I woke up to birdsong and the warm sun on my face. I threw open the window and breathed deeply, excited to face a new day. I rubbed the Sandman’s handiwork from my eyes and headed to the bathroom for my morning ritual.
I was immediately stuck by a vague unease, the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. “What the…”, I grunted, as I slowly backed into my bedroom.
I looked over to my open closet and realized that my small fire safe was ajar. It was normally locked since I seldom needed or even looked at the valuables contained inside.
Upon further investigation, I found that my mortgage was gone, as were my family heirlooms: assorted jewelry, old photos and the like. I walked, calmly, towards the stairs, forcing my breath to come in a more natural rhythm even though my heart rate would have made a hummingbird consult a cardiologist. I headed down the stairs, dreading what I expected to see.
My TV was gone, as was my computer, my reclining couch, my silverware and my wall prints. My house was almost completely bare! I considered the impossible scenario that someone had cleared out everything I owned in one night without waking me. For a moment, I had the paranoid and delirious idea that someone had been slowly robbing me over a series of months or even years, taking something small here and something insignificant there, stripping my property piece by piece, but also slowly enough that I really didn’t notice until this morning when, after a particularly greedy night of taking my salt cellar as well as my curtain rods, I suddenly remembered that I once had a salt cellar and curtain rods. If I had once owned a salt cellar and curtain rods, then I had to, once, had owned curtains and a pepper mill and pans and pots and furniture and only suddenly realized that they had been gone for a long time and I had merely owned the idea of my possessions instead of the actual things I had earned and at one time had receipts for. I shook this demented fantasy from my head and was trying to figure out the easiest way to get a call in to the police when I heard splashing and a gurgled shout for help from the direction of my back yard.
I ran through my house to the living room and immediately noticed that the sliding patio doors were open and there was a stream of small items leading through the back of the house to the pool, a trail of pilfered bread crumbs that might lead to my own kleptomaniacal Hansel and/or Gretel. This trail of DVD discs, computer peripherals, softbound books, cooking implements and assorted knickknacks led directly to the deep end of my pool where a tired figure was violently thrashing as it was slowly being dragged down into the water by the the many bags bulging with my former property that were strapped to his belt.
“Help! I’m drowning! Save me!”, he shouted, between dunks.
“Wait there, I’ll get you out!”, I yelled back. He may have been a thief and the bastard who had robbed me, but I’m not too evil and certainly didn’t want to see him die.
I looked around for a rope or long stick I could use to drag him from the water. I spied an old rake near the edge of the pool, grabbed it and held it out to him.
“A rake? No, no, no, that certainly won’t do. I need a life preserver, monogrammed of course, and a nice boat hook, preferably with a shaft made from rolls of twenties”, he calmly replied as he leaned his head back to avoid taking in more water. It appeared that when he stopped thrashing, he could stand on the bags of my loot, leaving his mouth a mere inch above the water line. “Also, I need you to throw me that grill and, what the hell, I’ll take the rake, too.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?”, I yelled back. “I’m trying to help you! Untie my stuff from your belt, grab this rake and climb out!”
“Well, no. I want to take my bags with me, as well as that rake and the grill. I’d like you to help me load it all into your car, and then I’d like to drive away. Also, you have to promise that you won’t call the cops or ever report or sue me if you really want to save me.”
I looked at him again, studying his waxed and well trimmed goatee dripping pool water, the felt top hat ruined by his swim, his monocle floating uselessly next to him, leashed to his silk ascot by a golden chain. A polite cough drew my attention and I realized that his cries had drawn my neighbors who stood around my yard, peering over my shrubbery. They were all dressed in shabby bathrobes, or hole kneed jeans and ratty tees, and they were all scowling, leading me to believe that they too may have been victimized by this cat-burglar or one of his associates. I picked up the rake and made sure my grip was firm as I flung it as far from the pool as I possible could. I then walked back towards my house, hoping that he might have left a crust of bread or a can of tomato soup that I could eat for breakfast.
His strangled cries of disbelief and outrage at my failure to help him faded as the bags shifted and his footing faltered. His inability (or refusal) to untie the bags made his escape nearly impossible. As his angry shouts turned once again to gurgling pleas, I looked back, once, to see him go under and to watch my neighbors, heads shaking and downcast, as they walked back to the empty houses they once owned to make one last pass, looking for anything left behind by this band of thieves. I felt no pleasure or vengeance in his drowning. That would come later, after I rally my neighbors to mob this company of thieves’ palatial mansion at the top of the hill.
But that, of course, is a story for another time.