The time I stole an AK-47

The first thing I ever stole was an AK47 machine gun with a luminous green scope. An object of murderous beauty. Of course, it wasn’t real. Rather a cheap plastic replica toy, no doubt fashioned in a Chinese warehka-boomouse where children the size of teaspoons spend 29 hours a day screwing poisonous plastic moulds together with their teeth.

My mother and I had hoofed it down to the shops to buy something inane like a bottle of bread or a loaf of milk when my eye had been drawn to a dramatic (and, one could argue, morally reckless) display of plastic guns at the end of the toy aisle. There were shotguns and sniper rifles aplenty; even Uzis and rocket launchers all crammed together like a floral arrangement of death. I loved all of them, of course, but I was particularly partial to the AK-47 – of which one was leaning provocatively towards me. And so, as you might imagine, I politely asked mum if she would buy it for me.

‘Mother, if you don’t buy me that AK-47 I will burn down our house.’

‘Gareth, we’re just here to buy a potato. I don’t have money for an expensive toy.’

To make her point, she flashed me the inside of her purse which duly contained but a solitary coin. Bear in mind that this was about 1980 and you could buy a car for fifty rand.

Being of a reasonable slant, I then threw the sort of apoplectic tantrum that sent shelf packers scrambling for an early lunch and brought the store manager running from his office.

But my mother has a reputation for standing her ground and my screams nary made a dent in her resolve. I threw a tin of coffee at her which almost did leave a dent, but she’s a nimble old gal is Cherrill.

I realised then that the only way I was going to get my mitts on Lieutenant General Mikhail Kalashnikov’s work of art, was to steal it. And so, when the backs of all the adults were turned, I crept up to the toy stand and slipped an AK-47 under my shirt. As one does.

So as my mother paid for her potato neither she nor the lady perched behind the till appeared to notice the massive rifle bulging out from underneath my shirt. The fact that the rifle barrel was sticking into my cheek should have given the adults a hint that something was rotten in the state of Glenanda, but for some reason their eyes had stopped working.

I can recall making it all the way home like that, my mother barely offering a glance in my direction. There are obvious advantages to your mother being sick at the sight of you.

When we got through the gate, I hurried to the back yard where I spent the rest of the afternoon firing the plastic gun at anything that moved. Sadly, at one point I dived off a bench and landed on a grass hump with the gun pressed against my stomach. Which, it pains me to say even now, caused the faux AK-47 to explode into a heap of plastic bits. Such was the candescence of my rage that I decided at once to share this shoddy workmanship with my mother. Perhaps we could race back to the shops and demand both an exchange and an apology, I thought.

‘Look at this, mother. Just look at this!’ I yelled, cradling chunks of useless polymer in my hands. ‘It’s an outrage. How can they peddle this rubbish to kids? It’s not fair! I want a new one!’

Needless to say, what followed involved lots of harrumphing, some angry finger-wagging and a stomp back to the shops where I was not only scolded for my crime, but threatened with the police and a stint in the big house as well.

Pfff. I knew my rights. Nobody sends a seven year-old to jail.

Notably, as the grown-ups went off to chat about what reparations needed to be made, they made the fundamental error of leaving me, once again, standing alone beside the rifle stand.

This time I stole an Uzi.

When the manager man came back to yell at me, I dropped my chin to my chest and pretended to cry. What I was actually doing was squinting at the shiny hand cannon pressed against my chest trying to see if it came with a magazine of sponge bullets.

‘Ok, that’s enough,’ my mother said. ‘He’s just a boy. And he’s learnt his lesson. Haven’t you, Gareth?’

‘I have, mom. I’ll never steal another AK-47. I promise. (The quality of the plastic isn’t there.)’

And I never did.

My word is my bond.

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