The closest store was approximately 10 houses away from our place. Back in the 80’s kids were allowed to purchase cigarette and both of my folks were heavy chain smokers. Even though, at the age of 8, I was the main cigarette runner. Occasionally, I bought the wrong brand and/or size. I was confused with which my mother smoked compared with my father. When I made a mistake they insisted that I return and exchange them. Since I was going back to the store my folks agreed I could buy a chocolate bar.
The store was owned by a Korean couple and they grew to know me very well. I would usually enter the store humming and at times I would leave forgetting the change. They had to call me back to get it. Since I normally mixed up the order, they took it upon themselves to memorize which cigarettes my parents smoked. The moment I bounced through the door they had cigarettes on the counter waiting for me. However every few weeks my folks changing their brands and it became confusing all over again. The owners merely shook their heads and laughed.
I normally skipped to the store, said hi, looked at the comic books and purchased my parents’ smokes. Sometimes when I entered the store they were stocking shelves and I asked if I could help. They would grin and let me arrange the cans with the English labels facing forward. They were extremely kind and every now and then they would give me some penny candies. (I still remember the chocolate disks, waxed lips, and red cherry chewy candies. That was a treat.)
One day, before heading to the store, I asked if I could have a chocolate bar. My parents swore that there wasn`t enough money for candy. As my mom handed me coins, she claimed they only had funds for their smokes. I became angry because I felt she was lying. I still had to go, so I walked slowly down the street. If I couldn’t have a chocolate bar then I would take my time. When I arrived the owner was smiling at me. I was not in the mood for her kindness. She reached around and placed the cigarettes on the counter. I decided to wander through the store and touched everything I could to waste time.
I finally made my way to the counter and like most stores the chocolate bars were below it. My parents gave me the exact amount for their cigarettes. I put the coins on the counter and as the owner was about to take it the phone ringed. She trusted I had right amount and said I could go.
She turned her back and I really wanted a chocolate bar. I grabbed one and ran. I moved as fast as I could. I didn’t get far. I felt so much guilt came over me. I started to cry and I panicked. What do I do now?
I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t eat the chocolate bar. I couldn’t move. I looked around for help. There was no one available to help me. I stole a chocolate bar and I had to return it. The couple was always caring and supportive.
I had to face them. I turned and walked back to the store. I approached the door slowly. I was only gone for a few minutes and she immediately noticed my tears. She emerged from behind the counter and kneeled down to comfort me. My heart sunk because even then she was being gentle and sweet to me. I didn’t know how to tell her. I began to sob and she couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I pulled the chocolate bar out of my pocket and handed it to her. She called for her husband.
When he came to the front of the store I was very frighten but I was able to utter the words. I stole from them. They spoke softly and explained that what I did was wrong. They were pleased that I returned it. They also informed me if I did it again they would report it to my parents. They then asked me why I did it. I explained how I was feeling and what my parents told me. They knew this was not my normal behaviour. After I calmed down, they did the most surprising thing. They gave me the chocolate bar for free.