When I opened the box I knew that Marcus was going to fence the stuff. There was a diamond pendant of my Mom’s. There were some silver cufflinks that I bought for my Dad on a 7th grade trip to Mexico that I made with my Spanish class. There was my grandmother’s gold class ring. The little shit had even grabbed one of my rings.
I was grounded and in the house by myself. Marcus, my cousin, was living with us, following a stint in some juvie camp for stealing, he was now sharing a room with my brother. The lady from the County had explained to my parents that these older guys got kids to do the stealing. Better for the kids to get caught and go to juvie than the older guys to go to St. Cloud or Stillwater penitentiary.
I had seen him coming out of my parent’s bedroom. It was weird. He was dressed in football pants and shoulder pads carrying this little box. My Dad was a big believer in youth football and moving the firewood pile in the backyard. Marcus had been doing a lot of both.
I have 22 cousins, all from my Mom’s side. My Mom was the oldest of 10 kids. My Dad was an only child. I’m the oldest of their kids and of all the cousins.
I am grounded because I took my Dad’s junker car and drove to my friend’s house in Richfield. I have a license, I just didn’t have permission. All the back to school parties are happening and I’m grounded until school starts. Usually my Mom is at home, but the teachers and assistants have been having meetings, so she is at school today. She’s been calling every hour to make sure I’m at home.
I was still raking my finger through the box when Marcus said, “Are you going to tell your parents?” I hadn’t heard him come in. He was still in his football gear. His team was the Raiders. My brother had nicknamed him “The Snake” after Kenny Stabler, because Marcus was playing quarterback.
“What are you going to do?” He was calm. Like he didn’t care.
“Nothing. You took one of my rings, asshole.”
He didn’t say anything. He looked kind of sad. He was cute. All of the younger girls in the neighborhood were always asking me if Marcus was around. He was funny too, when he wanted to be.
“I’m going to put this stuff back, but if I find any of my stuff missing, I’m going to tell.”
He shrugged, “Thanks.”
I went to my room, shoved the box in one of my drawers and went downstairs to watch TV.
Marcus eventually went back to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to start school. I was finally off being grounded and was back at school. I had missed some great parties and my parents seemed to get off on this.
I came home from school one day and had dropped my backpack when my Mom just flew at me, “You have a lot of explaining to do!”
I hadn’t done anything. But she sent me to my room and told me that I could come out when my Dad got home.
A few hours later, I was called down. They were sitting on the couch and the fucking box was on the coffee table. I had forgotten all about it. My Mom had found it when she was doing laundry and putting clothes away in my dresser. I had been doing the laundry (as part of my punishment) until school started.
In my junior year of college, I got a call from my Mom and she was crying. Marcus had been killed. Since that summer at our house, he had continued stealing. When he was 18 he got caught and he went to St. Cloud. At the funeral, my brother told me that he was using meth and drinking and had sat down on a train track. It was a closed casket. It hurt to look at my Aunt, she looked frozen and terrified. My Mom was talking quietly to my Uncle who was sobbing loudly.
That night I stayed at my parents’ house. My Dad, who had been OK at the funeral, snapped at all of us once we got into the house, “Come here!” He hugged my sister, my brother and then me. I saw tears in his eyes.
I went upstairs to my old room. I tried to go to sleep but finally got up and turned on the light and grabbed Middlemarch which I had to finish. I kept rereading the same page over and over again. And glancing at the drawer that had held the box.