Stolen (short story)

Every memory bares embellishment no matter the method of extraction. Being a man of few exceptions my method of inebriation is fraught with discrepancies and absences for which I can offer no amends. Time rarely observes chronology when reversed and I write to you only in the order of recollection.

My 8th birthday was more presentation than event. A bit of posturing for my mother’s sake as she had so little else besides. The children from my class were all invited but it was not for my company that they came. My father was well-respected, a privilege he enjoyed not for his temperament but for the extrinsic nature of his success. He was an unpleasant man behind closed doors but faced with an audience I found him intolerable. I knew the jest of his portrayal, the contempt buried underneath his ribs. I even understood to some degree his false participation, I was accustomed to it but I did not care for either version and feared them both in equal measure.

My social ineptitude would be considered a betrayal. I would not be punished publicly but at the conclusion of any such event I could expect a meticulous verbal thrashing. The children did not play with me and acknowledged me only as a repository for gifts they did not assemble. I did not long for their company audibly but there must have existed within my being some comparison that recognized within my solitude an indisputable yearning. I was content to speculate at their games and the conversations of those adults which had not yet garnered my confidence but all the while I was alone.

I do not know when I retreated to the library but it was not conscious insubordination as so little of what I did at that age was premeditated. To be the guest of honor in a room full strangers was a loneliness more imposing to me than my own volitional exile. I took a leather-bound volume at random. I had my own books but I had read them all and worn them bare in repetition. The library was locked, save for when we had company, and this had been my only occasion to enter for several months. During parties I often came in secret but to come here for my own party, where my attendance was mandatory, went beyond risk. Taking a seat I opened the book in the middle expecting to find only words as my father did not care for fanciful things but instead a nook within which nested a heavy brass key. I placed the key in my trouser pocket and closed the book returning it hastily to the shelf lest I be discovered. I did not even give pause to examine it as the sound of footsteps set me blindly into motion.


Theoretically this should continue