The Cynglish Beat: Smuggler Munchkin

Excerpted from upcoming The Cynglish Beat by Tim Reynolds from Cometcatcher Press.

Mine was a good childhood, but even life in blanc mange suburbia can have its excitement. I don’t think most parents really think through what they’re teaching their children in terms of attitudes and life decisions.

Smuggler Munchkin
Smuggler Munchkin from The Cynglish Beat by Tim Reynolds


My white bread, succulently suburban childhood was filled with two parents, one poodle, two sisters, numerous turtles, and guppies beyond count, ad infinitum.

But to every bright, joyous, buoyant sunlit standard of suburban simplicity exists, lives, and dwells beneath the tastes, the touches and smells, a darkness, a rot, a mould, a mildew leaching away hope.

Our house and home and concrete castle was no different, no exception, no great improvement on the status quo. You see, we were smugglers, Avoiders of duty and excise, and we were all of four, seven and nine.

Mid-July, two hundred degrees — the criminal summer of ’69.

Loaded, goaded and bribed into the sweltering, sweaty, duMaurier King Size-stinking back seat of grandmother’s border-crossing, international law-defying Pontiac Parisienne.

The windows rolled down, the music turned off, the ashtray filling, the black-top rolling by — Mom as the wheelman and five-foot-nothing granny riding shotgun, armed only with her twisted-metal-handled flyswatter of corporal punishment and punitive pleasure.

It’s okay, acceptable and far out to shop Stateside and cross back north declaring only that we have nothing to declare except the falseness of the declaration, but play I Spy too enthusiastically or hog more than your divvied-up piece of the back seat and the swat came down with a snap, crackle and screaming pop.

The unbalanced insisting on balance — skewed and skewered balance.

In the store — The Kingdom of K-Mart, two hours of filling the banshee-squeaky-wheeled shopping cart — socks, underwear, cords, shirts, skirts, paisley, plaid and lime green.

It was the summer of ’69 and our fashion sense was almost obscene, itself a crime.

Cold metal cart, grid-work of pain for the munchkin relegated, voted and assigned to riding not walking, not talking, not gawking at the new Barbie Dream House.

Aisle after aisle of tedium I could never possibly forget.

Then the shopping is completed, finished and done, the munchkins are fed and the true ordeal begins.

Stripped down in the parking lot. Pins, cardboard, plastic wrap removed and the layers layered on, layer upon layer.

Two hundred degrees of heat in the summer of ’69 and three smuggler munchkins were pigs in a thousand woolly, child-cooking blankets, Michelin Men in miniature, just to avoid the duty and excise dully due to our duly elected dully neglected powers-that-be.

And after all that, after the rig, the marole, the whole shebang, they hit the roof and parts of each wall when I spent my youth shoplifting in my one-man gang.


I’m hoping that the statute of limitations has run out on such minor silliness.

Ciao for now,


Blog Post contents copyright 2010 Tim Reynolds.


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