I grew up at the mall. As the mall got bigger and bigger I got bigger and bigger. I dreamed that when I got really big I would get a job in the record department of one of the department stores. On my lunch breaks I would buy a case of warm beer and drink it in my Mercury. I would puke and then go back to selling records.
One summer day when Manny and I were up at the mall living our mall rodent lives we left the mall the same way we had come in. One problem though, someone had stolen our bikes we had left outside. We were two pissed off mall rodents. Our bicycles were our freedom. They took us to the mall where we thought we would one day meet and see the tits of the women of our wet dreams; the old town dump, where we rummaged in the toxic waste like bears with bad hair cuts; to the forest, where we ate huckle, salmon and black berries until we had to pedal like fuck home to shit; and on hot summer days to the beach where we swam in the shit of a million berry eating bastards just like us.
There were lots of places around the mall to dump stolen bikes so we started looking around. Our parents would not be happy to learn we had traded in our bikes for a bag of LSD or whatever it was parents thought kids sold their bikes for in those days. We looked in empty lots and construction sites and behind the badly painted corner stores Chinese people owned. No bikes.
Then we saw a dog who belonged to one of the many neighbourhood threats. "Sparky! How are you boy?" Sparky used to walk with the kids to school in the morning in the days when dogs ran loose in Sliverville the way speed freaks do now. "Hey Sparky! Let's go find Corky!" Sparky wagged his tail and we followed him in the dim hope he would follow Corky's scent. Corky was one of the boys who would often have after school fist fights in the corner of the school grounds or in the empty lot by the fire hall. He played hockey. These days kids like Corky get given pills. Back then Corky was resourceful enough to find drugs without a doctor's help.
Sparky took us this way and that, his nose searching the Earth for Corky's scent, until we came to an abandoned construction site with mountains of dirt all grown over with weeds, clover, broken glass and empty cigarette packs. Behind one of the mountains of dirt and trash were our dumped bikes. "Good boy Sparky!" Manny and I rubbed the dog and praised it like it had found Osama bin Laden behind a mountain of dead bodies in Afghanistan.
Later we told Corky his dog had led us to our bikes. We knew Corky and one of his hoodlum buddies had stolen the bikes but there was no point confronting him about it. It was better to tell him his dog had given him up. Corky looked guilty but he did not give a fuck for what Manny and I thought. Manny and I did not play organized hockey and therefore had little, if any, right to our bikes in the first place.
Corky grew to become one of the biggest sources of teen trouble in Sliverville. He bought a big motorcycle with the profits of his questionable commercial ventures and the police never did get catch up with him. Manny and I were the only guys to ever bust him. Last I heard of Corky he had become an engineer. Think about that the next time you cross a bridge.
Sparky died after Manny had found himself a girl at the mall who would show him her tits and I had left home for Fort Royal where there were new malls for me to look for the same. Nowadays there are no neighbourhood dogs running free with all the children under their watchful eye in Sliverville or any decent sized city. New laws have forced dog owners to keep their pets behind fences. Dogs like Sparky deserve the freedom of the neighbourhood not just their back yards.