Tota, age 6, was Rudy’s childhood friend. He was part of the crowd. One of the boys. Someone who wanted to do the right thing, mostly. But because of peer pressure from his buddies, sometimes he did the wrong thing.
The women in town made it a point to purchase snacks to share with their friends whenever they came to visit. A nice cup of tea, and some scrumptious cookies always filled the bill. Those cookies weren’t to be touched by anyone except for the woman who bought them. And only when she invited someone over, or when other women invited themselves to stop by for some good conversation. Or maybe just a bit of gossip.
One day, the boys were outside playing their crazy made-up games, running around, having a great time. Having fun until one of them, and then all of them, began to feel the pangs of hunger. Or maybe not hunger, but a desire for something sweet. Something good. And before you know it, all the boys are staring at Tota. They all knew what lay hidden behind his kitchen cupboard doors, sealed, waiting to satisfy. Cookies. Layers of small, buttery cookies.
“Come on, Tota,” one boy started, then another and another.
“I can’t,” he began, his eyes wide, almost fearful. “My mom will burn my fingers if I even think about stealing a few.”
“Nah, no way. She wouldn’t do that. Come on,” the boys continued their chant.
The boys snuck in, following Tota into his house. He quietly grabbed the tin of cookies, peeled the clear wrap away, lifted the lid and allowed his pals to choose a cookie here and a cookie there, until half were gone.
“She’ll never guess,” someone said, as they tiptoed out of front door, each heading to his own home, each living in a house on the same street.
Later, as everyone gathered at a predetermined time, at a predetermined place to continue their shenanigans, someone wondered where Tota was. They looked toward his house, which was directly across the street from where they stood. Suddenly, there he was, walking with his head down, walking toward the boys he spends most his time with, the boys he can depend on.
“I told you she’d burn my fingers if I took some cookies,” he stated, holding up two fingers, red from a flame being held to them. No one said a word. No one needed to. Their wide-eyed scared looked said it all.