Thursday, July 14, 2005

"And she did it just like that. When she wants something and don't wanna pay for it..."

My clothes were missing.

I’d finished another grueling day of Flag Corps Squad try-outs and went into the locker room to retrieve my school clothes, only to discover my lock was missing and so were my clothing, shoes and belt. Sonofabitch! Being a junior high eighth grader (or “up-and-coming Freshman”, as we were calling ourselves with only two weeks left to go in the school year), I wasn’t very familiar with the high school locker room but I was sure I’d put my items into gym basket #318. I also knew I’d secured it with a padlock. I still had the key in my shorts pocket.

Still, I pulled out the gym baskets surrounding #318, just to be sure. Gym baskets, for those unfamiliar, are metal mesh drawers, approximately 14 inches square. They come complete with a hinge lock mechanism, with students providing their own locks. A few other girls began helping me look, but it was no use. My entire outfit was gone.

Unsure of what to do, I told Flag Corps Captain Beth of my dilemma. She spoke to the other senior Corps members about it, but there was very little they could do. They were nice about it, but informed me that key padlocks were easy to pick, and that I should invest in a combination lock. Instead of being elated to have survived another round of squad cuts, I was dejected that someone would take the time to pick my little lock and steal my stuff. I’d only just bought the shoes two weeks previous. They were practically brand new!

The following day after school, I walked over to the high school with the other eighth grade hopefuls for another round of eliminations. Each day we had learned new moves and maneuvers, and each day a few more girls were cut and told not to return the following day. I had been lucky so far, and had made it through three days of eliminations.

Making my way through the high school toward the locker room, I saw my clothes. I saw my clothes on a mousy looking girl whom I vaguely recognized—she was a sophomore named Theresa who had also survived the three eliminations. I couldn’t believe this girl was actually wearing my entire outfit, complete with shoes and belt! Right in front of me!

I casually strolled over to her and commented on her outfit, complimenting her on a lovely wardrobe. She smiled nervously and thanked me, which is when I shoved her into the wall of gym baskets and pulled the rust colored suede mules from her feet. She screamed and howled as I bloodied her pouty little freckled face with the wooden heel.

That’s what I wish I had done.

Instead, I chose a more cowardly route and ratted her out to Captain Beth. She in turn spoke to graduating senior Captain Julie to figure out what could be done. It was decided that I had to be able to prove the clothing was, in fact, mine.

Now I was long past the days of having my Mom write my name inside the labels of my clothing, so how else could I prove ownership? Beth and Julie were loathe to accuse Theresa of theft without some concrete proof on my part. I felt myself welling up with tears—I KNEW the clothing and shoes were mine, but it would be my word against Theresa’s, and how could rightful ownership prevail without proof?

Captain Julie went over to Theresa and asked to see her shoes. Theresa visably paled at the request, but instead of asking why, complied by removing the suede mules and, with flashing eyes, smacking them into Julie’s outstretched hands. Julie and Beth had a little pow-wow over in the corner of the locker room, while the rest of the remaining squad hopefuls stood watching. Theresa glared at me with folded arms, and I glared right back, although I felt as though mice were playing tennis in my gut.

Pow-wow over, Julie walked over and asked Theresa where she had purchased the shoes. Theresa replied that she couldn’t remember, but she thought it was either Kinney Shoes or Sears. Julie then asked me where I had purchased the shoes. I answered, “Gallenkamp’s Shoes in the Dayton Mall” and went on to say that there was a slight stain on the top of the left one because I’d opened a bottle of Coke, which my brother had shaken before handing to me, and it had spewed all over the place and the foam had dribbled down my arm and off my elbow onto the left shoe the very first time I had worn them.

That answer would have probably been enough, but once I started talking I couldn’t stop. Out spilled the fact that the shirt and trousers had been purchased at Jean Nicole. Then I blurted out that the goldtone stretch snake belt she was wearing had my name engraved on the buckle.

Beth held out her hand for the belt, and Theresa sheepishly unclasped it from her waist. Sure enough, my name was etched on the heart-shaped buckle. Julie announced that the label inside the shoes, which was still visible because they were practically new, read "Gallenkamp's". Theresa’s face reddened as she bravely fought off the tears, letting only a sniffle out now and then. She was instructed to change into her practice shorts and shirt, and return my clothing. As the entire squad stood watching, she sadly removed the Jean Nicole outfit. Julie and Beth passed judgment that the squad had no need for thieves, and told her to go home.

Theresa never attempted to join another extra-curricular activity. I went on to march in the high school marching band flag corps for three years.

I never wore that outfit again.

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