Episode LI –Quintet Concerto in the Key of Grocery.

As the harpsichord clanged out a bright sprightly baroque melody, I leaned over Secret’s shoulder and offered slight aesthetic adjustments from my stash of knowledge. Secret had insisted upon musical accompaniment before any work actually transpired on the project. Before I could speak any theoretical words of wisdom, we had conducted a lively debate about what our ears would absorb while our brains worked. Secret had preferred a slow, stately piece from Brahms. I had argued persuasively that such music would cause the project to be abandoned in favor of sleep. The compromise therefore pounded away in the background as we made the smooth shifts and alterations that the fake document required.

Secret and I made a great team on the project, an excellent point and counterpoint to each other. I had abstract ideas on exactly how the final version needed to appear. Secret had the requisite technical skill to translate my theory into a serviceable, working version. I also wasn’t there for mere moral support. My smiling mug had a one in two chance of appearing on license as one “A. Smith” from Iowa City, Iowa. The second option out of the dual choices was Secret. Since one of us would be brandishing our handiwork in a quickstep of deception to suspicious third parties, we wanted it to look good, if not excellent, to prevent getting clapped in irons or sent to the stocks.

Secret and I had obtained this dubious distinction from the cabal after a careful process of elimination had occurred. The Party Member had a constant shifty grin that was inherently suspicious. Sweet was just too gangly and tall to be credible. The Man was always busy with football, basketball or church. He also had a steady girlfriend who already felt neglected. Moreover, he didn’t drink at all, because he was simply bored by the whole concept of loading his pores with an intoxicating substance. The very honor of our criminal enterprise would have been lost if we had asked him to do something for us with no real benefit for him.

This left me and my purported ageless face that could grow heavy stubble in a matter of minutes. The cabal argued that this made me look older; I argued that it merely made me appear my age, with unkempt stubble. Secret was the best choice. A random survey of people not involved in the conspiracy placed his age between 18 and 25. The most compelling evidence was the final document production from Secret’s printer. On the left, Secret’s face smiled serenely up at us. On the right, my crooked grin looked suspicious from a distance, without even looking at the surrounding text. There really was no comparison. We took the copies down to a friend at the architecture school, promised him some liquid compensation, and had him laminate the two fraudulent licenses, one for use, and the other for after-hours laughs.

Once laminated, we assembled the cabal and piled into the Man’s 1970 Ford Explorer that only received Marine Band and had no 8 Track at all. In the hulking steel monstrosity, we rumbled over to the local grocery store. Outside, all of us pooled our odd crumpled dollars into a wrinkled pile which Secret pocketed while ignoring the myriad separate requests for different varieties of liquor. Rather than wait for him to enter the store calmly and normally, we pushed him out the car door. Then, with unnatural trepidation, we followed him inside in two second intervals. We dispersed throughout the store to different aisles to examine different items that we had no intention of buying. With our furtive glances and shifty behavior we were at greater risk of suspicion for shoplifting than purchasing liquor with a fake license.

I had point. I could see Secret in the liquor aisle. He made a selection. He was in line. He displayed the fraudulent document calmly. I looked down at the catnip. I looked up. He was at the exit, items safely stashed in brown bags. No alarms rang. No bells were sounded. No secret store police followed him out, and briskly escorted him back for incarceration. I let out my breath with noisily. I then sauntered back to Sweet and Party, and we strode quickly and loudly out of the store.