Little Thefts

read the suite from the beginning

by Martha Patterson

   A Conspiracy

Mrs. Dickinson had lived on welfare with her little son for four years.  It had been 

that long since her husband, a car mechanic, died of a brain aneurysm.  She struggled with bills and more than once the electricity in their small apartment had been shut off.

One day she took young Jonah, who was six, down to the drug store to buy aspirin.  Lately she had been getting a lot of headaches.  She could hardly work herself – she had only a high school education, no skills, and didn’t even speak Spanish, a talent that could have won her a job as a receptionist at a local dentist’s office.  They lived in a diverse neighborhood – there were a lot of Latinos as well as African-Americans there, too, so knowing Spanish would have come in handy.

At the drug store, she found the aisle with aspirin and spent a minute picking out the cheapest brand, the smallest bottle.  She noticed Jonah hovering around the counter at the front of the store, where Mr. Simpkins, the owner, was manning the cash register.

Finally, she picked the right bottle of aspirin for her needs and went to the front of the store to pay for it.  Jonah was standing near the door.  She looked at him tenderly, he in his little red Thomas the Tank Engine T-shirt and denim shorts, and the sneakers she wished she had money to replace, for they were worn and had holes in the toes.

She paid for the aspirin, Mr. Simpkins dropped it into a small bag, and Mrs. Dickinson headed to the exit.  She stroked Jonah’s blonde head as they walked out the door, and on their walk back to the apartment talked to her son about how much they would enjoy Spaghettios for dinner that night.

When they arrived home, she put the kettle on to make a cup of tea, and sat at the kitchen table while Jonah whistled to himself and was preoccupied with taking off his T-shirt.  It was hot July weather and Mrs. Dickinson was glad she had a tank top to wear, her only warm-weather top.  She swallowed two tablets of the aspirin with a glass of water.  

The tea made, she sat down again and watched Jonah as he turned on their little television to see if Sesame Street was on.  Suddenly he pulled a Hershey bar out of his pocket and started to unwrap it.

“Where did you get that?” Mrs. Dickinson asked sharply.  

“Don’t know,” Jonah answered, immersed in watching the TV.

“I know where you got it.  You took it from the drug store.”

“No.  I found it.”

“That’s called stealing, Jonah.”

“It’s only candy.”

“Mr. Simpkins would be ashamed of you.”

But Jonah was stubborn.

“He’s just an old man.”

“I disapprove.”

“Would it be okay if he gave it to me?’

“He didn’t.  You stole it.”  She was very annoyed.  

Jonah looked at her shyly and held the unwrapped candy bar out to her.

“Want half?”

Mrs. Dickinson paused.  She knew it was wrong to steal, knew she hadn’t given Jonah the dollar to buy the candy, she knew Mr. Simpkins trusted her and would have been appalled that her child had shoplifted from him.  But she felt a reluctant compassion for her little boy, and the struggles they’d gone through, and he was so young, she was tired, she had a headache, and she knew it was wrong, but she couldn’t help herself when she finally spoke.

“Well – all right.  If we share it, maybe it’s okay.  But don’t do it again.”

Jonah smiled at her and they sat there together, eating the chocolate in mutual conspiracy.


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One Response to “Little Thefts”

  1. Margaret Miller Says:

    How charming

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