Last night someone stole the elevator from our apartment building.

December 21, 2011


Who is the most interesting character in the 20th century? To me its a toss up. Between Soren Kierkegaard and Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin’s little tramp introduced to me, a comic/tragic character. A romantic figure who managed to survive the stupidity of the 20th century. There was the Dark Ages. This is the Lite Ages. We are so dumb. Finally free of the oppressive caste system in Europe and we sink to the lowest common denominator. The demagogy  of the rich.

And Kierkegaard. Who dared to consider the possibility. Of a real God. And took that leap. And believed in the absurd. Last night someone stole the elevator from our apartment building.

 

……………….

THE BALLAD OF A THIEF

 

Sean was sly. Not quite the fox. But in his own mind. He had some nasty tools. To get himself into trouble. And out. A double zero 7. Hero. When in the pincers of death he’d take himself aside. And ask. What would Bond do? That quirky smile would spark. That yellow tattoo of an orange on his arm. Would shine. He’d get a sparkle in his eye. The left one. To you. And he’d know what to do. Like a television commercial. The answer would just pop into his head. Like the game was fixed. Out of nowhere. And he sashay down that aisle. Of moil and trouble. Every so often taking a side step. A little Fox Trot parlay. With gravity. Just like he was doing. Now. Down the aisle. In the pharmacy.

Fu. Man, he kept his eyes on everything. Like City TV. From his perch. Not the fish. Outside the drug store. His face pressed against the glass. He watched Sean amble. Elbows flying. Wander through this story. Like he was Camus. Shuffling easily from word to word. Shuffling easily from product to product. So happily. It made Fu cry. Man, that guy is sly!

No one had spotted Sean. None of the employees. Of the drug store. So caught up in their own tasks. And the other shoppers. Might as well have been lifters themselves. They had no clue. No idea that Sean was up to no good. And the only good thief is one no one knows is a thief. Like someone had misspelled the word. Put the ‘i’ behind the ‘e’.

Sean moseyed on passed Paul McGregor. A bright enough lad. On other occasions. Like his sister’s birthday. And the combination to every lock. But not today Paul’s head was in a cloud. Number 9. Poor Paul. Thinking about the Singh girl. Swashing his mop across the floor. Thinking about her eyes. Swabbing the deck. And her hips. Where little Albert Franklin. Had thrown his lunch. Through his mouth. It was like a crime scene. Paul imagined. Gangland slaying. But there was no disguising Albert Franklin’s hot dog. That was once so comfy. In Albert Franklin’s stomach.

“Nice work,” Sean’s teeth chattered. The jabber all mixed up with his smile. The hot dog gave him a sort of appetite. But not for food.

“Happens.” Paul shrugged with a twist. Of his mop. Waving it across the floor. Like it was a magic wand. Which that little Singh girl was missing.

“Someone get sick?” Sean asked. Asking the obvious. Which kind of put to rest the point of asking a question. But Sean knew what he was doing. Throw the attention. In the other direction. Make it sound. Like he was interested in Paul’s predicament. Isn’t that how innocent bystanders behave? Sean was happy. What an insight. Made him want to whistle. Which he did.

Paul continued to swoop up the dupe. This isn’t worth minimum wage, he should have thought. And then he heard a tune. “Into each life some rain must fall. But too much is fallin’ in mine. Wondered where he’d heard that tune. Had it been over the intercom? Changed his mood. One more hour. And his break. In the back. Of the drug store with that Singh girl. And her chocolate skin.

Sean wanted to snap his heels together and laugh. I’ve got him hooked. He thinks that it’s cool that a cool guy like myself would actually be interested in a dork. A clerk like him. Especially since he’s mopping up someone else’s stomach.

But Paul was smiling to himself. He watched Sean moved down the aisle. All dorks aren’t dull.

“We’ve got it on tape. No one heard Paul speak. But they couldn’t have missed his gesture. There was a camera hanging. From the ceiling.

Paul had to smile. He wished he could have laughed.

This guy thinks that I don’t know what he’s up to. Going to leave the store with something he hasn’t purchased. Talking to me like he cares about what I do. Who cares about a mop and barf except a thief?

“Oh ya,” Sean said. Looking up at the camera. Straightened out his collar. Winked at the camera. All in the plan.

“Good you got those cameras. The world is a stage. And all of us are players. Just give us the opportunity to perform.”

Behind Sean, Paul looked at his mop.

“Would you like to dance?”

Paul slid his hand around her waist. The Singh girl. And waltzed slowly down the aisle. The sixteen step.

Sean looked over his shoulder. Saw the clerk dance off. Snapped his fingers and stepped around the pool and into the next aisle. There was a woman. In a checkered dress. That made her look like a table. In an Italian restaurant. She was bent over a stroller talking to her kid. Sean smiled. At her ass. The kid was looking up at the monitor. The monitor was warning shoppers about shoplifting. The woman looked up at Sean. Something was dangling from her chin. Sean knew it wasn’t a medal for bravery. It made him want to upchuck. Chuck chuck up. He looked away. The kid must have spit on her.

Sean passed down this aisle. And over to the next. Filled with hair dyes. And makeup. Small enough packages. To stuff in one’s pocket. Small enough to put up one’s baggy trouser leg. What the hell would I do with make-up? Stealing what you did not need. Just plain stupid. There was no other word for it. Sean knew it. Still times were getting desperate. What was the point in entering the drug store if he was going to leave empty handed. Absent minded. Holes in his pocket.

This sucks! Sean shoved his head down. Between his shoulders. Made his way past the magazine stand. Slunking. Spunky eyes. And an attitude from Harlem. His eyes slung back in his head. Sliding back and forth like a bubble. In a balance. Got to love that counterpoint. Looking hither and thither. To see if someone spotted him. Sean grabbed a newspaper. Stuffed it up under his shirt. Man that tickles. Where the tattoo over his heart of a heart fluttered.

Making his way out of the store when a voice. Cried out. From behind. Better than ahead. Sean didn’t stop. Didn’t stoop. Held his head high. The race was afoot. The sliding doors opened. Obeying the laws of the universe. Sean dashed. Slashed between cars. Like a rash. Spreading across the parking lot. And behind the large neon sign. That advertised The Six Points Plaza. To cars that passed by. Including police cars. And ambulances. And little old ladies out on a Sunday drive. When Sean was certain he was safe he looked at his loot. This was the fun part. Like Christmas morning. The first time with a girl. When she gave permission. He looked down. Expecting to see a newspaper. The Sun. Or the Star. It wasn’t the daily journal of world events. That cost a buck. It was a real estate paper. And it was free.

Fu watched all of this. From his perch on the ground. Not in a lake. Outside the drug store. The grin shattered his face. He laughed. Like it was going out of style. Like those tears of guffaws were moon beams. In a vacant mouth. Like he had died. And gone to heaven.

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