"Caught" by Sarah Bennett
2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize shortlist
Sarah Bennett made the 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize shortlist for "Caught".
Warning: This story contains strong language.
I slipped out of the window and slid it closed behind me. Snuck through the backyard without a sound and crept down the alleyway. I heard the gravel grind under my feet and I looked back at my mom's window, which was still dark. Good.
The whole alley was dark. Too dark to see much but the outlines of garages and telephone poles. Too dark to know if I was the only one in the alley. I opened my eyes wide, tried to see into the darkness, tried not to think of someone creeping up behind me. I thought I could almost hear breathing.
I started walking. Past gates and backyards and sheds and hedges where I imagined someone sketchy watching me from the shadows. I pushed my hood down, pushed down the bit of panic that rose up from some scaredy-cat place inside. Too many Friday the 13th's. Too much Freddy. I walked faster. My eyes locked on the streetlight at the end of the alley. Panic fluttered in my throat and pounded in my head. My footsteps loud like gunshots and finally I was out on the street and there was Kevin leaning on the fence. "It's about time."
"Where are we going?" I stopped to catch my breath, pulled a pack of menthols from my pocket and lit one up. Waved the pack at Kevin in a do-you-want-one gesture and he wrinkled his nose and pulled out his pack of Player's Light.
"I can't stand that menthol crap. We'll head over to Mount Royal."
We crossed over 14th Street and left the tight grid of our neighbourhood for the curved avenues and wide lawns of Mount Royal. Frontenac Avenue, Wolfe Street, Montcalm Crescent. We were midnight explorers. Pirates. Kevin led and I followed. We listened for cars. For dogs. For stirring inside sleeping houses. Our bodies wound through yards and up driveways like whispers. We spoke with our eyes, with subtle hand gestures, with the tilt of a head.
Kevin tried the driver's side of a Mercedes parked at the top of a driveway. It opened. I opened the passenger side, opened the glove box, rifled through the insurance papers and the car manual. Nothing. Kevin hit pay day with the ashtray. Non-smoker, I guessed. It was filled with change. We scooped it out with our hands, filled our pockets, felt the weight of the loonies and quarters and dimes and nickels against our thighs as we walked back to the street. We put a block or two behind us and found another car.
An hour later, we tallied up our takings. Over twenty bucks in change. Eight tapes but they were all old people music. George Michael and k.d. lang. Kevin said he'd take them to the pawn shop. See if he could get anything for them. We walked back to our street. I watched Kevin sneak into his window in the basement of the newer infill on the corner. Made my way down the alley, stifling the fear that rose again from behind telephone poles and down dark walkways and slid through my window without a hand grabbing me and dragging me away. I flicked the window lock and went to bed.
A couple weeks later, someone told us about a pub that didn't check ID until the bouncer showed up at 9, so we got there at 8. The place was almost empty. We ordered a pitcher of Traditional Ale and drank it and smoked cigarettes and were on top of the world. Warm and tipsy, but not wasted, we staggered out and caught the bus home. Kevin saw a cop car in the next lane. "Fucking pigs."
I put my middle finger up, poked it into the tip of my nose to make a snout. I looked at the cops in their car and they saw me and Kevin and I laughed. Then the blue and red lights were flashing around inside the bus, ricocheting off metal poles, lighting up windows, and the bus actually pulled over to the side of the road and one of the cops came in and he stood in front of me and I was like, what the fuck?
They had no interest in Kevin and he didn't even get off to help me out or anything. He could have said we were just goofing around together and it was a total coincidence that the police saw me making faces because we were just making faces at each other, nothing to do with the cops. But, no. I looked back at him on my way off the bus and he was laughing. Eyes full of hilarity. Scot-free. I was issued a ticket under the highway traffic act for stunting. Hundred and twenty-five dollar fine.
One night, Kevin's parents were out so we smoked a joint and ended up messing around on his bed. We didn't like each other like that, so it was just for fun, which meant I didn't have to worry about whether he loved me or would call me the next day or anything stupid like that. We already had our clothes off and he ran his hand down my body and it left a tingly feeling and I was just basking in it, feeling the tingles like little glittery points of light. He asked if he could suck on my toe and that kind of put a damper on the tingly feeling because I thought feet were gross and if any part of you should be private it should be feet, but I said go ahead. I worried for a second about whether my feet would taste ok, but then I was like whatever, it wasn't my idea.
It was weird. But, then again, Kevin was weird. His tongue flicked between my toes and it tickled and I giggled and Kevin came back up and he was giggling, too. Weed always made him giggle. His eyes would crinkle up and kind of sparkle a little. They were sparkling that night and then he was kissing me and we had sex and it was totally normal and fine and then I went home.
I don't know why we went out in the middle of the afternoon that Sunday. We should have waited until dark. It was one of those cold clear days in Calgary. The clouds were gone and the sun was shining but we could still see our breath in the air and we both had our hands jammed deep in our pockets. We didn't head into Mount Royal, instead we went down towards the duplexes and quads and apartment buildings and we cut into an alley. There was a green MG parked in a car port and the doors were unlocked. Kevin opened up the driver's side and started going at the ignition with the scissors — one blade inserted like a key and he pushed it in and up and down and around.
I was standing lookout. After a few minutes, Kevin got out and motioned me in. I guess his hands were cold, or he thought maybe I'd have the finesse to get it started or something so I sat down and gave it a whirl. I moved the blade up and down and side to side, jiggling it a bit and turning it like a key. I imagined I could hear the engine catch, thought about driving down Crowchild Trail with the radio turned up.
Then Kevin yelled, "Run!" and I pushed myself out of the car but there was a man already at me and he had a grip on my arm and it was like I was in a nightmare where I couldn't scream and it was worse than Friday the 13th and Freddy combined and finally I was screaming anything I could think of to get him to let go like, "Help!" and "Rape!" and "Fire!" but he was yelling, too, and someone called the cops and I actually got arrested. They put me in a little room at the police station and I was so mad at Kevin. I kept thinking that the two of us could have taken the guy if Kevin hadn't been such a chicken-shit and run away. And that look he gave me at the end of the alley before he turned and ran up 28th; he kind of put up his hands in a what-could-I-do sort of way and that was it. Left me to take it all. Charged with mischief causing damage under a thousand and possession of house breaking tools. Even though it was a car I was breaking into. That was for the scissors.
We moved after that. Maybe my mom had had enough. There wasn't a Kevin in our new neighbourhood, though God knows I looked for one. Tried to find someone who would risk it all with me. Until I had things I didn't want to risk. I moved on and years went by and I mostly forgot about Kevin. I locked my car doors and installed a security system to keep the hoodlums away. Tried not to think about the warmth of a good high or the reckless fun of having sex with no strings attached or the sound of a car door closing quietly in the middle of the night .
Instead, I thought about how to get my son to stop chewing holes in the sleeves of his shirts. I thought about how I was going to convince my teenage daughter to wear a one piece instead of a bikini. I thought about how easy it looks, in movies, to disable a security system.
And then I heard Kevin was dead. Had been dead for years. While I was getting married and nursing babies and buying groceries. He had been renting a house with some other guys. Welfare bums, probably. Their electricity was cut off and they were using candles. The whole house went up with Kevin inside. Maybe he was so high he didn't smell the smoke. I wondered if there was a moment, at the end, when he opened his eyes and saw that he wouldn't get away. If he was surprised that he'd finally been caught.
I sat on the chesterfield in my living room, doors locked tight, and looked out the window at the wide street and the big trees lining it and wondered what it would feel like to run down the middle of it with a pocket full of coins banging against my thigh. I could almost smell the cigarette smoke. Could almost taste the foam on the top of an illicit beer. Could almost see that look in Kevin's eye.
Read the other finalists' stories
- "Trust Exercise" by Becky Blake
- "Diving" by Alisha Mascarenhas
- "The Guardian" by Gail Nardi
- "The Road to Machu Picchu Starts at 385 lbs" by Carla Powell
About Sarah Bennett
Sarah Bennett is working on her first novel from her home in St. John's, N.L. She is fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant and inspiring writers at Memorial University, where she studies fiction with Lisa Moore, and within the writer's group, the Naked Parade. She was recently selected to apprentice with the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador's mentorship program.