13 Oct

The Library Book Thieves

He sprinted hard, despite the heat.

Mitch hadn’t planned a pursuit, but once he’d caught sight of them, the boys, the scum, sauntering by on their bikes, the injustice of his recent loss urged him to give chase.

They had become the target of all his ire and recent inflicted miseries.

A month ago, he’d lost his job to redundancy. His services were no longer profitable or required. Then his partner’s car had been broken into, a 'satellite navigation' stolen not to mention the cost of getting the car window fixed.

The icing on this irritating cake was the theft of several library books and a couple of publications he’d bought for his partner’s studies. 

Mitch couldn’t wait to give them to her.  She’d searched everywhere but to no avail. Lillian said the books would be essential to her studies and they were so popular and in demand, not to mention expensive, that she doubted they’d ever get hold of them.

He’d found both copies in a new second-hand book shop that had opened just that day.

Upon finding them, a new faith had arisen in the concept of fate. He mused over fate on his journey home with a freshly found optimism that losing his job, even the vandalism of the car, were all minor detours from the right path and that fate had thrown him a bone, a sign even, that everything would soon fall into place. 

No more worries about money or where his next job would come from.

‘Fate has got me covered.’

A contented Mitch had reached the house, placed the books on the doorstep while he fished in his pockets for the house keys. His search was interrupted by the old dear next door, Kitty, who asked if he would mind popping in for just a second to help turn her TV on. 

The remote was proving difficult to work, again.

Mitch zipped in and out of Kitty’s, having got the TV working and left Kitty to pour herself a mid-day gin, but as he looked to his own home he saw a boy handing a bag containing all of Mitch’s precious books to a lanky grubby looking kid stood astride a bike. They both looked around sixteen years old, both sporting tracksuits.

“Oi you cheeky fu…”

“Go go!” shouted the first boy as he leapt on his bike, joining his partner in crime. Mitch lunged towards them, but they had momentum on their side as they pushed off on their nippy two wheelers.

Mitch had given chase, briefly, but it was hopeless. They were opening the ground between he and them with speed. He started to slow down as the anger, further inflated by the helplessness of the situation, coursed through him. One of the boys turned around on his bike and shouted back at him, “See ya!!!” before speeding off laughing.

Mitch stopped chasing but he’d got a good look at them and this was a small town.

This was not over.

Later that night Mitch felt that fate was a nonsense, a made up consolation for a latest indignity.

Or worse, that fate had it in for him. Whatever he did, the little joys and consolations he grasped at would always be snatched away from him. 

Just like those library books, borrowed books, which he’d now have to pay for. 

Mitch spent several days fuming. He distrusted everyone and everything. The walls had been erected and battle lines drawn. He was in a hateful echo chamber.

This prolonged mood became self-defeating. 

Lillian who initially shared his anguish, had become impatient with his foul temper and constant sneering cynicism. Lillian was rapidly losing sympathy and accused him of constant self-pity, reminding him that she didn’t have the luxury of falling into such depths given that they were in this together.

Mitch seethed silently by way of a response.

He started to fantasize about seeing those boys again. It popped into his mind constantly, a chance meeting with nobody else around. He thought about how he’d barge one off his bike before delivering a hard slap to his face, making his eyes water. Then he’d pull out some sort of weapon, grabbing the boy off the floor while shouting to the other, “I want everything you have on you, money, drugs, anything you’ve nicked today. I want it all,  or your friend here is going to fucking bleed. Do you hear me!?”

No doubt time would soften his vengeful urges, but it didn’t help that he saw a few similar looking lads in the proceeding days, complete with bikes, looking like opportunist little thieves who would steal just about anything.

He knew none of these lads were the two he was looking for, but he came close to grabbing one and cross examining them, trying to find clues to the who and whereabouts of his targets.

One day, sat in a café in the town centre, Mitch did see the two boys as they drifted by the café window. They looked a little different at a glance though Mitch could not lay his on finger on why.

Within moments Mitch found himself sprinting out of the café and up the street after them.

He slowed to a jog to preserve energy, holding onto the rage he'd endured over recent days. So long as he could keep them in sight, he stood a chance of perhaps either finding them and dishing out revenge or getting a better idea of where they might live.

Mitch watched the two dots dip over the horizon and picked up the pace so that he could keep sight of them over the hill.

Mitch, blowing hard now but past the point of no return, reached the top and looked down the hill. The two boys had gone into a park and were putting their bikes to one side. 

Mitch descended the hill towards them, feeling for the concealed weapon he’d kept on him these last few days.

He trod lightly towards the boys and could hear their voices now, mildly surprised by the fact they were having what sounded like a fluent conversation. 

He thought they’d be incapable of that based on their appearance when he first encountered them.  No matter, he wanted what was his. They either pay him to go away or he’d visit some damage upon them.

Mitch was just a few feet away now, the boys both turned suddenly sensing him and looked on calmly.  Mitch was feeling anything but calm, they’d clearly underestimated him and the damage they’d done.

"Oh, hello boys. You might remember me you little fucks? You stole several books from me at a pretty tense time in my life. That was a big mistake. So, you can either give me the books back, or all the money you have on you and if you don’t have anything of value on you, I’ll have to hurt you,” said Mitch as he stood over them.

The boys looked perplexed but not particularly fearful, “Wel….”

“Give me my fucking books back you little thieving bastards!” cried Mitch at the boy.

There was a long silence before the boy tried again, "My good man, not only have you wasted your own precious time trying to find us, time you could have used to pursue a start on the path to nirvana or to simply assist your fellow man in issues that actually matter, but you have also, may I add, failed to see that in the context of a short space of time, you have not been robbed but rather have been fortuitous enough to impart the gift of betterment to those worse off than yourself. We seek to further ourselves not just intellectually but also spiritually as a result of those fine books. Would you now relieve us of such literature? Books containing knowledge that we in turn could share with our less fortunate associates, increasing the chances of a more prosperous life for not just a few but a local many? Hmm? And you’d do that out of a now petty pointless sense of pride and ownership or self importance?”

Mitch’s mouth worked but no words came. The second boy broke the silence, “Now that you know our originally immoral motives and actions have inadvertently produced and unlocked previously unfathomed potential that we endeavour to impart to others, do you still demand your items be returned?"

Mitch mulled over this remarkable turn of events, his mouth flapping silently in awe for a moment. Should he leave? Be happy for them? Were they making fun of him? He felt silly, small even. 

He needed to save face somehow.

"I am humbled," Mitch replied as he removed the carefully concealed machete from his trouser belt and edged towards them, "You can keep the books...but you will fucking pay for the library charges."

The End

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