“Who’s been in my closet?” It boomed through the house as I brushed my mouth full of baby teeth, missing teeth, and my new giant and awkward grown-up beaver teeth. My gut attempted to swallow itself as I remembered the ten stacks of quarters I had left there. “All you kids get in here. RIGHT. NOW!” the voice was coming from my parents’ bedroom.
When Dad yelled like that, you didn’t even think about it. You obeyed. I hastily spit my toothpaste out and wiped the foamy corners of my mouth onto the sleeve of my thinning Transformers pajamas. By the time I got to the hallway, Tomi Ann and Eric were already there. Amy wasn’t far behind. We all marched together into his room where we were greeted by Dad and Mom, standing side by side.
Dad had his hands placed firmly on his hips, a chilling look spread across his face. Mom had one eyebrow slightly raised, her lips pierced tightly together.
“Who was in my closet today?” Dad rumbled at the group.
All three of my siblings immediately shook their heads. Tomi blurted out, “not me! I promise!” I added my own adamant denial into the chaos.
“Who went into my closet and stacked the quarters?” Dad demanded, taking a menacing step toward us.
We all stood motionless, none of us saying anything this time. I swallowed hard, praying he wouldn’t call me out for it. Dad didn’t say another word and marched past us toward his closet. “Get in here,” he said. We obeyed. He proceeded to show us the ten stacks of quarters and again asked who was responsible. Again all four of us pled our innocence.
“Out!” he ordered. We all exited the closet.
Now Mom jumped in. “Just tell us who stacked the quarters. We know you didn’t steal any of them. We just want to know who stacked them.”
We all stared back with big eyes. I looked over at their dresser. The Smashball paddle was in easy arm’s reach. I certainly wasn’t going to admit to this thing. I’d get a heavy whoopin’ on the bare cheeks for sure.
After another five minutes of back and forth, Dad told us all that if one of us wouldn’t admit it, we’d all be punished until whoever did it finally confessed. When the threat didn’t get him what he wanted, he sent us all out into the hallway to put our noses against the wall until the truth surfaced.
“Amy, if you tell them you stacked the quarters, I’ll give you my lunch box,” I whispered some four hours later. “Then they’ll let us go. You’ll get in less trouble than the rest of us because you’re so little.”
“No!” she replied. “I didn’t do it.”
“Come on. I’ll give you my globe, too.” I knew she had been jealous of my globe ever since I scored it at the neighbor’s garage sale for twenty cents.
I loved that globe. It was the first thing I remember really wanting and buying with my very own money. Even at a young age, it fascinated me to realize how small and insignificant I was compared to the vastly huge world. Four-year-old Amy used to love coming in my room and spinning the thing, which is why I was surprised when she turned that down, too.
The older and wiser Tomi Ann finally chirped in. “Danny, it’s obvious you did it or you wouldn’t be offering to give her your stuff. Just admit it so we can go to bed.”
I scoffed. “I’m just tired and wanna go to sleep. I didn’t do it.” She scoffed back and I turned my attention back to Amy. The wheels in her head were turning. I just needed to sweeten the deal a little more and I’d be out of this for good. “Amy, I’ll give you my desk, too. So if you admit it you get my lunch box, my globe, and my desk.”
If there was one thing she longed to have more than my globe, it was my desk. Being the fourth child, she was stuck in a life of waiting for the next kid up to grow too big or to grow too old for whatever it was she wanted. I had gotten the desk from Tomi Ann. Eric would get it from me. Amy knew she wouldn’t see it against her wall for a few very long years at best.
She repeated the deal back to me five or six times to make sure she understood exactly what she’d be getting in exchange for falling on the sword. Eventually Eric groaned and said, “Amy, just do it, that’s a lot of good stuff.”
“Fine,” she said.
I again swallowed heavily as she pulled her face off of the wall, stood up, and made her way around the corner and into Mom and Dad’s bedroom.
Would she rat me out? Would she tell them that I had bribed her? Would this really be the end of it?
I tried to listen-in. The only thing that made it back to where the three of us remained were quiet mumbles. I heard no yelling or anger. A few minutes later, Amy emerged followed by Mom and Dad. “Go ahead, Amy,” Mom urged.
“I’m sorry I lied and you all had to get in trouble,” she squeaked. A rush of relief spread over me. My heart finally slowed. I was off the hook. It had worked.
“Amy told us it was her,” Mom said…