by Aaron J. Tolson

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    This isn’t how things are supposed to be. Corey’s stealing, and I’m the one who feels caught.

    “Come on, Aaron,” Corey* said. “Just be cool and help me out.” Corey leaned over in a confidential way. “Just call the night manager to take the garbage out to the dock.”

    Corey was my friend. He was a couple of years older than me and played on the football team, and I was kind of proud to hang around with a popular guy like him. My mind was racing as I tried to decide what to do. After all, I wasn’t really doing anything wrong. I was just doing my work, and the garbage did need to go out.

    Before this, I had been having a good night. I had taken some cardboard back to the baler, and I was surprised to find Corey, who was sticking some plastic in a garbage can. He jumped back, fear in his eyes, and then relaxed.

    “Oh, it’s just you,” he had said, laughing.

    “Why are you here on your night off?” I asked.

    “Hey, just helping a friend with his work,” he joked. But I had already seen the case of beer stashed in the garbage.

    He knew that I knew he was stealing from the store.

    “See, Aaron,” he said, “these kids pay me 25 bucks for a 12-pack. I’ll give you part of the money for helping me,” he had said. Finally, though, I decided that I couldn’t go along with this. It wasn’t worth the friendship.

    “No,” I finally said, “you’re on your own. I don’t want to be involved. Call the night manager yourself.”

    As I collected the carts from the front, I started feeling guilty, but I kept on telling myself it was no big deal, that it wasn’t really my problem. I went home that night, not feeling very peaceful or good about myself. I just tried to forget the whole thing.

    I was still trying to bury my guilt in school, when a girl I barely knew came up to me.

    “Hey, you and Corey have quite a system out there at the store,” she said. “Thanks for helping us party.”

    “What?” I said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I responded.

    “Sure,” she said, walking away smiling. At first I was angry that there were obviously people who thought I was stealing beer. I started thinking about it, though, and realized she was right. I was helping Corey steal because I knew about it and wasn’t doing anything to stop it.

    As scared as I felt, I decided I would tell my manager what had been going on. The next day I found out that Corey had been fired after finally admitting to stealing. I also found out that he knew I had told on him. I thought for a while he would beat me up, but since we went to different high schools, I never saw him—until a few years later.

    I was sitting in an ice cream store with some friends. A guy came through the door, and it was unmistakably Corey. I tried to sink in my chair, but he was looking right at me. He walked over with his friends.

    “Hey, guys, this is Aaron,” he said, introducing me.

    “Hi, what’s up?” I said.

    “You notice anything different?” he asked. “I went through the temple today,” he said. “I’m going on a mission to England. Give me your address.”

    I about fell off my chair. I never thought he would want to go on a mission. He got my address, shook my hand, and walked off. I went to his farewell. Later, he wrote me a letter, telling me how mad he had been at first about getting fired, but how it helped him see where he was headed, and that he was glad he repented.

    As it turned out “telling” was the best thing I ever did for Corey. It was something a true friend would do.

    Photography by John Luke

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    • Name has been changed.