The Chocolate Caper
Once upon a time, when I was too young to know better, my brother Radar came up with what seemed to be a sure-fire way of insuring the dessert part of our meals. He swore me to secrecy and took me into our clubhouse, or what we used for our clubhouse back when we lived in town. It was a doghouse, barely three feet wide and dirty, stationed in a dark place under our deck. Dad had built it for our dog Barney, but we had overenthusiastically shoved the poor dog in (“Look, Barney, this is your new house!”) while Dad was still hammering on the roof. When it was done Barney never went in, associating it with loud noises from above, so we considered it ours by default.
We wedged ourselves in, I with a tad more care for my clothes than my brother had. On that cloudy summer day, the light was murky in the clubhouse, but I could see well enough when Radar took down a cup from a small ledge by the roof. The cup was covered with a lid, the kind Mom used to use for my younger sister Squirrel, the baby of the family. When he opened it, I sucked in my breath. It was full of chocolate chips.
“I got them from the freezer when Mom wasn't here,” he told me, grinning, foreseeing my inquiries. We sat there munching them with all the clandestine pleasure of Robin Hood’s merry men, and considering the possibilities. Why, it was very easy to get these treats! If we kept them out here—covered with the lid of course, so that bugs weren't able to share with us---Mom would never know, and we would be supplied for life! We were quite giddy with glee, especially Radar, who liked admiration for his successful plans nearly as much as the success itself. We giggled about it all day long.
The next week was heavenly. We would meet under the deck whenever we felt a need for sugar, and our fanciful games, wherein the clubhouse turned into a rocket ship or a castle or a laboratory or a jungle hideout, always had regular mealtimes consisting entirely of chocolate. To be sure, I was jumpy with the fear of being discovered, but Radar was scornful. “Girls,” he’d say, as if it were synonymous with “chicken,” which in his mind it was. Such an epithet would usually make me livid and provoke a fight, but it had its intended effect.
One day, we were dismayed to find our supply of contraband had dwindled considerably; there was barely enough left for another “meal.”
“We’ll just go get some more,” Radar said breezily. I was in favor, but thought that it would involve more complication than simply waltzing into the kitchen and refilling the cup under Mom’s nose. Fortunately for our club’s unity, Mom received a visitor that afternoon, and went outside to talk. With much shushing, suppressed laughter and false alarms, we filled our cup—and got another as well. But how to get them past Mom? I wanted to wait till she left. Radar thought about it, then pushed me out the back door.
“Do this,” he hissed in a whisper, taking a pretended swig through the sippy lid. I followed suit. We swaggered past Mom and her visitor, to all appearances unnaturally thirsty, and bragged about it unceasingly afterward.
But all things have their end, at least if they involve a sister with an irritated conscience. On an afternoon soon afterward, Mom invited me to help her make cookies. I complied cheerfully—my job of helping was putting in the sugar, and then conducting quality tests. Leaning on the counter with my pigtails in the flour, I saw Mom go to the refrigerator and take out a very familiar bag of chocolate chips.
“You’re making chocolate chip cookies?” I exclaimed. Suddenly I wasn’t as interested in how soon they would be baked, and how many I could have after dinner. To top it all, guilt feelings were attacking me repeatedly, making me very uncomfortable. Radar was nowhere in sight to boost my confidence. I took a fat breath and began.
“Mom, I've gotta tell you something,” I mumbled, and then poured out the whole story. She just listened quietly, nodding every now and then.
“I had noticed that the bag was awfully low,” she said, confirming my belief that Mom knew everything. A corner of her mouth was twitching in a funny way, but she didn’t yell at me. Instead, she continued scooping the chips into the mixing bowl. “Maybe you shouldn’t have as many cookies tonight.” I quite agreed.
At dinner, Mom suddenly put down her fork and addressed the family at large. “I’ve been noticing that the bag of chocolate chips isn’t as full as it used to be,” she said. I was fixedly looking at my plate, but I could still see Radar twitch. “Would anyone know anything about this?” With a bit more prodding, Radar admitted that he might know something. To both of our relief, and bafflement, we didn’t get punished past not having dessert that night, and we really didn’t care. We both were inexplicably tired of chocolate, which is perhaps why Radar wasn't even upset when I told him I had been the informer. In the days that followed, our scheming was still unabated, but it didn’t involve stolen goods for a long, long time—that is, from the kitchen. Our siblings’ things were still available.
Over the years, Radar and I still occasionally snitch things—it helps that we’re older and considered to be sort of mature---and it still makes us laugh to think of our first foray into crime. Too bad we can’t fit in our current doghouse.