Grand Theft Auto
They were well organized heists. Our gang went into Mr Teale's toy store - which was named (appropriately enough) "Teale's". One of us (moi) carried a grocery bag filled with balled newspaper pages (to make it look as if we'd been shopping - the paper made the bag look full). Two of the others walked around, admiring the store, talking animatedly between themselves. The fourth distracted Mr Teale at the counter by asking him streams of questions, while I went up to a display stand (it was out of Mr Teale's line of sight) which showcased the latest "Matchbox" cars in their boxes, took them out of the boxes, hid the cars in my bag under the newspaper, then replaced the boxes on the display stand. I only targeted models I hadn't already stolen. Then we left, waving our "Goodbye!"s to a none-the-wiser Mr Teale. We called our gang "The DEK" ie the Dead End Kids. We were all of eight and nine years old.
Then thirty years blew by in a flash, fast-forwarding my life, and I was sure my list was complete - until the day when I said out loud "Oh my God: Mr Teale!", and I immediately knew I had to track him down and make him whole. Google Earth was my prime sleuthing app. I actually walked down the street (virtually, anyway) where Teale's used to be ... and there it was! - still there, still standing thirty years later. I could hardly believe it! Another google or two retrieved the phone number. I waited until the international time was right (Teale's' time zone was nine hours ahead of mine) and I called. A woman's voice answered cheerily "Teale's!". I cleared my throat, nervous. "May I speak with Mr Teale please?" I said. There was a pause, then "Who is this?" she asked. "I'm an old friend of Mr Teale. I'm calling from California.". There was another pause. "I'm sorry" she said, "Mr Teale died about twenty eight years ago. Is there something I can help you with?". My heart sank.
Taking a deep breath, I told her about our gang of four, and the grand theft auto heists. I told her I intended to repay Mr Teale with interest for the Matchbox cars I stole. There was another pause ... then "Who are you?" she asked. "I'm Laurence" I said, "and I stole ..." ... "Yes I know" she interrupted, "you already told me that. But who are you? Nobody calls back thirty years later to pay for toys they shoplifted thirty years ago. Nobody!".
was originally titled
In recalling the essay's originating incidents which occurred 62 years ago, I mis-remembered the cars I stole as Dinky toys.
Later, tightening up the language jogged my memory: they were Matchbox cars not Dinky toys, so I re-titled the essay accordingly.
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