A story about Trent Dillman - long before this story begins
Trent wanted nothing more than to be like his older cousin Keith. Keith always had more friends. He was better at sports. Trent was just a kid trying to fit in. If he could just throw a football like Keith, or strike out a batter. If he could just be taller, like Keith, or stronger. Keith was definitely stronger. Trent would never forget the time he and Keith were playing King of the Mountain and Keith pushed him off of a huge rock. Trent broke his arm, but had to make up a story about what happened so Keith wouldn’t get in trouble.
“Just go in there and grab it,” Keith urged, shoving Trent around the side of the convenience store. “If you want to be in our gang, you gotta do it!”
“But I’ll get in trouble,” Trent offered.
“Told ya he was a baby!” another boy yelled from the shadows.
“Come on,” Keith urged.
Trent walked across the sidewalk in front of the convenience store. His hands were sweating. He knew they were going to find out! They had to! What if he got caught? He would go to prison, his nine year old mind told him.
He slipped into the store and made his way down the candy isle. There it was. The prize. A Reese’s peanut butter cup two-pack. That was the gold he came for. His hand shook as he reached for the shelf. He couldn’t do it. He shook his head and continued on to the bathroom.
“Come on, you dummy!” he cursed himself as he flopped back against the cold tile wall of the bathroom. “Just grab it and get the heck out!” He took a deep breath. “Go time,” he said under his breath.
He walked out of the bathroom, head held high. He quickened his step, to make it look like he had somewhere important to go. People never bothered people who were going to important places. He barely slowed in the candy isle as his hand shot out, grabbing the treasure for which he had come. He slid it into his pocked and swallowed hard. Ten more feet to the door. Then five. Then three.
“Have a good night,” the old man behind the counter called as he reached the door.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice cracking. He thought he was going to have a heart attack. He had tears in his eyes as he got out of the sight line of the old man. He ran. He ran right past Keith. He ran right past the other older boys. He crouched down behind a tree at the edge of the woods. Tears flowed down his cheeks. What had he done? He was going to prison. He knew it. He threw the candy bar on the ground.
“He did it! He really did it!” laughed one of the older boys. “I can’t believe the little chicken actually did it.”
“Great job,” Keith slapped him on the back. “Now you can hang with us. You really proved what yourself.”
“Just leave me alone,” Trent gulped back his tears. “Jut go away,”
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Keith was laughing at him as he walked away. The boys were laughing slapping each other on the back and carrying on. Trent could hear them all the way down the block. He just wanted to fit in with the older kids. He just wanted to fit in. But now he was going to prison.
“Better just face it,” he said, brushing the tears from his cheeks. It wasn’t worth living on the run. Prison would be better. Trent could not take care of himself, and he knew it. So, he was going to prison.
“Mister?” Keith’s voice shook as the old man behind the counter turned around.
“Yes, son? Hey, weren’t you just in here?”
“Yessir,” Trent’s voice caught in his throat. “Yessir I was. And I stole this.” He put the candy bar on the counter, along with the handful of leaves and grass he picked up when he grabbed it from where he threw it.
“Why would a nice boy like you do something like that?” The man was looking over the top of his glasses as Trent, just like his dad did when he was in big trouble.
“I don’t know!” Trent started really crying now. He sat down on the floor with his head in his hands and sobbed. “I’m going to prison. I know it. I don’t know why I did it. I just wanted them to like me. I just….” His voice trailed off, lost in his sobs.
“Now son,” the man was crouched down in front of him now. “I sure don’t know who you wanted to like you, but if they will only like you because you do illegal things, you don’t really need them to like you, do you?”
“No sir,” Trent said, catching his breath. “What’s it like there?”
“Prison,” Trent wiped his nose. “I know I’m going to prison. What’s it like there?”
“Well, I imagine prison is a pretty horrible place. A lot of bad men there.”
“Nooooo!” Trent was crying in earnest again.
“But you’re not going to prison, young man,” the man put his hand on Trent’s shoulder. “You won’t be going to prison.”
“I’m not?” Trent stopped for a minute. “The electric chair, then?” His eyes widened.
“Oh goodness, no,” the old man chuckled. He reminded Trent of Santa Claus.
“Tell you what. I’ll make you a deal,”
Trent had heard about those deals with the devil, but he knew he had no choice. He nodded. It was a deal with the devil or prison – or worse.
“How’s about if you promise me you’ll never do anything like this ever again, and I won’t tell a soul,” the old man’s face softened and broke into a smile.
“OH, I promise! I so totally promise!” Trent nodded his head at the man. He wasn’t going to prison? He wasn’t going to the electric chair? He couldn’t believe his ears.
“One other thing,” the man said.
“I want you to come by here after school all next week and sweep these sidewalks,” the old man said. “And I’ll give you a dollar a day. Then maybe you can buy your candy bars from now on. What do you think?”
“Sure thing, Sir!” Trent ‘s smile was wide, as he took the man’s hand and stood up. He thanked the man and walked out of the store, feeling 10 feet tall. He was not going to prison, and he even got a job!