|A Novel By Max Rabinowitz|
|Bonnie's house was located in one of the most exclusive residential areas in New York City, the small, privately patrolled section of Queens known as the Jamaica Estates. On streets as clean as a street could be lived only the elite members of New York's social strata. Each house was sold only to those applicants who passed a rigorous screening and who, of course, could afford a bottom purchase price of around seventy-five thousand dollars. The lawns were green and immaculately trimmed and traffic was almost non-existent, so that kids could play in the streets. The area looked like something that would win the Ideal Neighborhood Award, if Good Housekeeping ran a contest!
Bonnie pulled into a carport at the side of a beautiful, rusty brick house and we got out of the car. I was surprised when she just pushed the door open, as I'd never been anywhere where you could leave your doors unlocked while you were away. The interior was furnished in the best of taste, but to me it seemed old-fashioned. Heavy dark furniture, rugs, chandeliers, and antiques were not my idea of what a house should be filled with. However, my ideas came from magazines and not from any personal experience with tasteful living.
She showed me to the room I was to sleep in and explained that it belonged to her son, Morris, who was attending a military school in Maine. Then we toured the rest of the house, including the basement, which had been converted into a game room complete with a pool table and all the trimmings.
A gigantic German shepherd named Fritzie with teeth bigger than my pinkies, bounded out of nowhere. I damn near fainted when he leaped on me and laid a yard of tongue alongside my face. Bonnie said he liked me and I petted him a bit. Better to have that baby dinosaur as a friend than an enemy.
Bonnie then told me she had to go out for groceries and asked if I minded being alone for awhile, I stared at her for a moment or two and then told her it wouldn't bother me at all. If the old broad was silly enough to let me stay alone in her house, who was I to knock it. It did cross my mind that she might be testing me, but if that was the case I would fail that test miserably.
As soon as she left the house I began scouting for anything expensive and portable enough to carry off easily. I used a great deal of caution and did my best not to disturb the orderliness of things, as there was no sense in giving the game away too early.
I found about eighty bucks in a drawer in her room and also a jewelry case loaded with goodies that I could fence in Manhattan without much difficulty. These I placed in a pillowcase taken from the linen closet in the hallway. I then went into her husband's room and found several other items of interest - watches, rings, and a hundred bucks in tens. I progressed into her daughter's room and began stuffing some jewelry into the good old pillowcase, but I was so intent in looting that I failed to hear the front door open. By the time it slammed shut I was busted.
Standing in the doorway of the room was one ugly girl, even uglier than Ace. She had orange hair, braces on her large teeth, and a face that looked as if someone had fired a shotgun into it at point-blank range. There were so many holes and pimples in her face that one couldn't even begin to count them. Her body resembled a beer barrel with arms, legs and head stuck on it. The legs were short and thick, while her arms were long and skinny and covered with pimples. Her clothing looked like something that the Salvation Army would refuse - dark, nappy blue sweater and a tweed skirt of some motley green shade. Her shoes could be called sensible, if one was kind, but I referred to them as space shoes.
I took all this in while watching her carefully. Less than a few seconds passed before she broke the silence. "What do you think you're doing?"
At times like that one doesn't think very well. There seemed to be but two avenues open - drop everything and run, or else smash the bitch down and dash off with the goodies. The only problem with the second solution was I might kill Miss Ugly and then what? Bonnie would know exactly who did it. A theft I might get away with, but never murder or assault. The only thing I could think of was to tell her in my most menacing voice not to scream or she would get hurt.
That didn't go off too well because she immediately laughed out loud and told me I didn't have the nerve to hurt her, because I was nothing but a petty sneakthief. To boot there was a private police force in the neighborhood and I'd never get away.
I stood there like a jerk as she took the pillowcase and emptied it onto the bed. I winced at the clatter the jewelry made as it tumbled out. I told my brain to think, think, think, but somebody up there wasn't listening to me. This had to be Bonnie's daughter and I knew she would tell her mother everything.
I trailed her around like a silly dog as she replaced each item I had in the pillowcase. She knew where everything belonged except for the money and when she asked where I had gotten it I just pointed dumbly.
Miss Ugly sat down and asked me a series of questions that would make a district attorney glow with pride.
"Why are you a thief?" "Don't you know that it is wrong to steal?" "Shouldn't I call the police on you?" I said "yes" when a yes was called for and "no" when a no was called for and nothing when nothing was called for. She kept this up for at least a half-hour and at the end she knew everything there was to know about me.
She got up rather suddenly and said she was leaving. I couldn't believe my ears! But leave she did and I sat there until Bonnie came back two hours later. I was scared to death and expecting the police at any moment.
Bonnie smiled when she entered the room and asked how I was doing. I said something about how everything was great, but words were hollow and my brain was still paralyzed.
She sat down opposite me and asked me what Mary had caught me doing. My head snapped up. The bitch had told anyhow. Since I figured Bonnie knew everything already I told her exactly what happened, no falseness whatsoever. When I finished I asked her if it all jibed with Mary's story. Bonnie hadn't even spoken to her yet. That puzzled me. So, the old lady explained that she was certain I would attempt to steal something right away and had planned the whole thing with Mary. They gave me time to get started and then Mary conveniently walked in and caught me.
I struck back in the only manner I could and asked her how they were so sure I wouldn't smash Mary up, maybe even kill her. Also how the hell she got such an ugly daughter.
I must have said something funny because Bonnie laughed. I had the feeling that everyone was laughing at me. In any case she'd been positive I wouldn't hurt anyone if there was a way I could avoid it, plus Mary had been warned against getting me riled up. Also, and she chuckled out the last, there was a private cop standing right outside in case I did try something stupid. I shook my head in disgust. These people had me coming and going.
Bonnie also told me that Mary wasn't her daughter but just a friend who lived close by. Her daughter, whose name was also Mary, was out on a date.
I thought Bonnie would immediately take me back to the hospital but she asked me if I had learned anything from the experience. Of course, I replied that I had, and I meant it, but what I learned was not to mess with that old lady. She made me promise not to do anything like that again.
The rest of the weekend passed in relative quiet. I met her daughter, Mary, who wasn't half as ugly as the first Mary, although she wasn't looking that good, either.
I was to spend many other weekends at Bonnie's house and I never tried to steal anything from her again. She was too slick for me and I wasn't one who normally took chances if I could help it. I didn't entirely stop my thievery, however; I just didn't do any of it at Bonnie's house.
As time drifted by Bonnie and I grew quite close. She knew all the right people and often introduced me to them, which helped because many times thereafter I burglarized their homes.
Bonnie also spent hours teaching me the proper way to speak and even helped me with my reading and writing. To this day my penmanship looks like a carbon copy of hers. Prior to our meeting my chicken scratch looked like the scrawlings of a spastic child. I also had a habit of using non-existent words in my speech such as "conversatingly" and "identifyingly." Bonnie cured me of those habits easily, mainly by staring hard whenever I made a booboo.
She showed me what clothes were for. I usually dressed in jeans and a tee shirt in the summer or a sweatshirt in the winter. I knew what suits were, but I never did like them, until Bonnie told me that my feelings were a result of my ignorance in coordinating my dress. She showed me how to do that. She even went as far as buying me clothes to wear when I came out to her house on weekends.
That old lady taught me a hell of a lot about people and life. And I was grateful to her. Yet, in spite of it all, I still figured she had an angle. People didn't put themselves out like that unless there was something in it for them. I always wondered what it was that Bonnie wanted out of my life.
I constantly asked her about this, but she always put me off by telling me that the time wasn't right. For almost a year I visited Bonnie's house on weekends and one Sunday evening, just preparatory to her taking me back to the hospital, she sprung it on me.
I knew it wouldn't be sex because I had tried that bit earlier and she turned me down flat, knowing that I was only trying to get something on her.
Bonnie told me that she wanted to petition the courts to adopt me as her son. I didn't think that was any problem and I told her so. Hell, being part of a rich family was great, and it would take me out of the hospital on a permanent basis.
Then Bonnie played her last card. She told me she was well aware of the fact that I had burglarized many of her friends' houses and committed various other crimes. She had never squealed on me, even though she knew without question that I was the culprit. However, it would have to stop, if I was to be adopted by her. She wanted a promise that I would never again commit another crime. This was totally out of the question.
Most of the crimes I had committed weren't done because I needed money that bad, but because I enjoyed the thrill of stealing more than the booty itself. There was something about crime that appealed to my basic inner nature. However, by this time I knew I could not lie to her, so I didn't even waste time trying. She would find out eventually and wouldn't hesitate to turn me over to the police if I broke my promise. I told her quite plainly that I couldn't give any guarantees on that score. I asked her if she would adopt me in the hope that one day I would grow out of it. She wouldn't even consider it.
It was a silent trip back to the hospital. I was certain it would be my last trip with her. In my mind a small voice cried out that I was making a terrible mistake, but I shut it out.
She kissed me on the cheek when we reached the hospital and wished me well. Bonnie was too honest to lie about anything and she told me that she wouldn't be around the next weekend, and probably wouldn't be seeing me anymore at all. Even if I changed my mind later on, it wouldn't matter because I'd had the only chance she would offer.
It hurt a bit because I had come to treasure those weekends, but I said goodbye to Bonnie and went inside.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and now, as I sit here in this six-by-eight-foot prison cell, I think about Bonnie and what she wanted for me.
I look back often to when I was sixteen and wistfully dream of being related to her. But I have traveled too far down that one-way road called Time to ever retrace my steps and the hope she offered me is long gone.