If you plan every detail carefully, nothing can go wrong. I believed that when I was a teenager. Like the time Billy Long and I decided to make our own beer. Once in a while we used to steal a couple of Billy’s father’s beers, but we were always afraid we would get caught.
We were in the shed behind Billy’s house that we were using as a club house. We were sitting in the broken-back chairs smoking cigarettes that I had stolen from my father’s pack. I didn’t even inhale then. I just drew in a puff of smoke and blew it toward the ceiling, thinking it made me look sophisticated.
It was a hot day just after Fourth of July. I wiped my brow and said, “I sure could use a cold beer.” I didn’t even really like beer then, but Billy and I thought that drinking beer made us more manly. We both knew we couldn’t steal any of Billy’s father’s beer, because there were only a few left in the case, so if we took a couple, they would be missed.
Billy took a puff on his cigarette and started coughing. When he got the cough under control, he said, “I’ve got an idea.”
Billy had an uncle who made his own beer. “He got a kit for about fifty bucks, and makes a batch of beer. After that you can get refills for under twenty bucks to make more.”
“How long does it take to brew the beer?” I asked.
“Just a few weeks. We could brew it out here in the club house. No one would know.”
“We could put our resources together,” I said, “and we’d have enough to buy a kit. So where do you buy them?” I liked using words like resources. I thought it made me sound more intellectual.
Billy’s face clouded over. “The only place you can get them is the internet, and you need a credit card to do that.”
I thought it over for a minute. “I have my father’s credit card number,” I said.
“Won’t you get in trouble if you do that?”
“Not if I’m careful. Dad’s secretary writes out a check for the credit card payment, and he just signs it.
“We have to plan,” I said. “First of all, where are we going to have them send the kit?”
“We can’t have them send it here,” Billy said. “My mom would want to know what that package was.”
“What about your uncle?”
“Naw, he’d tell my mom.”
I thought about it for a minute. “Okay,” I said, we can have it sent to my house, if we’re really careful.”
“Wouldn’t your mom wonder about the package?”
“No, Fed Ex makes deliveries in our neighborhood in the late afternoon. That would be before my father gets home from work, and my Mom would be on her second or third cocktail.”
Billy looked out the window at two squirrels scurrying around in the yard.
“So, as soon as the package arrives, you could just bring it down to my house, and we’d be in business.”
“Uh, no. I forgot about Old Man Schiller. If I walked past his house, he would wonder where I was going, maybe accuse me of stealing something. He always makes a big deal out of everything. Once when a kid was trying to sell magazine subscriptions, Old Man Schiller got pissed off when the kid wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. He pointed a gun at the kid, who got out of there fast.”
Billy had to run some errands for his mom. We decided to get together the next morning and try to figure out how to get the beer-making kit from my house to his.
When we met next day, Billy had come up with an idea. “My uncle, the one who makes beer, he has a drone. He lets me play with it sometimes. As long as he doesn’t know what we were going to do with it, he’d probably let me borrow it. It has enough power to carry a light load from your house to mine.”
I had practiced enough with the drone, so I was ready when the beer-making kit arrived. I went out, picked up the box, and took around to the other side of the garage where the drone was. It took just a minute to attach the box to the drone and launched it.
It sailed up over the garage, over our house and over Old Man Schiller’s house. Then I heard a sharp crack, and the drone twirled around dizzily before it plummeted down.
I ran around to the front of the house so I could see into Old Man Schiller’s yard. Pieces of the drone and the beer-making kit were scattered on the lawn. Old Man Schiller gazed down on the debris, still holding his rifle in his arm.