—an excerpt from RELATIVELY CRIMINAL

It was apparently just a few hours after his release from his latest prison stint that he appeared at my back door.

“Hey, Sis! Just thought I’d stop by,” he said, with a smirk. I noticed the small red vehicle in the driveway, but at first I didn’t think about the car at all. I was still shocked that he wasn’t in prison, since that was where I thought he was supposed to be for at least another year. But as always, first and foremost I missed him, so I gave him a hug, grabbed him a Pepsi, and we sat on the couch together.

“Frank, what are you doing here? I mean, I’m happy to see you, but I thought you had more time on your sentence.”

“I do! Guess it was just my lucky day.”

“Wait a minute . . . did you escape?”

“Nah, didn’t have to. They let me go. I just walked out.”

“Frank, they don’t just let you go!” I insisted.

“Welp—they did!” he said, and took another swig of his Pepsi.

He was really enjoying this whole little tease of a story, but I was losing my patience.

“C’mon, Frank, quit playing stupid games with me. What happened and how did you get here?”

Frank relented then and told his story about the court mix-up.

“That’s our justice system in action,” I said. “But you still haven’t told me how you got here. Whose car is that in the driveway? A friend of yours?”

“Nope. I borrowed it.”

“From who?”

“Welp, I was standing on the street in Schaumburg and saw this car sitting right there with the keys in it.”

“You didn’t borrow it—you stole the car! And then you came here? Jesus, Frank!”

“Don’t worry, Sis, I’ll get rid of it quick. They probably don’t even know it’s gone yet.”

“Great! So here I sit with my escaped criminal brother and a stolen car in my driveway.” He was laughing. “It’s not funny, Frank.”

He continued to laugh and pulled his usual presto-chango, switch the subject-o. He threw a small foil package in my lap.

“Need any rubbers, Sis? I got a bunch more.”

“Rubbers? So, I suppose you knocked over a rubber machine, too, on your way here.” I joked.

“Well . . . ,” he began, pausing for the punch line, “as a matter of fact, I did!”

I did not find it funny, and smacked him in the arm. “You are hopeless, Frank, ya know?”

“I had to have some money, Sis. You know me.”

“Yeah, I do, Frank,” I said with a big sigh.

I was relieved when he finished his Pepsi and announced he had to go. Saved me the trouble of asking him to leave, because that stolen car in the driveway was making me very, very nervous. He assured me he was going to ditch it on a street somewhere that same day, once he made it to a friend’s house.

“Don’t worry about it. Besides, what could I do, Sis? I suddenly found myself free and out on the street. Couldn’t get Ronnie or anybody on the phone, had no money in my pockets. So I saw this car sittin’ there with the keys in it, just like somebody left me a ride.”

“You could have called me, Frank.”

“I know—didn’t want to bother you. I’ve bothered you enough, ya know?”

I just shook my head. Whenever there was a choice to be made, Frank could be counted on to make the wrong one. But then again, it might have been a bad idea anyway if I had picked him up. Would that have made me an accessory, since he was technically a prisoner and supposed to be in jail? I wasn’t sure, but I knew two things: I was happy to see him, and I was happy to see him leave again.

He was back in prison a few days later. Not for the stolen car, which he had dumped as promised. He got picked up for theft of a coin machine. I’m sure the drunken dating population in the area was happy to see the local rubber supply return to normal.

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