I am doing nanowrimo again this year, and I’m determined to win. So of course today, when I’m almost 3500 words behind, I have decided to do things like: read past nanowrimos; throwback thursday blog post; make plans for hanging out with old friends via Facebook.
So this will be quick, and then I’m seriously going to get writing. I’m doing this thang this year. I have a plot in mind and everything. I’m pretty psyched about it.
I’ve done it in the past. I think I’ve only “won” in 2003 and 2011, but I might be forgetting a year in there. 2007? I’m not sure.
Here is an excerpt from 2006, a year I started writing, but didn’t finish it. Enjoy!
Luke started stealing when he was three years old. Goaded on by his older siblings, Luke loved being the center of attention when, around the corner from the store, he would turn his little pockets inside out and wield to them the treasures he’d gleaned. For Moira, the ten-year-old, there was always nail polish, and for Gavin, the eight-year-old, mostly candy and occasionally baseball cards. Luke never stole anything for himself. He hadn’t associated stealing with gaining things; he only associated it with pleasing his siblings.
It began very casually, in a department store, on a shopping trip with his mother and brother and sister. His mother was taking forever in the underwear section of the store, so the three children wandered off together: nothing new, as Moira often babysat her two brothers. They found themselves around the corner from the department store, facing a candy shop with a display window filled with things so tempting that a diabetic nun would have to pause and consider it.
Gavin went in first, followed by Luke. Moira, trailing after them, was already forming an idea in her head. She selected a piece of peppermint salt water taffy (her favorite) from one of the barrels, and when Gavin wasn’t looking, she handed it to Luke behind the racks of novelty candies.
“Here, Luke,” she said. “This is for Mom. Put it in your pocket like a good boy.”
Luke worshipped his mother and delighted in the idea of bringing her presents. He put the taffy into the front pocket of his little overalls. As soon as Gavin came back from the chocolate-covered pretzels, bemoaning the fact that they didn’t have any money, Moira raised her voice to say, “We should probably get going, Mom will be done shopping soon.” Then she hurried them out onto the sidewalk.
They were back in front of the department store when she held out her palm to Luke. “Give it back now, baby,” she said, one hand on her hip.
Luke clutched his fist over his pocket. “Nuh-uh,” he said sternly, “This is for Mama.”
“You can’t tell Mama about it,” Moira said slyly. “You know why?”
Gavin looked back and forth between the two of them; he’d missed it altogether.
“You stole it, Luke,” Moira said. “Do you know what stealing is?”
Luke didn’t, but he understood that it wasn’t a good thing.
“Stealing is when you take something that’s not yours to take,” Gavin said solemnly. “Did you steal something, Luke?”
Luke’s eyes were big. “Moira gave it to me! She said it was for Mama!”
“What was for me?” his mother said, coming around the corner.
All three of them jumped, although their grasps of the situation were all slightly different.
“This, mama,” said Moira, with the true cunning of a ten-year-old child, and she gave her mother a big hug around her middle.
“Yeah,” said Gavin, and he and Luke joined in. Luke could feel the lump of taffy pressing uncomfortably against his chest as he hugged his mother, and he could feel a lump of similar size rising in his throat as he thought about what he had done.
Later, Moira convinced him that stealing was not bad. She convinced him that store owners had more than their fair share of things like candy, “and nail polish,” she added seriously, letting that sink in. All stealing was doing was spreading around the wealth. And there was nothing wrong with that, was there? Luke shook his head, understanding that Moira was right, she was right about things like this all the time. His mother said to listen to Moira, especially when she was in charge of him, and that’s what he had done, he had listened to his older sister. He knew he had done nothing wrong.
And that is why, when Moira took him to the corner drugstore the next afternoon, and in the back of the store, pointed out a color of nail polish she had been coveting, he obediently slipped it into his little pocket once again. It lay there, heavier than the taffy, and making a bigger lump, but Moira zipped his jacked up over him, claiming she didn’t want the baby to catch cold, and carried him out of the store, right past the store owner. The store owner didn’t even look over, he was flipping through magazine pages, bored with the kids who came in to check out the comic books or the gum rack, but never had money to purchase anything.
He noticed the little girl with the baby brother coming in more and more often, though. Sometimes it was the baby brother with an older boy. But always the baby brother. And the kids often bought things: shampoo, a magazine, a bottle of juice. He imagined that their parents just sent them out on errands frequently, and they brought the youngest one along to keep him out of the way. He didn’t put the little kid with the faded overalls, and his inventory which kept coming up short, together.
By the end of the summer, Moira’s nail polish collection had increased considerably, Gavin had been comfortably kept in Bazooka bubble gum and tootsie rolls, and the owner of the corner drugstore was out a little more than a hundred dollars. Luke had celebrated his fourth birthday, and had become one of the slickest fingersmiths on the Lower East Side.