23.7.06

Sunday Scribblings: A Story About Theft

Originally I wanted to write a very serious story for this week’s prompt at Sunday Scribblings. The prompt is “Thief!” and I immediately decided I wanted to write a story where “The theft should be almost as abominable as the act of not stealing,” a meditation on property rights and the relation between the haves and have-nots. But… I graduated from university on Friday, I am tired and it is so hot that I can barely think. So, instead, I wrote this silly little story. I hope that it at least qualifies as ‘quite cute’ even if it does little to overturn unjust social structures.

Addendum: This one looks really long, but half of it is lists, I promise!

Addendum the second: If it is not yet clear that I do not know what a borough council is, it will be soon. In this story it is merely representative of a small, distant and dithering authority.

Addendum the third: I have not had as much time to proof-read this as I normally do, so please ignore any errors, however hilarious.


The Woman with Wings

Monday

Items Stolen
  • 1 x Cheese and cucumber sandwich
  • 1 x Bottle of mineral water
  • 1 x Tub of chocolate ice cream
Dear Diary,

Ha! No, I’m not going to be that cliché. Besides, this diary must be semi-serious. Its purpose is to record, from this point on, everything she steals, and on what date. Then, when I go to the borough council to get them to do something about this, I shall have a compelling and organised case.

For my own state of mind, let me also record how I got into this mess. I did not realise it at the time, but it all started when I was staying in a block of flats in the town centre. It was a rather nice place, if a little crowded for my tastes. And on the roof we had nesting a family of winged people.

I imagine you’re not too familiar with winged people - this was certainly the first time I ever saw any in the flesh. Winged people live on the wind, with no real concept of property or money. They value actions over words, and rarely speak - although this reticence should in no way be confused with timidity, as, although they almost never descend to ground level, they are quite happy to defecate and copulate in plain view of those below (who might be wise to open an umbrella).

This family were a favourite topic for the building’s gossips, but at the time I didn’t really consider them a nuisance. They were always dropping things off of the roof, and stealing clothes from washing lines, but they were quite reticent really and I even liked to sit and watch them from my window on the third floor. They would swoop and soar and dive into clouds; they would settle arguments by dive-bombing one another, or by landing on roof tops to posture and wrestle.

I almost rather admired them, especially the daughter who was about my age, who would spend much time by herself on rooftops, photographing sunsets with a broken camera, or trying to get as close to a group of birds as she could without scaring them, or hopping between the tops of double-decker buses.

Eventually I moved away from there, and into a semi-detached house in the suburbs. I have more room for my stuff and much more peace and calm. But things started disappearing a few days ago, and today I noticed for the first time, (alerted by the keen eyes of a neighbour), that the winged daughter from my previous residence has apparently followed me here and made a nest of dirty rags and soggy cardboard on my roof.

I had never seen her so close-up before. Her hair is long and black and the feathers on her wings are golden brown and carefully preened - the only two parts of her that seem well taken care of. The rest of her is dirty and bruised. She is wearing a large plastic carrier bag, her legs sticking out of tears in the bottom, her arms passing through the handles as if they were the straps of a dress. The broken camera hangs around her neck on a cord. I called up to her earlier, as she sat eating the tub of ice cream I was going to enjoy tonight. She walked to the edge of the roof, the toes of her bare feet sticking boldly over the edge. Her soles were black with dirt. I asked just what she thought she was doing. She grinned and put her camera’s viewfinder to her eye, pressing the button several times. The film is hanging out of the back and the lens is cracked. She seems bright and inquisitive. I’m sure she knows that the camera is not taking pictures, and I doubt she would get them developed if it was. I don’t know why she did that, except to make fun of me.

I would like to go and buy some more ice cream, but I am worried about what she will steal when I am gone. I have made some phone calls to try and find out what I can do about this. Meanwhile, I must find out how she is getting into my house.

Tuesday

Items Stolen
  • 2 x Cupcakes
  • 1 x Apple
  • 1 x Bar of dark chocolate
  • 1 x This week’s TV guide
  • 1 x Pair of scissors
I don’t think she can read, but she’s looking at the pictures and cutting the pages up into delicate, curving shapes. I have contacted a locksmith and she is going to change my locks for me. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that the winged woman must have stolen one of my keys somehow.

What time is CSI on? Is it nine ‘o’ clock, or quarter past? I can’t miss it - Captain Brass has been shot!

Wednesday

Items Stolen
  • Water
  • Shower gel
  • Natural gas (Quantities unknown)
  • 1 Towel
I was almost certain that I had put a stop to it. When I went off to work she waved to me cheerfully and I waved back, confident that the new locks would keep her out. Perhaps if she stops stealing my stuff we could be quite good friends. When I got back I went all through the house. If she had stolen anything, it wasn’t anything that I could find. Or rather, anything that I couldn’t find. Um, you know what I mean.

Feeling rather more relaxed, I spent the evening in the lounge, reading. About eight ‘o’ clock, though, I heard a noise upstairs, just barely. I raced up the stairs and skidded to a halt in front of the winged woman, slightly damp and emerging from my bathroom with a towel wrapped around her. Her feathers were ruffled and her wings were dripping water onto the carpet, but she was immaculately clean and apparently very contented.

The hot water wasn’t on, so she must have not only gained entry to my house, but, without my hearing it, turned on the boiler, waited for the water to get hot and then used my shower.

When I give my list of stolen items to the borough council, I should leave off the towel. I put it in the list above to remind me to buy a new one, but to her credit she did try to give it back to me. I closed my eyes and tried to make her understand that I’d prefer it if she kept it on. She let herself out through the front door. I am quite certain that she did not have a key on her person.

Thursday

Items Stolen
  • 1 x Peanut butter sandwich
  • 7 x Chocolate biscuits
  • 1 x Apple
  • 1 x Banana
  • 1 x Strawberry yoghurt
  • 1 x Pair of Jeans
  • 1 x T-Shirt
I struck upon an idea last night as to someone I could call, but unfortunately I didn’t feel able to tell anyone to come over here. While she was showering it seems that her plastic bag/dress blew away on the wind and she was not the least bit concerned. I took three hours of overtime today, unable to face being the person who lives in the house with the naked winged woman prancing about on the roof. When I arrived back home, as well as raiding the fridge, she had stolen a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. I have to say I was almost pleased. I think that I will leave them off of the list for the council, as with the towel.

Friday

Items Stolen
  • 6 x
I don’t know how to write this one. I think, like this:

Items Stolen
  • 6 x Half pairs of socks
Does that make sense? I may change it later. She has been in my wardrobe again. Before today, I owned six pairs of socks. Now I own six odd socks. She has stolen one of each shade of grey. She is wearing two on her feet, two on her hands, and one over each ear. To be fair, the weather has taken a turn for the colder. I am in two minds about whether the socks are going on the list for the borough council. I am not going to hold it against her if she doesn’t want to develop hypothermia.

Either way, I made an attempt to get rid of her today. I looked up ‘Pest Control’ in the phone book and called an exterminator. He was a pot-bellied and unshaven man with a rusty white van, and he looked at the world through eyes that seemed misty with laziness and displeasure.

As soon as I opened the door he remarked, “I see you’ve got a winged woman living on your roof. Very rare, that. Course, nothing I can do about her.”

“Oh no, of course not.”

“To be honest, I’m hoping you’ve got a rat problem. Not had any rats for ages me, rat poison almost past its sell-by date. Give you a discount for rats, most likely.”

“Well, actually, I was hoping that you could help me with the woman on the roof.”

“Are you deaf, or just stupid?” he asked, no change in his tone.

“Quite deaf, as a matter of fact, but I understand that you won’t ‘exterminate’ her or anything like that.”

“Course not. She may have wings, but she’s still a human. Well, a human sub-species, to be precise.”

“Right. Anyway, I thought that, maybe, if you’d just hang around for a while, look at her, take notes, maybe it would scare her away.”

Intense disapproval. “Not really my line of work, mate. I’m not an actor - I kill things.”

“I’ll pay you at your normal rate. Please, she’s stealing my stuff.”

He shrugged, as if trying to throw me off his shoulders. “Look, that’s what the police are for. I’m for rats.”

“But I don’t want to go to the police.”

“She’s stealing your stuff, right?”

“I’ll pay you. I’ll buy some rat poison.

But he was already moving away, getting out his car keys. “Sorry mate, not really looking to get involved in your lovers’ tiff. Hope things work out between you.”

I was shocked. “It’s not a lovers’ tiff!”

He muttered something with his back to me. As he got into the driver’s seat I caught something about not wanting to be sued. Well! I never knew a winged person with a lawyer - did you?

A feather floated down from above, looping lazily in circles. I looked up. The winged woman was peering over the edge of the roof. This was one of those situations where you say ‘if looks could kill’. If looks could kill, I would have dropped dead on the spot, melted into a puddle and then boiled away to nothing under her gaze.

Saturday

Items Stolen
  • 1 x Flat screen LCD television
  • 4 x Surround sound speakers
  • 1 x DVD player
  • 1 x Playstation 2
  • 1 x Car keys
  • 1 x £200 suit
  • 1 x Mobile phone
  • 3 x Pairs of shoes
  • 4 x Soft toy
  • 1 x Wallet containing:
    • 1 x Debit card
    • 1 x Credit card
    • 1 x Driver’s license photo card thingy
    • 1 x Condom
    • 1 x Supermarket loyalty card
    • approx. £60 in cash
  • 1 x Degree Certificate (with frame)
  • 1 x Chocolate cake
  • 5 x Apple
  • 1 x Loaf of bread
  • 1 x Tub of butter
  • 1 x Jar of peanut butter
  • 1 x Biscuit tin (with biscuits)
  • 1 x Rolex watch
  • 1 x Alarm clock
  • 5 x Fork
  • 4 x Knife
  • 6 x Spoon
  • 3 x Sofa cushion
  • 2 x Pillow
  • 6 x Odd socks
  • 1 x Kiss
I am rather confused about her reaction to the exterminator, especially with respect to the last item on the list.

I’m afraid I can’t say that the kiss was anything less than stolen. She swooped down on me from above and it was all over before I even realised what was happening. The odd thing is, it felt like she was almost doing it to spite me. I don’t think I will add the kiss to the list of stolen items for the borough council, but the rest of it is definitely going on there.

The people at work are meeting up down the pub tonight, but whenever I step outside the door the winged woman throws roof tiles at me. I have decided it would be better to have a night in. Besides, if I did go, I would have to do it barefoot, as she has stolen all my footwear.

Sunday

Items Stolen
  • Nothing yet…
I have been looking back at my list of stolen items and I am suddenly worried that she is not eating very well. It’s my own fault for not leaving enough cooked vegetables lying around. I have been to the supermarket and am about to do a Sunday roast. I’ll cook enough for two and see if I can interest her in it. Perhaps if I leave the plate on the bird table?

Monday

Items Stolen
  • 1 x Diary of stolen items
Tuesday

Items Stolen
  • 1 x Me
Well, it is Tuesday, technically, although only for the past ten or fifteen minutes. The winged woman is asleep, lying on her back on the peak of the roof, like Snoopy. This is the first time I have ever slept on the roof of a house, and I have been having trouble getting to sleep. Still, now that I am up here I have been able to recover my diary and record the last two stolen items in it. Writing by moonlight is rather difficult, I am finding.

Monday morning a man came from the borough council. The neighbours are complaining that, with more of my belongings on my roof than in my home, I am devaluing their properties. I was trying to reason with him when the woman with wings swooped down and grabbed me, depositing me on the roof myself. I tried to keep talking to him, but he just walked off (no idea what he was saying, if anything), and the winged woman was trying to kiss me anyway so it’s probably better that he didn’t hang around.

Spending the day on the roof with the woman with wings, I have gotten to know her much better. She is impatient with spoken communication, stringing words together roughly into curt, functional sentences. She has no name, she told me, nor any need for one. If I wanted, I could name her myself, although she would probably forget it promptly.

But if you have the impression that she is frivolous, than I think that you have it all backwards. She is the most practical, straightforward person imaginable, and bold and daring with it. Yesterday evening I stumbled and fell from the roof. She simply dove after me and plucked me from the air. It didn’t seem to occur to her that this might be something to be considered alarming or upsetting. When she saw how I trembled, she assumed I was cold and wrapped her wings around me. Her feathers are warm and soft (but they do tickle).

She’s a hopeless romantic as well, I think, albeit in a very pragmatic way. She was keen to frame images in the viewfinder of her broken camera and then get me to look at them, so I showed her how to take pictures with my phone. She likes the LCD screen better, finds it easier to frame the images and show them to me. But she doesn’t have any interest in capturing them. The fact that she has seen them once seems to be enough for her.

She has a brilliant eye for an image. Today as the sun set, she captured it just so. The sun really was a glowing sphere casting light onto a jagged landscape of rooftops and chimneys; the clouds looked solid, lit red on one side, shadowed grey on the other. Watching her discard this beautiful image with a twist of her wrist, the display now showing languidly flocking geese, made me feel a little frightened. Would she discard me as casually? But, I said it already, not frivolous. Just pragmatic. Before she went to sleep I asked her if she’d set me down on the ground. She just shook her head and smiled, and I was certain then that she had decided to keep me for good. Sooner or later, one of us will die and disappear like so much dust in the wind, but the other will have more substantial mementoes than any photograph or trinket. She knows this better than I do, but I am learning.

I am not going to be contacting the borough council about the woman with wings (although they are probably going to contact me about the state my roof is in). She comes from a culture where objects are considered as transient as any breeze. As she understands it, she never stole anything from me, but just moved into my life. Bold, certainly, but she must have been right, because I now choose to grant her permission, retrospectively. And so I must close this diary forever, as no thefts have occurred.

Oh, by the way, it rained on Sunday, so my home entertainment system has had it.

7 comments:

Jemima said...

This is marvellous and wondrous and I love it. Very well crafted in that the shift from victim to consenting partner feels really organic, to me, and the inclusion of creatures I don't know in a world I do, feels natural too. Well done, and congratulations on the graduating.

If you wanted any constructive criticism, so you can stop reading if you don't, I'd question the penultimate paragraph and the section with the exterminator. They seem to clunk just a little in an otherwise smooth and sensuos sequence. That's all I wanted to say.

Jemima x

Pacian said...

LALALALA-I'M-NOT-LISTENING-LALALALA

:-) Actually, thank you. I think you're quite right. There will be another draft of this story in my Folder O' Stories, fixing a few mistakes and wordings I was unhappy with, and taking into account your suggestions. This version will remain untouched though, since it is the one I Scribbled on Sunday.

Thanks again!

GreenishLady said...

I loved this. Just loved it. I'll confess, sometimes I find reading from the screen difficult, and will bypass a long-looking post, but I was so gripped with this story, I was hoping it wouldn't end. Marvellously original. Think it's just the beginning of something?

paris parfait said...

Terrific story, rich in detail. A bit long, but you held my interest. Congrats on graduating! Well done.

Heather said...

Very well done. An unusual twist to a love story.

susanna said...

I loved this story. Really! LOVED IT! You had me laughing out loud several times and I'm definitely going to send a few friends over to read it. I could see it all happening, just like a movie, and I swear I know the girl with wings you wrote about in this story. She just finished acting in a movie about a woman who goes on a trip and becomes a moth. I'll definitely be back for a visit. Good work!

Laurie said...

Thanks Pacian! I loooved this story sooo much... and I think it might be true what Susanna says...I am that bird woman.
Laurie