On the ride home, I became convinced that we were going to be in a terrible accident, both of us killed by a tractor-trailer speeding down the wrong side of the highway. When my mom came to identify the bodies, and collect our things, she'd tell the nurse how sweet I'd been, how I'd never cried as a baby, and how I was so smart that I'd been attending private school. And when she got home, and started leafing through my backpack, she'd cry a bit at my tattered Tolkien, she'd cluck her tongue at the blank sheet of graph paper in my algebra book (I was supposed to have finished my homework that afternoon) and then she'd see the Wall Street Journal, and marvel at what an intelligent boy she was raising. A few seconds later, when the porno fell out, she'd realize what a complete sexual deviant I was, and she'd cut me out of all the family photographs.
Luckily for my family, there was no terrible accident between my dad's work and our house. I ran upstairs the moment we got home, and stuffed the magazine under my mattress. During dinner, I realized that my father kept his porn beneath the mattress, so, clearly, my mother would know that that's the first place to check for those kinds of things. I asked to be excused. I ran back upstairs,and began frantically looking around the room. The desk was out, as I'd known for years that my mother liked to go through all of my drawers while I was at school. I couldn't hide it in my closet because my mom had once found a turtle I'd been keeping in a shoebox in there, and she had dug through it once a week, ever since. Under the gerbil cage! Perfect. I hid the magazine and returned to dinner. After dinner, I leisurely watched four minutes of TV before heading back to my room. Under the gerbil cage was a terrible place. What if my mother decided to clean the cage while I played with my friends? Or what if Rhoda or Ralph (the gerbils) decided to make a bigger nest, and moved enough wood chips out of the way to expose the magazine's glossy cover? Doom! I decided that under the mattress was the best I could do for the moment, and decided to go to bed early to protect it.
The next day, my parents let me stay home. I searched the basement for an appropriate hiding place for my new treasure. Under the carpet? Inside the jacket of my old Mousercise record? Every possible spot seemed too conspicuous. The magazine was just too thick. There was no safe place for it. I was a wreck. There were only four hours before my parents came back from work, and I had no idea what to do with it.
I had a small heart attack when the phone rang, and my mom asked me what I was doing. "Playing....Nintendo." I said. My hands were shaking.
"Ok, hon, see you soon."
Soon? Oh, God. Not soon. Anything but soon. I had to do something. Something must be done. Drastic measures needed to be taken. And that's when it hit me. I didn't need the entire magazine. Most of the articles didn't make any sense to me, and I had no use for the pictures of just women. I ran up to my room, took out a pair of scissors, and cut out my favorite fifteen pages of the magazine, which I tucked between the covers of my Where's Waldo books. Then, I brought the rest of the magazine downstairs, tore it into tiny pieces, and used it to start a fire in our charcoal grill. After about twenty minutes, there was nothing left of the magazine but ashes, and my fifteen favorite pages.
But what if my mom picked up the Waldo books while she was dusting, and the pictures fell out?
I went into the basement, swiped a roll of my father's electical tape, and attached the top of each page on the inside covers of all four of Waldo books, so that they were secure, but I could still flip them over to see the other side of the pages. I was clearly well on my way to becoming a criminal mastermind. I longed to tell someone about my evil genius. But who? Jennifer would be grossed out. Scott was treacherous scum. I couldn't risk showing the Waldo books to the other kids in school, lest a teacher discover my secret.
Kevin! Kevin would appreciate my burgeoning life of crime. I tossed my Waldo books into my backpack, and walked down the street to his house, and knocked on his door. He was in his room, playing Ninja Gaiden with Jeremy. When we were done marvelling at the graphics of the game, I opened up my backpack, and made them both swear not to tell anyone about what I was going to show them.
A week later, every kid in my neighborhood had borrowed my Where's Waldo books. When they were safely back on my bookshelf, I breathed for the first time since I found the stupid magazine. No one had been caught.
By then, school was back in session, and life had returned to passably normal. I kept my Where's Waldo books in my backpack at all times. Nobody at school knew I had them, and there was never a moment when my mom might stumble upon them while she was cleaning.
On a Saturday night that seemed as docile and soothing as any Saturday night, my parents invited Jeremy Burdick's parents over for dinner and drinks. I knew that Mr. Burdick and my father worked together, but I didn't know they were friends. And I'd never seen Mrs. Burdick out of their house before. After dinner, while the adults sat on the porch, drinking cocktails and telling stories, Jeremy and I went into the basement to play Kid Icarus. I had just been turned into an eggplant when my mother opened the door to the basement. "Hon?" She called.
"We're getting a little bored of playing cards up here. We were wondering if you'd mind going up to your room and bringing us a couple of your Waldo books. We want to see who can find him the fastest."
My little eggplant eyes bugged out. "Uhhhh...Sure."
I ran upstairs and tore all the pictures out of the book, leaving noticeable rips. I asked Jeremy to fold up the evidence and hide them somewhere. Crisis averted.
I went back to the basement and tried to de-eggplant myself. Jeremy came down a minute later.
"Where did you put them?" I asked.
He smiled. "I'll tell you later. Our parents might be listening."
We played the game a few minutes longer, and then he said "How come all the pictures in that book had guys in them? You gay?"
I paused the game. "They had girls in them, too."
"Fag." Jeremy said. Then he went upstairs and told his parents he wanted to go home.
After he left, I scoured my room for my pictures. When I didn't find them, I knew that Jeremy had taken them home with him. Oh, well. I hoped his parents found them and grounded him for a year.