A Day Like Any Other

It was a regular, sunny afternoon in Hastings, Minnesota. By that time, most people were long into their day already, but mine had just begun. I woke up on a park bench in the middle of town, trying to stretch my back out of the awful posture it assumes when sleeping on one. After sitting awhile, I checked the bushes to see if my bike had been stolen. It hadn’t. A man walking his dog passed by on the street, but when I looked at him, he looked away. He knew why I was there. The problem with being homeless at an early age, is there is almost no doubt that it’s your fault. No one seems to care, because if your own parents don’t want you then surely you are a menace to society. And it was all fine with me because I’d never begged for anything, and I wasn’t about to start.

I hopped on my bike and cruised around town, surveying the usual sights. It was the second occasion on which I had ended up on the street, so oddly enough, I was used to it. It’s not as bad as you might think—you still get to laugh, after all. One time I arrived at a park to go to the tube-slide I would sleep at, only to find that someone was already there. I had a good laugh about that, but then I saw the legs slide further in. He must’ve been new: he didn’t know I was laughing with him.

I was biking past my old drug dealer’s house, and he was outside and called me over. “Hey, what’s up, man? How ya been?” he asked.

“You know, same shit.”

“Yeah?” He looked around and dug in his pocket. “Here, take these.” He dropped a few pills in my hand, which I dropped into my own pocket. “Some extras. You don’t owe me.”

“All right, thanks man.”

We talked for a while, and he mentioned an old friend of mine who would be out of town that night.

“If you want to make some money, meet me here tonight. I know it’s hard out here when you got nobody. You could use the cash, right?”

“Yeah, definitely. I’m in.”

He wanted me to help him burgle a home, and I didn’t think twice about it. My old dealer had helped me on many occasions, and at that time, I would have followed him into any battle.

“All right,” he said. “You said it, I’ll see you here tonight.” We shook hands, and I left.

I went around town, hollering at people I once knew, hanging out with other homeless folks, and occasionally, I’d buy minors cigarettes in exchange for a few of them. Luckily, I had recently turned eighteen and gotten my identification card—without it, I’d have been useless.

The night came fast and I went to meet Jacob*, my dealer. I banged on his door and waited around for a bit, but there was never an answer. I decided that he must’ve forgotten or been busy, and I would do it myself. I figured he’d be proud of me when I pulled it off on my own, and the payout would be that much bigger. I’d be cool—no, I’d be famous, and I’d have plenty of cash to mess around with.

I biked to the house that Jacob and I were supposed to burgle. I checked all the doors first, because I didn’t want to break anything if I didn’t have to. The back door was unlocked, and I cautiously entered. When I was inside, the first thing I did was eat some food and drink some liquor, then I looked around at the house I had spent so much time in as a kid. I used to be friends with the guy who lived there—in fact, we were still friends going into high school. It wasn’t until I became homeless and started smoking meth, that he thought better of our friendship. What’s funny about it all, is that I was the one who told him I was smoking meth: I wanted to quit and I didn’t know what to do. This will be sweet revenge, I thought. He abandoned me when I needed him, and he would pay.

After some time had passed, and I was a little more than buzzed from the liquor, I jumped into action. I dug around and found some backpacks and duffle bags, and began filling them full of anything I thought had value. Once I was done with that, I began taking things I didn’t need. I ransacked his father’s bedroom, and found six guns: a shotgun, and five rifles. I took the guns, and the ammunition as well.

By the time I was ready to leave, I realized I had no way of getting any of the stuff out of there, and nowhere to put it, so I called Jacob. He answered, having completely forgotten about the burglary we planned. “Yo, you actually did it?” he asked.

“Dude, I’m here already. Everything is ready to go, just get a ride and help me get this shit gone. And hurry up, I’ve been here too long.”

“Al right, okay. I’ll be right there.”

He showed up not long after, and hurried into the house to load up the vehicle he was in—which didn’t take long. By the time the car was full, there was still a backpack and two guns left, so he left and I carried the guns and backpack on my bike. We met at his house, where he had people looking through the things we stole to see if there was something they wanted.

“Yeah, I came and helped him out, but it was all him, really. You should’ve seen him,” he said. He was proud of me. It was like a pat on the back that said, You did good, kid.

The few people left, but Jacob had more people coming for the guns. He didn’t want me there when they came. “These guys don’t play games, they ain’t gonna want you here ‘cause they don’t know you,” he said.

He gave me some meth; as it turned out, he had been doing it too, and he knew all along that a guy named Chris had started me on it. I left, with instructions to return the next day, but Jacob wouldn’t answer the door when I returned: he got arrested that same night. He was high on meth and broke into his girlfriend’s house, and was charged with first degree burglary.

It was about a week later that I was stopped by a detective while biking around. He got out of his car and pulled out a notepad. He wore a blue, tucked-in button-up shirt and brown slacks, and he placed a badge on his shirt pocket as he got out. I thought he looked about forty-years-old, with a no-nonsense face that said he’d seen it all—and he knew exactly who I was. “Hey, Soryn,” he said. “What do you know about the burglary on fourteenth street?”

“I don’t know anything. Why, who got robbed?”

“Joseph Schmidt. His son is Harry. You know him, don’t you?” He scribbled on his pad.

“Yeah, I know him. We were friends. I’d never rob Harry like that.”

“I never said you did.” He looked at me suspiciously, then scribbled on his pad.

“It wasn’t me, sir, and I know that’s why you stopped me. I don’t know who did it and I wouldn’t tell you if I did.”

He was silent for a moment. “Well, all right then. You take care. Better find a blanket or something, it gets cold out here at night.” He laughed, then got in his car and left.

I didn’t think much of the encounter, and I wasn’t worried about getting caught. I had worn gloves and a hat in Henry’s house, and anything I touched without gloves got wiped. The only thing that could get me in trouble was my own mouth.

Months later, I was sleeping on a friend’s couch and working as a dishwasher at a bar. I didn’t think about the burglary anymore, and I thought I had gotten away with it. I was at work one night, and a cook came running back to the kitchen saying a cop was there to see me. I was clueless as to why, so I went to the front and it was the same detective. He wanted to chat, but he wouldn’t say the reason. My curiosity got the better of me, and I agreed to go with him.

At the station, we sat down in a room and he got comfortable as he pulled out an audio recorder and a notepad. “So, I’ll ask you again. What do you know about the burglary on fourteenth street?” He smiled.

I nodded at him, smiled back, then stared at the table in front of me. He knew. He had heard the talk long enough now, and he knew. I wasn’t under arrest because he didn’t have any evidence. That’s why he had the voice recorder. He wanted me to get myself in trouble. If I didn’t talk, the case would never be closed. All he had to do was taunt me enough. If I had left then, I knew what would happen. He would try night and day to catch me for a crime he could never prove. Maybe I’d even commit more, but I’m not stupid, he wouldn’t catch me for those either. And eventually, he’d get sick of it all, and one day I’d just disappear.

I was silent for about a minute before saying, “I did it.”

He nodded to himself. It was over, and I could see the relief spread across his body.

“You know what’s going to happen now, right?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.” He shook my hand, then slapped a handcuff around it. And after that night, nothing would be the same.

*Names have been changed.