Hey. I’m not a criminal. But I used to be. When I was a criminal, I’d steal anything. Yeah. Candy, yeah. Toothpicks, yeah. Shitty old linen from the linen box. Yeah.
Delicious Apples is the only place I’ve ever worked. The nursing home. I still laugh. Every time one of the oldies gets a visitor, when the visitor tries to leave, the oldie gets all frantic and screams, “No! No! I hate Delicious Apples! I hate Delicious Apples!” I mean, it sounds so wrong. But really, it isn’t. Cuz I hate Delicious Apples, too.
So I dealt with my hate, for a long time, I handled it, like clay, and changed it, by stealing. So what? Everyone does it. Yup. You hate your shit job, and your shit boss, and you get back at your shit job and boss, not to mention your shitty co-workers, by taking their staplers and toilet paper and shit. It’s like the one universal truth. Of working.
We call ourselves “care workers,” but really we’re grave makers and keepers of the dead. There’s a whole book of rules about how incapacitated you’ve got to be to get into the place, but I can sum them up with a word: dead. You’ve gotta be dead. If they don’t have to carry you in or push you in or wheel you in, you’re not dead enough. Cuz we’ll just wave you away. “Come back, ma’am, when you’re good and dead.”
So it wasn’t really like stealing, taking from them. The “residents.” Their families, they don’t get it. Keep on bringing teddy bears and chocolates and heaping them up on the bed around dead granny and coma gramps, then tiptoeing backwards away. If they were alive, they’d be buried alive. In stupid offerings. You can rob a grave, but you really can’t steal from the dead. That’s what I told myself, at first. But after a few weeks, I just didn’t give a fuck.
I stole so much shit, man. Some of it was shit – but some of it was valuable. Watches. Rings. Right off their fingers, rings. Cash. What the fuck would you need cash for? When you can’t get out of bed?
So I was cleaning Mrs. Gould’s room, cleaning it out, pocketing the Oh Henry! bars her husband brought her every week, even though she had sugar diabetes. I was just stepping out of the room when she cleared her throat.
“I saw you. Young man, I saw you. Taking my Oh Henry! bars.”
I stepped back into the room.
“Now Mrs. Gould,” I said, professionally, shitting myself a little, “you really shouldn’t be eating Oh Henry! bars. Not with your sugar diabetes.”
“You really shouldn’t be stealing my Oh Henry! bars. Not with your wanting to keep your job and everything.”
When Mrs. Gould grinned – and she was grinning – she was still fat, of course, but a more wrinkled kind of fat. Like a squash or gourd that sat too long. It was … never a cheerful kind of grin.
“Please give me back my Oh Henry! bars.”
“ … ”
I was bold. Though my heart was beating.
“Young man. Are you listening to me, young man?”
I’ll confess that I’ve always been sort of terrified of old people. Mrs. Gould, especially.
“Young man,” sitting up in bed. I didn’t think she could even do that.
“ … ”
“Give me back my Oh Henry! bars.”
“Give me back, my Oh Henry! bars.”
“Give them back to me.”
I was really sweating now. Any minute, now, she’d press the button. And it would all be over.
I closed my eyes. It was quiet for a long time. Holy shit was it ever. And then….
“Take them,” she said. “Take them,” laying back down. She wheezed out once. “What do I need with Oh Henry! bars, anyways. I don’t even have any teeth.” Then she rolled over, and went back to sleep.
Shaking like fuck, I stepped into the hall. Sweating. I was just like Mrs. Gould, when her blood sugar got too low. I ate one of the Oh Henry! Bars. It didn’t do shit. So I threw the rest away.
I sort of stopped stealing after that. It’s not like it’s wrong, or I think I was wrong, doing it. I just – I didn’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not worth it. But I could, if I wanted. Cuz it wouldn’t matter.
These people are all dead.