Over the course of an outing with a new friend, I learned she liked to swipe random items from unassuming storefronts. Our first and last afternoon together earned her a cheap pair of fake silver hoops and some lipstick. She never stole anything valued at over $4, but the notion of such debauchery snowballing quickly to a place at The Clink seemed obvious. Free fancy lips today. Hard drugs and the sex and some prison time tomorrow. I didn’t make eye contact as she chatted with me through the shiny halls of the shopping mall. My eyes were antsy and dancing about. I waited for the full force of Mall Law to fall heavy on the guilty, and stayed a minimum of four steps diagonally behind my new thief bestie. I was nervous, spent those agonizing minutes trying to formulate a legitimate reason to leave. I was, purse tucked by my side to keep the kleptomaniac from storing treasures in its pouches, ready to tuck and roll from authorities. I’d never actually encountered authorities, let alone had a reason to flee from them, so I worried a masterful escape might not go as planned. My only other tactic was to cry, beg them to call my youth pastor or the school’s principal for character references, and immediately turn state’s narc on the shoplifting “stranger”.
That was a 24 hour friendship. I’d watched too much Law & Order and knew down what dirty path such association with hardened criminals would lead me. When I think of that fateful girl’s day part of me shivers knowing how close to being caged with the other heathens in the cold, damp back office of a country mall. I think of the bad girl now and hope for a little justice, at least guilty ear lobes stained green from those cheap earrings like a bank robber facing a dye bomb when he sneaks a peek inside his million dollar getaway tote. Mostly when I reflect on the experience I’m just confused. I cannot comprehend wanting a particular shade of Fruity Tooty pink lipstick enough to risk getting in trouble. Even with my after-school job, I’d surely had a whopping $5 to loan the girl. I was born generous like that. Had we been friends longer than 12-and-a-half minutes she’d have known this about me.
Over the weekend we got lost trying to find a modest home on an unnamed road in one of those in-between towns in the sticks. When my son and husband and I finally arrived a kind woman led us down a hill and into a small shed. Before me were a few dogs, panting and begging to be stolen immediately. I tried to be subtle when she let the large male from his crate. “Get in my pocket, why don’t you,” I asked the 80-pound fur ball. I giggled at the tail end of the whisper. Try to make the unsuspecting breeder assume I’ve got a weird sense of humor and not a stealing streak. She locked the door to the dog house, to make sure the dogs didn’t accidentally dart out she said. I’m pretty sure she got one look at my crazed eyes, heavy-panting drool mouth and just had a gut feeling about me.
As my husband talked paw size and lineage with the breeder, I noodled over logistics of the heist. Two grown dogs, one puppy, three large crates, tennis balls, water bowls. We’d need to leave my son behind to fit everyone. This is just as well, I assured myself, as the boy is too distracted by the cat in the front yard to make a proper getaway. Also his legs are rather small, not made for mad dashes into already moving vehicles.
Then there was the looming obstacle of distracting this stranger long enough to physically haul my new dog children away. I’d need Tom to fake a medical emergency, but he’s far too dignified to feign seizure. I fantasized changing the dogs’ Social Security numbers. I’d be ready with plausible explanations when they grew older and started doubting my biological ties to them: “I used to be blonde, Golden Retriever. Yes. I dye my eyebrows black now, too.” In all reality I knew I lacked the strength and stamina to pull off such a daring plan. Too many witnesses, too. And I wasn’t, I don’t think, prepared to hurt people. Also problematic was that I didn’t pay attention on the drive up, had no clue what area I was in or which gravel road would best take me to civilization. When it became clear that it was not the day for dognapping, I settled onto the floor and let the puppy chew my grabby fingers.
Lipstick and dangly jewelry seemed ludicrous, but these golden pups made me ready to change identities and cross state lines with stolen plates. It occurs to me now that what’s kept me from a life of crime is not so much a flawless moral compass or heart of gold. I just hadn’t, until the other day anyway, met cute enough loot.