Sunday, November 04, 2007
sunday confessional: thou shalt not steal
(This may or may not become a November series. We'll see. We like to keep things experimental around here...)

To the best of my recollection I have only stolen two and one half things in my life: a hymnal from my elementary school's church, a smurf figurine from my Aunt Dacia, and a Little Miss Trouble toy from a cute and quaint Worthington, Ohio family-run toy store. I was six when I stole the hymnal, and did so because I liked one particular hymn ("We Are the Light of the World") and, for some reason, thought that by stealing the hymnal I could somehow take the hymn home. I stole the smurf doll simply because I - a card-carrying member of the smurf fan club - naturally coveted both it and my aunt's extensive collection of smurf figurines and felt she had more than she could handle. But the Little Miss Trouble toy I only half stole. That's what makes this story so tragic.

It was our first trip to this particular toy store, and it. was. awesome. Picture the F.A.O. Schwartz scene from Big but on a much much smaller scale and without people dancing on giant keyboards. I was five at the time and obsessed with the Little Miss/Mr. Men book series, so naturally I was delighted when I discovered a large bin full of Little Miss and Mr. Men toy figurines. I grabbed a handful of Mr. Grumpy, Little Miss Scatterbrain, Mr. Mischief, Little Miss Bossy and Mr. Impossibles and raised a proud, hopeful fist to my mom, inquiring if she's let me get them all. Of course, she said no. But I was allowed to get one, and so I selected my favorite - Little Miss Trouble.

(And by the way, I probably should have realized that choosing Little Miss Trouble from the bunch was a bad omen pointing to my future doom, by I guess I didn't know much about foreshadowing when I was five.)

I was happy with my choice but we weren't quite ready to go yet, and so I kept Little Miss Trouble in my tiny hand while I busied myself by digging through a basket of toy spiders and snakes. When my mom finally called for me, signaling that it was time to go, I looked down at my hand and panicked. Little Miss Trouble was gone! Crying, I searched and searched, but, alas, she was nowhere to be found. Assuming I dropped her in the snake pile and some other kid with excellent taste in toys found her, I finally gave up. Since there weren't any more Little Miss Troubles, I selected a Little Miss Sunshine toy, made my purchase, and off we went.

It wasn't until we were home and getting ready for bed when I made the discovery. Turns out I didn't drop Little Miss Trouble. Somehow, she ended up in my pocket. The force of my unconscious mind must have placed her there while I was playing with the snakes. Technically, yes - I stole her. I removed her from the toy store without payment. However, I never intended to steal her, so see? She was only half stolen.

Turns out my father didn't care whether she was half or whole stolen, and insisted that I return Little Miss Trouble to the store from whence she came. And so, a few Saturdays later, we returned to the toy store, me donning my most pathetic, sorrowful face in the hopes that the owner might decide against pressing charges. We left the car, walked up to the store's door, and then noticed the sign,

"Closed. Out of Business."

And despite being only five, I remember this next part very clearly. My father looked at me and with a voice as serious as death said, "Well, I guess this is all your fault. You stole that toy and, see? They went bankrupt."

And as improbable as is might sound that a 99 cent toy would spell a store's financial doom, I believed him. Guilt-ridden and unable to so much as look at Little Miss Trouble, I went home and buried her deep in my sock drawer. And to this day, I still can't enter a cute, quaint, family-run toy store without feeling like a criminal.



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