when a bike is stolen a fairy dies
Originally uploaded by knautia.
“There is one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that? When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father.When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?”
--from THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
I was maybe six or seven, and I was playing at my cousin’s house. For the first time, I noticed that she had more than I did. She had three sisters who filled the house with their shouts and squabbles and games and I was an only child. The only sounds that erupted in my house were made by my parents: laughing, scheming their lives as adults do, quite frequently quarreling. There was no one to huddle with me in another room and talk about what it all meant. I often felt lonely.
My cousin had a huge room with capacious windows that looked out on an oval-shaped pool, and sprawling green lawns; there was a real live horse in the barn. My room was the size of a large closet attached to my parents room. My father laughed when I told him I wanted a horse. “If you’re not married when you’re twenty-three, I’ll buy you one,” he promised on more than one occasion. I vowed to wait to the wizened old age of forty if that was what it took, but never even made it to the twenty-three-year-old deadline. Which was okay. I didn’t want a horse by then anyway--a fact my crafty father was surely betting on.
But most significantly of all, my cousin had many more dolls and doll accessories than I did. My eye was particularly attracted by a pair of red checked underpants for her baby doll. When my cousin left the room, I jammed them in my pocket. They seemed to represent everything I thought I didn’t have.
But even before I got home, the thrill of possession was spoiled for me. In the weeks that followed, I was beseiged by guilt and fear of punishment that were worthy of a character from Dostoyevsky. Now when my mother asked me if I wanted to visit my cousin, I feigned illness. What if she knew? What if she’d told her family? I burned with shame.
My doll never wore the red checked underpants. They weren’t the thing I wanted anyway. How had I ever been tricked into thinking they were? I hid them in a cigar box and buried them in the woods near my house. I can still remember digging the hole with my hands. Clawing, it was.
Years later, my cousin and I laughed about the incident, about the months I’d spent refusing to walk past the police station for fear I’d be arrested. If she ever noticed the underpants were missing, she’d long forgotten it, teaching me one thing for certain: however much theft hurts the victim, it hurts the thief more. If you don’t believe me, think of those soul-dead minions who steal Peace, who steal the Air we breathe, who would steal the Future itself in exchange for something as deceptive and illusory as the red doll undies.
In the end, the thing that tormented me most was the way my theft dishonored the life I did have. Coveting the pool outside my cousin’s window seemed like the basest ingratitude for the amazing tree outside my own. Longing for the sounds of my cousin’s house, I didn’t hear the sacred noise inside mine: the laughing and whispering and shouting that signalled my parents’ passionate engagement with each other, with me, and with their world.
Now even the arguments seem like something worth honoring. For fifty-two years, my parents wrestled some powerful personal demons together and they never gave up. That the struggle created some clatter and boom no longer surprises or disturbs me; in fact, I admire it. And in the end, I can say conclusiviely that the laughter won; the love won. What greater legacy is there than that?
For a truly delightful take on Theft and a link to many more visit the divine Laini.
Meanwhile, Qarrtsiluni is publishing a series of shorts. The challenge is to encapsulate and intensify in pieces of 100 words or less. Several of my favorite bloggers more than meet it. The waitress in me particularly relished "Petey's" by Leslee of Third House.
For those who can't get enough of the short short, I discovered 400 Words via Sarah Salway. There's a veritable feast to be found there--not to mention lots of ideas for blog posts, if anyone feels the tank runnning low.