Guilty As Charged - 12.21.98

My damn conscience had gotten me again.
While my friend ran up the block and out of sight, I stopped in my tracks and turned around to face the music, so to speak.

Just seconds earlier, we had been embroiled in a spontaneous contest of sorts to see who could hit a mailbox with a snowball. Now, I was standing with my gloved hands in my pockets, saying "Yes sir" whenever there was a long enough pause in my lecture.

It was the first snow of the year and as we were walking home from school, the temptation had become too great. At first, our targets had been tree trunks and sign posts and other objects that wouldn't be hurt by hard packed snow. Within a few blocks of our homes, however, something else had grabbed our attention.

It was a nice, new white mailbox and even though it was late afternoon, the shiny red flag was sticking up on it's side. That little red flag must have had more power than just acknowledging mail to be sent, because we were instantly drawn to it. Before I knew it, my friend had challenged me to see who could hit the mailbox first, and I was packing and throwing snow as fast as I could.

We were standing about 80 feet away and our first few throws were completely off the mark. Nobody came very close at all, so we stopped and decided to take a few steps closer. We ended up about 50 feet away this time, and again were loading up and tossing as fast as possible for two little kids hindered by puffier-than-really-needed winter clothes.

My friend proclaimed himself the winner when one of his snowballs glanced off the post holding the mailbox up, but I protested and he was soon back in action, trying his hardest to win for real. We were both honing in by that time and our throws were getting closer and closer to banging off that shiny white surface.

I let one go and knew almost instantly that it was going to be a direct hit. My friend saw this as well and in the split second before it hit, he looked a bit dejected.

Instead of banging off the side of the mailbox, though, my snowball went just a tad higher than expected an slammed right into the thin red flag.

Almost simultaneously, the flag disappeared from sight and I heard a loud voice boom from the house to my right. My friend shot up the sidewalk and yelled for me to follow, but I stopped in my tracks and turned after only a couple of half-hearted steps.

The old man emerged from his house and was shaking his arm and asking me what I was doing. He had been watching us the entire time safely inside his house and poised to bust us as soon as we had accomplished our task of bashing his mailbox.

He grabbed my arm and marched me off through the snow and down to his mailbox. The flag wasn't broken off as I had previously expected, but it was bent over at an almost 90 degree angle and still had a chunk of my snowball stuck to the side of it.

I hadn't heard much of his lecture to that point for being so afraid, but now I had heard the words I expected. It was a brand new mailbox and he had only put it up just a couple weeks earlier and now the flag was all bent out of shape and what did I have to say for myself?

I mumbled out something silly sounding about being really sorry and I would never do it again and I must have sounded convincing because then he told me that I had better not.

And then it was over.

He told me to respect peoples property more from then on, bent the little flag back up again, and went back inside his house. I hung my head down and started walking up the sidewalk, back on my original path to get home.

I had walked only half a block when my friend hopped out of some bushes in another yard and fell in beside me.
He was laughing pretty hard.