|The criminals are seated second row: Second and fifth from the left.|
And they look so innocent . . .
My cousin/pal, Jody and I were going to have a fair.
During afternoon recess at school. A real fair, with games and prizes.
We had saved our allowances. We had . . . ummm . . . permission . . .
Maybe I should tell you the whole story . . .
Jody was staying with me at the ranch for a few days while her parents were away on holiday.
We had conceived a marvelous scheme while we were supposed to be sleeping.
Just before my dad threatened to separate us for the night.
For the record, I don't know why they are called 'sleep overs'. Nothing resembling sleeping ever takes place. But I digress . . .
Jody and I had come up with this amazing idea. To hold a fair. With different contests and featuring real, bona-fide prizes of toys or candy. It was the best plan ever! Stupendous! The school would be talking about it for years!
Our plans grew and hatched more plans.
Barnum and Bailey would be put to shame! (I didn't know who they were, but whenever a circus was talked about, they were mentioned, so they must be important.)
There was only one hitch in our marvellous plan.
We were eight years old, in grade three, and needed permission to go down town to purchase the necessary candy and prizes.
And my mom refused to give us the necessary legal document.
Pffff . . .
We even provided the statement, already spelled out. All she had to do was sign.
For sure, Barnum and Bailey didn't have such complications . . .
We were still puzzling over this difficulty when we got on the bus and sat in front of one of the grade 12 girls. We talked and talked, but no solutions were forthcoming.
The girl leaned over the seat and asked one of us to retrieve a pen she had dropped. I complied, still talking.
She reached out her hand to take the pen.
I paused, looking at her. At her . . . fully-grown hand.
That knew how to write in script.
That couldn't help but fool our teacher.
Later, we skipped happily off the bus, content in the knowledge that the two of us were smarter than our teacher. Than anyone. Than the whole world.
We duly presented the paper, properly signed, to Mrs. Ratcliff. She scanned it.
“Huh. I thought Jody's mom wasn't due home for a few more days.”
“Oh, she's back!” we assured her.
We bounced happily from the room. We had succeeded.
Our fair was underway.
We ran all the way downtown and had a marvelous time blowing our combined $.75 on penny candies and trinkets.
Then, clutching our paper bags of magic, we ran all the way back.
Our fair was a success. We conducted games and races and magnanimously handed out prizes, happily certain we were idolized by every child on the playground.
That everyone wished they were us.
Then, just as the bell rang, Kathy ran up to tell us that we were wanted.
In the principal's office.
We looked at each other. What could possibly have gone wrong? Our plan had been so fool proof.
Slowly, we trudged towards our doom.
“Jody, is your mother home?” The principal was staring at us from under bushy, frowning brows.
I stared at my feet, frozen to the spot.
Jody, just slightly braver than me, managed to shake her head.
“So, where did this note come from?” He waved our masterpiece.
“Ummm . . . Mom signed it before she left?”
The principal shook his head. “I don't think so.”
Sigh. We were caught.
“A girl on Diane's bus signed it.”
I peeped up at him. Was that a good 'ah'? A 'very clever girls' ah?
He was still frowning.
I looked at the closet door behind his chair.
Where I knew the strap was kept.
If he made one step towards that closet, I was going to head for the hills.
And I knew where those hills were . . .
He folded his hands together.
“Do you girls know what you did wrong?”
We nodded again, with a little less certainty.
“This is what is called 'fraud'.”
Fraud? I'd never heard of the word.
“It's like lying.”
Ah. Lying. Now that I knew a lot about . . . from watching my siblings . . . not because I . . . oh, never mind.
Another long word I'd never heard of.
Okay, back on familiar ground.
“You got someone else to sign your mom's name. That is lying. Fraud.”
But she was an adult! my mind screamed. She was big. She could write script.
“You can't have someone else sign in place of your parent unless they are your guardian. Was this girl on the bus your guardian?”
Guardian? I was at sea again, and for someone who had never seen the sea, that was pretty lost. Ummm . . . I'm going to go with 'no'?
I was right!
“So what you did was wrong.”
Again, my eyes were drawn to that closet door. Not the strap! Not the strap!
He leaned back in his chair.
“I'm going to have to speak to your parents about this.”
I stared at him. Parents? Maybe the strap would be a good idea.
“They will have to take it up with you.”
I thought of my dad finding out. The strap was looking better and better.
“Now I want you to go back to your class and think about this.”
“And never . . . ever . . . bring in a permission form signed by anyone but your parents. And never . . .” his eyes drilled through us . . . “lie to anyone again.”
Again we nodded. Wide-eyed.
Then we escaped.
We were right. The school talked about our fair for weeks afterwards.
They, and we, just didn't remember it for the right reasons.