Darryl didn’t start out intending to be a thief. He didn’t think “Maybe I’ll make my living by taking other people’s things and running from the law,” when he started sneaking quarters, nickels, and dimes from his dad’s change jar. It never occurred to him that he might get caught.
Every time he took some, Darryl headed straight down to Pic ’n’ Save to buy more Star Wars cards. There were seven in a pack, along with a sticker, and a piece of bubble gum that he always threw out. A complete set was sixty-six cards plus eleven stickers. He had all the stickers and sixty-five of the cards. He just needed one more.
It was 1977. The packs sold for a quarter.
The change jar was on top of a bookshelf in his dad’s den, a dark room that smelled of pipe tobacco and something stale and alien. Darryl’s eyes were level with the bottom of the old Mason jar, filled halfway with coins. He had to pick up the jar and bring it down to himself in order to dip his hand in. Usually there was a quarter on top, but sometimes he had to hunt for one, the change rattling and the pennies making his fingers smell like copper, like blood.
As time went on, he had to dig deeper. It didn’t occur to him that his dad might notice when the change in the jar was more copper than silver. But every time he biked down to the Pic ’n’ Save and handed over the change that was not his change, he opened the pack of cards to find the same ones he’d already collected.
He never did get the sixty-sixth card. What he did get, when his dad finally realized Darryl was stealing the change, was yelled at, smacked, and grounded. He learned something in the process, though: take the pennies. People cared more about one quarter than they did about twenty-five pennies.
That knowledge served him well over the next eleven years. He stole pennies and left quarters, took singles but left twenties, socks but not jeans, gum but not candy bars. When he stole the three twenties from his dad’s wallet, he figured it would be a while before his dad noticed their absence, considering he also stole the keys to his parents’ Blazer. His dad might have said Darryl stole the Blazer itself, but that wasn’t true: he kept the keys, but he left the car at the bus station.
No one could say Darryl hadn’t learned his lesson.
Jeffrey Ricker is the author of Detours (2011) and the YA fantasy The Unwanted (2014). His stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines including Foglifter, Phoebe, Little Fiction, The Citron Review, The Saturday Evening Post, and others. A 2014 Lambda Literary Fellow and recipient of a 2015 Vermont Studio Center residency, he has an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia.