M.A. De Neve
At least three CD’s disappeared from the shelf at Denny’s
Stop and Go. Denny hadn’t sold any mini
bottles of wine, but the bin was
definitely lighter. A bottle of Maker’s Mark had found its way off the shelf.
Even cat food and razors disappeared.
Denny pushed his John Lennon glasses up closer to his
forehead and started a list of the missing items and totaled the losses.
“I got me a shop lifter,” he told Tony who came in for
coffee each day and always stopped for a while to chat with Denny.
Tony was short and fat; he wore loose clothing thinking it
hid the rolls of fat. As he talked to
Denny, he grabbed a candy bar and munched on it. “It’s those dames with the big
purses. That and kids with backpacks. I saw a special on TV about it. It’s old
ladies and teens who are the shoplifters.”
Tony was still leaning against the counter munching a
second or third candy bar when the old woman came in. “She’s definitely someone
to watch,” he whispered.
“What’s an old broad like her doing with a backpack,” Denny
whispered back. “I thought just school
kids used them for books.”
“Backpacks? They got other uses. And notice the big
purse. She can stick wine bottles
The two men watched the woman as she walked up and down the
aisles. “Can I help you find
something?” Denny asked.
“Just looking. Thank you, very much.”
“Bag Lady,” Denny whispered. Tony nodded.
She bought a bottle of mineral water and left.
“She knew we were watching her,” Tony said. “That’s why she
didn’t take anything.”
But then Denny noticed two bottles of Dogfish Head, the
craft beer, missing.
Whenever the old woman came into the store Denny watched
her closely. He didn’t notice her taking anything, but afterwards, he’d find
several candy bars and a bottle of expensive wine missing. She was good at it. He’d
give her that. Usually he didn’t notice the missing bottles of wine or whiskey
until she’d been gone for awhile.
Louise Martin had been widowed for just over a year. A retired school
teacher, she had adequate
income and she had always lived simply. She and her husband had saved when they
were both teaching. Now she had their savings and her Social Security. The
schools offered good pension plans and health insurance. She lived comfortably.
She didn’t have a car. Didn’t need one. She walked to the UPS
office and got her mail including second-hand books from Amazon. She shopped
mostly on line. A delivery service, delivered the groceries and the household
items she couldn’t or didn’t want to carry home with her. Her
clothes weren’t new or expensive. She
was retired. She didn’t need to impress anyone. Now that she was no longer
teaching, she liked comfortable loose clothing.
After walking to UPS and putting her books in her backpack,
she’d walk back home and stop at the convenience store in the gas station. The
store had the most interesting things. Ear buds for listening to music, beer
and wine, candy, crackers, cat food, dog treats and soda. They carried just
about everything. Usually she just brought a water and maybe some lifesavers,
but mostly she liked to just look around the store. She particularly liked all
the interesting labels on the liquor bottles.
The store sold more liquor than anything. They even had a whole room
full of craft
beers and she often stopped to admire them.
“You caught her at it yet?” Tony asked when he stopped
by. He picked up a candy bar and started
peeling away the wrapper.
“Can’t understand it, I watch real close and yet every time
she leaves, I'll find something missing.”
Tony had even followed her around the store, being real
careful not to be too conspicuous. That wasn’t easy, Tony being the fat man he
Tony was a good customer. He’d always stop to talk for
awhile. If Denny had to use the rest room, Tony would watch the counter.
Louise liked the gas station/food and liquor mart. The
manager was so nice. He watched her so closely when she was in the store. He
must be thinking of her safety. She pushed a gray hair from her eyes and smiled
back at him. Such a nice man. And the
heavy-set man who was always there seemed nice too. He watched her too, but
didn’t seem to want her to notice.
Maybe he’d be embarrassed if she thanked him for being so
nice. Older women were sometimes
unsteady on their feet. But she wasn't one of them. She walked every day.
“The old hag did it again,” Denny cursed the next time the
old woman left the store. “She no sooner left and there’s a carton of cigarettes
Tony nodded sympathetically.
“She don’t look like no smoker.”
“Them street people all smoke.”
“What makes you think she’s a street person?”
“She ain’t got no car. She walks everywhere with a backpack
and a big purse.”
“She’s a kleptomaniac. You know what that is. One of those
people who can’t help but steal. It’s like an illness.”
Tony walked into the parking lot. He hadn’t paid for his
coffee; he usually didn’t but if Denny said anything, he’d just say he forgot.
He got into his car and started the motor. Before he left he pulled a carton of
cigarettes and a bottle of Knob Creek from inside his jacket. He smiled
thinking how closely Denny watched the old woman while he was free to help
himself. Tony drove out of the parking
lot looking forward to the evening and the bourbon.
M.A. DeNeve is a retired college instructor, crazy cat lady,
tree hugger and bag lady. Her short
stories appeared in Over My Dead Body,
Yellow Mama, Everyday Fiction and
Mysterical -E. Her novels are available
If Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Willy Wonka
sired a bastard child it would be the fat asthmatic by the name of Michael D. Davis. He has been called warped by dear friends and a freak by passing
strangers. Michael started drawing cartoons when he was ten, and his skill has improved
with his humor, which isn’t saying much. He is for the most part self-taught, only
ever crediting the help of one great high school art teacher. His art has been shown at
his local library for multiple years only during October due to its macabre nature. If
you want to see more of Michael’s strange, odd, weird, cartoons you can follow him
on Instagram at mad_hatters_mania.