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Borrowing without Asking
Mark lay on his back, listening to the patter of the drilling rain. His room had no windows, but the sound of the rain reverberated through out the entire house. He shivered and pulled his blankets higher: All heat in his basement bedroom was usually lost out the nearby garage. Finally giving up against insomnia, he decided to make a midnight raid. He got up quietly, slipped on a sweater over his shirt, and crept out to the garage.
The concrete felt strong under his feet, unwillingly taking the weight of his family’s junk. He slipped by the shelves, built from kits, leaning casually on the walls. Light peeked in through the musty window partly blocked by some skis. Cardboard boxes were stacked high, and they looked so precarious it made Mark tense. In one corner his dad’s power tools lay sheathed carefully, seeming to nearly quiver with their unused power. He gazed around, and his eyes fell on the camping gear stacked in another corner, still dirty from their last trip. His foot caught on a power cord, and as he stumbled he knocked over a box stacked upon another. He froze as the crash echoed through out the garage, but when the sound subsided he heard no stirring from his parents upstairs. He stacked the box back where it was before, realizing that it had never opened after the move. He opened it. It contained the Christmas lights they’d searched for last season for hours before giving up and buying new ones. Mark looked around once more. It was a large garage, supposed to be a double, but big enough for three cars if they were small. Theirs weren’t. His parents liked to flaunt their money, although he never got any.
He finished his journey. In the corner of the garage farthest away from the door, there sat a suitcase up in the rafters, hidden by a tarp. Mark grabbed a mop leaning against the wall and pulled the suitcase down. His parents didn’t realize he knew about the suitcase. He popped open the latches, and lifted the top open on smooth hinges. Inside lay 20 stacks of $20 dollar bills, with 50 bills per stack. At least that’s what was supposed to be there. By now there were mostly 49 bills per stack, because Mark had been slipping out $20’s for weeks, trying his best to keep the stacks looking thick should his father ever choose to check on the suitcase. Mark slipped out three more $20’s, closed the lid, flipped the latches and raised the suitcase back into the rafters. He felt guilt rising within him, but quickly beat it back down with the usual arguments. They probably will never need the money. They might’ve even forgotten it. I deserve the money, no kid with parents as rich as mine should have such a low allowance.
Back in his room, Mark slipped one of the $20’s into his wallet, and the other two bills under his mattress. He curled up once more. The clock read 1:20 am. The rain sounded louder than ever, but his eyes drifted slowly shut.
Mark woke the next morning to the blaring of his clock. It was a day off that day, but he had forgotten to turn the alarm off. Cursing, he fumbled around next to his bed for the chord, and with a swift yank he unplugged the clock. He rolled over and closed his eyes, but soon realized he had to go to the bathroom. He swung his legs out of bed, and put his feet on the floor, only to feel his socks become instantly wet. Soaked. Suddenly wide-awake, Mark rushed to the bathroom to make sure he hadn’t left the faucet on. He hadn’t, but there was water there too. A quick run of the basement showed him that everything was flooded, every carpet ruined, and their year-old bamboo flooring soaked from below. The rain had struck.
Sloshing his way to the nearest phone, Mark dialed his mom’s work number.
“…that’s my final word! Hold on… Hello?”
Mark adjusted the phone so he could hold it with his shoulder,
“Hey mom, I--”
“Mark, you can’t call me at work. I’ve got to go, I’ll call you back.”
“Wait, mom! The basement is flooded!”
“What? Oh drat, I heard that that storm was huge, but I didn’t realize it had hit us. Shoot… We don’t have flood insurance either. Well, I’ll hire a contractor. I’ll call you back, just hang tight.”
Mark’s mom hung up without a response.
An hour later, about how long it took Mark to assess the damage of all the things that had gotten wet on the floor, Mark’s mom called back.
“Hey, I called the contractor. They’re really busy with flood damage all over the place, but I offered them extra money in cash up front so they’d come here first. They’ll be here at 3:00pm.”
Mark checked the clock, it read 9:23am.
Mark’s mom continued, “They’re going to dry everything and redo the floors for $20,000. Hey, Mark? I need you to do something for me. Go out into the garage, and in the far corner up in the rafters there’s a suitcase.”
Mark’s face went white.
“Get that down. There should be exactly $20,000 in there, pay them with that.”
Mark tried not to sound nervous. “Uhh… Yeah, alright.”
Mark put the phone down and thought he felt his innards sink down with it. $320, that’s how much he’d taken, that’s how much the payment would be short if he gave that suitcase to the contractors at 3:00. The $320 was gone, he’d spent it on food, candy, computer games and a $250 Nintendo Wii. Where was he going to get all that money in six hours?
Mark went to get his cell-phone, and began calling all his friends, asking if they could lend him some money on the short term. But they were all too busy that day to get any money to him, those who had it. Mark’s mind raced. Should he take a loan? No, he’d never be able to pay it off. Could he sell something? There was nothing in the house that cost $320 that his parents wouldn’t miss. Except… With a sigh he pulled his Wii out of the back of his closet. They were still pretty rare, and he could probably sell his for $320 if he tried. After putting all the components back into their box, he put the box under his arm and set out for the local supermarket, hoping to peddle off the Wii in the parking lot.
Two hours later Mark had had no luck. There were plenty of people interested in buying the Wii, but some people thought he had stolen it, while others just didn’t think they had the money. Finally, a teenager looking like he was in sophomore year of high school spotted Mark on his way out of the store and said he was interested in the Wii, so long as he could check that it wasn’t damaged. Mark, now desperate, agreed and handed it over. The sophomore bolted. Thinking it was a joke it took Mark a few seconds to realize he was being robbed. With a dismal cry he began sprinting after the boy, just in time to see him disappear into the nearby woods. Mark followed. Around trees, over logs and through bushes they went, Mark never quite gaining, though he was going faster and faster as they sped downhill towards the creek. At the bottom of the hill the thief took one giant leap and cleared the creek, creating only a small splash as his heel hit the edge. Mark was no jumper and had never been, and he knew he couldn’t jump it, so he stopped, clutching his sides and nearly sobbing in desperation.
“Give that back! I need it!”
The thief saw that Mark had stopped, and took the opportunity to take a rest himself, calling back across the creek,
“If you can afford those shoes you can afford to give me this Wii. Now go hom--”
If he finished his sentence, Mark couldn’t hear it, because the thief’s mouth was now smothered by the chest of the man pinning him to the ground.
“Was he stealing this?” The man called across to Mark.
“Yes, yes he was.” Mark sighed, “Thank you so much.”
The man pulled out his cell phone, pulled the thief to his feet, took a picture of him, then let him go. The boy was so scared he bolted without a glance behind him. The man picked up the Wii box and took a running jump across the creek back to Mark.
“Here. It’s a good thing I was walking out here! I’ll turn that picture in to the police, they’ll be able to find the dumb kid. Hey, did you just buy this? I’ve been looking for ages and I haven’t found one!”
Mark suddenly got an inspiration. “Would you like to buy it?”
“Oh wow, really? Yeah! How much?”
“Is $320 too much?”
“It has the nunchuck controllers and the Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess game!”
“All right, fine, $320. I can’t resist. Here you go.”
After 50 thank you’s, a pass by the bank for $20’s, and a long walk home, Mark finally found himself back in his house, with the suitcase in front of him on his bed. He opened it up, slipped the 16 bills into their stacks, and shut the suitcase, just as he heard the contractors ring the doorbell.
That night when his mom came home, late as usual, she found Mark collapsed on the couch, resting after his tiring day, and thinking sadly about his lost Wii. Mark’s mom sat down next to him and put a package on his lap.
“Your dad called from his trip, says he’ll be staying there an extra day for a meeting with his team. He said I should get you something, since the flooding probably ruined your day. Odd how he thinks… Anyways, I got you this.”
Mark perked up. A present? Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad day after all.
“What is it?” Mark began to pull off the delivery paper.
“It’s a game for that thing you said your friend gave you, the Wii right?”
Mark sighed. He would never steal again.