Once a Thief

I sit back in my well-padded crimson chair and allow my eyes to drift for a moment over the city below me as Douglas J. Finnerman begins to speak about emerging markets and growth opportunities. My boss, Rowland Everett III, nods with great enthusiasm, and I give them both a smile that conveys approval and warmth. My job is to appear helpful and gracious at all times. It sucks, but it’s a living.

A good living.

It beats tending bar, waiting tables, and washing dishes. Of course, I did supplement my living by dipping into the pockets of the unwary and unsuspecting. My college years were something less than a blast. Even working my ass off, it was never enough. So I was a thief. A good one. As they say, I had the touch. In and out before the mark even knew I’d been there. Cash only, please. The trick was to blend. I used to hang down at the financial center in my second-hand suit. Lunch time was the best. All those self-satisfied business types pouring out of their offices like big, fat tuna just waiting to be hooked.

I usually limited myself to three wallets a day, depending on my haul. Sometimes I’d hit a jackpot: a money clip packed with fifties and hundreds. But I was smart. I never went on a spree. I’d put it away and be back on another corner the next day.

So today I sit enjoying the view and a nice dry martini. My lunch will be paid for, and life will be good because even though I’ve already lifted Mr. Finnerman’s money clip, he’ll pay with his triple-titanium credit card. He won’t even know he’s light a few thousand until he’s back at his office. And he certainly won’t consider that well-mannered young man from Everett, Brookstone and Blackwell as a suspect.

If only he knew, right?

Yeah, I should probably give up the dipping. It’s a dangerous game, but what do you do for fun when your life is a spent as a yes man to an old blowhard? Anyway, it’s not like I have family to worry about.

Eventually, I’ll move on, and maybe I’ll become so important, I won’t need the rush. I’ll be able to afford my own helicopter or be able to travel the world or climb Mount Everest.

For now, though, I’ll settle for giving half of Mr. Finnerman’s big wad of cash to the homeless shelter and adding half to my collection. I like to think of it as my super secret retirement account. On my next vacation I’ll go to the Cayman’s and add it to my account. Then I’ll swim with the stingrays.

You only get to live once. You might as well enjoy it.

The Ghost in Aisle Three

I see you over in the produce aisle picking out a perfect bunch of grapes. I linger at the meat counter trying to decide between the organic chicken and a T-bone. I go for the chicken, and duck around the corner before you see me.

It’s not that you wouldn’t be gracious should our paths collide. You’d hug me, and we’d exchange banalities. You’d ask about my kids, and I’d ask about yours. We’d tell each other how great we look, and one of us would say, “Let’s do lunch.” But, of course, neither of us would.

It’s funny how we let go of people. It’s usually a slow ungluing. We’re so caught up in our hectic lives, that we don’t notice the passage of time. Often the distance grows from a crack to a chasm, and we don’t realize it’s happened until one day we look across the aisle at the grocery store and see a face from a time long past. A happier time.

I tell myself I’m not rushing as I go through the aisles and toss my items into the cart. I’m sure I’ve forgotten half of what I need, but I can always come back. I pay and scoot out to my car. Once I’ve packed the car, I take a minute to sit with my eyes closed and my head against the steering wheel.

That was silly, I tell myself. I could have reconnected for a few moments.

I start the car and pull out of the parking lot. Silly, perhaps, but what would be the point? I’ve already disappeared from your life.

Better to remain a ghost.