by AL GARCIA
Did you ever get in trouble with your friends?
|Recently I had a conversation with my good friend Tanya and I was telling her about some of the crazy ass things that we used to do as kids. Now, this stuff was way more dangerous than simply using a magnifying glass to vaporize ants or lighting firecrackers under cars or toilet papering houses. Oh no my friends.....the stuff we used to do was far more dangerous and of the type that could easily land us into big, big trouble. She laughed and asked me how I had managed to survive my childhood.
Now, you have to understand Tanya, she is a great and very noble person and just the fact that she talks to me can be ruinous to her reputation.
Well, that got me to thinking, just how DID I survive childhood? Well this is part one of surviving my childhood and the names were definitely not changed to protect the innocent. Because truth be told........, no one was Innocent!
Time: Summer of 1982-
Place: Anaheim, CA-Mom’s house
The sweltering Southern California sun beat down on the Four of us as we sat on the curb after spending the day playing a particularly hard, grueling game of baseball in the front yard of Mom’s house. We finally had to stop when I threw a sizzling fast ball right down the middle and Hamburger swung as hard as he could. He connected hard and smacked a solid line drive that sailed up high in the air as if gravity didn't exist.. We stood there with our heads tilted way up and watched as the ball continued to sail high continuing its’ long voyage over the roof of the house across the street and then dropped out of sight deep into the back yard.
We stared at the house with our mouths hanging wide open and then without a word we all instantly decided that it just wasn't worth the effort to climb the fence and retrieve an old battered baseball. We all turned to look at Hamburger and all he did was look back at us and shrugged his shoulders without shame while beaming proudly at us.
“Shit!” Ruben mumbled under his breath as he threw his glove down and stomped over towards me, Hamburger and my little brother Gabe .We all threw our baseball gloves down on the battered grass and then we all sat our tired butts down on the curb now that we had absolutely nothing to do. Thanks Hamburger.......
Hamburger was the smallest one of the group but a damn good athlete. He had the best curve ball and next to fastest fastball besides me. (some would say even faster) He didn’t look the part of the athlete though; he was short, pudgy and despite being Mexican, was very light skinned with reddish hair and freckles. Fat Ruben jokingly said that Hector resembled a hamburger, short and round with sesame seeds, needless to say Hector would get pissed and didn't like it but Ruben only laughed at him and would taunt him mercilessly- "that's your name and YOU… will like it!”
Fat Ruben was the largest member of our group and his nickname was very well placed. This boy was big, with a bulbous nose and big moon face. He wore those big thick glasses which made him look harmless but Ruben had a unique knack for finding trouble in some of the most unusual places. He was the type that when he fell in crap, he always came out smelling like roses, so we always followed his lead. I mean the guy got away with murder, literally speaking. He would never ever get caught. The guy was bust proof.
Then there was me, no outstanding traits, and no personality flaws that I knew of, pretty plain vanilla you could say. I tended to just go with the flow and never really instigated any trouble. I just went along and got along.
Then finally there was my little brother Gabe, he was just a little kid that followed the older kids around and really didn't get in the way.
On this particular day we were bored, hot, and thirsty. We were itching to do something different. Hamburger had mentioned that we should all walk over to the U-Tote-Em liquor store to get something cold to drink. We all kind of looked at each other, shrugged and agreed that hey, it sounded like a great idea as it was a blistering day and we were all hot and thirsty. But just one small problem, we didn't have any money! Fat Ruben, being the biggest trouble maker of the bunch naturally came up with a brilliant Idea-
" you know" he said smiling as he pushed his glasses up higher unto his large nose " I know how we can get some money," we all looked at him waiting for him to continue "if you reach into the arcade game at the liquor store, you can reach inside and pull out the box where the quarters fall in"
"you're full of shit!" snapped Hamburger waving his baseball bat at Fat Ruben "your'e crazy, you're just talking out of your ass! You can't do that!"
"Sure you can" responded fat Ruben "I know a friend that told me he did that on some game and got fifty dollars out and you know, if he did it, we can do it too" he grinned at us. "We could get the money and get some cold Cokes to drink" He said smiling wider.
We all looked at each other not saying a word for a few seconds because the thought of drinking water out of the hose again was just not very appealing; in fact it was just plain grody! Hamburger then tossed the bat into the grass and stood up off the curb and asked Ruben "what do we have to do? And how do suppose we do it smart ass?" Fat Ruben looked at me and then nodded his head at my dads tool storage shed and said " Hey Albert, get into your dads tool box and get some screw drivers, a Phillips and a flat head. Get some tape while you’re at it and we need fifty cents!"
"Are you crazy?" I finally asked after being dumbstruck at the boldness of Fat Ruben's plan."Shit Ruben!" I said shaking my head, "we don't have money for Cokes and you want to use what little we have for games? You got to be kidding me!"
He then said the words that when you heard Fat Ruben say it, it was a very real warning that something bad was absolutely going to happen and thinking back on it had we’d been smarter we should’ve run the other way. He said....
"Trust me...What could go wrong?"
The four of us started walking up Gilbert street toward the liquor store and we were ready. On the way there, Ruben had told us step by step of his plan. He had thought about it for a few days before but hadn’t said anything until he had thought it completely through. He’d thought of everything. "What if the guy catches us?" I'd asked nervously. Fat Ruben said boldly "I'll rush out and I'll knock his ass over on the way out!" he’d said casually waving his hand as if simply all he had to do was wave him out of the way. And knowing Ruben like I did, I absolutely knew that he would have no problem bum rushing the clerk.
Entering into the liquor store we walked to the arcade section and there were the two video games directly next to each other near the back of the store. Right in front was the old Asteroids arcade game console looking battered and scarred from countless use from aggressive, space rock dodging kids and wanna be astronauts, and directly behind it that was the shiny brand new Donkey Kong machine. We all nodded and smiled at each other as we surrounded the Donkey Kong game and looked at the structure of the console. We were psyched that Fat Ruben was on to something. The glass screen was only being held in by two screws and nothing else. It looked as easy as he had said, almost too easy. Fat Ruben positioned me next to the Asteroids machine as I was the tallest of the group to block the clerks view. Hamburger being the smallest and best video game player was going to play the game while Fat Ruben would reach over Hamburger and proceed to remove the glass and reach into the console to grab the box of quarters. My little brother Gabe was to stand next to me and help block the view from the counter and act as second look out.
Fat Ruben said "when I put the quarter in, I need you" he said pointing to Hamburger "to play as long as you can without getting out and I need the rest of us to create noise as I pull the glass out so the clerk doesn't hear the glass being pulled out. Act like we're really into the game so that the guy will know we're playing and leave us alone" So Hamburger put in the quarter and began to play.
Fat Ruben began to unscrew the glass and I blocked the view of the clerk. Within a few seconds Fat Ruben had the glass out and had placed it on the ground towards the side of the machine. He began reaching into the console. After a few seconds I asked whispering "Did you get the box yet?" I was stoked to the max that we really really were going to be able to pull off this crazy scheme."No!" he said grunting as he continued to reach into the console.
“I can feel the box but...I...I can't get it loose...It's screwed or bolted down!" He said frustrated.
."Hurry up!" said Hamburger trying to look around Fat Ruben at the game "I only have one life left. And you're in my way, I can't see through you you fat piece of lard"
The clerk continued to ignore us as we continued to play the game and went about his business stocking the rest of the store. Suddenly, we heard the machine go "bloop!" "What the hell was that?" I asked instantly "that's the quarter button I think" Fat Ruben said non-nonchalantly “I think that's the button that the quarter hits when you drop it in to give you credits!" he continued. Fat Ruben began to hit the button and all we heard was "bloop, bloop bloop, bloop!" the credits started to roll up on the screen. Fat Ruben continued to press the button rapidly "bloop, bloop, bloop, bloop!" and soon we had reached 999 credits and did not try to go further. We were concerned that it if we hit it one more time the credits would roll back to Zero. We were thrilled that we had almost pulled it off, one problem though...we still hadn't been able to get the box of quarters...Fat Ruben then said "there has to be a way to get the money, I just know it!"
At this time the Clerk had started walking towards our direction and Gabe croaked out terrified “he’s coming! Guys hurry up he’s coming!” Fat Ruben spoke low and menacingly “get ready guys; he’s going down on his ass!” The clerk continued walking down the aisle and then he looked at us and then over at the machine. I tensed waiting for Ruben to bowl him over the instant the clerk realized that the glass was off the machine and said something. He was right on us and then; he just kept walking. The clerk hadn’t noticed that the glass was missing and lying next to the wall on the floor. I think I almost pissed all over myself.
“See guys!” Ruben crowed, “Nothing to worry about!” I exhaled loudly because I hadn’t realized that the whole time I’d been holding my breath.
By this time some kids had come into the store anxious to play Donkey Kong and as always Fat Ruben had come up with a brilliant idea. He told the kids--
" Hey if you want to play we've already put in our quarters and it would be about an hour before our credits end, but I'll tell you what..” then we all smiled ‘cause we knew what he was going to say next, “for every dollar you guys give us, we'll let you play a dollar fifty worth of games!"
As Ruben continued to talk to the kids, Hamburger was in a busy panic hurriedly putting the glass back in. I continued to block. The kids of course thought it was a bitchin deal and quickly handed over their money. They played their games and we bought our Cokes. It was working beautifully. This went on for several weeks, kids would play and we got paid.
At that time of the summer of 82, Donkey Kong was very popular with the kids and they would line up to play. I guess the clerk figured we always had money from our parents and pretty much ignored us that summer. We had it made!
Now down the street in our neighborhood were other kids about our age that we knew but didn't spend much time with. The consisted of Evil Grimace, Puerto Rican Kim and Kim's little sister Lisa.
One day, Evil Grimace asked Hamburger where we had got the money to play Donkey Kong every Day. He had told Hamburger that he’d asked Fat Ruben about it and Ruben had simply laughed at him and said "you aah find...Money!!" Hamburger thinking that he would be a good guy would try to help them play for free spilled the secret to them.
"If you pull the glass up and then out in the Donkey Kong machine, you can reach into the game and hit the credit button, but remember to always slide the glass back in when you're done!"
Several days later the Evil Grimace came up to us when we were playing baseball and looked very upset; as a matter of fact he was VERY pissed, he said to us:" you dumb bastards got us in trouble, we got busted messing with the game and the owner has us shitting bricks. He told us he was gonna call the police...! He wants us to pay for all the fuckin’ games that weren't paid for!"We were shocked, our little business venture was over, we all looked at Fat Ruben because of course we didn't have any money to pay the liquor store back and then Ruben casually looked over at Evil Grimace and said
"I don't know how he's gonna get his money, you dumb shits were the ones that were busted, not us, and besides” Ruben said straitening up and staring down at Grimace, “we don't know anything about your problem. And by the way...” Ruben said smiling widely "good luck with your bill"
At that instant we all burst out laughing because we knew that Fat Ruben was right. We knew that Ruben would never ever admit to wrong doing.
We finished laughing and then...we went back to playing ball.You know; come to think of it, I wonder if they ever came up with the money.
I never asked!