Candy Thief

Every so often, my children feel compelled to torment me, and one of their favorite ways of doing so is to bring up my shortcomings from the past. Watching me squirm as they embellish stories from those times brings them untold amounts of joy. One of the favorite ribbings details my thieving ways, at least when it came to candy.

Probably my family members are the only ones who know of my weakness for sweets. I’d rather have a huge wedge of cake or slab of pie than healthier foods. My fondness for sweet things extends to candy bars as well. With any of these, I lose all sense of proportion. The fact is that I can eat an entire pie or bag of bite-size Baby Ruth’s in less than a day’s time.

My favorite holidays as a child were based on the sweets that might appear. Easter was good because chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and later, Reese’s eggs appeared in baskets on that Sunday morning. Christmas was wonderful because Mother would begin the six-week cycle of making pies, cakes, homemade candies, and Rice Krispie Squares.
My favorite day, however, turned out to be Halloween. It was the time when the gang of boys from Ball Camp and I could go door-to-door and beg for treats. We’d walk several miles on our quest for sugary delights. With rounds finished, I’d pour my loot on the bed, and like every kid that’s ever trick or treated, I’d separate items. I culled fruits and hard candy from the soft candy and popcorn balls and candy corn. For the next couple of days, I ate from the pile on a constant basis.

My children enjoyed the October experience as well. The difference was that they were more interested in collecting the stuff than in eating it. On Halloween night Lacey and Dallas would fall into bed exhausted, and within minutes, they were fast asleep. Then I made my move. I sneaked into their rooms and pilfered the choices pieces of their collections and convinced myself that it would go unnoticed. My assumption was wrong, especially after a couple of raids.

My children suspected that something was awry. They took their hoards and hid them. Lacey would put hers in a dresser drawer or under the bed. It was to no avail as her loving father uncovered the items and left the room for a place where he could safely munch on his prizes.

It was evident that Lacey had talked with her brother and warned him of my determined searches for candy. He plotted longer and came up with the perfect hiding place. It had to have been since I never found a single Hershey’s kiss from that time on. The little guy wouldn’t divulge the safe place either.

I was defeated and discontinued my night searches. Even then, the kids made jokes with their mother about how low I was for stealing candy from babies, and I agreed that my sins were many.

Only one thing gave me a moment’s satisfaction in this situation. Dallas never has cared for sweets, so he forgot about having placed the candy in a place I would never find. Sometime in November, a mouse appeared in his room. He was scared stiff of the thing and didn’t want it crawling into his bed some night. We captured the rodent and evicted it from our home. I continued searching his closet, the place where the rodent made its home. I found a bag of candy hidden in the recess of one corner. Little gifts that the mouse left made signaled its chomping on the stuff.

I was perturbed with my son. His hiding candy resulted in an infestation in the house. Worse still, he’d stowed away his candy and the mouse got it instead of me. Now I ask all: which is worse—my eating the candy of a mouse’s devouring it? Yes, I agree, it comes down to one rat or another.

I’ve never lived down pilfering the sweets my children gathered on Halloweens. However, over the years, I’ve grown immune to the teasing and joking at my expense. I still have a sweet tooth but, of late, have tried to limit my intake candy so that the doctor doesn’t fuss at me too much.

I love my kids and grandson. Madden’s parents watch his candy intake, and when I visit Nashville, they stash any treats he might have to keep me from getting to them. Yep, I’m guilty as accused as a candy thief.


Sometimes in court cases, handwriting expert are called to testify. These professionals can determine whether or not a signature is real or a forgery. What’s more, they can tell much about the writer’s personality, including quirks. I don’t believe anyone could tell much about my handwritten words; he’d never be able to read them.

Handwriting is something I always wanted to master; instead, I butchered it. No matter how much effort I poured into the task, my letters never reached the top lines and the loops always peaked just a little flat or a hair shy of the middle line. Mrs. Longmire, my first grade teacher, was patient with me but never placed an “E” on my report card.

Second grade was a disaster. Mrs. Garrett ruled with an iron fist. Her students never wrote well because their hands shook with fear. As a left handed person, the instructions about writing never made sense. I’d slant my paper the way she instructed, but in no time she squawked at me for doing it wrong. “How,” I wondered, but no answer came. With the paper still incorrectly slanted, I tried to write the letters. But as most folks have seen, doing so leaves lefties curling their wrists clockwise like a coiling snake and trying to produce. My attempt was short-lived as “old grumpy” slapped my hand with her ruler. Frustration set in, and I prayed for the session to be over. Writing lessons improved only after Mrs. Garrett stepped in a hole during a fire drill and broke her ankle. She was out of school for several weeks, and the sub encouraged more than frightened students.

Some teacher eventually demonstrated the correct way to slant the paper, but by then it was too late. Yes, I slanted the paper, and I stopped curling my wrist when writing. However, too much practice time was lost. My handwriting was a mine field of mistakes and showed no signs of improvement.

A week or so before each school year began, I placed a stack of notebook paper on the table and worked on perfecting my letters. Dozens of sets of the abc’s filled the sheets, as did a hundred signatures. To my dismay, no two appeared close to the same.

Years later, college term papers were completed in handwriting, and luckily, no professor ever refused one because they were illegible. I know typing them would have helped, but I’d managed to earn an F in the high school class for a variety of reasons. Of course, taking notes in classes in no way aided the development of my penmanship. Most days after class, I returned to my room and tried to decipher the marks on the paper. Remembering the things an instructor said helped to read the mess in the spiral notebooks.

The computer has been my salvation. I finally conquered the “qwerty” keyboard enough to get recognizable words on the screen. In fact, my penmanship is limited to giving my signature on slips of paper after purchasing items, jotting down information from interviews, and scribbling a personal note at my desk.

It’s just as well that technology is coming to the rescue. In the last couple of years, my fingers have stiffened and now ache after extended periods of work. Gripping a pen is an uncomfortable, almost impossible task. The hieroglyphics on the page make no sense, and I don’t have my memory to rely on to recall what was said at the time I inked the scratches before me.

I admire people like my wife who can make art with a pen or pencil. She holds the instrument as if it were a baton and then conducts a full sheet a beautifully written words. It looks so easy. For me, it’s a struggle to mark anything on paper that resembles any letters or words. My arthritic hands make the chore that much more difficult. My last hope is that my toes will be able to do what my fingers have failed to do. If not, I might be putting words on the screen by pecking away at keys with my nose.

Will It Fly?

In one more day, I’ll be sitting at Double Dogs Chow House with several boxes of books ready to sell. It’s the culmination of a long process. It’s titled Baseball Boys, and I’m sure that most people are tired of my talk about this venture. I understand; however, this is new territory for me, and huge hunks of time have been invested in the process. Plenty of concerns go with having put this book out. Will it fly?

First, I worry that about having unknowingly given away the rights to the book to some company. Yes, I read the “terms and conditions,” something most folks don’t do when they sign up for iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now, I have a college education, actually two of them, and degrees from accredited universities. Still, I read the document and muddle through the language. It read like an insurance policy. While I think I have a grasp of the points, uncertainty still exists. My prayer is that misreading didn’t lead to giving away everything.

This is my child, my creation. I began the book in the winter of 2009 and wrote and rewrote. Sometimes the story got stuck like a car in the mud. No, the cause wasn’t writer’s block. I just wasn’t certain how I wanted the thing to come together. Like most books, the story line can travel any number of routes, and the writer has to make the decision as to what will happen to the characters. That also determines the genre of each book. In this case, a work of general fiction has been developed.

At any rate, this is my baby, and like all parents, I look at it through blurred vision. The adage that all babies are beautiful is a lie. Some are so hard on the eyes that they should be kept from public viewing until their heads round out and their faces begin to at least resemble those of humans. The same is true with books. For every good book, hundreds, if not thousands, of stinkers are written. I worry that I might be so blinded by parenthood that I deceive myself into thinking this book is good. How embarrassing that would be.

With that said, here’s my confession. I realize that mistakes are in the book. Sometimes ending letters or words have been omitted. Believe me when I say that I proofed the manuscript on three separate occasions. I didn’t catch these and apologize to all. Next time I’m going to hire another set of eyes to catch things.
Along with that is a concern that readers won’t like the book. Hey, it’s not going to reach the best seller list or be acclaimed by critics. It’s put out for public consumption in printed and ereader versions. Even the price of the book is reasonable when it’s compared to others on the market. If people don’t like it enough to pay a less than market price, then I’ve failed. Public opinion might be a fickle thing, but for an author, it can be the path to success or the tumble to failure. Waiting to find out what happens is nerve-racking.

I don’t want my work to embarrass the people about whom I care. The worst thing of all would be to have folks “dog” my work or abilities to family and friends. Many of my columns have talked about family members and friends, but never with the intent to embarrass them or make fun. I don’t want a poor product to become the butt of jokes that others might make to loved ones, nor do I want family and friends to feel forced to defend me or my work.

I daydream about this book becoming popular enough to be picked up by a publisher. Nothing could be much better than to have this baby of mine put onto paper and bound by some big company. I barely have enough to fund the printing myself, but I’d gladly allow someone else to foot the bill and pump out copies. That way a much bigger audience could have access to this book. Yes, it might also lead to a contract for another book in the future.

At this point, I am excited about putting my first work out in front of the public. I just hope that it’s warmly received. Heck, I’d take a lukewarm reception, anything but abject rejection. That has nothing to do with making fortunes. However, it has everything to do with feeling confident enough to put another book out. I’ll say my prayers and await my fate.