This book changed my life. It led me down a path of crime… but redemption was there… somewhere.
I saw it on the top shelf in the back aisle at the Northgate Mall Waldenbooks in Terra Linda, Ca, sometime in the fall of 1989. It was beautiful. Shiny and new. All three Dragonlance Chronicles books in one volume. Over 1000 pages of pure fantasy joy. Sure, I could have saved up my allowance, or done an odd job or two, but I wanted it now! My buddy, who was running interference in the front of the store, only had the first book, but I was going to have all three.
Like any mastermind 13-year-old thief, I had a foolproof plan. Y’know, the old knock it off the shelf-pretend to tie your shoe-stuff it down the front of your pants plan. Yep, a 1000 page book down the front of my pants…
Oops! Slam! 2 1/2 pounds of book falling from 6ft makes a very loud noise. Lucky my buddy was still asking the clerk the price of every comic book on the front rack. I leaned over, and caught my breath while ‘tying my shoe.’ Quickly stood up, sucked in my gut, wedged the whole book down my pants and pulled the front of my hoodie over it.
‘Act natural, just act natural…’ Counting the steps to the front door. A quick nod to my friend who had just gotten to asking about the price of the Spiderman bookmarks. ‘Nothing for me today, thanks!’
Quick steps past the Hallmark store, and then the Sbarro, and into the bathroom and the first stall. I waited…
‘You get it?!?!’
Subsequent trips to the mall had me pilfering the Advanced D&D Handbook and Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation CD. But as with any amateur who tries his luck one too many times, I got caught. Cigarettes at Safeway.
I was sent to Catholic high school. Thankfully, I was able to matriculate to college and finally became an English teacher. All because of a book. And yes, I may have assisted in the future bankruptcy of Waldenbooks with my $17.99 heist, but I think I’ve given back to the book community a little bit. At least that’s how I justify it.
Btw. Three Hail Marys and an Act of Contrition later, I still love the book.
What have you done to get your hands on a book you loved? Have you broken the law? Did you get caught? Comment below.