Thing a Week 4: Stealing’s Not As Hard As They Say It Is

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“You know, stealing’s not as hard as they say it is.”

That’s what she said. “Stealing’s not as hard as they say it is.” That one sentence very well might have ruined my life. She was so apathetic—yet at the same time, so… mysterious—that I couldn’t help but reply. Her comment caught me off guard, so all I managed was, “Really?”

We were in our sixth period Geometry class, sitting in the back, as always. It was Friday; we had a big test the day before and the weekend was about to start, so the teacher didn’t want to start something we’d just forget over the weekend. He went over the tests quickly, gave us a new seating chart, and then told us we should spend the rest of the hour to study. Of course, by “study,” he meant, “Do whatever you want as long as you’re quiet.”

Anyways, it was in Geometry on Friday that Jessie started to talk about stealing. In the new seating chart, she sat in front of me, and we were both surrounded by, well, people that either smell too bad or would pee their pants if they thought a pretty girl was actually talking to them. Naturally, we talked to each other.

“Really?” I said, surprised at her comment.

“Yeah,” she said, “you just watch when people leave and go in when you know it’s clear.”

It seemed so.. simple. She smiled, and I believed her. Maybe it was because she was kind of cute and I wanted a shot with her, but maybe it was also because some inner instinct in me wanted to rebel and lash out at society. What better way to do it than to break the law?

That was a dumb thought.

Today is Sunday; Mr. Baker and his son left for church twenty minutes ago, and that’s when we made our move. The first thing we did was search the porch and surrounding area for a key. Everyone keeps one somewhere. But we couldn’t find one. I thought we were finished (and quietly sighed in relief) until Jessie produced a small, leather case of lockpicks from her pocket.

She deftly reached up and unscrewed the porch light bulb just enough to kill the only light source in sight and I stood there frozen in the darkness, watching her then kneel and pick the front door’s lock. Jessie said the deadbolt not being thrown showed there was no one up and about in the house to lock it behind the Bakers.

I want to tell myself I went along with this plan to rebel. I looked up burglary Friday night, and it wasn’t a severe crime. If we were caught, I wouldn’t be going to jail for years. Well, that’s assuming I get a good lawyer. That’s not really how the law works. I might only be burglarizing—burglarizing, is that a word?—but the pigs would probably also pin on me breaking and entering, trespassing, theft, rebellion, being naughty, and whatever other bogus charges they could come up with. That’s how the system works, and then my lawyer would bargain for a lesser sentence. By throwing jillions of charges at me, they’re just ensuring that at least one sticks.

Jessie turned the doorknob and looked back at me. I remember she said, “No turning back now.”

I could have turned back. I hadn’t yet done anything illegal. But I didn’t. I followed her into the house.

That was a dumb decision.

The house was dark, and I got goosebumps from the sheer strangeness of being in someone else’s home without them knowing. There was an aura that I could feel, screaming at me to leave. The oppressing darkness threatened me with strange creaking noises and the possibility of someone lurking in the shadows. Neither one of us knew our way around the house, so Jessie suggested we split up.

She’d gone over the rules earlier, before we came. Don’t make loud noises. Stay away from windows. Keep your flashlights pointed low. Put things back how you found them. Wear gloves. Don’t take something that would look weird carrying down the street, like a TV.

We had both brought our backpacks; when those were full, that’s all we were supposed to take. When we first split up, I took a right and headed to a hallway leading down to two bedrooms. I won’t deny it, I was shaking in fear, but I pushed myself to keep stepping forward. It was too late to turn back, and now I had to see it through.

I entered the son’s room first and scanned it with the flashlight I brought, the dim light barely illuminating all but the faintest of circles. The son had a TV on one wall, but that’d be pretty hard to hide from my parents, even if taking it weren’t against the rules. However, there was a Wii sitting beside it. Twenty seconds later, my new Wii was in my backpack. From a few rooms over, I heard Jessie exclaim, “Wow!”

The Wii was the only thing I took. I left the bedrooms and found Jessie in a den area, where the heads of slain animals filled the walls. A cold, stone fireplace seemed to give the room the final touch of manliness. Jessie was sitting in a leather chair facing the fireplace, pretending to smoke a pipe, when I entered.

She turned to me and struggled to keep a straight face, saying, “Indubitably.”

Immediately after, however, we heard the unmistakable sound of the front door being shut.

My eyes widened and my gaze jerked to Jessie. Not wanting to believe what I thought it was, I asked, “What was that?”

That was a dumb question.

There were footsteps now. I didn’t know the house well enough to guess where they were or where they were going, but I hoped they were going to a bedroom. Maybe Mr. Baker forgot his wallet, or maybe his son wanted to bring his gameboy to church so he’d have something to do.

Jessie hissed at me from behind a gun safe, and I ran to join her.

“What do we do?” I was afraid I was going to lose it. This wasn’t part of the plan, her plan, and I needed her guidance. She’d lost the crooked smile she always wears, and had replaced it with a thoughtful look, furrowed eyebrows and all.

Not wanting to wait, I asked again.

“Calm down,” she said, turning to me. “They probably just forgot something. They’ll grab it and leave in a hurry to get back to church. We’ll just wait here.”

One word scared me more than anything else that had ever scared me in my life. That word was a quizzical, drawn out “Dad?” coming from Mr. Baker’s son. He continued when his dad has acknowledged him. “My Wii is gone!”

It was Jessie’s turn to open her eyes wide. “Shit! Did you take his Wii?”

“Yeah,” I said timidly. “You said whatever fits in our backpack.”

She looked around, frantically. We were caught. It was starting to sink in. There was nowhere to run, and if there was, we wouldn’t know it because we don’t know the layout of the house. The room we were in had no windows. I looked around more, looking for a better hiding spot.

That’s when I noticed her gun. I’m no gun expert, but Jessie had a pistol held tight in her hand. I didn’t say anything. I was too scared.

“Come on,” she said quickly, “we don’t have much time. We have to get out.”

I didn’t move.

“Now!” She said a bit louder.

I followed her through the door, looking both ways before entering the hallway. Nobody in sight, but they were there somewhere. We entered the kitchen. Mr. Baker had a pantry we could hide in, but if he thought someone might still be in the house, he’d no doubt look everywhere.

I knew I shouldn’t have come. I knew this was a bad idea. I had so many chances to just say no before we got here, and even as we entered, but I just couldn’t do it.

The footsteps creaked in the hallway. They were right behind us.

There was a small laundry room off of the kitchen; it was the only place left to go. Jessie didn’t have to tell me this time, I followed without asking. She was the pro. I was just a boy who’d ruined his life trying to be the pro. Well, it wasn’t ruined yet. I hadn’t been caught yet.

The laundry room was small. Mr. Baker cautiously entered the kitchen right as we turned the corner into the laundry room. He was close enough for me to hear his breathing, so I quieted my own in case he could hear mine too. I motioned to Jessie that he was in the kitchen, and she nodded to tell me she knew.

I turned to look for a better hiding spot at the back of the laundry room. It wrapped around a few feet away that I assumed was for a clothes hamper or something.

I froze when I saw the back door. I spun on my feet to get Jessie’s attention, who was poised against the wall with her pistol at chest level, pointing at the laundry room door. The pistol was so.. unbelievable? Surreal? Everything suddenly felt like a dream, and my legs melted. I heard the footsteps in the kitchen and the door to the pantry close.

“Jessie!” I hissed. She looked back at me, not moving the rest of her body. “There’s a door back here!”

That got her attention. She looked back at the door once before turning the rest of her body and taking a step towards the door.

From behind her, Mr. Baker yelled, “Hey!” He paused for a moment, assessing the situation. I was already on the other side of the door, but Jessie still had several feet. She looked back momentarily as she began to sprint, but tripped over a basket of clothes.

As she fell to the ground, Mr. Baker took another step towards Jessie. I understood why; he was protecting his son. In any other case, he probably would have ran. He didn’t though. He should have.

Admittedly, I didn’t really know Jessie that well. From our short conversation in Geometry, I decided I wanted to get to know her, and I saw this as some messed up first date. I guess that’s another reason I didn’t turn this down. When would I get another chance with her? People say that dates where you don’t talk to your date (like going to the movies) are bad first dates because they don’t tell you anything about the other person. Well, it wasn’t the case here. We didn’t talk much, but I learned more about Jessie 30 minutes than I would have talking to her all night.

Jessie, in fear, pointed the gun at Mr. Baker’s chest, who responded by throwing his hands up and squeaking something intelligent.

I didn’t know what to do, but I made a split-second decision. I ran to Jesse, pleading, “Don’t shoot!”

She hesitated, but didn’t shoot—yet. Mr. Baker took a timid step backwards as I held out a hand to help Jessie to her feet. When she was up, she glanced back at the door, and then at the floor to make sure she didn’t trip over something else.

“Come on,” I said, running out the back door for a second time. She followed, gun in hand. As she turned, she didn’t see Mr. Baker pull his own gun that had been tucked into the back of his jeans. I didn’t see it either, and foolishly stood in the doorway waiting for Jessie to make it out.

That was a dumb move.

Mr. Baker rounded the corner, gun in hand, and pointed it at me with a scowl on his face. I tried to scream, but my body refused to make a sound. He didn’t shoot yet, but took another step towards me. I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun for the first time in my life, and it was my turn to put my hands up, they’re playing my song, the butterflies fly away. Nodding my head like yeah, moving my hips like yeah. So I put my hands up, they’re playing my song, you know it’s gonna be okay. Yeah, it’s a party in the USA. Yeah, it’s a party in the USA.

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