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Clocking the Block 00.07.57 by Mark Anthony Given


Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before.
 -G. K. Chesterton 
          WHEN I BEGAN BURGLARIZING houses I was ten years old with a Stop Watch.  I cased these houses for weeks from a tall tree in my backyard a block away from Tampa Bay, I could see and hear and smell.  The whole neighborhood, I knew when they went to work when they got home when the garbage man came and logged it all.  Wrote down all the license plates of my neighbors and any new car parked nearby, I logged it all.    James Bond, 007, Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, all techno/spy television series of the day somehow convinced me I needed to Clock my whole neighborhood.
           I NEVER STOLE ANYTHING.  After a month or so when I was comfortable with their movements I began entering their homes virtually at Will.  I just wanted to see how other people actually lived, what they had that I didn't and, to see if I could do it.  I was like Studs Terkel on steroids I'd go Thur their whole house with my hands in my pockets and just observe how they lived.  I did steal money, drugs, Jewelry eventually, but just like the first house I burglarized I never stole anything, the last house I didn't take anything.  This is not "Burglary for Dummies," but I'm gonna tell you why I was so successful.
           THIS LITTLE KID across the street had something I wanted.  I had already been in every house in the neighborhood and knew this kid's under ware drawer was and way in the back, in a crumpled Brown bag laid the object of my desire.  Like a Golf swing just 1 mm off sends the ball 80' in the wrong direction, I knew if I took even one item out of that bag, that like an avalanche that started with the slip of a small rock my life would have taken a whole different turn....

          I WAS A DISCIPLINED BURGLAR when I was studying for my Tenderfoot Badge in the Boy Scouts at twelve years of age but there are some things a Boy can't resist;   Especially things that make other things explode.... I opened the back door at the kids' small track house with a butter knife like a hot knife thru butter at Start button and I had 4 Minutes.  0.01.00  The near quarter inch gap between the door and the frame Stevie Wonder could have unlocked it.  As soon as I step inside I freeze, usually squat low and just like living out in the woods, and just listen.   A full minute I could tell you if anyone is in the house, animals, whatever.  01.00.00  I know no one is there but I have a routine I follow.  This house is almost directly across from my house and I knew every move they made for a year before I got the balls to go in it.  They had a slide in camper on stilts next to their driveway along a small hedge I used as my personal Mobile Command Post but never went anywhere.    I stuck my hands into my pockets so as not to touch anything and proceed to mentally inventory the contents of their house.  This curious fascination with one another I suspect is in deference to our individual Divinity... and I never have seen anything I wanted.  I actually had everything I wanted until I spotted that crumpled brown bag way in the back of a drawer.  I kept moving back to the front of the house to see if someone pulled up.  Just another quiet summer day all year round in Florida, I could see my house across the street and all was slow Southern Molasses as usual.  02.07.57
         I COULD TELL BY THE BUMPS in the mysterious brown bag tucked away for precious moments could only contain what I had heard thru the little kid water cooler language that one of them
little bumps in the bag could easily take out a school bathroom commode amidst great fan fare and "Commotion."  Every twelve-year-old Boy worth his subscription to "Boy's Life," magazine dreamed of the elusive M80.   I had visions of kicking the weekend off early taking out the bathroom commode in Elementary School when school was canceled to make way for the BOMB SQUAD and Fire Trucks....
          AT THE LAST TEMPTATION OF YOUTH I stood silently and listened for the dreaded crumbling noise from the gravel driveway and looked in the face of my future with much angst, trepidation, fear, excitement and everything Right and Wrong at the cross roads of my destiny and kept my hands in my pockets and duly logged it's location when I got home... 3.23.44
         THE FOSTER HOME AT 3727 Kelly Road in Tampa, Florida just a block from beautiful Tampa Bay looked like any other house on the block except I was the only Boy in a house full of Girls.   I have been reluctant to tell the story of my magical childhood because I didn't think anyone would believe it.   Every time I think of it I am reminded how fortunate my life has been.  I recently saw a picture of me when I was probably fourteen and had run away from foster care to locate my parents in upstate New York.  Looking at that picture all these years later at my near Angelic features I finally figured out why I felt like everywhere I went, people were looking at me like I was Desert......
            YOU ARE NOT going to believe this either, but when I was eleven and twelve years old I needed a Day Planner to keep up with the waiting list of young foster care girls waiting to teach me how to "Make Out."   Besides my daily Clocking the Block, the mild mannered Boy Next Door who would grow up to be a One Man Crime Wave had a demanding Night schedule.....

           AFTER EXAMINING ALL MY NEIGHBORS private lives I became bored and moved onto the mansions than lines Old Tampa Bay.   Plantation style one or two stories with white or pink stucco surrounded by ancient oak trees with Spanish Moss hanging to the ground.  Gated entrances out on Bay Shore Boulevard over grown with wild palm and banana trees teaming with chameleon lizards and squirrels and birds, and the long driveways leading to eccentric octogenarian's humidifying into the sticky air.  I would begin a block from my house on the shoreline and come in from behind the recluses and watch them like a spider watching a wayward fly with a Notepad.... 10:40 AM 10/19/2013
                   THE TAMPA BAY YACHT CLUB was a half mile from my house down the shoreline of Tampa Bay and I would have to pass thru probably half a dozen home property line right at the shore.   Many days the tide would be a quarter a mile out it was so shallow.   Some I could walk straight across others I had to climb barriers but it wasn't a problem.  Probably took half an hour and I'd come right out on the Yacht Club lawn right next to the Ballast Point Pier I fished off hours and hours.  I was a fishing fool.  I told y'all are not going to believe this but all the staff of the historic WASP haven was old and Black and apparently thought anyone White was with the 'Power's that Be, because I walked around that place like I owned it, usually right to the back door of the upscale restaurant because that is where the Ice Cream freezer was.  Normally I would have staked out the subject and had the entire premise under surveillance waiting for just the right time to strike.    To hell with that, I walked up to the thing just inside the back screen door like I owned the place.  I'd go out and set on the open Miranda under a lunch canopy where a couple ancient relic's enjoyed their luncheon.   Merriam Webster, I read somewhere said that sometimes it is just as important to pretend to know something as it is to know it..... I just acted like I belonged there and no one ever questioned it.....1:01 PM 10/22/2013 


Copyright 2016 by Mark Anthony Given 
All Rights Reserved 

                            All my story's:
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