"Warehouse" by Randy Osborne
Issue #14 / December 2014
Illustrated by Ben Hipp
KINDLE EDITION ($0.99)
RANDY OSBORNE’s work has appeared in small literary magazines. He teaches fiction and creative nonfiction for the continuing-education program at Emory University in Atlanta. He is finishing a book of personal essays, and is represented by Brandt & Hochman in New York. You can find more about his current work at www.randyosborne.com.
"Judge John S. Flanders fixed me with hooded eyes. His hairy sausage fingers fumbled with the paperwork. Wet lips peeled away from yellow teeth.
I felt sick and dizzy.
“Who comes before us now?” Flanders boomed at me, drowning out my heart’s thunder.
It was 1965. Lyndon Johnson sent the first troops to Vietnam that year. Malcolm X was shot to death. Race riots tore up the South. In my hometown of Rockford, Illinois, I walked with my cousin Patrick and his brother Mike into an open building from which I took nothing. Then we all got arrested.
In those days, the phrase “juvenile delinquent” carried weight. It meant leather jackets and smoking. Fast cars, vandalism, and getting girls in trouble. At age 10, still without pubic hair, I became a juvenile delinquent.
True, I was not a well-behaved boy. I loved the tick made by a stone as it passed through glass, leaving a jagged hole, followed by the festive tinkle of glass and the stone’s muted clatter, ricocheting inside the garage. One night I broke more than 100 windows.
But “burglarized”—the word used by police for our (non-)caper—was inaccurate. At most, Patrick (my age), Mike (a few years older), and I trespassed upon Seipel & Sons Electrical Supply Warehouse. Most boys in the neighborhood did likewise. The ramshackle four-story building stood unguarded, its half-open door creaking loose. Some kids swiped switches, screws, bundles of multicolored wire, but I saw zilch that interested me. Nor did Patrick.
Mike started out small, taking flex cord, caddy clips, locks, and tape. He moved up to soldering irons, crimpers, glue guns and drills. Near the end, he walked out of Seipel with a suitcase-like object, later opened in his bedroom to reveal an array of plugs and dials. Tube tester, he said.
Boys from a rival bunch spotted us. More to the point, they spotted Mike, lugging the tube tester behind him like a kid on his way to the train station. They dropped the dime on Mike because they hated him. Mike: always ready to fight, always ready to squeal on them.
I heard about the cops’ visit to his house from Patrick. “Like hell,” Ted told the juvie badges when they showed up at his door. Father to Patrick, Mike and two more kids, Korean War veteran Ted wouldn’t let officers inside without a warrant. Patrick hovered behind his dad, guessing the nature of the trouble and preparing to act confused. Mike already had fled.