The Birthday Present

April 9, 2008
By
On the eve of his brother’s 11th birthday, Steve Connors began to grow desperate. Why had he procrastinated so much that his little brother’s birthday party was in 15 hours, and he still hadn’t gotten him a present? It was 9:00 already, and tomorrow would be August 12, 2007. Kevin’s party would take place at noon at West Gate Hills Park. Steve could picture the scene: kids running around screaming, parents standing and watching their children, candy and cake being eaten, games being played… all with a happy Kevin right in the middle, enjoying his party. When the time came for the presents to be opened, Kevin would grab the biggest one, right on top; it was a family tradition to give elaborate gifts for birthdays. The Connors didn’t have much money, especially after their dad had died last year. While Steve pictured this happy little scene, he could also imagine the gloomy look on Kevin’s face as he realized his older brother had forgotten his birthday. But no, Steve could not let this happen. He grabbed what little money he had and went out looking for a last-minute gift.

While Steve walked into town, he started brainstorming several ideas for presents for Kevin. His little brother had recently taken a sudden interest in sports; he had spontaneously joined the school’s soccer and cross-country teams and at times happily rambled on about joining the spring lacrosse team. Perhaps this was the key to a gift that would make Kevin as pleased as he had been at previous birthday celebrations. Steve quickly ducked into the nearest sports equipment, a City Sports chain, and began to examine the available merchandise.

It didn’t take long for Steve to realize that this store was way out of his price range. All the sporting equipment he came across was so much more expensive than he had anticipated that it shocked him. He made his way down the aisles to the back of the store, where there was a bright and cheerful display of various shoes for different sports. To his dismay, these shoes were even more costly than the previous row of equipment he had glanced at. He could smell the rubber of the shoe selection. Steve looked at his watch. It was now almost 10:30, and this store looked about ready to close up for the night. There was not much hope that there would be any more stores open this late. The only way to get these shoes for Kevin would be to steal them. Steve racked his brain for an option, but this was the only one he could think of. He quickly took one shoe off the display and glanced around him, but could not immediately see any salespeople or other customers. He could hear the voices of people nearby but he guessed that they weren’t close. The touch of pleather to his hand was a reminder of what he was about to do. Before he lost his nerve, he took the other shoe and put them both inside his jacket. His jacket was slightly baggy and he hoped no one would notice the two sneaker-shaped bulges right around his hips. He speed-walked through the aisles leading to the front of the store and approached the exit doors. With one final stride, he stepped out of the store and inconspicuously walked to the end of the block. He checked to make sure there were no people chasing him, but all he could see were ordinary citizens. When he was positive that no one had followed him, he turned and ran all the way home.

That night, Steve had trouble falling asleep. His restless state of mind was most definitely a result of the day’s crime. When he finally fell asleep, he was haunted by dreams of City Sport’s logo and an evil pair of sneakers. When he woke the next morning, he vowed never to set foot in that store again. His brother’s party was to take place in one hour, but Steve had planned on arriving about half an hour early to help set up the games and decorations. As noon slowly approached, Steve had trouble leaving for the party. He didn’t want to face his brother and give him the stolen shoes. However, he had no choice.

When he arrived at the party, Steve sadly noted the happy children, the smiling parents, and the large pile of presents. He just couldn’t overcome this terrible mood he was in. Normally family birthday parties were a time for celebration and Steve loved them, but he couldn’t enjoy today’s festivities. Steve went over to his brother and wished him a happy birthday; he hadn’t seen much of him at the house this morning because Kevin had left even earlier than usual for the park. Over the next hour or so Steve sulked by himself, helped his mother with the massive chocolate cake that seemed to get everything covered with icing, and watched his brother having the time of his life. Steve slowly ate a piece of cake, but even the delicious taste of chocolate couldn’t console him. When the time came to open presents, Kevin, as expected, went to Steve first. Steve’s heart nearly broke as he watched Kevin excitedly unwrap his present. As expected, Kevin loved the new shoes and joyfully thanked Steve for the awesome present. Steve wondered why he felt so terrible about this pair of shoes. People steal things all the time, so why was this affecting Steve so horribly? Steve thought maybe it was because he had never stolen anything before. Not even a pack of gum.
Off in the distance, Steve could hear the sound of sirens. This did not help his already guilty conscience. As the sirens grew louder, so did his paranoia. Steve prayed they were not coming for him. That would be the perfect ending to a horrible day. However, as the lone police car pulled up in front of the park and got out of the car, Steve was surprised to feel that he didn’t feel surprised at all. For some reason he felt like he knew that he would be caught; probably because he felt he deserved to be caught. He felt the cold touch of the metal handcuffs and wondered what would happen to him. He couldn’t afford a lawyer; if he could he wouldn’t have stolen the shoes in the first place. Steve tuned out the cop reciting his Miranda rights and concentrated on the look on his mother and brother. This was his final punishment: the devastation depicted on their faces. He knew that image would be with him forever.





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