Stealing stealthily

Up from the Carrot Ranch this week, we are stealing. October 7, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a thief or a theft. Consider motives and repercussions. Is the act a matter of perception? Is it a daring maneuver or a desperate bid for survival? Think about different instances of stealing.

I have already confessed to both my career as a thief’s assistant and accessory to a shop-o-choc-o-lift-aholic here.

I’m really not genetically or temperamentally or culturally or any other -ally way attuned to crime. It’s not that I’m good or moral or anything. No rather I fear punishment and approbation more than I could ever enjoy or exult in the thrill of crime. I’m also irredeemably middle class and lucky to have lived my life in a comfortable if not always affluent situation so not needed to resort to desperate measures.

In a way, living a sanitised life is crap for a writer. You need to understand the edge to be able to peer over it and wonder what if….? It’s a drawback, for sure and the greater my involvement in this writing life, the more often I find myself thinking ‘what would it be like if I…?’ Mostly the answer is the same. Embarrassing.

Which would be mildly amusing if the truth weren’t that as a fifty something white male I’m allowed the benefit of the doubt. Fr’instance, imagine the scene. A man goes into a shop, looking for a tooth brush. He finds one and as he turns knocks the shelves. He reaches out and stops it falling but to put it back he needs to lose the toothbrush. All he can do is put it in his pocket. He does so and restores the shelf as an assistant appears, offers help and shows concern. The man is mildly shaken and leaves the shop. He is stopped. If it was me the shop assistant might say, ‘Sir, the tooth brush?’ I’d apologize and go to pay etc. If it was a teenage boy, especially if from a minority group, wearing a hoodie, would the reaction be the same?

We all make assumptions… like in this little flash instalment involving, as usual, Mary North.

The benefit of the doubt 

‘Hey, what are you doing?’

Mary turned at her daughter’s voice. Immediately her maternal instincts rose alongside her hackles. ‘Let her go!’

A shop assistant pulled Penny away from the fruit section.

‘Are you her mother?’

‘I most certainly am. What…?’

‘She was stealing the grapes.’


‘I was just trying one, Mum. It…’

‘Penny! How could you? I’m terribly sorry.’

‘This time, madam….’

‘Yes of course.’


In the car, ‘Penny you know that was wrong…’

‘Grandpa always tasted the grapes to make sure they were sweet. No one stopped him. It’s not fair.’

‘No, Penny, it isn’t.’

If you need to catch up with Mary, here is the link to the previous episodes

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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23 Responses to Stealing stealthily

  1. Everyone should be able to try a damn grape before you buy a bunch. It’s only civilized.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The benefit of the doubt. That’s a sticky wicket to wander through. Of course, you’re right.

    Liked this scene with Mary and Penny. Because it’s not fair. Everyone tastes the grapes. (Except me. I don’t.) Look forward to reading the shop-o-choc-o-lift-aholic.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ritu says:

    Loved your take on this!!


  4. Considering many stores these days have ‘try me’ plates on their counters it is not surprising that some people might assume that this applies to other produce. Having bought strawberries and grapes that have not been very nice, I have been tempted to taste first and save myself a bunch of money. Also having been in retail for some years I have watched the store detectives follow the innocent boys in the hoodies whilst a young mum with a toddler stuffed a jacket down behind him in the pushchair..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. noelleg44 says:

    Interesting and very real POV! I hadn’t thought abut the fact you get less threatening and/or suspicious as you grow older.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Charli Mills says:

    Both your post and your flash bring up the idea that suspicion is fickle and often biased. Yet, I also think that it’s easier to call out a child than an adult because it’s less intimidating.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: Thieves! « Carrot Ranch Communications

  8. Norah says:

    I like your toothbrush story, and agree with Charli about the fickleness of suspicions and their susceptibility to bias. (Apologies for incorrectly referring to it in my comment on your choc-o-lift post.) Your flash is great and here I agree with Sarah. I see many testing the fruit (especially grapes) before they buy but I have never done so. (true!) The response to Penny does seem a little severe and unfair, but where do you draw the line?


  9. trifflepudling says:

    Oooh, I like it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ali Isaac says:

    When I worked at Debenhams the mother of a small child brought her daughter in to me, because she found a pair of (cheap) earings her daughter had taken from my department. She wanted me to give the poor little thing a stern talking to. The little girl was already distraught. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. Didnt have any children of my own then. Wouldnt find it so hard now! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sherri says:

    You make a great point here Geoff about the judgements we make, excellently illustrated by the toothbrush incident. And of course, you already know of my ‘life of crime’ as a girl stealing sweets. I knew it was wrong, I feared my mother’s wrath more than anyone’s (my dad was a pushover most of the time), yet I did it anyway. Interestingly, years later, Mum told me that it was my stealing that made her sit up and take serious stock of the state of her marriage… I wanted attention and I got it, but in all the wrong ways. And your flash too…poor Penny. It most certainly isn’t fair. Enjoyed the whole post very much…


  12. You’re story of the toothbrush reminds me of the time the BBC got an actor dressed in a suit to lay down just outside Waterloo station. Just about everybody stopped and asked if he was Okay and if he needed any help. The following morning they did the same thing with an actor dressed as a tramp and hardly anybody took any notice. Moral of the story? It doesn’t matter how we look, we’re all human beings and sometimes need a little help. If you’re prepared to offer help to anyone then never judge them first.


  13. Autism Mom says:

    The insidiousness of double-standards wonderfully communicated! Great story, Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. rogershipp says:

    Loved it… Double standards always exist.

    Liked by 1 person

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