I’ve decided to share my latest book (The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man) with my followers here, free of charge, one chapter at a time. So… Where were we on this read-along… Oh, yes…
Chapter 4: The Two-Mile Walk of Shame
The allure was too much for a portly preteen whose friends were all speedily leaving him behind in the world of music.
13 CDs for the price of one. Or some ridiculous thing like that.
I flipped the glossy and colorful mailer front to back in my hand. I had snatched it out of the stack of mail Dad had brought in the night before. 13 compact discs for the price of one. Simply fill out the card and send it in, they’d mail me four of them, then I’d send in a payment for just one freaking CD and they’d mail me the other eight.
I flipped the advertisement front to back again. I opened it up for the hundredth time. Inside were dozens of the most popular albums available. I didn’t know any of the music. I wasn’t allowed to listen to much outside of Mom and Dad’s light sounds radio station. But I recognized and had already circled the names of lots of them. My friends were always talking about them. They were always singing random songs with each other. They had written the names of some of these bands on the leather bottoms of their backpacks.
And I wanted in.
I had to have them.
At one point I had written Pearl Jam on the bottom of my backpack just to fit in and my best friend loudly called me out on it in front of everyone on the school bus. “You don’t even know who Pearl Jam is!” he blurted.
“Yes I do! They’re an awesome band!”
He pointed at my backpack and started forcefully laughing. Hard. “Name one song they sing. Name even one song! I bet you can’t!”
I couldn’t answer. Mortified, I slunk into my seat, clutched my backpack to my chest, and silently resented my parents so much for their strict music rules. I grew up on Bette Midler and The Carpenters. The coolest song I knew was Cat’s in the Cradle. And believe me, my friends wouldn’t have thought it was cool that I knew every word to Barbara Streisand’s Yentl soundtrack, so I kept that one to myself.
Yes, I needed those CDs. My social life depended on it
I closed the mailer and studied it once more. I knew what I would have to do in order to get them.
Hidden deep in the back of Dad’s middle desk drawer in his den was his checkbook. I’d seen Mom write out enough checks to know how they worked. Date. Amount. Amount written out again in longhand. Memo. Signature. Dad would never notice fifteen bucks gone missing. I had seen his John Hancock plenty of times. The CD company would have no idea the check was forged. It was fool proof.
With plan in place, I filled out the mailer under Dad’s name and sent it on its way.
And, sure enough. 4-6 weeks later, a small box was sitting on the porch when I arrived home from school one afternoon. I snatched it up. “Columbia House.” Yes! It was here. I shoved it under my sweatshirt, ran downstairs as fast as my chubby legs could carry me, eagerly yanked my Simon and Garfunkel CD out of my Discman, and spent the next three hours listening to the most awful sounding crap I had ever heard.
I’d never listened to music so obnoxious and harsh. Picking a melody out of any of it was a tedious task for my untrained ears.
But it didn’t matter. I shoved every harsh thought about it to the back of my mind. It may have been awful crap, but it was the same awful crap that my friends were always talking about. Next time someone put me on the spot, I’d have all sorts of song titles ready to spew out at a moment’s notice.
After listening to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, and Stone Temple Pilots for three days, I carried through on phase two of my plan, forged a check for what I owed, and sent it off. A couple weeks later I was painfully trying to like a brand new stack of albums and as I did, I thought over and over about that checkbook. It was the easiest thing I’d ever done. No repercussions. No sign of the sin. No having to answer to anyone. And from there I began thinking about all the things I could do with this new access to easy money.
I never got the chance to do it again though.
“Dan, come up here and talk to me and your mom.” Dad yelled down to the basement a few days later. He sounded upset. And when Dad was upset, you didn’t dawdle.