Nothing good happens after midnight
“I have a bad feeling about this,” my nephew, Wade, said to me.
Let me explain. I was an uncle four times before I was born. I guess I arrived a little late in my parents’ life. Growing up, my siblings’ kids would stay at their grandparents in the summers when school was out. Because of this, I was only close with a few of my nieces and nephews.
One night, in the late 80’s after my parents went to bed, Wade and I quietly exited the house and went across the street to the park. That was our second stop. First, we met up with our friends, Donnie and Ginger who also snuck out of their houses and were waiting for us. We all walked a block up and started to throw little rocks at a window on the second level of my cousin Jason’s house. There was no internet or cell phones back then. This was the only way to try to get his attention. Calling him would wake the entire house. This outing was not planned, so, to our surprise just a couple minutes later, he had gone downstairs and snuck out of the house to join us. We all headed together a couple blocks down to the park.
“What took you so long?” I asked.
“I was sleeping, and you almost broke my window!” Jason replied.
Staplehurst is only a town of 300 residents, but had three bars at the time. All of them on the main street and across from the park. The Sports Tavern was a great place to go and play Donkey Kong, Pool, and Pinball. At some point, we discovered that if you flatten a straw and slide it near the hinges of the coin slot, you could get free credits on Donkey Kong. You had to be smooth about it though and not draw attention to what you were doing. We didn’t do it often because the game was placed in a high traffic area near the bathrooms.
It must have been a slow night because we noticed the Sports Tavern was closing early and the owners were going home. There was a little window above one of the side doors that they had left open. It was common knowledge to the kids in town that with a little boost, you could get into the building easier. It was still on the side of town facing the main street but in small towns there isn’t much traffic late at night. Donnie and Jason had decided they were going to get into the bar and take some alcohol. This was when my nephew told me he didn’t feel good about this. They had already started to walk across the street, so they were going to do it with or without a group vote.
The rest of us decided to head over to the swing set.
“Why can’t we just play Pitfall! on your Atari?” Ginger asked.
“I don’t think you are understanding what I did here,” I replied.
“How is electronic typewriter a game?” Ginger continued.
Wade’s swinging came to a quick halt.
“And how does your computer know all of our names, Ed?”
“I broke into the code and changed the names,” I explained. I realized at this point that trying to explain further would not help anymore.
“You’re in consumer math with me, I don’t believe you.” Ginger said.
“It doesn’t really have anything to do with Math. I just figured it out.”
As I was trying to explain my game, a pesky Monarch butterfly must have left its group just to come annoy me. I tried swatting it away, but it did not take the hint. It even hovered right in front of my eyes and I lost my train of thought. I was irritated and continued swatting at it until it flew away on its own. I felt relieved. Hopefully, it will tell its buddies I was busy.
At this point, Ginger had lost interest in our conversation. At the height of her swing, she had kicked her right shoe off to see how far it’d go. She wanted us to play along as we occasionally would, but Wade was too focused on interrogating me.
“So, we just type these magic sentences about us and if we make a mistake, we have to drink beer?”
I stopped swinging and took a minute to think about his question.
“Something like that. I haven’t figured it all out yet.”
“I don’t like the taste of beer,” Ginger said, getting up to retrieve her shoe, which had flown over towards the merry-go-round.
“Then, don’t make any mistakes!”
Donnie was using Jason as a stepladder to crawl through a window located in front of the bar.
“It’s so strange in here with the bar being empty,” Donnie said as he was opening the main door to let Jason in. All of the chairs were turned upside down onto the tables, making it easier for the floors to be swept and mopped. The place was quiet, a huge change from the hustle and bustle of the bar during operating hours and it was lit up. All of the lights were now on.
“After you take a bottle of liquor, make sure to bring the bottle behind it up so that it doesn’t look suspicious,” Jason advised. This was the technique passed along by the first generation of the alcohol bandits.
You must give them credit, that was a smart technique. You would think that they would have wanted to get in and out, but they were taking their time.
“Does it void the warranty when you break into the code?” Wade questioned.
“No, it doesn’t work like that.”
After securing her shoe, Ginger sat on the Merry-Go-Round and jokingly said: “Do we have to wear computer gloves when typing on the machine?”
“Computer gloves? I don’t think that’s a thing, have you ever used a computer before?” I knew that Ginger was making fun of me at this point, but I didn’t let it get to me.
Donnie had grabbed a to-go bag from behind the bar and began blindly filling it with bottles, when he heard something or someone towards the restrooms.
“What was that?” Donnie was worried that one of the owners had forgot something and came back. He quickly wondered how fast he could escape.
Donnie ran back towards the restrooms and back door when he noticed Jason had taken one of the quarters he found and decided to play a quick game of Pinball.
“We can come back tomorrow to play games; we need to get out of here.”
“All right, this machine is out of balance anyways. Let me grab some beef jerky quick before we go, it’s so good!”
Jason was right. It was stored in an open container right next to the jar of polish sausage that was soaking in vinegar water. He took the last piece and put it in his mouth, leaving it to dangle like a cigarette.
They locked the front door and decided to head out through the window. Donnie jumped out the window landing on his hands and feet like a dog. To his surprise, he was staring intofuz the eyes of the headlights of the county patrol. He got up and ran as fast as he could straight to my house which was a direct route about half the size of a football field. Jason was hanging half out the window and quickly jumped and ran behind the bar. They split up to cause confusion.
The rest of us hadn’t even noticed the cop car, but we could see them darting in opposite directions out of the bar.
“I hope Jason remembers to grab some beef jerky,” Ginger said.
“What is Donnie doing?” Wade said with excitement.
We all saw him dashing right to my garage which was on the same street of the bar. Since we didn’t notice the cop, we walked casually back to my house and met him in the garage leaving the door open just a crack.
“Where’s Jason?” I asked.
“There’s a cop chasing him!” Donnie said.
Jason had hidden in a shed about twenty-five feet behind the bar. He soon noticed a flashlight moving around. The cop was so close that he could have touched the mustache and glasses on this face.
We all got really quiet quickly as we looked out the window towards the back of the bar. A couple minutes later, we noticed the cop car driving past my house and turning up the street. We didn’t even notice Jason as he slid under the door into the garage like a baseball player sliding along the ground to reach home plate.
After some time, everyone left to go back to their own homes. So far, so good!
The next day after my nephew Wade had gone home, we all got together and had the nerve to go to that bar in question to play video games and pinball. We were using quarters they took that previous night to play Donkey Kong. There wasn’t anything inside the bar that said anything about what had happened the previous night. One thing was sure though, I was not able to purchase any of their beef jerky because they were out of stock.