Monday, September 28, 2015


He was a kleptomaniac. Not harmful or dangerous, really, actually kind of playful under most circumstances. He had three large taped up cardboard boxes of inconsequential stolen loot buried deep in his closet behind an outdated video gaming console with corresponding game cartridges, a guitar with a couple missing strings, an old pair of favored mid high-top basketballing shoes, two skateboards – both lacking trucks and wheels, several packages of unopened and long forgotten baseball cards, and a leather football – mostly deflated.

He was an architect by trade who enjoyed skiing – except for the cold, fantasy football, intramural basketball at his local community center, and competitive brisket barbecuing. He was a founding member of the city’s unofficial Curling squad and they were hopelessly, and errantly, convinced they had a chance to make the next Winter Olympics! He did yoga thrice weekly, participated in marathons, rode his bicycle on weekends, and blogged monthly. All that plus a thief with a compulsion that could not be sated. There seemed, yet, a meager level of respect, or gamesmanship, by which he attempted to maintain. He would never steal from friends or family, but almost anyone outside that tight concise off-limits circle was fair game.

It began simply enough while vacationing as a youth with his family in La Jolla, California. To his parents’ amusement he hoarded hand lotions, shampoos, and a shoe mitt provided by the hotel. In his early teen years this escalated to a Sports Illustrated magazine from the lobby of his dentist and plastic shoe horns from retailers when trying on shoes. His pilferings were never anything significant [car keys], destructive [asthma inhaler], useful [package of batteries], resale merchandise [a store’s inventory], or expensive [except for the antique crystal-handled letter opener with an image of an Arctic Fox which he swiped from an office while at a client meeting - he thought it was a mass produced glass-handled item from a Pier 1 retail chain store mocked up to look like an antique]. There was one exception to this ‘useful’ thievings classification, aside from the hotel lotions and soaps, the silly waif, writing instruments bearing the name of the host from whence they’ve been nicked. A fine upscale hotel, of which he felt so out of place, should they take an inventory after one of his infrequent visits, would find themselves considerably lighter in the column of retractable pens, especially the variety bearing blue ink.

He’d been operating marginally astray of the law for so long that it no longer phased him when his hands reached out seeking acquisition. When dining out he regularly swiped a single unused utensil before the waiter could remove the unneeded place settings. He even occasionally absconded from restaurants with the bowl of after dinner mints from the reception area. He didn’t even like after dinner mints, nor the bowls in which they were typically housed! He’d get back to the car after dining to find that his hands couldn’t retrieve the car keys from his pocket because there was something in them already. ‘Oh,’ he’d notice, ‘they’ve done it again’ as if his hands behaved of their own volition.

The culmination and turning point of his silliness was the 40th birthday party of an acquaintance. Shortly before the mint chocolate chip ice cream cake was presented the waif went into the kitchen and needlessly, without thinking, slipped the wax candle shaped like a five from the kitchen table into his pocket. The birthday boy’s age did not require the five and it sat in a Pick Up Sticks pile with the eight unneeded numbers.

“Hey mister, what are you doing,” asked a voice from behind.

Without even turning to face the child, the voice of a young girl certainly less than 10, he unslipped the candle from his trousers pocket and replaced it amongst the pile. He shortly thereafter departed the festivities, but not, of course, before taking down a piece of ice cream cake.

The compulsion for his incidental heists faded as quickly as a bad dream from a sudden awakening. The retractable pens, though, proved a weakness not as easily tamed.