I was talking to someone at work about the viral video that is going around, the one about the NASA scientist that made the elaborate, over-engineered, hilarious booby trap to revenge upon thieves that steal Amazon packages. My point is that he made the package look too tempting – he was creating thieves. The other guy disagreed – he felt that people either were thieves or not. I think that it is more a matter of degree, and everyone, sometimes, steals something.
I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited this year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.
I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a thousand or so words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the two people.
One day, due to a mix-up at a department store wedding registry two weeks before the scheduled weddings, Moss Williams and Isabel Green discovered they were both engaged to the same man, Augustus Piper.
Moss William’s condominium was on the twenty third floor and she had always been disappointed that the windows didn’t open. She lifted up an expensive, exquisite abstract marble sculpture that Augustus Piper had bought her on one of his business trips to Venice and fixed the window. The marble made an appropriate expensive explosive boom when it hit the concrete over two hundred feet below – followed by an exquisite tinkle as the shards of broken glass caught up. Augustus had bought her the condo and had planned on moving in too after the wedding.
She enjoyed the sting of the cold wind whipping through the open wound in the glass wall of the building as she collected everything that either belonged to Augustus or had been bought by him and would fit through the hole in the window left by the marble. This was everything in the place other than the furniture. With amazing energy and rapidity she threw it all out.
The only thing she saved was the cocaine. Moss lined it all up in a group that looked like a tiny neatly plowed field of snowy ground on the glass coffee table – then hurled the expensive sterling necklace with its hidden compartment out too. He had bought her the jewelry in San Francisco. He had bought the cocaine too, but it was too good to waste… even in fury. She visited the little field on the coffee table whenever her energy began to fade.
“Here, dear,” Isabel’s mother called, “I’m back from the store with the ice cream.” She began unloading the pints from the shrink-wrapped cardboard flat and loaded them into her daughter’s freezer. “It’s a little soft from the trip back from the store, but I think it’s still edible… do you want a pint now?”
The loud sobbing from the bedroom paused for a few seconds. “Yes,” Isabel said, “Bring me a pint and a spoon.”
“What flavor? They sold these variety flats and that’s what I bought.”
“Who cares mother? Just bring me something.”
“Chunky Monkey OK?” asked Isabel’s mother. The sobbing didn’t stop this time, so she assumed that Chunkey Monkey wasn’t good, so she exchanged it with a pint of chocolate mint. The spoon she chose from her daughter’s drawer didn’t look quite right, so she bent over the sink and gave it a quick scrubbing before heading back to the bedroom.
It took two hours and three pints of ice cream to get Isabel to quit crying enough for her mother to feel like she could leave and head home. Alone, Isabel felt that one more pint might hit the spot. After all, she had been starving herself for almost a year in order to fit into the wedding dress that Augustus had picked out.
Before all this her mother had been wondering how she was going to spend the insurance settlement from her third husband’s death and when, at last, her only daughter was engaged she had her outlet. She paid for the elaborate and expensive wedding dress without hesitation. She bought that hideous marble sculpture at the gallery and insisted Isabel give it to Augustus for his birthday. Her mother gave Isabel the money for the little silver cocaine vault that Augustus had his eye on. Augustus always liked his coke and Isabel always was willing beg cash from her mom and to drive down to the South Side of town to pick some up for him – though, of course, she always lied to her mother about what the money was for.
Now all that was over. Isabel sat up on the edge of the bed and forced herself to try and imagine what life was going to be like now… how it was going to go on without Augustus. She picked up the little drop knife she kept on her bed stand. Even that reminded her of Augustus. One evening she was standing in a dingy alley in the South Side of town waiting for her connection to show up. She was kicking at the dirt and felt something with the toe of her show. It was the knife, buried in the oily dust of the alley. She fished it out, took it home, and cleaned it up. She liked to think of what horrors that little lifeless piece of stainless steel had seen.
Isabel flicked the knife open and closed a couple of times, thinking about one more horror.
Moss looked at the piece of paper for the thousandth time. There was the name of the store, and Augustus’ name and then, under that, instead of, “Moss Williams” it said, “Isabel Green.” She stared at it and wondered what kind of evil worthless harpy that name represented, a name that stole her fiancé. Then she stared at the next line, a phone number. She had seen that number on Augustus’ cell… seen it many times. She had assumed it was his work.
“Why are you mad at me?’ Isabel cried, “I didn’t do anything!”
“Yes you did, you stole my fiancé,” Moss said.
“No I didn’t! I didn’t know anything about you. You stole my fiancé too. He’s the bastard that screwed both of us. Literally.”
Moss hadn’t thought of that.
A long silence on the line. “What?” asked Isabel, “Are you still there?”
“Yes… I’m here. Give me a minute. I hadn’t thought of that.”
Finally Moss decided.
“Isabel?” she said, “I think we need to meet. We need to hash this out.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“No, not at all. But I don’t see any choice.”
“You know the pub down on Carol Street, the Golden Horse?”
“Yeah I know the place.”
The two sat at a dark table in the back corner. At first they did more staring than talking. But after a few rounds – Moss drank Jameson, Isabel light beer – they began to open up. Each was surprised at how easy it was to get along with the other. They did, after all, have a lot in common.
“I have a confession to make,” said Isabel.
“What?” asked Moss.
“I didn’t know how this was going to go, so I brought this.” She reached in her purse and brought out the drop knife. “I hope you’re not pissed.”
“Oh,” replied Moss, “That’s nothing.”
“Really, look at this.” She reached into her purse for something also. “You know I’m a seamstress? Have been since I was a little girl.”
“No idea, really.”
“So, like you brought your knife, I brought this.” She brandished a heavy, wicked looking pair of pinking shears. She moved it so the light sparked across the wavy saw teeth.
“Yeah, I know there’s only one thing we’d both like to use these on now,” said Isabel with an evil chuckle. “I’d love to see what those shears would do to it.”
“Ughh, as much fun as that would be… that’s one thing I don’t ever want to see ever again.”
The two women started laughing and seeing each other laugh, couldn’t stop until the both doubled over with pain in their diaphragms.”
“You know?” said Moss, “I’ve had another idea, one a lot less violent. Something simple. Something to do first, put the fear of God into the rat bastard.”
“Back there, by the bathroom, there’s a photo booth. One of those old fashioned ones. The ones that take a strip of four pictures.”
“Let’s take some shots. Together. And send them to that son of a bitch. That will scare the shit out of him – the thought that we are together, plotting”
“Yeah lets. Let’s flip him off.”