Last week, I shipped this piece off to its new owner, Craig M. This art was done years ago for a book idea called One Man’s Trash. About a kid who helps a bum become a millionaire. Loosely inspired by a true story. But there just wasn’t enough meat on the bone
for an entire book, so I abandoned it.
The real event is still fun to tell:
I was in 5th grade. Peace River Elementary. Directly across from our school was a strip mall. It was full of mom and pop stores and anchored by a big grocery chain. I think it was Grand Union. After school, we used to play behind the mall in the loading area.
One day my buddy told me there were peepholes on the roof where you could look down and see people shopping. I don’t know why I thought it’d be fun to watch people load their carts with baked ham, but I was intrigued. Maybe see some cleavage?
He encouraged me, a little too passionately, to see for myself. But only do it in the dark, as not to be seen. I wanted to do it that night, but he said he had something else to do. So I found another buddy (Pete C.) to be my partner in crime. Little did I know where this was headed.
That night we scaled the ladder to the roof (see background below) and started looking around for these peepholes. It was like we were in an episode of Mission Impossible. Adrenaline was pumping. There were innocent shoppers to be spied on! We scanned everywhere for these peepholes. Nothing.
After a bit, we walked over to the edge of the roof. We saw several cop cars zip into the front parking lot. They stopped at odd angles, and cops hopped out. K-9 dogs were also deployed. We crouched down. Are we about to witness a shootout? Pure excellent!
Then we noticed the cops looking up at the roof. They were looking for us!
We bolted for the ladder, but two cops were already on the roof walking toward us. They told us to get on our stomachs, hands behind our backs. We told them we were looking for a tennis ball that we accidentally threw on the roof.
The cops searched around with their flashlights for a beat. They said if they didn’t find a tennis ball, we were going to jail. We ended up telling the truth. This is one of those times where the truth really did set us free.
The cops told us there was a recent heist at a mom and pop jewelry store in the mall. The burglars used the roof as their entry point. The cops were there that night because they got an anonymous tip that ‘two figures were seen creeping around on the roof of Grand Union.’ Guess who phoned in that tip? My buddy who told me about the peepholes.
He was the jewelry thief and was trying to pin it on us. To make things really strange, it was his own parents' jewelry store that he stole from! This was all figured out in about an hour. The longest hour of my life. It didn’t end well for my burglar buddy. In hindsight, this was just the beginning of a long criminal career for him.
I’ve gotta give him some credit for being so crafty.
Craig M. is the new owner of this original art. Thanks for the memory, and I hope you enjoy the story that goes with it! I give away 5 originals every Friday; get on my list to win one for yourself.