Here's a nice undershirt, I said. Navy blue. Aim High Air Force. Wonder if that's an ethos or a command. Love this shirt. Absolutely adore it. Remember when I got it. Sixth grade. Some sort of contest. Jumping rope, I believe. I won and K__ C__ got second. I said, like your prize better. She said, like yours better, too. We swapped. Traded up. I got the shirt. Sixth grade. Can you believe it? Big on me then, little on me now. Not too little. Snug and shapely. Soft. Feels nice against the scaly skin.
K__ ran funny. She lived nearby and in high school, driving home, I would pass her on the street. She'd be running. All funny like, though. Arms flapping. Boobs jiggling. She was real thin, with big boobs. I guess you could say guys liked her. I never cared for her much. She was a bit flighty. A tad empty. Lots of makeup. Most guys, though, they liked to say stuff about her. About how they'd like to get with that. I'm gonna get with that, they'd say.
K__ had issues with her father. They were close. Real close. Too close, you know? Some girls, sometimes there's no one else in the family. Maybe a mom and a dad and then them. These girls, they tend to like their dads. Get along with them better. Nothing wrong with it. Something I noticed, is all.
K__ was taken, though. The boys would have to wait to get with that. She dated the mayor's son. K__ wanted to wait until marriage to have sex, but something was wrong with her, so her doctor put her on birth control. This happens sometimes, I'm told. Sometimes it's prescribed for reasons unrelated to not having babies. I don't know what the reason was. Maybe it was to keep her regular. Maybe she had an eating disorder. Maybe it was something genetic. I don't know. Never asked her. Anyway, she took it. She figured, ah what the hell. She had sex with the mayor's son. Then she told her friends about it. She said, well, A__ and I are going to get married at some point anyway, so what does it matter?
Turns out they did get married. K__ C__ married the mayor's son. They mayor's son, see, I used to know him pretty well. We played basketball together. His dad and my dad were prominent figures in the community. I guess that goes without saying on his end. His dad was mayor. His little brother said I had a big nose. Once, he said I was ugly. When he said that, he crossed a line. A__ and I beat him up. We really did. We chased him and tripped him and when he was on the ground, we hit him.
The mayor's son liked to steal things. He stole some of my CD's and a bottle of cologne. I used to wear cologne! Let's remember that this was high school. A__ started stealing things from people on the basketball team. He stole just random things. Someone would say, I think A__ stole my mini football. Or, I think A__ stole a hat of mine. He would go to parties at girl's houses and creep up to their rooms and steal their underwear. He had the underwear of many girls from our school. He was starting to lose friends. It wasn't funny to us like it was funny to him. He thought it was great.
During senior year of high school, there were a spate of robberies in our town. Man on a bicycle would ride around at night, in the nicer neighborhoods, park his bike, walk into an unlocked house, and take off with some money. Once, he hit an old woman in the head with a flashlight when she awoke. She woke up because he had ventured into her bedroom. The Bandit was rummaging through her nightstand. The man, it doesn't need said, was brash. After awhile the whole town was scared. Scared senseless. Old men would say, just let him try to come to my house. I'll shoot that sumbitch. But the thing is, he didn't go to old mens' houses. He went to the houses of high school teachers, parents of high school students.
Everyone in the town thought it was some no good crook let loose from a prison further upstate. Why he'd come to our little town was anyone's guess. The paper gave him a name. The Bicycle Bandit. You think I'm shitting you. This all happened. The papers in Ft. Wayne and South Bend starting covering the break-ins. Bicycle Bandit Strikes Again. It was a phenomenon. It was like a radio serial from the 50's. And then, some weird things happened.
The first thing that happened was the capture of the Bicycle Bandit. The brief capture. There was a botched break-in and the police were quickly on the Bandit's path. They had seen him enter a woods next to the neighborhood he had just finished casing. A police officer ran in after him, reported back to his officers, I see the Bandit. It was night, dark, and the Bandit must have gotten his bike tied up in a tree branch or stuck in some mud. The police officer closed in. Suspect in view, he said.
The next day, in the papers, it was reported that the officer tackled the Bandit to the ground and there was a scuffle. The Bandit, however, was too large, too strong. He wrestled free and hopped on his bike and rode off. You know what was funny about that? The police officer didn't get a good description of the suspect. All that rolling around must've messed up his vision. Couldn't for the life of him begin to describe the Bandit. Big guy, strong guy, he told the papers. That's all he could come up with. Was he lying? Did he really tackle the guy? Maybe he was trying to be some sort of hero. Or maybe he really did see the Bandit's face.
Then, a week or so later, the mayor's house was targeted. The mayor's oldest son, older than me and my buddy, tussled with the Bandit. My friend wasn't home at the time. The Bandit left. Fled on his bike. The story got a lot of press. Can you imagine? But really, the whole episode seemed too bizarre. The mayor's house? Ballsy. Now here was a risk-taker, to be sure. And you wanna know something? The mayor's oldest son couldn't really remember what the Bandit looked like. Big guy, strong guy, he said. This was the last Bandit break-in, attempted or successful. How about that. Guy just up and quit his business. Closed up shop.
A few more months passed and the hysteria surrounding the Bicycle Bandit seemed to fade. People figured the guy moved on to some other city. Figured two botched break-ins were enough to send the guy packing. Rattled his nerves. Really? The same guy that walked into a woman's bedroom in the middle of the night to root through her jewelry box? Say shamone, Michael Jackson. Say shamone.
Then the mayor resigned. Our beloved mayor. The mayor who, though not particularly liked by the police department, had been a part of our little town his whole life. Decided he'd rather sell some insurance. Would rather press the meat a little. Wanted to get out there, test his mettle, prove his worth. Selling insurance? To each his own. A local CPA was elected mayor. He raised the salary of the police officers. They got new cars. What happened, Detective Holmes? What went down?
I've got my theories. I bet you can guess them. Suffice it to say, there were cookouts that summer. Bonfires. Fishing trips. Guys on the basketball would get together. So, we'd say. The Bicycle Bandit, we'd say. Yeah, I know. What do you think. It's A__, isn't it? You're guess is as good as mine. We'd smoke cigarettes under porches, drink pop. Talk about how he got away with it. It was a story all right. The quarterback of the football team, the star basketball player, the mayor's son. Big Man on Campus. Needed some excitement in his life. Got it by stealing. Then got it by stealing and running away from the cops. Can you imagine, we'd say. Can you imagine?
Nowadays, K__ C__ and the mayor's son live together somewhere and he makes a lot of money and if I remember correctly, he's a banker. Maybe not, though. Maybe he sells thing. Maybe insurance like his old man. There are secrets in every little town. I'm sort of proud to say I know of one. A good one.
I finish putting my shirt on. Stand upright and look in the mirror. Damn thing still fits snug as a glove. Thanks, K__ C__, I think to myself. Thanks for making that trade. Turned out to be a honey of a deal on my end. 13 years and going strong. Now that's a long time for a shirt to hold up. Longer than most things, anyway.
Say shamone, now.