I was fourteen years old when I caught Maria Fuentes sneaking out the back door of my father's appliance store. In her arms, she was carrying a large commercial dough mixer. The mixer had to have weighed sixty pounds. I doubt that Maria weighed too much more than that.
I knew Maria was ten years old, because she had been at my younger sister's birthday party the week before, and I'd overheard her telling some of the girls that her tenth birthday had been the week before my sister's.
"Maria, where are you going with that mixer?" I was right behind her when I spoke, scaring her enough that she dropped the mixer to the ground. When she turned to face me, half a second later, her face was already red, and it looked like she was ready to start crying.
"Please don't tell on me, Ricky! I wasn't going to steal it, I promise. I was going to bring it back, right after I showed it to my mother."
"Why would your mother want to look at an old mixer like this one?" I was really curious to know why.
"She makes tamales at home, to sell to construction workers. I thought she could save a lot of time if she had a big mixer like this one, instead of the little one we have at home. I just wanted to show it to her, then I was going to bring it right back here."
I knew my father had bought that old mixer from a bakery liquidation sale about a year before. Almost all the other stuff he had bought had been sold already. No one in town had shown any interest in a big commercial mixer. The last time my father had it displayed in the front of the store, he was trying to sell it for fifteen dollars. No one had been interested then, so he had moved it to the back room where we stored things that we couldn't sell.
People sometimes came by looking to buy stuff cheaply, hoping to take it somewhere else to sell. My father was planning to sell the mixer for five dollars the next time some buyer came through our town.
I bent over and picked up the mixer and started walking towards Maria's house with it. The whole way there, Maria was begging me not to tell her mother that she stole the mixer from the back of my father's store.
When we got to Maria's house I told her mother that Maria had come by the store and thought the mixer would help with Mrs. Fuentes tamale making business. I set the machine up for her on their kitchen table and showed her all the different mixer blades that came with it. She filled the big bowl with her ingredients and quickly mixed up a big batch of the ingredients she made her tamale dough from. She got very excited after everything got done so quickly, asking me how much the mixer sold for.
"My dad has a special this week, only five dollars for the whole thing."
"I wish I had the extra money to buy it, Ricky. If I pay you two dollars now, do you think your father will hold it for me until next week sometime?"
There was no way I wanted to carry that heavy mixer back to my father's store.
"Give me two now and pay the rest next week. We trust you for it. You just got a great deal on a nice mixer."
Walking back to the store with the two dollars in my pocket, I was wondering how I could possibly explain what I'd done to my father. I didn't want to get Maria in trouble, but I needed some plausible reason for having shown Mrs. Fuentes that mixer in the first place. My father wasn't someone who liked people stealing from him.
"Ricky, hold up a minute, okay?" Maria was running to catch up with me. "Thank you for not telling her what I did. She'd have spanked me so hard I wouldn't have been able to sit down for a month."
"I should have told her. What you did was very bad, Maria. You deserve to have her spank you."
"You can spank me, Ricky. That way everyone would be all even again."
"Just don't do anything like that again, Maria. I know you were trying to help your mother, but what you did was plain wrong."
Five years went by. I had graduated from high school and was working for my father full time in the store. Maria, now fifteen, had grown up quite a bit. She was one of those girls who mature early. At fifteen, she had the ripe body of a mature woman. I hadn't seen too much of her over the past five years. I knew her mother's business had prospered, and that she had been able to afford to move away to a nicer rental house in a better neighborhood a few years before.
I was alone in the store when Maria came in. My father was out delivering and installing a new washer and dryer set for one of our customers.
.... There is more of this story ...