Monday, September 22, 2008

A Dows House

We did our share of TP'ing (toilet-papering) houses back in high school. Most of the time it was done under night's dark protection although I did write an entry a while ago about Cindy and I doing this to Rick's house one summer's dawn.

But to criminals, the thrill of the crime comes not just from the results, but also taking a daring risk and getting away with it. That fateful one day, we decided to forgo the mundane, cliched modus operandi of plastering a house at night; we would do the job in the stark daylight of the afternoon.

Duane, David and Rick knew Janet Dows from their Audubon days. After graduating junior high, she'd moved to Culver City from the Crenshaw area. Apparently from inside her house, the front yard was obscured from view. She would be the target.

With a healthy supply of inventory, the four of us drove up the hill in Duane's gray Chevy Nova and parked across the street several houses down the hill from Janet's residence. Duane and David would pay her a visit while Rick and I played exterior decorators.

"Twenty minutes, that's all we need," Rick told them. "If we get done any earlier we'll honk the horn."

"We'll be done sooner than twenty," Duane assured us. "You be ready."

We watched from the car while Duane and David went up the steps, were greeted by Janet, and went inside. Rick and I went to work.

Like calm, seasoned professionals, we carried bags of toilet paper from the car to the house, set it down, tore open the plastic and boldly proceeded to unravel the rolls all over Janet's yard. Double-ply in shades of blue, green, yellow and white festooned the trees, bushes and ivy of the house. This wasn't the cheap stuff that people used to sneak out of Holiday Bowl's bathroom - this was high grade supermarket mansion-quality paper.

A little boy had been watching us from a neighbor's yard and walked over.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"We're decorating the house for a party," I told him.

"Are you supposed to be doing that?"

"Yes, I told you there's going to be a party here later and we're getting things ready. Doesn't it look like a party?"

"Do they know you're here?" The boy was persistent.

"Of course they know," said Rick. "It's their party. Why don't you go home and watch TV?"

"I watched Adam 12 last night," responded the boy upon hearing Rick mention TV. "That's my favorite show. Last night, they.." And he continued providing us with a synopsis of the episode. Meanwhile Rick and I paid little attention to him as we used up lots of footage going back and forth across the yard, and up and down on the tree. When the last roll had been unraveled, we headed back to the car.

"You're finished?" the boy asked.

"Yes, we're all done. Goodbye!" Rick waved at him.

The boy waved back and I looked at Rick. "What's with that little punk asking all those questions and talking so much about Adam 12?" We laughed and climbed in the car. There was still no sign of Duane or David, so Rick honked the horn.

Duane and David had heard the horn. But they were having so much fun catching up on things with Janet that they figured there was no harm in making Rick and I wait a while longer. After all, they hadn't seen each other in a while and to leave abruptly after fifteen or twenty minutes didn't seem like the right thing to do.

Rick and I sat in the car and waited, and we also admired our work of art. "Where the hell are they?" I was gettig impatient. "Honk the horn again."

"Get down!" Rick shouted all of a sudden. "The cops are here!"


"The Culver City police just pulled in front of Janet's house and that little punk is out there talking to them!" Rick whispered. "He must have called them! If he points over here, we're dead!"

"Him and his stupid Adam 12!"

When the cops walked further onto the yard to examine our job, Rick and I slid out of Duane's car and ran down the hill, out of their view. We kept running until we came to the bottom where we rested and caught our breath. "What's the matter with those two?" I asked angrily. "Didn't they hear the horn? Now what are we gonna do?"

"I'm going to kill them," declared Rick.

"Hey, do you know Janet's number?" He didn't. "Is it in the phone book?"

There was a store not far from where we had run, and we headed over there to use the pay phone. Thankfully, Janet's number was listed. Rick gave her a call. I heard Rick's end of the conversation and was curious to know the other end after he hung up.

It turns out the police had rang Janet's bell and asked her about the toilet paper strewn across her yard. Thankfully she had been cool and told them that yes, she was having a party and she knew about this so there was no need to proceed any further with the matter. She thought it was hilarious. Duane and David were on their way to pick us up.

"Didn't you hear the horn?" we asked when they arrived. "Why the hell didn't you hurry up and come outside?" The two who had been on the inside began accusing each other of delay tactics.

"We almost got ourselves arrested and there you were sitting there laughing and having a good time," Rick said. "Next time, WE go in and you do the dirty work!"

"What 'next time?'" I asked.

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