I am thy father’s spirit.
Doomed for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood;
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine. (Shakespeare)
If the whole of the court and the whole of society is corrupt, and if there is a flaw running through the linear chain of humanity, then my contribution to it can only be termed a failure.
A well known fact is that, although corruption is birthed from somewhere in the middle of our double helix of DNA (probably stuck between scatology and cynicism strands), it is a concept usually introduced to us by our older brothers.
Biological or not, I fall into the later category. And boy was my brother a master.
This story about my fall starts with a brief word about the shoes I tried to follow. My brother Clyde and his good friend Rob took to shoplifting school supplies from a local bookstore.
A pencil (here).
A beautiful ink fountain pen (there).
Next—almost every damn thing in the store.
The inventory must have shown that something was wrong. Somebody had to be opening a supply store nearby and didn’t want to purchase their stock.
Deep in Clyde’s closet, was a box with the booty. A treasure box hidden well from a mother’s prying eyes. He and his friend would take out the box and gloat over its contents. I was only given permission to look on rare occasions.
Of course, my privy eyes would bulge. This was incredibly neat stuff. The seed was planted. Their talk of thievery was so casual, it must be an activity worth exploring; must be relatively easy. Just look at their cache.
Yes, there is profit in transgression! There is perfect logic in it. One must imitate an older brother’s enterprise—his art.
So off I went, in pursuit of splendor. Off to start my life of crime. I was thy brother’s spirit, riding towards the store on my new bicycle.
The plan was perfect. I had a leather pouch with straps, hanging from the back of the seat. It was the ideal place to stash the goods. Such praise from Fagan.
I entered the store with the eyes of Artful Dodger, trained with amazing awareness. Yes, that would be nice. The clerk is not looking. The clerk is looking. This location is obstructed from view. Act like a browser. Casual demeanor disarms suspicion. If you act nervous horns will sound, Doberman Pinchers will come bounding down the aisle and make lunch meat out of you. Do they send boys to prison?
A problem arises. I just can’t do it. I am too nervous. The anxiety within me is so intense that the booming of my heartbeat is reverberating from the walls. Books will start vibrating and fall from the shelves.
I can’t chicken out though. The humiliation would be even more painful than my cowardice. It is no longer a matter of how much to take, but more like what would be the easiest to conceal and how fast I can get out of there.
I can snatch and run. No—too risky. The minutes seem like hours.
Doesn’t this boy have a home? He must be lost. He must be waiting for his mother.
Finally, my eyes spy the object of my corruption; the singular article confining me to fast in fires. It is a Bic ball-point pen. It’s net worth: nineteen cents. Nineteen cents for a soul. It spoke to me.
Casual as an earthquake, I lifted it from the shelf. I inspected it. Yes, must be quite a fine pen. Try it out. Balances nicely! Walk down the aisle a bit. Nobody looking! In the pants. Better be safe and put it inside the underwear. Now just walk slowly towards the door. It is getting nearer. Keep your eyes straight. There was no tunnel when I came in here. Why was the damn door shrinking? Out the door! Walk slowly. Run! Yes—run like hell to the bike.
Once I got there, I burrowed into my pants for the pen. I put it into the leather pouch and rode home as fast as I could. The anxiety only got worse. I waited for the sound of police sirens in the distance. Upon entering our garage, I quickly closed the door, put my back to the cold brick wall and waited. Still no siren! I peered around through the window. The coast was clear. I did it!
But wait! Where was the pen? I frantically searched the pouch, but it was nowhere to be found. I searched again, but it was not there. I couldn’t believe it. This was all for nothing. Then my brother came up the driveway.
“What ya doing in there?”
“Nothing,” I returned.
To this date, the sight of a Bic ball-point pen causes each of my particular hairs to stand on end, like the quills upon the fretful porpentine.