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Randy & Me

By C.D. Payne

DO YOU EVER wish you had cut loose a little more as a child? Back in 1950s Ohio, I was so buttoned down I was the teacher's pet for six straight years--still a record at my grade school. My only break from youthful respectability came in my long association with a troublemaking pal named Randy.

Even when Randy was just a tot, his idea of fun was vandalizing gas-station restrooms or shoveling someone's gravel driveway into the corner mailbox. (This latter act may have been a federal crime.)

I swallowed my Goody Two Shoes compunctions and followed along as Randy climbed over fences to explore the mossy and dripping interiors of abandoned power dams. Or got us stuck in the churned-up mud of an off-limits construction site--mud so tenacious it sucked the shoes right off our feet.

Fortunately, I missed out on Randy's greatest depredation. He was leading another kid astray the day the two of them burned down a neighbor's garage containing two classic cars. I never thought any kid could get in as much trouble as he did that time.

More typical was the afternoon Randy shoplifted an entire case of brown shoe polish and talked me into peddling the hot goods door to door with him for a buck a can. Though suspiciously out of uniform, we claimed to be enterprising Boy Scouts. We plodded on through a drenching thunderstorm and never sold a single can. Worse, we happened to knock on the door of someone who knew Randy's parents.

A half hour after I got home, Randy telephoned and belligerently demanded to know where I had obtained the shoe polish. I could sense an indignant parent was breathing down his neck. Taking advantage of my spotless reputation, I denied any knowledge of the matter. As usual, it was Randy who got the whipping.

I lost contact with Randy over the years, but I did run into his dad at a family picnic back in Ohio a few weeks ago. As you might expect, the news of Randy was not good. After an indifferent high-school career, he went into computer programming and is now a vice president of one of the nation's five largest banks.


Sebastopol writer C. D. Payne's sixth book, 'Cut to the Twisp,' will be published in August.

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From the June 7-13, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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