Accident With Consequences

This week's Fiction Friday theme: Have your character steal something. Now have the character rationalize it.

I stared at the screen in disbelief. Only four titles. And yet, I knew I currently had five books out. They were all sitting on my desk in front of me. Something had gone wrong. I glanced again at the screen and picked up "Portrait in Sepia" to examine the cover. There was the bar code; it was clean and had no scratch marks; nothing to indicate why it had not registered on my account. Nothing for it but to return to the library and get them to check it out.

I grabbed the book and headed to the library when the thought suddenly crossed my mind that it might be better to go without the book. After all, if it had not registered at all, I might just be accused of stealing it. Hesitating, I finally put the book back on the pile on my desk and headed into town. It should be easy enough to explain what had happened and as luck would have it Laurielee was on the front desk today. Laurielee was one of the stalwarts of the library's writing class which I also attended. We had dated a few times and she and her family had been a great help to me following my illness. Knowing me as well as she did, I was convinced she wouldn't believe me capable of trying to steal a book, certainly as I was returning at once to explain the error.

She flashed me a smile as she finished issuing a card for the reader in front of me and we spent a few minutes chatting - even arranged to get together for a drink that evening. But there was no way out of it, I had to tell her what had happened, not failing to make it quite clear I had absolutely no intention of stealing the book.

She smiled at my ridiculous fears. "If you only knew how often that happens. The computer is always messing up. It's probably attributed it to another reader. That's no real problem. You read the book and when you've finished you bring it back and it gets checked back in. Most often, the mistake isn't even noticed."

"So there's nothing you can do to rectify the problem." My voice still sounded nervous.

"Well, if you really want to, I could find out who has the book... according to the computer, that is... and then put it back into your name. But it's not really necessary."

My hesitation and anxious smile provided her with the answer. She asked for its title and it soon came up on her screen.

"Look, it belongs to..." She went silent. A ponderous, reflective silence. I stretched across the desk and managed to get a peek at the screen. We both went silent together. She stared into my eyes and I began to read perfectly what was going through my mind. The same thoughts were going through my mind, too. Here was a way of ending months of slanderous rivalry. All I had to do was keep the book, steal it; no, not steal it for surely there would be a way to get it back into the library sometime later. And I wasn't doing it for myself. This woman had wreaked havoc amongst the library staff, and on Laurielee in particular. Now there was a way of getting back at her and it lay in my hands to do so.

A man came up to the desk and stood behind me. Laurielee found her voice again.

"Thank you Mr. Winston. I think we've got that sorted out. Is there anything else you need?"

I thanked her warmly and mouthed the words see you this evening as I edged my way past the waiting man and strode out the door of the library not a trace of hesitation in my step. I, who had been afraid of being branded as a thief through no fault of my own, had now become one, convinced it was the right thing to do.


oh how delicious!! what a Moral dilemma.... beautifully written, good pace, kept me going the whoel way through.

22 August 2008 at 11:02  

I adore the righteousness of this character. I recall having those same feelings on occasion - that doing the right thing will lead someone to think that I have done the wrong thing. . . Better to do nothing in that case. But I like how you turned it around. . . And got revenge at the same time. Sweet.

24 August 2008 at 02:54  

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