We’re finally in 7th grade so every Saturday, Melissa, Robin and I are allowed to take the #10 bus down Plainview Road; past the A & P on one side and King Kullen on the other. Past the new library, the Beverage Barn and Chicken Delight, the junior high and both movie theaters; all the way to the Gertz Shopping Center where we spend the day stealing.

 We call it:  Lifting. All those items waiting to be lifted up and tucked away. Make-up and perfumes. Magazines. Clothing. Melissa once lifted a pair of tall white go-go boots from Florsheims, just pulled them on and strolled right out. And Robin would load up a shopping bag in the crowded aisle of Sam Goody with one 45 record after another: The Beatles, Lovin’ Spoonful, Young Rascals, dozens of them. I‘m the coward of the bunch, concentrating on smaller items:, cheap jewelry, lipstick, and scarves.

 Lifting we call it, which was what I feel when I shove something into the pocket of my pea coat; like my prize and I float for a moment, suspended between not having and having, getting caught and getting away. Mostly we’re lucky and don’t get caught. Robin once, almost, but she outran the security guard as he yelled, Young lady! Young lady! and she usually never runs, even in gym, being so heavy and all, and a frosted nail polish opened up in her jacket and smeared and stunk up everything. But she got away.

And Melissa is doubly lucky, because two weeks ago she walked by a group of  9th graders outside the pizza place and Bob Williams told her that she looked Just like Ali McGraw and bam!  Melissa got lifted into the popular crowd, asked to hang out by the flagpole before school, and all of a sudden she’s talking about hitchhiking to Jones Beach with them this summer.

And me, with the worst mistake of my life Sassoon haircut that doesn’t make me look like Twiggy at all, only makes my nose look twice as big, well, Melisa’s climb in popularity doesn’t include me. Or chubby Robin either.

 The last bus home is 4:15 so the three of us meet at 3:30 in the luncheonette of McCrory’s, sit in a row on the red vinyl barstools, surrounded by faded posters of BLTs and Turkey Clubs. Then we order sundaes, our favorite, because the waitress has to pop one of the pale balloons strung like party lights over the counter and, if the folded paper inside says Free, then we don’t have to pay for anything.

Published in Dime Story Anthology 2014

Photo by R. Mac Wheeler on Unsplash