Hello and this time we have something a bit more episodic. This is a short story series, in it’s own right. The title is “A Thief’s Folly”, with the only difference in each short story being the name attached to it. The name attached to today’s story is Laure, who is subsequently the main character. This series as would the title implies is the first person accounts of varying thieves in a country filled with discrimination among differing financial classes. Although not directly about the world structure and the inner workings of the government, this series is more about the psyche of the thieves themselves. In Laure’s story, it’s about her struggle to uphold her own well-being, and the well-being of another all whilst living in squalid conditions and practically being a vagabond. Well, here you go, “A Thief’s Folly-Laure-“.
I was never taught how to cook, read, or write. In hindsight, that means that I can’t eat, tell someone how I feel, or go to the bank. Yet I’ve made it this far. At least I’ve made it this far. I wake up with a bad ache in my bones. It feels like I was beaten stiff. I move over to the window and peer out. Wisps of smoke enter my nose as I do so and I sneeze. The smoke slowly clears, and my eyes greet the glaring sun. I rub my eyes and stick my head into the choking air and watch as rows and rows of buildings topple over another all trying to stay afloat on the incongruent slope. The dirt road below kicks up clouds of dirt as people trample over another on their way to work and as trolleys with wheels drool over the path. I sigh and spit out of the window, watching as it falls over and melds into the dirt.
I trudge my way over my room, avoiding discarded glass bottles and butts of cigarettes. I don’t smoke. I make sure not to bump into the table and enter the bathroom. The lights don’t open until the fourth flick, and once it does, it blinds me for a second. I mull over to the half broken glass mirror and stare into the being that I’ve become. A teenage girl with dirty blonde hair, chapped burnt skin, and on the verge of being emaciated. I can’t cook, read, or write. I can speak my language well, and I better know how to speak my language well or I won’t be staring at myself in the mirror anymore. I reach over to the medicine cabinet next to my mirror and stare at cobwebs. I sigh and rub my eyes again.
I leave my bathroom and walk over to the front door. I put on the tattered shoes at the steps, and make sure that my clothes are at least on. No need for fashion or attraction, I think to myself. In my line of work, the best way to make the most out of it is to stay within the shadows. Or so they say. Well, they don’t say that, I do.
I enter the outside world slowly, and quickly make my way out of the hallway and down the stairs. I don’t bump into any of the other residents as I skip down the stairs, and once I’m at the lobby, I walk out without looking up. I take a deep breath as my feet meets the soil beneath. I turn down the slope, and make sure that my eyes don’t meet anyone else’s. I start slowly as I begin walking, but soon the momentum gets to me and I’m almost sprinting down the slope to try and stay afloat. The wind rushes against my face and I begin laughing at the whole ordeal. I stop only when I hear it. The sound of foot traffic, trolleys, and bells. The smell hits me next. Fresh baked bread, the aroma of tea and excrement. I walk closer, and my eyes adjust to the new scenery. Rows and rows of food stalls and vendors align the streets and even more rows of people align those extremities, making it near impossible to navigate freely through the sea of people. I take another deep breath, and then sink into the crowd.
My hands fall loosely out of my pant pockets, and my eyes dart frantically around all the feet and hands that near me. I try my best to plug my nose, focus my ears, and keep my feet attached. Except, the sounds of yelling and banter make it increasingly harder to stay focused. I peel my eyes for an opening, and once I see an open purse or pocket, I slip my hands through. My hands enter and exit in a mere second, and whatever I find I stick in my pocket without thought. I repeat this until my pockets are full, and find the nearest alleyway. The trick to navigating this job is about knowing backdoor dealers and safe houses. I find myself slipping away from the crowd, and moving towards a tea vendor. I slip past him, giving him a quick glance and move towards the alleyway between two residential buildings. The senses of everything leaving my body almost makes me vomit, like switching into zero-g or breaking from a ride in a derby. I find a wall to balance myself, and trace my way to a worn down door at the side of a building.
I knock once and wait. I press my ears on the door, and hear a fat man breathing.
“I can hear you over there, you know that?”
“And I can hear you from the front of the alleyway. You balance like a drunk man.” I can smell his breath through the door.
“Not as drunk as you.”
“Quick on your feet and on your mouth. Stay like that and you won’t be having much trouble in this town.” He bellows out a hearty laugh at the end, and opens the door for me. I hear two chains come undone, a plank of wood clamp against the door, and a click. Marty stands in the doorway, towering over me like a tree to an ant. He has rough stubby fingers that threaten to make me even more squalid than I am. The dirty light inside blends in with his hairless head and his stench permeates the entire highway.
“You already know where to go kid.” I nod and walk past him into another door. I enter and am immediately greeted by the sounds of tinkering and coughing. The air in the room is barely breathable, and I yell out in the smog, “Hey! Turn on your damn ventilation will you?” I receive no answer, and cover my mouth and eyes with both hands as I try to navigate the room. I find the vents in the corner, and flip them open. The smog clears out within seconds and I peer back into the room. It’s like a junkyard filled with the history of humans.
“Glad you did that Laure.” I look around the room to find the man who called to me. I see him aptly as he pulls himself out of a heap of junk and stands with a broken pipe in one hand and a diamond in the other.
“In one hand I hold the world. In the other, something to think about.” He smiles at his own rambling, which causes me to smile as well.
“Glad you’re still up and kicking you crazy junkie.”
“Please. Call me Maxwell.” I laugh at this, and so does he. Our laughs fill the room and for a moment everything seems to freeze into a light hearted breeze. A pipe breaks in the corner of the room, and Maxwell curses as he rushes to fix it.
“This whole building’s falling apart. Damn country is going to hell in a hand basket.”Maxwell sighs as he finishes the repairs. His voice is rough, filled with charcoal, and his beard is even darker than his skin.
“Got what I came here for?” I ask. Maxwell sits down at his workbench, which is filled with cogs and screws and every part of an amalgamation of human innovation.
“If I didn’t. You wouldn’t be here.” Maxwell clears a spot and then points, “Let me see what you have.” I dig my hands into my pocket and empty it onto the spot. The day’s load is simple, found a few wallets, some coins, a watch, and a ring. Maxwell eyes them as he twirls the watch and ring in the lowlight of his lamp. He ponders for quite a bit, looks up at me and says, “In my left hand I hold–”
“Get on with it.”
“I’ll give you one-twenty for the watch and four-fifty for the ring.” He piles a few notes onto the desk, and I take them briskly. I leave the wallets and coins to him, and he smiles with all his face, “As always the diligent kid Laure. Treat your elders right and you might even get to be an Official.” He laughs contagiously. I leave promptly, making sure the ventilation is still on, and then walk to a side door leading me onto the street. Most wallets and coins contain filthy money. The type of money that’s worth less than the money of the officials. I can’t learn to cook, read, or write with filthy money. But if I pay them with money of the Officials, then I can even buy a proper place to stay. However, I choose not to. Money of the Officials is hard to come by, and only Maxwell and other dealers are willing to pawn odds and ends for them. Having filthy money is a good cover up though, and so I always keep some on me.
I make sure to keep my head down as I walk towards the border. The air begins freshening as I draw near, and the soil becomes more frigid. Even the noise around me begins slipping into a quiet lull, and I am only given alert when I hear a large siren call out to me.
“Little Miss Frizzy.” The voice comes from a nearby tower. The guard and I go way back, like a hunched up bickering couple. Except, I was the one who ordered for divorce. And I was also the one who started the abuse.
“If you want money, I have it here.” I flash him filthy money, and he shines a light on me. I use one hand to cover my eyes and wait for the light to fade.
“Put it in the box Frizzy.” I place the filthy money in a nearby mailbox and walk up the line preceding the border. The two patrol guards lower their guns as I pass and I nod. I take a deep sigh, and continue walking while avoiding all contact. I had one place to go, and did not want to stop. I was only at the second layer, but nonetheless, I know this area well. My destination was at the right wing district where all the medical facilities lay in neat rows of refurbished furniture and clean air. I notice people on wheelchairs and walking canes and immediately align my senses towards this district. I walk slowly, calm my breathing and make sure that the dirt on my hands are gone. Without needing to think I walk to one of the housing buildings and make my way to the counter. The receptionist already knows who I am and simply glares at me as I make my way to the elevator. I press a button, and stare at the gleaming plate of steel beside the door. Large golden words line the plate, along with a picture of a man who looks like he belongs with the boring men on T.V.
I walk out of the elevator as it reaches my floor, and breath in the sickness in the air of the hallway. I make sure to increase my pace as to not choke on the malignant nature of this world. I knock on the door once I arrive, not being able to read the doorplate, but simply memorizing where it is from all my visits. It doesn’t open at first, and I wait patiently. I play with my fingers, twirl the money of the Officials that I have hidden deep in my pockets and pretend to chew on gum just like how I see adults do in movies. The door opens slowly to cajole myself out of an induced slumber, and I see her. She is beautiful and broken. A delicate mix of fragility and anathema. The congelation of all of my worries and all of my happiness.
“You look well Maribelle.” She didn’t have any hair, but wore a small cap to cover her head. Her skin is as dark as oil but she bled into everything she did. She is a determined woman who wants everything for this arid world to prosper. Her bones are tired and she can barely move her hand to hold the door or even move her legs. I walk forward and move my way beside her, holding her arm and guiding her to a couch. She sits and takes a deep breath before speaking. She almost gasps for air as she does this, and places one hand over her chest. I hold back tears at this scene.
“You’re still alive Laure. That’s good.” Her voice is like a whisper in a storm. I strain my ears to hear what she says and lean in closer so that she does not need to move her head to face me or raise her voice. I smile.
“Yeah. I won’t die anytime soon Maribelle. I’m–”
“Very resourceful and smart. You’ve always been strong. Ever since you were little.” She smiles, and I shake my head as I see her tremble. I hold her hands in mine and lean down into them. I try very hard not to cry.
“I can’t cook, read, or write–”
“But you can say every word you hear. You can visualize a conversation and manipulate people that way.” I feel Maribelle’s hand on my head, and I sink deeper and deeper into her lap.
“Ever since you were little, I knew you had a gift. What you can’t do, you compensate in other areas. It’s why you’re still alive right?” I nod in her laps.
“I’ll always love you Laure.”
“Me too.” I get up and place more than half of today’s earnings on her table. I wave her goodbye, and leave the building. I clear my throat, and begin running down the street, heading for my rundown apartment. I never went to school. In hindsight, that means I can’t get a job, talk to people, or work with people. Wisps of smoke emerge from the top of buildings as I arrive back to the bottom district. I rub my eyes while I walk back to my building, and make sure none of the dirt from the road kicks up onto my clothes. I peer over to the wet spots in the dirt, and spit in it to make it more visible. A mark of my own, I think. My body feels tired and I try to subside the new pains in my bones. In hindsight, I cannot support another human being. I cannot care for them, nor be cared by them. I am at the bottom of the food chain. The only thing that keeps me up is Maribelle, and the words she told me that day. She told me that, “You’re small. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less than someone who is big. You’re just unique, and you have your own idiosyncrasies. And people need to seek out your excellence. So live being small, and embrace everything about your own strengths.” I don’t want to learn to cook, read, or write.