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The guy who owned the little grocery store was usually there during the day, working his ass off. I dated his daughter, Debbie, a few times later on. She was born on February 29; I'll never forget that. When Leap Year would pop up, they'd put her picture in the paper with the obligatory caption, "Guess who's four years old today?" Or whatever the number was.

The grocery store was just across the street from the schools. The elementary school, the junior high and the high school for that little town were all in the same area. And I lived one block away. It's safe to say that I spent a lot of my young life walking to and from that grocery store. And I got to know Mr. Harrison very well during those years. There were two little check-out aisles and only one of them was usually open. And he was usually the one doing the checking.

It began innocently enough, with the purchase of some candy or gum when I was little. Then, when I was around twelve years old, I started buying cigarettes from him. He had a boy who was a couple of years older than me, so I guess he knew this was just part of the deal of being a dumbass kid in that little town. This was long before the Federal or State or City Government thought they knew more than me about what the hell I should be doing with myself. It was a better time.

Hugh Hefner changed everything when I got to be around 14 or so. Somehow this asshole had conned ma and pa grocery owners and City Councils and all sorts of folks into thinking that just 'cause he had an interview with Norman Mailer or some other pretentious prick in his magazine, that it was OK for anyone to sell pictures of naked women wherever they damn well pleased. I, of course, was quite interested in seeing these pictures.

The problem was twofold. First, I couldn't really afford the high price of a Playboy magazine each month. I think they were a couple of bucks back then, and that was a lot of money. It was a better time.

Second, I really couldn't bring myself to take one up to the counter and try to buy it, anyway. I mean, cigarettes were one thing, but this was something else: Something else entirely. So, I started doing what any little dumbass fuckwit would have done: I started stealing them each month.

Oh, I was so clever. I'd walk in (to a store where I'd been going since I was a third grader) and casually walk over to the magazine rack (where I'd never spent two seconds of my life before) and pick up some news magazines and pretend to read through them. All the time, I'd be giving Mr. Harrison that glance with which all bad shoplifters give away their game. Then, just as he'd go to put some ground beef in a bag for some lady, I'd snatch (hehehe) that Playboy and stick it down my pants and pull my shirt over it. Then I'd stroll around the store and pick up a can of potato sticks (BBQ flavor) and some bubble gum and go check out.

I knew he knew, and he knew that I knew that he knew. It was pitiful. This little dance went on for months. The only time I'd venture over to the magazine rack was around the 5th when the new issues came out. I couldn't have been more obvious. Or horny. And I guess that's why he let me get away with it. I could have at least paid for one of the damn things at some point during this time. I could have at least done that.

So, thank you Mr. Hefner for all the pretty pictures. And thank you for all the great articles and cartoons. But fuck you for turning me into a petty thief and ruining a relationship I'd had for years with a grownup who actually cared what happened to me. I really didn't need to see that stuff. I would have had a better time.