On summer nights when I was a kid, I would sometimes stay with a group of friends in the neighborhood whose parents set up a tent for us in their backyard. There would always be five or six of us, and after midnight, when the parents had gone to sleep, we would slip out into the night and cause a little harmless trouble: soaping windows, ringing doorbells, slinging toilet paper over our neighbors’ trees and rooftops. I was probably nine then, and much too chickenshit to ever do anything really bold, but one night with a bar of Irish Spring I wrote a single four-letter obscenity on the garage door of the house directly across the street from my mother’s. When I got back to the tent to brag myself up to my pals, they all got suddenly serious. Windows, it turned out, were fair game, because they didn’t take that much to clean up, but soap on a garage door…What a dumbass I was!…that could destroy the paint, which meant property damage, which meant crime, which meant all of us in a hell of a lot of trouble. I was so scared that I crept back out into the darkness with a cup full of ice cubes and, using my socks as rags, being careful not to make a sound — I was sure that a light would come on at any second or that a police car would come flashing around the corner — I spent an hour diligently scrubbing the soap marks off that heavy, dark brown door. It’s probably the hardest I ever worked as a kid. When I was finished, I scurried back into the tent and made myself a promise that I would never do anything half that stupid again. And if I ever needed a reminder, all I had to do was look at that garage door, where, for several years after, even a moderately perceptive person could make out four large, mysterious clean marks, in the general shapes of the letters “F”, “U”, “C”, and “K”.