My moral compass has, at times, wobbled dangerously close to the edge of complete collapse; there have been times during which I could not only not tell right from wrong, but honestly didn't care. During those times, I've dug myself into more than a few holes. Here's one I never got out of. When I was in Junior High, I became a kleptomaniac. Going to a private school rife with the filthy rich had given me a real case of the green-eyed monster. As previously described, we were eking out a lower-middle class existance in Tukwila, a mall-adjacent low-lying suburb of Seattle, where nobody lived but the sad and sorry.

It started fairly simply - I lost my bus pass. Every day I had an hour-long commute by public transportation to my school, and a similar distance back. Walking was not an option, so when I lost my pass and was too afraid to fess up to my mother (they cost $32 a month, and that was a lot of money), I started pilfering from her change jar to cover my tracks. Now, this sounds fairly innocent; what country bumpkin hain't filched a little of Paw's moonshine money to buy himself some chicory stick and hambone - but I didn't stop. I couldn't. After I found out how easy it was - a quarter here, a nickel there, I started stealing for non-survival reasons. I developed several methods for elaborately disguising my pilferage, including complex rearrangements of the change in the jar, aligning the quarters and dimes remaining in a thin stratum along the top of the jar, with nothing but pennies underneath, as well as unrolling quarter rolls, taking out one or two from each, and then rerolling them.

For some reason my hard-earned allowance of $1 a week was not covering my expenditures, and the $10 my grandmother sent me every month was going straight into savings for Christmas presents - or that's what Mom said she was doing with it. I had needs, man.

What was I buying? Comic books. And candy.

Ok, it could have been worse. I could have been laying in an illicit stock of porno with my ill-gotten gains, and then charging the neighborhood kids to look at it, which, come to think of it, wouldn't have been such a bad idea. At least I could have paid it back then.

As if stealing from my family wasn't bad enough, I then proceeded to start stealing from a true American institution. I had noticed the security at Seattle's (late, lamented) huge downtown Woolworth's was, for lack of a better word, lax. By now hooked on the pure speed-rush of secret pocket, slow inconspicuous walking, and greedy, under-the-porch reveling in stolen merchandise, I accumulated quite a stash of GI Joe action figures, none of which I ever showed to anybody. I was working on the school newspaper, which, for some odd reason charged 15 cents the copy, when I noticed the easy heist waiting in the cash box. I skimmed off the top forweeks, narrowly avoiding discovery, nearly wetting my TuffSkins in excitement.

I stole from other stores; books, toys, punk tapes, the things I couldn't pay for but everybody else seemed to have. I constructed an elaborate system of sleeve-tunnels and hidden pockets in the lining of my coat, developed a slinking, lurkingstyle, knowing any mistake would result in the absolute ruin of my life. My whole personality was changed. I made myself paranoid, always on the verge of being found out.

So I stole, filched and lifted, for years.