I was raised from the age of two to thirteen in Baton Rouge, in a middle-class neighborhood called Brookstown. Small houses, mostly blue-collar families, lots of kids and dogs and early 1950's sensibilities. (Look at Google Street View now? It's a barely-recognizable, impoverished third-world country, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. You can't go home again.)
In the summer, sometimes a friend and I would find a plum tree and, once the fruit was just past a particular shade of green, we would stage a raid.
Hop the fence, put an old sheet on the ground under the tree, grab and vigorously shake a couple of branches, collect the sheet and flee with our stolen loot.
Something a nine-year-old-boy used to do without much thought about the legality of the process.
We knew it was wrong, but we did it anyhow.
One fine early summer day, my partner in theft, Ted Long, and I cased a yard. Plums were ready enough, we had our old sheet. We hopped the fence, laid out the collection cloth, and proceeded to start shaking branches.
"What are you doing?" a woman's voice came
Oh, crap! The homeowner! We were caught!
The woman looked at me. "What is your name?" she demanded.
We had not anticipated actually being caught. We had discussed the notion in theory. What if somebody catches us?
Why, we figured, we would just give them a phony name, and be off and about our business.
We had not thought it through, but that seemed enough at the time.
Ah, but here we were, facing the irate owner of the plum tree, and the unexpected shock threw me into a full-blown panic.
"What is your name?" she said, glaring at me.
And in my bowel-quivering fear, my mind went blank and I blurted out the only name not my own I could remember:
You can imagine the expression on Ted's face. His shocked gaze at me. What?!
So, you can also guess what Ted said when she asked his name, can't you?
Thus I found that I was not cut out for a life of crime ...