Crime and Punishment (1 of 2)

In the mid to late 80s, I was a master thief of books. A regular Barefoot Bandit of trade paperbacks. I swiped the Adept series by Piers Anthony, the first Shannara triology by Terry Brooks, and the Belgariad series by David Eddings. And others, too. Clearly, I was intoxicated by the glorious worlds of SF and fantasy. I mean, if Wil Ohmsford can evade furies, demons, and reapers with nothing more than a softly glowing Elfstone, why I should certainly be able to avoid detection by those large, owlish eyes of bookstore owners and managers. This was long before electronic sensors stood guard like sentinels at the doorway. So my job was even easier. Shrewd and cunning, I swaggered into A Clean Well-Lighted Place with large rubber bands strapped around my chest, and would slip a book lickety-split up my shirt and press it snuggly against my skin with a snap. I often stole five or six books at a time, sometimes in one fell swoop (three in the front, two in the back, and one shoved down the front of my pants). Other times, I worked piecemeal, making two or more trips in a day. Patience is the watchword of every criminal. And I was a damn good one, too. I never got caught. Once a gray, bespectacled owl looked at me queerly. Puzzled by the bulky sweater on such a pleasant day. I smiled and made the universal sign for brr by shivering a little. He grinned and nodded his understanding. Then I walked outside, over to Memorial Park, and sat on a bench near a pond with ducks celebrating the advent of spring—and read Magician’s Gambit in a state of serenity bordering on blessedness…

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10 Responses to Crime and Punishment (1 of 2)

  1. Tony says:

    From the title, I have a feeling this isn’t going to have a happy ending 😉

    • Well, no one’s going to throw themselves under the train, but a reckoning is around the corner. And who knows, the story might yet have a happy ending – it’s still unfolding… Fingers crossed.

  2. Trevor says:

    I can’t wait to see where this goes.

    And, as you’ve remarked on our literary DNA match, these were the same novels I was reading at about that same time period. Who knew David Eddings led to Philip Roth?

  3. I certainly couldn’t have predicted it, that’s for sure. You know, we are living refutations of H. Bloom’s dire prediction that reading Harry Potteresque garbage leads straight to Stephen King in a hand basket.

  4. R. T. says:

    However they are acquired, books are almost always guilty pleasures in a life that places so many other demands upon us. Of course, some of us, Kevin, seem more guilty than others. Do you not have the burning desire to make amends for your crimes of passion? Or is your confession the amendment?

  5. Hi R.T., not a burning desire, just a desire. As for books almost always being guilty pleasures, I don’t know if I agree, although I recognize that the role of reading in a moral life – or rather its assessment – depends on ethical standards that you and I might not share. Years ago I believed with Rousseau that not to do good was to do evil. But I abandoned his standard in favor of Thoreau who argues that it is not a person’s duty “to devote himself to the eradication of any wrong, but it is his duty to wash his hands of it.” In a world of such active mayhem, I really do wish more people would read. Anyhow, perhaps 2 of 2 will wash my hands of a series of silly petty crimes I committed in my youth. I hope so, at least. Cheers.

  6. scottw says:

    I did it too! There, I feel so much better. Even now, so many years later, I agree with the young Stephen Dedalus (‘A Portrait of the Young Artist’) when he says he believes to rob in order to fund his art would hurt him almost as much as being robbed. It did hurt and sometimes it still does when I think about it. Looking forward to 2/2.

  7. […] about it, Without you have read some posts by the name of “Crime and Punishment.” (Here and here). But that ain’t no matter. Unlike a ghost, my physical hands pilfered physical […]

  8. […] and The Leopard. It provides a record of my thoughts and observations, and even a petty crime (1 and 2). And it’s encouraged me to experiment with different forms of writing. As for the […]

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