54 - Thieves & Rogues

Fashion Doll

This episode is about thieves and rogues I have known and I have known a few, in Canada and in the United States.

Back in my hometown of Chatham our house had been built on the Veterans Land Act subdivision called Sprucedale. My dad was a veteran of both WWI and WWII. In 1950 the Veterans Land Act began to provide loans to veterans who wished to construct their own homes. This financial break included architect’s plans for several house designs. We bought a corner lot and local contractors erected the building. Now, the fellow who did the foundation fudged on materials and used much too much sand. Some 30 years later my mother, in her retirement years, found herself living over crumbling foundations. The house had to be lifted up, demolition done underneath and a new foundation put in at a fairly steep price.

Dust from the foundation work covered everything with a gritty surface layer. My mother had a wonderful wool collection because she was a weaver. She had her wool in bins upstairs. I guess she thought they would be okay because it was high up in the attic portion of the building but the dust got into everything and it ruined much of her wool which was a great shame.

Many years ago there was a funeral parlor director in my hometown of Chatham, Ontario who, cheerfully, took prepaid funeral advances from little old ladies and skipped town when he had padded his bankroll sufficiently. He had a morning program on AM radio where he read saccharine poetry over sonorous organ music. I think it was called ‘The Comfort Hour’. Cold comfort when they discovered he had run off with their widow’s mite.

My husband moved up to the to the Atikameg Reservation, north of High Prairie, Alberta. He had a teaching position there. This was 200 miles north of Edmonton in muskeg country. He got some work with local contractors, while he was waiting for the school year to start. This would have been a for a good wage, if they’d paid him which they didn’t. They disappeared into the bush just as the job was finished. He woke up one morning and they were gone.

In New York City, I lived, for thirteen years, on the Lower East Side in a tenement building on 2nd Street between Avenues A and B. We kept a starter’s pistol (no bullets, just noise) to scare off thieves because heroin use was endemic. A junkie, to support his habit, has to steal. One night we heard a fuss on the fire escape and found there was a guy up there trying to break into the apartment above us. My better half, Kelly, got out the starter’s pistol and we went around to the back yard area where we could look up on the fire escape.

Kelly said, “Stop, thief! This is the police!” The thief wouldn’t know otherwise because there was no light on us down below. He started scrabbling around . Kelly pulled out the starter’s pistol and fired it. Making an awful bang and a flash, which is all a starter’s pistol can do. It went Bang, Bang, Bang I think Kelly thought he was in a cowboy movie or something.

The thief cried, “Ay, Mamita! Dios bueno!” and disappeared upward into the night. No doubt he went up to the rooftop and jumped across to another building. They do that. Junkies have more lives that a cat.

More seriously, a lot more seriously, my daughter went to P.S. 63 in Lower Manhattan. The school neighborhood was poor There were a lot of kids who had too little and a few kids who had a lot. My daughter brought her Barbie doll to her class Show and Tell. Her Barbie had fancy clothes which we had got at a discount, marked down, at a local store. She showed this off and one little girl in the class just went nuts in her mind. She’d seen something on television in one of those cops and robbers series where they show violent techniques. The little girl really wanted those the Barbie, and the Barbie doll clothes more than anything in the world. Somehow, you knew that at home she had next to nothing and she really wanted that Barbie so much! Oh, Go

She went home in her lunch hour and she made up a concoction of red pepper and chili powder that she could throw, powdered spices rather than liquid stuff. She put all this in a little bag and she brought it to school with malicious intent because she so much wanted those Barbie clothes!

When my daughter was coming home from school, carrying the bag with her Show and Tell in it this child ran up to her with a fist full of this stuff, red pepper and chili powders, and flung it right into my daughter’s eyes. She grabbed the sack with the Barbie and Barbie clothes in it and took off.

My daughter, Cathy, couldn’t see. The pain must have been pretty bad. She managed to get home. I think a passerby may have helped her. Our apartment was only about three blocks from the school. She appeared at our door with her eyes streaming and in pain.

She kept crying, “I can’t see! I can’t see!”

We got boracic acid and added lots of water and washed out her eyes as best we could, until we saw that she was going to have some vision back. She was o.k., sort of. The next day after we’d got medical treatment and found everything was going to be fine, thank God! I went to the school then and told them about the kid who threw the pepper dust in my daughter’s eyes. The culprit was found and, oh golly, they found that darned Barbie and the Barbie clothes and they brought those back to us.

Thankfully, my daughter was alright but that poor kid who tried to steal! Heck of a way to find out that crime doesn’t pay.

Wavy Line

© Sonia Brock 2006

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