colossal waste

Crime Scene Tape
I’m sorry to say that thievery has plagued my neighborhood of late, and wouldn’t you know it would begin just as I was preparing to go away for a few days?

I don’t keep much of value in my house, but neither did my mother, who once fell victim to a home break-in. Nevertheless she felt angry and helpless. I felt the same sense of violation that she did, and it wasn’t even my house.

Basically, the pillager tore up the house in looking for items of value. No door or drawer was left unopened. Have you ever seen a hope chest that looked disemboweled? A HOPE chest, for crying out loud! Personal items were strewn throughout the house, everywhere. Each room looked to me like a Rorschach image revealing a different aspect of anger, frustration, and incipient madness.

I’d sure hate to come back from my vacation to a mess like that. So I’ve decided to tell the would-be home invader beforehand that breaking into my place would be a colossal waste of time. Here is a copy of the letter I will post on the doors, front and back, as I leave:

Dear Fledgling Thief:

I have no idea why you have launched upon a life of crime, but nobody goes down that career path without malice aforethought, so I will spare you my preachments, though I can attest that crime does not pay: I once tried to steal home, but was thrown out at the plate. (A little humor there, Mr. Thief. Well, I said ‘a little.’)

Anyhow, take my word for it, there is nothing of value in the house at whose door you now stand, i. e. my house. But, assuming that you are bold enough to be standing at my FRONT door, my next-door neighbor to the west has a terrific coin collection.

He also has a television set big enough to receive programming from outer space, but I assume, alas, that you did not bring a pickup truck and a dolly. Oh, well, there’s always next time.

Moving right along, my next-door neighbor to the east has a stamp collection you would not believe! Worth thousands if a dime. Long story short, if you are a philatelist, you’ve hit the jackpot. If you’re not a philatelist – I’ll wait while you look up the word – let’s move on to another neighbor, the house across the street from mine.

Oh, boy! This guy, a gun enthusiast, is loaded (no pun intended). Take it from me (no pun there, either), he has a collection of firearms that ISIS might envy. Moreover, his wife has silverware that is the envy of all the other housewives in the neighborhood. Keeps it polished, too.

Best of all, from your point of view at least, none of these houses has an alarm system. I know. I’ve asked. Not even a dog.

So there. That should give you more than enough work for one night, or whenever it is that you go on, uh, duty.

It’s only fair to warn you, however, that all three of these neighbors are from New York City, have Italian last names, and came South under the government’s Witness Protection Program. And I have this on good authority.

So unless you…

Well, forewarned is forewarned, I always say.

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Image: Crime Scene Tape by Brandon Anderson via flickr and used a Creative Commons license.
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After service in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English, and then began a (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and ended years later in Atlanta at The (great) Atlanta Constitution, which I left in late 1982 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. My second novel, Atlanta Blues, spent a few minutes on the best-seller list in (at least) Columbia, S.C., and was described in one newspaper’s year-end roundup as “one of the three best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” My third novel won no honors but at least didn’t get me hanged; titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in the high school of a Georgia town. For my next novel, And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, I returned to an Atlanta setting for a story about the redemptive powers of, in this case anyhow, “that good rock ’n’ roll.” I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. One of its stories, “R.I.P.,” was a winner in the S.C. Fiction Project in 2009. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.comand I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.