When I was around nine my grandmother sent me down to the local grocery store to get a large, empty cardboard box for some project she was working on. The woman behind the counter went into the back and came out with a great big box with the word KOTEX stamped on all three sides in bright red ink and 84 point type. I thought I was going to die of embarrassment. I came up with the bright idea that if I put the box over my head, nobody would know it was me. That meant, of course, that I couldn't see anything, but my house was a few blocks away along a route I was thoroughly familiar with. I thought that by shuffling my feet, so as to know of unexpected obstacles on the pavement, listening for the sound of other pedestrians and stepping to one side, and keeping both my arms stretched out full length in order to be aware of any other obstacles, I could make it home anonymously. I must not have been the sharpest blade in the drawer, to feel that this was an effective strategy, but it made sense to me at the time. I did make it home under the box. Everybody who didn't actually get to see Kathy Emond, the little fat kid with the orthopaedic shoes, walking down the street under a Kotex box, got to hear about it. I provided just about everybody in town with their laugh for the day. I didn't run into anything either, but was in some danger of being run down by drivers laughing so hard they lost control of their cars. Fortunately, traffic in North Bennington was a car about every ten or 15 minutes, so I was good there also, and eventually lived it down.
Then there was my brief membership in the The Bad Girls Club. My best friend Carole and I had read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We realized that we were tired of being good girls and decided to form the Bad Girls Club. We drew up a document stating that each member of the club (all two of us) had to tell one lie every day, steal one thing every day, and curse on a daily basis. The lying part was hard. We ruled out lies that would get other people into trouble, like, "I saw Dickie Shaw smoking a cigarette behind his father's garage." We weren't that bad. We also had to rule out lies that could result in being caught and experiencing the inevitable retribution. We were left with things like, "I saw my first robin out in the field this morning." Still, there was a tiny, wicked thrill. Stealing wasn't easy either. All I can remember of that is my one big heist. I stole a homemade rhubarb pie from my grandmother's kitchen and took it to my treehouse and ate the whole thing. Shortly thereafter, I broke out into giant red hives all over my little thieving carcass. My grandmother, who could put two and two together very easily in this case, was ecstatic. She stripped me naked and made me lean over the kitchen table, whereupon she slapped a cold baking soda compress over every inch of me, while laughing nonstop, inbetween recitations of Bible verses about the fruits of transgression. Carol and I ended up abandoning the club, although we would still curse once in awhile.
In high school I was accepted into an advanced placement class at Bennington College. One day I went to class only to find a note on the door that the professor was ill and class was cancelled. I should have gone back to school and spent the hour in study hall, but it was a beautiful spring day and I realized that - Shazam! - I could be one of those thugs who cut school - a capitol offense. I wandered down the streets of North Bennington, the sun on my back, my hair blowing in the breeze. One big problem, in the first twenty minutes of this halcyon experience I met four grownups, all known to me and my grandmother, who said, "Why aren't you in school??" I went straight to school then, but I didn't dare go to study hall because I had no explanation for the missing 20 minutes of criminal behavior. So I spent the rest of the hour in the girls bathroom with my feet drawn up so the stall would appear to be unoccupied. Man, it was hard to be bad in North Bennington, Vermont, you just couldn't catch a break.