This summer vacation story involves a criminal act, a pseudo photographic memory, and getting even with a very loudmouthed kid.
In school, I was poor. My parents divorced one year after we moved to Indiana. My dad moved to the South Side of Chicago, so I lived with my mom and for seven years. The neighborhood we lived in was one of the most prestigious, petty, detached from reality spots I’ve ever seen.
In my school, we had one Black kid. His name? I’ll give you three guesses. Go ahead, take those three guesses.
You’re all wrong. His name was Brian. White.
Brian White. Yes.
I hung out with a lot of kids who could afford new Nike basketball shoes while I enjoyed Voits and wore the same shirt twice a week. Unlike every other kid who had the top flight bike, I laced up my rollerblades—the best birthday gift we could afford—to hitch rides on mail trucks in the summer and eat hot dogs at the local grocery store.
“I’m going to have the greatest summer vacation. You guys are going to be soooo jealous!” he reminded us incessantly. This was the same kid who boasted about all his new toys and clothes and anything else his parents got for him. A brand new Sega Dreamcast? Oh, you bet he talked it up. His parents getting a new car? Boom. It was endless. He just loved to rub it in, especially to me and the other poorer kids who had two working parents.
As the school year was ending, once again our illustrious Boasty the Boaster reminded us he was heading to Cancun in two weeks. With classes finished, I went home, sat in my incredibly hot room because running the A/C was expensive, and that mattered in my house. It was sweltering. I desperately wanted some reprieve from this hot, boring room.
I’d been friends with Boasty for years by this point and had been to his house for dinner or to let him show off his toys and rub in my face how much better his life was than mine. I knew the layout, and I even knew something I wasn’t supposed to: the garage door pin code, which would give me access to the house through the unlocked garage. No ADT alarm either.
Suddenly, this twelve-year-old had a plan. A simple, nefarious plan.
“I’m breaking into Boasty’s house when he goes on vacation.” I said to myself, sweating in my room. I began hatching a plan to borrow—not steal—some of his most prized possessions for the summer.
I waited for Boasty’s vacation, watching Toonami and Adult Swim, trying to enjoy the cartoons while I sweat mercilessly. Then, finally, the morning arrived. Mom kissed my forehead, told me to stay out of trouble, and left for work. “I promise!” I smiled through the biggest lie.
I grabbed my ravaged Jansport bookbag and my baseball hat, then quickly walked to Boasty’s adjoining sprawling suburban neighborhood, where the houses all had 4 to 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and the occasional, highly coveted inground pool.
I arrived quietly in the backyard of the house across from Boasty and waited in the well-trimmed bushes for which they paid top dollar. No one the wiser, I waited patiently. It was an hour or so before I saw the garage door open and Boasty’s entire family hustling their bags into the back of their massive Chevy Suburban. They shoved everything into the car, piled in, and backed out the driveway as casually as I’d snuck into the adjoining backyard.
I waited and waited a bit more, in the dead heat, feeling like I was broiling. The air was so still it felt like the wind had decided to join them on vacation.
A few minutes after their car pulled out of the driveway, I crept out of the bushes and slowly walked to the house. Not a soul was on the street, and I casually entered the garage code. The door mechanically opened itself, allowing me to walk right into the garage and then up to the door. A simple twist of the knob and the blast of refreshing A/C reminded me that some grass is indeed greener.
His 70-inch TV, which is effectively the size of a bear, had every single gaming system known to mankind on it. I made a note for myself to memorize the placement of the systems and the games so I could restore them to this exact order, not a single item out of place. That same memorization skill had helped me avoid groundings with my mother. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV? What if I memorized where the remote was and what the channel number was? How could you be sure? Same principle.
I opened my backpack, grabbed Boasty’s Dreamcast and a stack of games , arranged in the precise order they had been stacked to avoid getting caught.
My criminal acts complete, I zipped the backpack, killed the lights, and left the same way I came. I did everything I could to keep my presence completely unnoticed.
At home, I removed my backpack, meticulously took out the contents piece by piece, and set up the Dreamcast. From there, a full six days of gaming was all mine. I told no one what I did; I kept even my best friend completely in the dark about my caper. Sweet gaming bliss, experiences with games I’d never get the chance to play otherwise were at my fingertips. Crazy Taxi, Blue Stinger, Dynamite Cop, Soulcalibur, Sonic Adventure, and Power Stone.
I played everything, so long as my mom wasn’t home. I had her work schedule memorized and put everything away before she opened the door. With the time up, I made sure to pack everything up the day before they returned. Since I didn’t know when they’d be back, I figured it was smart to return it beforehand, a trick I had learned from watching movies with my dad where bad guys make the fatal mistake of assuming something and thus getting busted. I also deleted the saved files of my progress on every game I played, all my time spent vanishing in an instant, no one the wiser.
I returned to the house that morning, input the code and set every single thing exactly where it had been. Like my literary hero, Encyclopedia Brown, my mental snapshot had held true. Since the games were still in order, I put them all back in their respective places. Kid genius.
On my way out, however, I felt the absolute need to do one thing for myself. I opened up his refrigerator in the garage and reached all the way in the back and pulled out a Coke. The fridge was stocked so full the light in the back was nearly blotted out. He wouldn’t miss one, and if he did, I imagine his brother or him would take the heat for it anyway.
I closed the garage, snapped the top and enjoyed a chilling refreshment as I went home. Until today, I’ve kept this heist a secret. Nobody knew. Not my mom. Not Boasty or his family, who would later ban me from the house for comparing his dad’s mediocre breadsticks to Fazoli’s, a crime punishable by death. No one knew anything because the best kept secrets are ones you don’t tell. Until now.