The glass shattered falling almost silently onto the placemat at the back door. A moment passes, a hand reaches in, clad in black from tip to elbow, grasping the silver doorknob, twisting, opening stealthily. Silently.
A thief in the night
Up stairs in his room he puts a cigarette to his mouth. Marlboro Red, 100’s. He flicks the lighter, puts the flame to the brown edge of the thing, breaths. Fire.
The smoke fills his lungs, fills his blood, his mind.
There is a knife on the bedstand
And in his hand, sneaking quietly making sure to make no noise is made. That nothing is seen. A shadow, a undetectable summer breeze - the place seems poorly furnished. Maybe this was a poor target. It seems quiet. He had seen no evidence of dogs and as far as he knew this guy was single. No family. No one would miss him if everything went wrong-
It always went wrong, he thought, taking another deep drag. Nothing is worth the pain he’d gone through, at least not to him. Nothing was worth much of anything. He moved to the mini-fridge he’d brought from college, wrenched it open (damn thing rusted) and withdrew a bottle of Guinness, Draught. He searched his simple white room for his bottle opener. Where the fuck was it?
Under the cupboard a hang some cutlery. Poor, unsophisticated. Just more shit from Wal*Mart. Call this living, the thief sighed. Maybe this was a mistake.
Maybe it all was just a fucking big mistake. Shit he knew a lot of what had happened was. He always loved that girl. If only, he thought, I had waited just a few more hours. He closes his eyes, a solitary tear falls to the cheap, ash and beer stained carpet. Sixteen hours, not even a day, and he’d have had it all. Probably got married, maybe have kids. Now it’s all dead end girls and alley way hookers. Nothing left for him. They say you only get one soul mate in your life.
Fuck that. He kicked aside a few bottles and found the opener, a litter gold thing…
He’d found it in the living room in a cupboard. A small glittery ring, small size, with what looked like a real diamond and not cubic zirconia like he’d have expected. He pondered the little thing, flipping it in his fingers, squinting. Sometimes the thief had moments. Ones where he stopped at thought about the little things people have in their drawers, chest and cupboards. Pondering the significance of a ring.
Of a kiss in the Dollar General down a few blocks down. It wasn’t their first but in many ways it should have been. Nothing had ever been felt before or after that was quite as magical. Playing in the lanes of the store, laughing, joking, then finally in solitude, that most significant kiss. That life changing contact, her velvet lips on his own rather parched ones. An angel he had thought. The passion was not brief. It felt like hours passing but really it was just a few minutes. And when it had passed, he remembered with a shiver, her hand venturing down his shoulder to find his hand. Holding it. Warming it. And his heart was on fire like it had never been on fire before or since then. If he’d only waited, had a little more patience-
Then maybe he’d not have made his first mistake of his career. Thing about mistakes in this line of work, they tend to also be the last. It wasn’t a trip of a fall. He simply decided it was time to go upstairs and see what was in that little room. He tiptoed slowly up a somewhat creaky staircase. He winced as the board beneath groaned loudly. Loud to him anyways. It was a noise, noises were loud. He slowly ventured forward, skipping steps he felt were loose, till finally, the door. He placed to fingers on the doorknob to twist it slow enough that no one would hear him. Latrine. Green tiling floor with some cracks, a toilet that could use some cleaning, a mirror on a whitish colored wall, a shower. He looked down in the dim light. There was something there, brown and peeling. Did this guy shit himself? He wondered. No, there was no smell. Curiousity over took. He reached down and took off his Wonder glove (one seize fits all, $1 dollar at the general store) and scratched at it. It came up it easily and, upon closer inspection, it was blood.
On the edge of the knife. It was his own, he sighed, his other addiction. He put the Guinness down and took another drag, kept to nestled in his dry lips and brushed aside his rapidly lengthening hair, reached for the thing. Picked it up. Well balanced, wooden hilt. Metal hand guard, six inch blade somewhat dull, silver with specs of rust and blood all along. He’d forgotten to clean it. Took his sleeve and scrubbed at it.
Funny how these things don’t come off. Stains. He let out and audible laugh, short and scornful. Stains on knives and in minds and on wrists. He glanced downward, trying to shake the memories out. They didn’t come out of carpet either. There it was all around him. That stain, that misery. Brown and unmistakable, and like rust it spreads. Dulling the knife, the mind, the heart. Like rust it consumes. Like memories - so many of them. The night he lost it all, a year or two or something ago, on the living room floor of his ex’s home, In the missionary position, about five minutes. He didn’t even think of her. He thought of her. Wished it was. Said it was to himself. It all came apart at that moment, a day, sixteen hours before that fateful kiss, about thirty before he confessed. Thirty hours after that faux passion he lost all he had for life and living. He tried to stop living, tried to leave the past, unforgiving as it is. Neither worked. So he smoked. Maybe that’d kill him. Maybe
There was something more valuable down the hall. The ring would fetch a few dozen, maybe even a couple hundred assuming he played a hard enough game. Problem was everyone in Michigan sold everything nowadays. Gotta make money somehow. He just choose to earn it. He left the lavatory, headed down the hall with the floorboards and bad paintjob. No pictures he noted. No décor of any sort except for a little table at the hall’s end, a small oak table with no particularly standout features and a pink orchid. Or he assumed it was pink, assumed it was an orchid - at the moment it seemed to be a brownish twig with a pinkish wilt atop it. Whomever lived here stopped given a fuck a long time ago. He felt instinctively that the ring he’d pocketed had something to do with it - seemed logical. Only nice thing in the house was the ring, at least so far, and it was a real, actual ring. He made up stories in his head as he cautiously proceeded, door on the right, door on the left, he choose the left. The story he came up with was of lost love and broken dreams. He wasn’t far from the truth. He slowly opened that left door, it creaked more than he’d liked. A study. This room actually had stuff in it. A redish carpet, still cheap. Wooden paneling, decent condition. A ceiling light, a desk next to the window at the far end with a computer on it, some papers. The right wall was purely shelves with books. Tons of them, most cheap ones bought from Goodwill or Mel Trotter. So he assumed. They all looked heavily read and well used. The Hobbit, Of mice and Men, the entire RAMA series. This guys taste seemed to fly everywhere. He was aware the slowly he was becoming fascinated with…
The man sighed heavily. Tossed his used up cigarette into the brown glass ashtray next to the bed. He took another, lit, drag, smoke. He moved to a chair by the window overlooking his front lawn. You couldn’t see it at night but the thing was overgrown and he knew it. His neighbors complained frequently. Most of the time he didn’t listen. His mind was always wandering everywhere. It felt like a whirl. It overtook him, his emotions welled like a coming tidal wave. He felt the despair of his memories ebbing away at his heart and mind, just like every night before this he’d thought ‘was the night’. Tonight he resolved was the night. He threw his head back, eyes closed, cigarette in his mouth. He’d bought a ring for her after they’d gotten together after that whole fiasco. Smoke rose. They seemed stable to him, and they were the best few months of his life. Like a misty serpent. He didn’t know back then what he knew now - you can’t fuck another girl and expect that one you love to not fuck you over. It was a bitter thought but he felt it was true. Exhale, a mushroom cloud of the cancerous substance burst from his mouth in blueish grey. He dropped his Guinness to the floor, replaced it with that stained knife. The smoke dispersed. A sting. The knife cut shallow, the blood flowed lightly, down, warm, comforting. Life leaving slowly. Opened his eyes.
She was beautiful to the thief. She was soft. Delicate. Held a violin to her female form. Clad in black and wearing loose fighting blue jeans. Leaning on a tree set against a deeply green forest. The light played like fairies on her face. The made her eyes glue blue. Her lips so full. Her breasts perfectly formed her hips just the right curve. He flipped the picture over. In obviously female ink it read - I love you, forever. Dated sometime in September, 2007. It had a name he couldn’t quite read. He looked back at the picture. Her hand, resting upon the frets. A ring. Small, gold, with a blue stone. He felt in his pocket. Withdrew the ring.
The thief understood the decay. They ring was no longer on her finger. He saw it all. He saw the pain this man must have felt. But that was a month and two years ago. The thief shook his head slowly. It must have been deep. He set the picture back on the desk slowly, respectfully. He kept the ring though. Stealthily he walked out of the room and into
The deeper veins, he grimaced, grunted, the smoke from his cigarette constantly flowing from his rapidly breath nostrils. Gasping for air. He grinded it to the bone, felt the feeling of metal on soft rock. The blood was crimson. Thick. Sticky. You could even smell it. She smiled in his mind, that angel’s smile. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. It hurts… His hands were red, slippery. In gasping agony he withdrew the blade and dropped the Marlboro from his mouth. He held the knife high, plunged it into his thigh with as much force as he could muster. An agonizing scream
Came to the ears of the thief. He panicked but only for a moment. That last room… Fuck stealth. That sounded like pain. He was a thief but not a monster, and his human instincts - curiosity and persevering life - overtook. He dashed across the room across the hall, bursting through the door. And the blood out his veins, a man lying in his blood, a knife tossed across the floor. The femoral. The thief ran in. The man could barely breath. It was everywhere. The window. The walls. A crimson room. The smell. The sound of a rattle, breath. Save me. The thief ran to the man, leaping over the bed. He bent low. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Oh my God. His flesh was pale. His eyes distant. The thief knew he was gone. He was nearly dead…
And it feels like it was a friend… the fog set it. A man was there in black. Talking, desperate. That man took from his pocket a small golden ring. He placed it in my hand. Lowered his head.
The dying man offered a semblance of a smile. The beat in his chest was weak, slowing, dimming.
The thief felt his focus returning. He walked from the room, returned a moment later. A picture in his hand. He set it near the dying man’s face. She was beautiful… the thief turned it over.
I love you, forever
That scribble of a name he still knew well
It was her name, engaged in August, 2007.
Then it was gone.
The thief stood, sighed, a tear fell from his eye though he was not certain what for. He left into the night, pockets empty.