It’s amazing what you can get away with in a store. Despite the idea of CCTV, security guards and tag triggered alarms, I’ve seen all manner of things happen on my trips outside. Once a woman pulled down her stockings defecated in a vase, pulled her stockings back over her fat ankles then waddled off, and no one did a thing about it. I watched her complete the whole process, then spent a number of minutes staring into the vase, holding my nose, wondering just how badly you’d need to go to choose that route. The same negligence of security happened when it came to theft too.
You can just stroll on in, take what you want, and in most cases you’re off, scot free. I’ve witnessed crime a handful of times first hand, with a friend slipping some sweets under his coat at a cinema, and a school kid helping himself to some heavy metal CDs. I didn’t say a word in either instance, for maybe they’d retaliate and attack, or my friend would abandon me? You never know with criminal friends and heavy metal fans, they turn violent at the slightest touch. That’s what they say in the papers anyway. And my friend left me anyway, not that I had any intention of remaining friends with a crook.
I myself had never committed a crime, at least not till one summer’s day in a clothing store. Everyone has a criminal within them waiting to be awakened.
I stood by the discounted shoes waiting for Trish to finish, she seemed to be trying everything on in the store, even the dresses tucked away in the storeroom, even the ones too big or too small. At least, that’s what it felt like. Time was going backwards, and I wasn’t getting out of here any time soon. I wondered how this shopping trip could be considered a date, and also how she looked a little different to her profile picture. For one, she had an extra chin. For two, she reminded me of the vase toilet women. I wasn’t too bothered though, I just wasn’t interested in trying on clothes.
So I did the mature thing that any bored shopper stander by would do; moan about being hungry and parched, even crawling on the floor for exaggerated effect. So she’d have to answer to my immature strop, and she did, by screaming at me in Spanish, and throwing the pile of clothes on the floor. To make up for it I picked a catalogue up from the front of the store so she could at least browse some more. It was the least I could do.
It wasn’t till I was eating a Panini and she was flipping through the Rag Tag magazine that I saw what terrible act I’d done. The front of the catalogue had a sticker with ‘£1’ on it, as in that was the payment the store needed for you to take one. I was a robber and she was my accomplice, though she hadn’t noticed as she was too transfixed with the magazines contents, and muttering something under her breath.
I didn’t want to worry her, so I kept quiet, and when she went to the bathroom after complaining about undercooked food I quickly tore the front page off and ate it. It tasted a little of her spaghetti stained hands, so it wasn’t too bad. I explained that I’d spilt my drink and needed something to clean it up with when she got back. She was none the wiser, whilst I felt like I was about to have a heart attack.
It felt good in a twisted sort of way. Though Trish said she didn’t want to see me anymore when we parted ways, and that I was cheap, a liar and didn’t know how to treat a real woman. It took a while for that to sink in, but thankfully my criminal high covered up my relationship blues. Surely she was just trying on a bit of banter anyway? If someone likes you they like to make jokes and put you down. That’s what my doctor says anyway, and he always puts me down.
And then it felt bad, for a strong sense of paranoia and guilt hit me as lightning sometimes hits sheep and other assorted farm animals. I stayed indoors for a week, promising myself never to steal again, even unintentionally. I would check through the blinds in case anyone was calling by, to handcuff me for my terrible deed. For a crime is a crime, no matter the size. Yet no one called round, I wished someone would. Trish wouldn’t reply to my emails, and my friends were busy with work. Even those without jobs.
But the thing I realised about crime shortly after, is that one time just isn’t enough. The thrill is gone when it comes to playing straight, and each visit to the local supermarket produced twitchy fingers. I picked up packets of biscuits and cans of beans many times with the thought of pocketing it, but despite the desire for crime, I still couldn’t pull it off. A hardened criminal must take their daily shopping into their own coat as a wake up exercise, for me it was still the main course. I felt all eyes were on me, and so I put the items back on the shelf and skulked off. I didn’t have a big enough coat anyway.
What I needed was a quiet environment to take from, and after much thinking on a park bench, I knew just the place. It came to me when a tank of a man scolded me for eyeing up his sweetheart, even though I watching pigeons peck at chewing gum thrown by a delinquent kid. His sweetheart watched as he threw me off the bench, and so did the delinquent, and they all laughed when I hit the cement, and then the couple walked off, with the sweetheart eating liquorice from her pockets. The kid ran up to me and kicked me some more, for he was bored of feeding pigeons chewing gum.
But as I bled just a little, I knew what my next crime would be. It was all in the sweetheart, the gum and the liquorice.
I often visited the sweet store in my local town, for I was a sweet toothed glutton. The shopkeeper, Mr Sarsaparilla, a man with flaky skin which reminded many of the sugar that covers hard boiled sweets, had been running the store since I was a kid, and of course due to the passing of time, his youthful expression was now sluggish and wrinkled. He often drifted off or lost himself in the Hustler magazines he would keep under the counter; an easy target.
And besides, I’m sure I’d been conned out of sweets in the past when it came to the weighing of the bags. It was normal for a grown man to visit a sweet shop, these days shop keepers’ imported sweets all the way from America which children surely couldn’t afford, and many grown-ups wanted to relive times long since passed, with sugar. I didn’t feel immature at all, I just needed sugar to keep myself going. It filled a hole in my stomach, it filled the hole in my heart. Sugar understood me like no one else, and Mr. Sarsaparilla was like an old friend, even though I was planning to rob him of his sticky wares.
I always paid a visit whenever things simply got too much, which was about once a week, but up to the theft I decided I needed to study the layout and behaviour patterns of the sweet owner more thoroughly. I spent a week going in each night, buying stacks of pear drops, and as I studied the pink and yellow drops each day, I’d actually be glancing around, looking for weaknesses in Mr. Sarsaparilla’s defences.
And it seemed I had found one!
Before closing time, the old man liked to take a nap, or at least his old age forced him to drift off. And it was always at the same time, as if the shop keeper was following a routine. If you were to purchase sweets at this time you’d have to ring the bell five times, or holler in his ears. Most likely he would still be dreaming, most likely imagining the girls in Hustler springing from the pages and giving him a real sweet time. Footsteps didn’t wake him up either, nor did soft conversation, or the smell of stink bombs dropped by delinquents and pranksters. At this point I knew I could get away with it, I just needed to be mentally prepared.
I spent the night training my mind, building my focus. I also ate the stacks of pear drops I had purchased while surveying the store, and wondered just how long it would take me to eat a weeks’ worth, as my teeth were starting to ache. My doctor told me to quit the sweet habit years ago, but he can’t quit smoking. So why should I? People are so prompt at offering advice, yet never feel the need to take it themselves.
I had no one to share them with which was kind of sad, and I couldn’t call Trish from the clothes store, as it was too soon for two criminals to meet up once more, or at least that was the angle I liked to take on her absence. I hadn’t heard from her since she said she didn’t want to see my anymore, so I’m sure she now understood the implications too, despite being unaware of the price tag. Maybe she caught the theft mentioned in a newspaper or online? I couldn’t find anything, but she didn’t read the Daily Star like I did, in fact she said she didn’t read at all.
Maybe she really didn’t want to see me? I couldn’t figure out why that would be, I thought all the harsh words at the end of our meeting was a form of banter, rather than anything truly cruel. People tend to pick you apart behind your back, rather than face to face. That’s how it was through my own experiences anyway.
I set foot in the shop before closing time the next day, and slowly edged my way towards the sweet collection.
‘Pear drops again, buddy?’ the old man asked, and I bolted in fright. Despite playing coy, he was surely onto me! I decided I’d best wait another week, I’d fallen into the trap of being too overly familiar with my spot, and he’d surely be getting security in next! I took the week off robbing, and sat in bed, cursing my own inexperience. When I returned to the world, my benefits had been culled due to my inability to turn up. I ate some more pear drops, I thought of Trish, and I thought of Chris, as he was the pizza store owner downstairs who I had to pay rent to. But I didn’t think of theft, it was my latest failure. Never consider your latest failures, just the ones that came before.
It was a month later when I returned to the sweet store, as I once again had money to eat, ways to feed my soul, and lo and behold the old man was drifting off, and everything was set in place for the success. I’d let the need to steal leave my system, but as my adrenaline began to rise, I knew that I couldn’t completely remove the criminal within me. So I took some pear drops and tip toed out of the door, so not to wake him. I got outside, ran down the block and let out a victory cry, which sounded a bit like a werewolf once transformed. My heart thumped like a wild horse, and it felt oh so good. It was ecstasy.
But the positive adrenaline quickly subsided, as all good things come to an abrupt end, and I started to doubt myself. Maybe he was tricking me, the old man waiting all this time for me to strike. Maybe his eyes were half closed, maybe he wasn’t quite so deaf, and maybe he had let me do it, only to have some thugs trail me and beat me up in a back alley, thugs with tank like builds and sweethearts who eat liquorice. I looked back at the street I’d ran from, but I knew it was bad to look back, what did those old Greek stories teach if not to look back?
I even thought about stepping foot inside the sweet store and putting them back, before anyone would notice, but as I looked at the 1.99 bag of sweets in my hands, I knew it was too late.
You can’t take back crime.
It was a straight route home, and there were too many people, more than usual. Students walking in groups with threatening glares, women pushing prams, containing babies with threatening glares. Old ladies on mobility scooters with threatening glares. Pet dogs dragged by cyclists with threatening glares. It was like everyone knew, and each person, each animal and everything else were all judging me. And within them, surely an undercover cop would be waiting, ready to finally grab this small time robber.
I decided to take a roundabout way home, and I walked through the nearby woods, spending ten minutes sitting behind a bush in hiding. I ended up eating some of the pear drops to calm my nerves, but I spat them back in the packet, in the small chance I might get some redemption. But no one wants chewed up pear drops, and so I planned to burn them all when I got back home. Hide the evidence, don’t let it come out through shit or abandoned in a random bin. I needed to burn away my sins.
After an hour of creeping through the woods, with some of that time dedicated to watching the horses in a nearby field gallop around, I decided to continue my journey home. I felt the coast was most likely clear. I just had a few blocks to walk on through, and I could put my stolen goods with my paid for goods, or continue with my plan to burn the evidence. I still needed to see a dentist from pear drop overload, I looked at the bag in my hands and wondered just why. When they ask me at the precinct, I’d say the same thing. But it should be if, not when. I imagined thinking it would only make it so. A criminal has already lost if they imagine being locked up.
But as I made it to the last block I heard the ringing of a police siren. They must have been keeping an eye on me all this time, and I knew I wouldn’t make it home, so I decided to run for it. I jumped over the house railings to hide, but I didn’t realise there was a drop. And more railings waiting below. All with spikes, all glimmering in the sunlight.
A kid cycled past on his police trike, the plastic lights flashing and making those noises police cars do. He was an ugly kid, and he stopped when he saw me down below. He climbed off his trike and put his hands on the rails so he could peer down and get a good look at me. I couldn’t get much of a good look at him though, as blood was beginning to pour out from my eyes. A spike had pierced through my spine, and had burst out through my mouth, I must have looked like a human kebab. Raw and bloody, needing to be cooked to a crisp.
The last thing I saw was this police bike kid noticing my bag of stolen sweets on the floor, and he picked them up, popped one in his mouth and rode off, his siren wailing once more. The corrupt cop just didn’t care.
There was no thrill any more. There was no thrill at all.
Crime doesn’t pay. And so I died.