Take, for example, my first real crime. The first time I did it and got away with it. The lessons I learned and the sordid path it started me down since then.
How thievery led to murder.
It all started out innocently enough: A toy here, a toy there. Picking up after the kids and tossing the broken items after aborted attempts to fix them.
Then the toys began to overrun the house. My son piously told me we had to keep them all, to store them for his kids.
No. No, no, no, no, NO! I will not live with five storage units of stuff and memorabilia that I can’t even account for! I will not be that person!
I will keep everything under one roof and I will not become a guest star on Hoarders.
But how? My children are little hoarders…
Just like Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, the thought of it nagged at me day and night, scratching, always scratching at the back of my mind… NO! I won’t be overtaken by tiny things that twist my ankles when stepped upon unseen and crowd out the space in which I live until there is no room to breathe! I will stand my ground, I will face these little demons with a polite smile and dastardly plans in my heart!
I would see them off to school with honeyed kisses and then rush home to rifle through their toy boxes, pilfering toys that I hadn’t seen them playing with for a while. Then I would hide the toys in the utilities room – if no one asked about it in a month or two, I was in the clear.
Two months of nervous waiting. Two months of trying not to show my hand. Two months of acting casual when I strolled into the utilities room (how does one casually stroll into a utilities room?) to make sure my thievings were still covered by a seemingly carelessly tossed bit of scrap material.
If I was questioned, I did my best to act rushed, yet casual. “I have no idea where Froggy went. Why? Mommy’s busy right now, honey.” That night I would sneak back into their rooms with the item in question as they slumbered blissfully unaware, half burying it in the toys, but sticking out a leg or some other armature to indicate its presence.
And then go back to innocuous waiting.
The next time they left the house after this agonizing waiting, I’d rush off with the items that no one asked about – the forgotten and dismissed toys that had languished under half-finished sewing projects. Quick! Get to the thrift store and turn it in before you run out of time. No! Not that one! Never go to the broker you actually buy from! The one that’s on the other side of town, the one that is the least likely to be patronized by those who live near the scene of the crime.
Then go back home, calmly. It’s important to act calm even though you’re desperately wanting to scream from the rooftops “I got away with it!! BWAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAH!!!!!”
Then wait again, quietly observing your targets. What’s their schedule? How often do they do this or that? Does that toy have a name or a memory attached to it?
What can I get away with this time?
Thus emboldened, the Fates set me on a path from which there would be no return.
My first murder…
I got the email at 630am that morning.
The week before, we’d had some friends over for about 8 hours, munching away, watching movies, telling bad jokes and entertaining their 4 year old boy, Matt.
“Matt has lice,” the email read.
My scalp itched. Was it itching before I saw the “L” word? I couldn’t remember.
But wait. I’m an adult. I can deal with this. We just need some special shampoo and wash everything Matt touched that was fabric. I scratched at my scalp with light fingers. Could one feel the tiny eggs as they nestled betwixt strands of hair?
I knew he’d been on at least one of the sheet-covered futons. But it had been a week. Things move. Small critters are insidious. What about the blankets in the kids rooms? True, Matt didn’t go in there, but the kids did all week, and they had played where he had played. What about my car? I’d taken the kids on a few errands during the week. Would the critters have jumped ship and buried themselves in the upholstery? What about my bed? It had been a week since he’d been here.
They could be anywhere. Everywhere.
We bought out the local drugstore’s supply of spray lice treatment. We bombed my car with the spray. There were the rugs, the cars, our bed, various toys. We bagged all the stuffed animals and every blanket, sheet and coat that was possibly suspect. We sprayed the carpets and rugs, the futons and mattresses. Yes, we could have left the bags of stuffed toys sealed for 4 weeks in the garage, but there were 3 leaf and lawn bags of the damn things. My kids weren’t going patiently wait for Moo-Moo and Big Red to come out of isolation. They’d drive me mad with their insistent whines and entreaties to return the items lost, NOW! My scant few years of burglary had taught me not to abscond with too much, too fast, lest the victim discover the crime before it’s done.
And then my nemesis: An obscenely large teddy bear – Big Teddy – nearly 5 feet tall, was bursting at the seams and beyond repair such that the children rarely played with him now. But his size had always been a prohibitive barrier before – there was nowhere to hide him, no way a theft of this size would go unnoticed.
But when confronted by the possibility of lice, Big Teddy had to go.
After the kids wen to sleep, we discovered Big Teddy wouldn’t fit in the curbside trashcan.
We dragged Big Teddy back inside, then decapitated him. In the TV room. Styrofoam Big Teddy guts everywhere.
He was still too big for a leaf and lawn trash bag.
We cut off his legs and he bled disintegrated Styrofoam peanut mash all over the carpet. My husband and I frantically stuffed the hemorrhaging body into a bag to reduce the mess. We had to fight to get a second bag over Big Teddy’s remains as his innards shamelessly spilled out, marking us and the crime scene beyond the shadow of a doubt.
It was a 2 man job carrying Big Teddy’s remains to the street corner for the trashmen.
Back in the house, I prowled for every eyelash that might have dropped at the crime scene to incriminate me. Wiping down every suspect surface on the chance of fingerprints. Cleaning up every last bit of Big Teddy thread and stuffing that littered our carpet.
But Shhh!!!! Quietly! We don’t want the kids to hear. Witnesses to the crime would be bad. Tiny little wailing witnesses with their hearts irrevocably broken at the horrible scene, confessing the horrible atrocity to teachers and friends alike.
It took the kids a few weeks to realize Big Teddy was gone. He’d always been in an out of the way corner and went unnoticed until he wasn’t tripped over when looking for a movie or a book in that area of the TV room. I manufactured some story about how Big Teddy must have decided Frik and Frak didn’t need him anymore and so went to find other little-little children to play with since Frik and Frak were almost in kindergarten.
Being newly 5, the kids bought the story.
And I got away with it.