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I was only a kid when I discovered the lollipops. They were set out in the display in the window of the pharmacy. They were all colors, sizes, and flavors. Every day when I walked past the pharmacy, the lollipops reached out to me. I smelled their sweetness, even though they were inside. I tasted the lemon on my tongue. I longed for a lollipop. Oh, how I longed for just one! And every day, I didn’t have any money.
One day in late November, I shuffled down the sidewalk in great exhaustion. I had missed breakfast and lunch. As I reached the pharmacy and it’s lollipop display, I licked my lips like a dog. Some kids opened the door and the warm, sugary smell wafted out. I sucked it up. I knew I would get a lollipop.
Quickly, I darted in behind the kids, and nobody even noticed I was there. I went straight to the window display and chose the sweetest, largest lollipop. Then I slipped out of the store and headed down the sidewalk before anyone saw.
I opened the lollie and took a lick. It tastes almost exactly how I imaged—sweet, with just the slightest hint of sour. But there was another taste—a bitter taste—a taste that, I was sure, didn’t belong in a lollipop.
I frowned, tucking the lollipop back in it’s wrapper. I put it right in my pocket. Now that burning, bitter feeling was lodged in my gut, and I didn’t like it. That night when I threw my jeans into the corner, the lollipop stayed in the pocket. But even though the lollipop was tucked away in that shadowy corner, a little of that feeling lingered in my dreams like a bitter aftertaste.
That morning, I wore a different pair of pants and went downstairs. My dad was reading aloud from the newspaper.
“’… a massive break in, causing security alarms to go off…’”. An alarm went off in my head, and I dropped my spoon. That burning, bitter feeling in my gut had just become something else. It became a realization. I realized that I was a thief.
I dashed upstairs, tore the lollipop from the pocket of my jeans, and hurled in to the back of my closet. I never wanted to see that lollipop again, and I never wanted to feel that burning, bitter feeling in my gut, either.
After that, I mostly forgot about that lollipop. I pushed it to the back of my brain just like I pushed it to the back of my closet. But one day, walking home from school, a small, yellow something caught the corner of my eye. I glanced at the window display—it was the lollipop. I remembered the special money in my jeans pocket. I went into the store and held out the bills. But these bills weren’t for a lollipop. They were going to fix everything.
“What are these for?” demanded the store owner. I told him how I stole one of his candies.
“I’m really sorry,” I mumbled, feeling the embarrassment heavy on my shoulders. His expression softened a little.
“It’s alright,” he said. “Thanks for telling me. Don’t ever do it again, you hear?”
“Yeah,” I said, and trotted out of the store.
Now, I can feel the bitter feeling in my gut. I can feel the embarrassment. But even now, I can feel that warm sensation I got when I gave the money to the store manager.
When I trotted out of that store, I left behind the lollipop, but more importantly, the thief.