Hello and this time we have another addition to the entry of a Thief’s Folly, which is an episodic series of short stories. So given that, there is no particular order in which to read, nor do you have to read the previous short story to understand the context, although I do spread out the world building amongst the short stories. This one is a bit more homely, and focuses more on a splice of the lower district. It brings about more themes of family than anything and is just a cute little entry about a girl who just wants to help out two siblings by becoming a thief. Here you go, “A Thief’s Folly-Jaylin-“.
I run across the streets as fast as I can, not looking back and not caring for all the shouts that fill the air. In my arms I carry a bag that’s filled to the brim with all kinds of essentials. I grip it hard as I run across the streets, dodging customers and making sure that nothing spills in the process. I never went to school. Never saw the reason to. I have two kids, two dogs and a homeless beggar to feed. The dogs are dead, and the homeless beggar is currently in hiding because the officials want him killed for dirtying the streets. The kids are still alive though, I think.
I make a sharp turn to my right, and narrowly dodge a moving horse wagon. I turn back for a brief second and yell, “Sorry!” I feel the emaciated man in the front seat glare at me and I laugh. I feel myself leaving the market district, but of course I have to treat myself after a hard day of work. As I near the exit I smell the distinct aroma of the soup vendor, and I brace my hands. I take a quick glance and see that the two guards are still chasing me, fumbling on fruits and tripping on rocks. I laugh at that too. Once I near the vendor, I grab a bowl of soup and wink at the store manager, sending him in a flurry of slander that I ignore. I down the soup and make sure that the recyclable container is placed in its appropriate waste bin.
Once out of the market district, I cross into a set of decrepit buildings and bleed into an alleyway. I place one hand over my heart and feel my chest rise and lower as my breathing begins to steady. The guards walk past the district, and I keep a watchful eye on them as they scratch their heads and curse. I suppress a laugh and as they leave, I break out in a small giggle. I make sure no one else is following me and I sigh and begin walking to my hideout.
I rummage through my bag, making sure that nothing has gone missing. As I do this, I feel the peering eyes of many glaze upon me. This is the slums. I would never change the slums because this is where I was raised. I love this place, I really do. I breath in and smell the fresh baked bread of poor mothers. I avoid the bouncy balls of one armed children. I watch as a sprawling family of misfits come out into the street to greet me with bright smiles. I smile back. This is where I belong. I will never have it any other way. To everyone here, to all the kids, to all the parents, I’m like an older sister to them. And I care about my family.
I soon find my home and I open the door pretending that it isn’t half broken. I call out into the building and pretend I don’t hear it echo on all the walls. They soon come out, with Gilligan wiping his eyes waking himself from his sleep, and his little sister Keila lagging behind him. I give Gilligan a ruffle on his head pat Keila on hers. I smile and place my arms on my hip as I jump back and give a triumphant pose. Gilligan is still half asleep and I yell to cajole him into position, “Men!” Gilligan instinctively raises one hand over his hand in a salute and I smile. Keila walks to her brother’s side and raises one hand as well, puffing out her chest and holding her breath.
“Bring these to the kitchen. I’ve got a nice haul today.” Gilligan walks up and takes the bag from me. I walk over to the living room, and make my way to the strewn couch. The cushions are in good shape today. I sit down and give myself five minutes to close my eyes and think. I replay everything in my head, and soon I find myself slipping farther and farther into my state of reverie.
I wake up from an insidious shaking, and I notice that Keila is at my legs. I smile and pat her on the head. I take a quick sniff, and smell a burnt aroma drift from the kitchen into the living room. I get up, stretch my arms and legs, and slowly head my way to the kitchen. I peer into the doorway and see Gilligan trying his best to cook the few strips of bacon that I had acquired. I smile and walk in, “Who ordered extra crispy?” He sighs and doesn’t turn. I walk over him and grab the pan from his hands. He looks up with a pout and I say, “Better luck next time.”
“But I have to do this.”
“Because…One day we’ll have to live alone. And if I can’t cook than Keila–”
“Keila will be fine. She’s more capable than you think.” I turn off the stove and place the burnt bacon onto a plate and begin slowly chewing on it. Gilligan watches me as I do so, “But I want to be strong.” I look into his eyes and see roaring tides crash onto a rocky surface. His hands tighten into a fist and I can see them growing red. Behind him, Keila is holding onto the hem of his shirt, and I engrain this scene into my head. I leave the bacon on the plate, and grab an apple from the bag. I toss it to Gilligan and say, “Peel this for me.” He looks at me and raises his brow, but I simply repeat, “Peel it for me.” Gilligan rummages the broken cupboard and finds the peeler. He places the apple onto the blade, and drags down, barely peeling any skin. He tries again harder, but nearly cuts his finger. Keila walks over in worry, but I fling a small piece of bacon at her, which nails her straight onto her forehead. She looks over and I shake my head and press a finger to my lips. Keila walks over to my side, and I hug her onto my leg as we watch Gilligan peel the apple.
It takes him about forty minutes, but he hands me a skinless apple. I take it, and rummage into the bag to hand him another, “Two more.” He doesn’t protest and takes it from my hand, this time having a better grasp of the blade and cleanly peels it within twenty minutes. He hands me the peeled apple, and I hand him another. He takes it and for the third time begins peeling. He finishes this within ten minutes, and by the time he hands me the peeled apple I see that his hand does not shake when he holds the blade anymore. I hand him and Keila an apple and say, “You’ve grown a little bit stronger today. So have a treat.” I smile, and Gilligan’s eyes shine as he takes the apple from my hand. I head outside with my apple and cross the slums to the house opposite ours. I knock once, and leave the apple outside the door. I know that the residents of this house doesn’t like to make contact with others. I turn back into the slums. The house next to ours has a kid with half an arm. The one next to that only got a little kid and her baby sister. The one next, an ex-Official that now hides from hunters and tells us about the inner districts.
I head back inside and see that Gilligan and Keila are playing in the living room. I move forward, and into a study room further in. Inside is a table, a chair, and a single lamp. I don’t bother with the lamp and simply open the notebook on the table. I grab half a pencil and begin tracing the day’s work and events. Time escapes me before I know it and Gilligan is at my door, knocking his foot on the rotting planks. I chuckle and answer, “Come in”. Gilligan enters, and leaves a plate on my table. I look at it, and I see beautifully sliced apples align the edges of the plate. I look down at Gilligan with a smile and Gilligan proceeding looks down. I take a slice and eat it, “It’s delicious.” I can see Gilligan smile with his hair in his face and I add, “Keep it up, and you’ll be even stronger.” He nods, and Keila walks in before him, rubbing her eyes and clutching onto the hem of her brother’s shirt. I take a slice, and bring it to Keila’s mouth, who instinctively opens and eats it.
“Good, right?” Keila nods, and her brother watches this with a tired face and a bright smile. His eyes are worn, but they’re caring, and within them I see a low rising tide that carries fish. He smiles at his little sister, and his little sister dotes him. I engrain this scene in my head.
At night, I make sure that Gilligan is asleep with her sister before heading for the front door. I make sure not to creek, and as I’m out of the door I breathe a sigh of relief. I take a step onto the slums, and turn to face our house. I climb slowly onto the rafters of the roof, and lay myself on the crumbling tiles. I watch as the night sky engulfs my being and begins to subjugate me into a world of void. The stars glitter in the sky and whenever I blink they pass me by without a single shred of omnipotence in my mind. The night breeze blows past me with a gentle touch and I can feel myself being permeated by the slum’s disease filled wind. It’s a solemn breeze that I’ve known for all my life, and despite this, I still allow it to fill my lungs with alacrity. I hear footsteps come from the house, and I know that my cover has been blown. Gilligan looks up and I say without looking at him, “Star gazing. Care to join me?” I hear Keila creep up after him and her eyes match the stars as she notices what’s in the sky. “She does,” I say with a slur in my voice. I laugh and pull Keila and Gilligan up to the rafters with me. I feel the bend in the roof but know that it won’t break.
I begin to trace the sky with my fingers which prompts Keila to do the same. My mind fades into the time of yesterday, with both my sides empty and the darkness feeding onto my anathema. I find myself atop a rafter similar to this and the smell of fresh baked bread slowly encroaching onto my being. I shake my head, and turn to my sides. Keila and Gilligan lay beside me, staring up at the same sky and the feeling of darkness begins to dissipate. The world seems so much brighter now, and I get up to hug Keila and Gilligan to my sides. This is my family. I’ll have it no other way.