.
So what happened was, just ten minutes before Mom was going to pick me up for the long twenty minute drive two meters to our house, I pulled out a snack.
Not too exciting, is it?
But that’s what happened. I pulled out a box of Smarties.
I learned later the States doesn’t have Smarties. Well, they have something called Smarties, but they’re not Smarties. They’re Rockets. That’s what we call Smarties in Canada.
No. I mean, Rockets are Smarties, but Smarties are nothing like Rockets. They’re Smarties.
I mean, oh this is hard to explain. The complicated dynamics of international candy differences. I’ve learned a lot about it.
Okay. We have this candy in Canada. Called Smarties. It’s nothing like what they call Smarties in the States. Instead, they’re actually good.
They’re almost exactly like M&M’s. Except they’re totally different.
Okay, Ms. Sisko would kill for me that one.
What I mean is, They look the same. They’re lots of colours, hard candy covering chocolate. Only they taste way different.
“Want some?” I asked Angus, pouring some into my hand.
He looked at the box curiously. “Sure, what are they?”
I poured some into his hand. “Smarties.”
He looked at them dubiously, then gobbled them down.
He chewed and grinned. “Hey, these are good!”
“I know,” I said, trying not to spit chocolate and coloured candy at him.
So that’s how it started.
A week later he came over to my place.
I gave him a Coffee Crisp.
“You don’t have Coffee Crisp?!?” I asked incredulously, when he spied it on my desk.
“Nope. What is it?”
I recited the stupid commercial. “How do you like your coffee?......Crisp!”
I guess he didn’t see that one.
I gave him the chocolate bar.
Candy bar. Whatever. Why are there all these weird little differences in what we call stuff anyway?
“Holy shit, this is good!” he said.
“I know,” I said.
“Why do you guys have all this cool candy?” he asked.
“’Cause we rock.” I answered.
He grinned, “Yeah, but we got Smashburger. And Chik-fil-A”
I looked at him enviously. “Screw you.”
We walked to the convenience store that day.
Well, we did some kissing first. That was fun.
He bought a bunch of stuff. Aero Bars. Big Turks. Smarties. Coffee Crisps. Dairy Milk. Caramilk. All kinds of stuff.
Then he saw the potato chip aisle.
“Oh, man! Wild! Ketchup chips?! And Dill Pickle?! And what the hell are these?”
He was holding a package of that holiest of holies. That cheesy, salty, crunchy elixir from Mount Olympus. A package of Cheezies.
“They’re Cheezies!” I said proudly.
“I can read,” he said sarcastically. “They look like Cheese Puffs.”
I just smiled. He’d find out. “Oh, believe me, they’re nothing like Cheese Puffs.” I could hardly wait to see his face when he first tried one.
“This is amazing,” he said, looking through the candy section the way an art lover probably looks the first time they walk through the Louvre.
“Yup!” I said proudly. I wasn’t about to let him know we didn’t have cool stuff like Barnum’s Animal Crackers, Cinammon Sticks, Heath Bars, Count Chocula cereal, Lay’s Limon chips, all the pop flavours, and a bunch of other stuff I’d seen over there.
He’d figure it out.
The seed of an idea was beginning to be planted.
An awful, evil, wonderful idea.
“I’m gonna give some of my friends at school this stuff. They’re gonna be amazed,” Angus said.
“Yeah, I know, I’ve already done that. I brought back a bunch of stuff, last time I visited you. My friends were practically begging me for it the next day, the ones who can’t get to the States for whatever reason.”
So that’s how me and Angus started to learn about supply and demand. About product rarity increasing value. About creating and holding a customer base.
Our long, dark, slide into depravity and criminal enterprise had begun.
It was the next day at school when I started to figure it out. At lunch.
“Steve, man, you got any more of those Heath Bars?” asked Mark Peterson.
I pulled out the only one I had. “Aww, man, sorry Mark. Last one. I’m saving it.”
He slapped down a couple of coins. “I’ll give ya two toonies for it.”
I looked at the money. “Done!” I said.
I scooped up the four dollars, he scooped up the tasty treat.
And just like that, I was a crook.
You see, you can bring stuff back. For personal use.
But you can’t sell it.
No way. Not without all kinds of duties and taxes and stuff.
And I’d just made over 100% profit. Nice.
Turned out Angus learned the exact same lesson that day. Only he made even more money. Of course, he was pretty loaded up with munchies after yesterday.
It was pretty low key though. I mean, how much candy can you really bring through customs before they start to ask questions? And how often? Besides, our parents didn’t exactly want us buying that much either.
So we snuck a few bars across every couple of weeks. When we were visiting. And made a little profit. No big deal.
I’m sure that’s what all the dealers say. When they get started.
That’s how it went for a couple of months.
Until we dug the tunnel.
In my defense, we didn’t dig the tunnel for smuggling. We dug it so me and Angus could have se....
Never mind. Forget you read that.
We dug it for smuggling. That’s what I’ll tell the judge. ’Cause anything else would be way too embarrassing.
It was a lark, really. We were talking, on the internet, about the tunnel drug busts. So then we got talking about the engineering issues of digging tunnels in the ground here. So they wouldn’t collapse and kill people in them.
Ahh, the magic of Google.
We had it all figured out.
So, of course, we had to put it to the test.
Besides, we had a huge ulterior motive.
No, not that! I already told you.
We had a shed, out near the back fence. Not real close, but near enough. Dad’s lawn tools were in there. And my bike. And junk. It had a wooden floor.
Angus’ place had a shed too. Almost the same. Directly across the border. So no fancy math was needed to figure out the angles. Just a bit to figure out the distance and depth.
It was messy. And hard work. We had to be sneaky. Getting rid of the dirt was a challenge. It took time.
But man, was it worth it.
For the smuggling I mean.
We were well into it a month later.
Dammit, quit that! The smuggling! Not the other thing.
I’d show up to school with my backpack full and my wallet empty. I’d leave that day with my backpack empty and my wallet full.
So would Angus.
We were raking it in.
The first sign of it spinning out of control was around Easter. Just before the holidays.
Me and Angus were at his place, on his bed, well after bedtime one night.
You’re doing it again! We were talking! Mostly.
We were doing our weekly product analysis meeting, inventory control, and tabling ideas for opening up new markets.
Yeah, it gets pretty involved pretty quickly. I didn’t know any of this stuff before.
So I was telling Angus what I had discovered.
“Dude. You gotta go to the elementary schools. It’s like a gold mine! I sold out my day’s supply before lunch was over!” I said.
Angus nodded wisely. “Way ahead of you. Those little kids are like addicts.”
“Yeah, I figured it out, you give ’em the first one for free. They love it! Then, next day, you tell ’em you got more, but it’s hard to get, they’ll have to help pay. They come back and they’re practically shoving the money in your pocket!”
Oh how far we’d fallen.
So sad. So ugly.
We were starting to feel it, too. The pressure of the lifestyle. The questionable morals. The feelings of paranoia, they were all weighing us down.
Or maybe that was just all the money in our pockets.
But, something had to give.
Something had to be the catalyst. Something had to start the chain reaction, something had to destabilize the status-quo. (One guess for what we’re taking in Science right now.)
That something turned out to be Ms. Sisko’s English essay on Catcher In The Rye. Or, maybe more specifically, the essay on the meaning of teenage angst and rebellion.
I wasn’t going to tell them, my friends. About what had happened early this morning. I was going to keep it to myself. Pretend it never happened. Hope nothing came of it.
But, it didn’t turn out that way.
It was lunchtime. I walked in a few minutes late. My shoulders slumped. My eyes downcast, the heavy black rings under them threatening to envelope my face, my feet were shuffling. You get the picture.
Well, my friends didn’t.
They didn’t even notice!
I sat down, a little irked that my non-verbal childish bid for sympathy and attention had gone unremarked upon, and the first thing that happened was Mark Peterson.
“Dude, got any more of that weird licorice? It’s da bomb!”
I reached in my pack and found a package and pulled it out for him. He paid me. I scooped up the money, counted it, and carefully put it away before resuming my negative attention seeking.
Angela Parker was talking about English class. “This essay is weird. I don’t even know what we’re supposed to write. I asked Ms. Sisko, after class, but she wasn’t much help. She just said if you need inspiration, maybe talk to your friends. Keep it anonymous, but ask about feelings of rebellion and angst. Then write about what that’s like.”
Mark was too busy chewing licorice to answer.
Tim was busy chewing too, a sandwich, but he answered anyway, “I know. I don’t get it.” He shrugged, and swallowed, much to my relief.
Angela turned to Jen, “Jen, what about you. Are you full of angst? Rebellion?”
Jen shrugged but didn’t stop texting whoever she was texting, She didn’t even look up from her phone. “Nope. No angst. Angst is boring.”
Angie tried again, “Eddie?”
“Well, maybe. We got a game tomorrow. We could lose. Those guys are good! They’re, like, amazing! It’s gonna be an awesome game. I got new skates, and Frank is back from his injury, so maybe we have a chance. It’s gonna be so cool! I can hardly wait!”
Angie looked bemused.
Mark was still chewing licorice, but he managed, “Dude. That’s not angst. I think it’s the opposite.”
Angie turned to Mark, “What about you, Mark?”
“Nah. No angst here. No rebellion either. Too busy. I got chess club, science club, electronics class in the evening, and my riding lessons. No time for angst.”
Angela was getting frustrated. “Why are my friends so damned well adjusted! This sucks!”
She turned to look at me. “What about you, Stevie. You’re gay, so maybe you have angst? Isn’t that, like, common?”
I shrugged. “Not for me.”
“I’ll just have to make something up,” Angie said. “I don’t want to talk to Ms. Sisko again. She smells funny. Maybe I can get an idea somewhere about what angst is like. Maybe I can read the book.”
I was done waiting for them to notice my passive-aggressive negative attention seeking. “Unless angst is like, this other thing?”
“What thing?” said Tim around his bite of sandwich.
“Well, what’s the feeling called for when you’re, like, a fugitive? Is there a word for that?”
They just stared.
“The Mounties were at my place this morning. Before school.” I said.
“To see your dad?” asked Mark. They all knew my dad’s job.
“To see me.” I said.
“Why?” Angie said.
I’d string ’em along just a wee bit longer. Even in my current state I couldn’t resist. “And Angus got a visit too. Same time. From Homeland Security.”
Jen looked up from her phone. Her thumbs even stopped pushing buttons. She put her hand on my arm, “Stevie. If it’s drugs. You know we’re all here to help. We’re your friends.”
“Drugs? What?...” I shook my head. Did my friends not know me at all? “Geez! It’s not drugs! It’s candy!!”
Mark’s hand stopped its journey to his mouth very suddenly. It was holding another piece of licorice. He began staring at it in horror.
“This stuff, like, tainted or something?!” he asked.
I rolled my eyes. “No. It’s fine.”
“Cool,” said Mark. He chewed his licorice.
Then I told them the whole sordid tale.
I told them about the smuggling. And about the tunnel. The suspicions arisen by the teaching staff at my school and Angus’ school (not to mention nearby elementary schools) about the number of foreign candy wrappers, and the secondary trading and whispering between classes.
And I told them about some smart administrator figuring out the common factor. Me and Angus.
Then, I told them about the Mounties coming this morning.
“Dad barged in my room. I was still asleep, but he barged right in. Without even knocking. I’ve never seen him so pissed. ‘These two need to talk to you, Steven,’ he said.
”Then two Mounties walked in my room. They started asking questions. About how much candy I’ve bought. And brought through customs.
“I played dumb. But they just kept asking. They wanted to see my backpack. Dad said they could. It was empty anyway, so I got up to get it.
”But I forgot I wasn’t wearing anything.
“So, they left and...”
Mark interrupted. He was looking at me like I was an alien, “Dude!! You flashed the Mounties?!?!”
Tim was still chewing his sandwich. But now he was laughing. And pounding the table with the side of his fist. And howling.
I was worried he’d choke on his sandwich.
Pretty soon everyone was laughing. No. Not laughing. Roaring, guffawing, snickering, whooping, convulsing.
So much for sympathy.
So I just texted Angus again, “My friends understand. No more selling. Yours?”
He texted back, “They’re pissed about losing their Cheezie hook-up, but they’re okay.”
“You still hafta meet with DHS?”
“Yeah. After school. But they don’t got anything. They’re just guessing. You?”
“Yeah. After school I gotta see the Mounties. They were pissed I made ’em write a report on me flashing them. But they don’t have anything either.”
I suddenly realized how stupid I was being. Texting like this.
“This is going to make a good story for our creative writing class, right?” I texted.
His reply took a while. Then I think he twigged. “Yeah. Good fictional story. Perfect. My teacher will love it. Gotta go.”
Whew. That was close.
I met with the Mounties after school.
I had clothes on.
I think they appreciated that.
“Young man,” the tall one said, “we’ve been told you may be selling candy to your classmates. And to the elementary school. Candy you bought in the United States.”
I stared at him dumbly. My dad looked at me with his worst squint.
The shorter one said, “Look, we’re not trying to scare you. It’s okay. Really. We just need to make sure that everything is safe.”
Good cop, bad cop. How transparent.
“Young man,” the taller one said, “you do realize that food brought across the border is subject to safety inspections before it’s sold. And there are duties to pay. And taxes.”
Dad was giving me the look. So I couldn’t play dumb anymore. “I....just brought a couple of candy bars back. Once or twice. But I didn’t sell ’em. I gave a couple away to friends. Just ’cause.”
They glared at me. I think the short one forgot he was supposed to be the good cop.
Then he remembered. His expression changed, “Look, we’re not saying you’re the only one responsible for this. Maybe there are others? There’s been too much for only one person to sell alone. So, if you can maybe help us out? Do you know any of your friends who might be involved in this?”
I shook my head. But at Dad’s glare I added, “I know some kids were trading a bunch of candy lately, but I don’t know where they got it.”
Then I quickly added, “But I didn’t buy any. I know that’s wrong.” Well, that was true. I didn’t buy candy from my classmates. I only bought candy at the store. In the States. When I was there illegally. Via the tunnel.
I just sold it to my classmates.
They finally stood up. “Son, if you know anything, or find out anything, it would really be to your advantage to come and talk to us. In the meantime, here’s my card.” He handed me his card.
Then he addressed Dad. “Thank you for letting us speak to him. We’ll be in touch if there’s anything further.”
Then they left.
Then my dad came into my room.
I tensed up again. Only this time even worse.
“Stevie……” he said.
He glared at me.
I gave him my best innocent look.
“Stevie. I’m a Border Enforcement Officer. Do you have any idea how embarrassing this is? Even to have them come here?”
“We’re not done talking about this,” he said. But I knew we were. I knew my dad. Then he left.
I quickly pulled out my phone. I texted Angus, “Done? Results?”
I didn’t get an answer. He must still be under the light.
I hoped he was okay. I’d heard about waterboarding.
Then I got a text back. Only one word. But it was enough. It said, “Grin.”
Maybe no jail cell.
But that was close.
I mulled this over as I chewed another piece of illegally smuggled licorice.
Maybe we should cut back a bit. Not sell to the little kids. Or the teachers. Though the teachers were our best profit margin by far. I think it’s the stress. Made ’em crave sugar.
Oh, hell. Who was I kidding?
Look at us. We couldn’t go on, living like this. It was awful!
I emphasized this thought with a particularly emphatic crunch on my Lay’s Limon chip that I was stuffing into my mouth.
We needed to stop.
So that’s how me and Angus got away with it.
We learned our lesson, too.
No more smuggling. No more illegal activities. No more selling on the hugely profitable black market of candy.
And the tunnel?
No more bringing goods under the border. No more sneaking backpacks full of refined sugar and corn syrup in colourful packaging across.
We were done with all that.
We had learned.
Now, we only use the tunnel for sex.
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This story is Copyright © 2011 by Gee Whillickers.
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