Quarters and the Taxco Gas Station

With my mom’s new found freedom from the chains of wedlock with my father, she rejoined the workforce she had abandoned when my brother got Leukemia. Since it was decided that my 6th-grade-old self was capable of keeping my brother and I alive for the three hours between school ending and mom getting home, we were free as well.
There were, of course, rules put in place as clouds into ether.
1. No answering the door for strangers.
2. No fighting with your brother.
3. No fighting with your sister.
4. Under no circumstance are you allowed to cross Woodlake.
We did our best to adhere to household policy, but to be honest we get a pretty abysmal record.
Now Woodlake was a two lane road running down the center of my neighborhood, my world. It was the maternal paranoia equivalent of an eight-lane highway in Germany. To be fair to my mother and her parenting abilities, the street did connect to the onramp and offramp of the 101 Freeway. Reckless drivers speeding a reckless 20 MPH could have certainly slaughtered us and any one of the numerous petafiles in sleepy white suburbia could have snatched us up and driven us to Santa Barbara where we would adjust to life on a hippie commune growing marijuana and acorn squash.
On the other side of this hell gate was the Taxco gas station. In it held everything my mom would never allow in our pantry: ho-hos, cherry soda, jelly beans, and Bubble Chew. My brother and I determined that the best way to thwart evildoers was to run as quickly as possible, as closely as possible down Leonora Drive where we would cross Woodlake with absurd caution. After all, as any smart kid knew, if we were run over or kidnapped Mom would definitely find out…a prospect that terrified us arguably more than any suspect on America’s Most Wanted list.
A successful trip included a Dr. Pepper and Peanut M&Ms for me; a Coke or Cactus Cooler for my brother to be eaten with a plastic-wrapped pair of Ding Dongs with the swirly frosting tie. All of this was paid for by the exact person we were betraying. Anything found near the washing machine, under a bed, or in the blue dish my mom kept jewelry and lint in was fair game. We were never caught. I attribute this to economically whittling the journey down to a 5.5 minute trip along with craftily hiding all wrappers and cans in the bottom of the trash can. A trick I kept in my back pocket for parentless high school parties later on in life.