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For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

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Gil C. Schmidt was born. Lucky for him and some 416 people, many of who don't seem to know it. Lives in Puerto Rico, which is convenient because he also works from there. Gil writes about dozens of real things (with relish) and dozens of imaginary things (like phantasmagoric pickles), in separate forums. Author of several books and a son, Gil gets in trouble when he's bored. Please head to the egress now.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Cleaning the Cleaners

I had been down that alley several times before, a good shortcut from where I was to somewhere else. The glass window had an old wooden frame and a few times I’d peered in to see the silent, cold machines of a dry cleaner.

One night I absently pulled the window up…and it slid open. The sharp smell of dry cleaning fluid in warm air hit me like a warm sock. Without hesitation, I slid inside and pressed the window closed. The large room, open to view from the street, felt muggy and my skin tingled with the feeling of being exposed. I roamed aimlessly, just looking, keeping low as cars passed outside. Finally, tired of the effort, I headed back for the window. And I saw the safe.

It seems a natural tendency to see a safe and want to twirl the dial. I did and stopped as it clicked. I stared at the dial, sitting on 38. Then, without thinking about it, I twisted the handle… and the safe opened.

It was all dark. I reached in and discovered the safe was much smaller inside than the outside indicated, and that the small interior space was stuffed with paper. Dollars and checks. I emptied the safe and with no rush, found a paper bag in a drawer above the safe, stuffed everything into the bag and left the dry cleaners through the window. No one saw me as I made my way back to my apartment.

I counted the cash: $438. I totaled the checks: $519. A grand total of $957. I stared at the pile of money and colored paper. It wasn’t mine. I needed the money. It wasn’t mine. I had already escaped with it. I had to return it. The checks had to be destroyed. The checks might be replaced.

The clock said it was already 4:55 AM, with dawn only a half-hour away. Not now. Tonight.

I slept on it. During the day, I didn't think about it, but from 10 PM on, I was jittery. Reasons not to even try seemed reasonable: the theft was reported, there’ll be more vigilance. The window will be locked, so you can’t break in. The safe will be locked and you can’t just leave the money anywhere...

Midnight inched past and I gathered the bills and checks again, organizing the bills into denominations and the checks in alphabetical order. Earlier they were in order by serial numbers and amounts. I tried to watch TV, flipping channels while staring at the clock. One. One-thirty. Two.

Gathering the rumpled paper bag, I looked around, then sat down. Two-twenty. Two-forty. Time to go.

I took a circuitous route, walking at my normal pace. I didn’t spot any police cars, an odd but not unique pattern. I bought a Coke, drank it and headed for the alley. I didn’t pause at the entrance, but simply kept walking, disappearing into the darkness in seconds. Without hesitation, I tugged at the window.

It slid open. My mouth did too.

I climbed in, then shut the window. I moved quickly to the safe, and with a wry smile, twisted the dial to 38.

It clicked.

I twisted the handle as I pulled the paper bag out of its hiding place beneath my sweatshirt. Of course, the safe opened. Angry, I stuffed the bag into the tiny unlit interior and as I was about to close it, I reached up into the drawer above and rummaged until I found a piece of paper and a pen. Writing with stiff pressure, I traced six letters and an exclamation mark over and over, until the anger receded and the paper was dented and frayed.

I shoved the note on top of the money and slammed the door shut. I didn’t care if it made noise. I stalked to the window, shoved it open, jumped out and walked away. Maybe the open window, newly-locked strongbox and a note that demanded him or her to “BE SAFE!” would change their ways.

In any case, I never went back to find out.

1 Comments:

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January 21, 2006 8:30 PM  

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