James Moats - 12/04/2003

my spirits were low. a little lower than usual, even. that's pretty low. another day at work would have been just another day at work, if not for the opportunity that faced me then. under the desktop calculator lay the once lost bank deposit that cost my boss his job. fourteen hundred dollars worth, twelve hundred of which was cash and it was no longer missing. no sir. it was found, all right. found by me. that morning.

sure, i had short-changed customers in the past, skimmed where i could... when you sell the same things over and over, you know how much the total is going to be after tax. no need to ring most things into the register. when customers are faced with the easiest and quickest retail transaction in history, you can see it cross their face, the realization that something isn't right, something is missing, but they don't know what.

a basic knowledge of psychology is all you need.

"you don't need a receipt for that do you?"

how many times do you think they say yes?

it's easy.

but i hadn't done anything like this... looking back, all my previous capers were much more risky than just picking up lost money, but for peanuts. so, what about my boss, you ask?

a fucker.

deserved much worse than getting fired.

yeah, i guess YOU must have misunderstood ME this time. ha ha

the checks would, of course, go in the trash. twelve hundred in cash wasn't enough to retire on, or to justify calling a limo service instead of taking the bus home, but it would go a long way toward my goal of one solid year of unemployment and travel. i had been saving for months now, barely scraping by and still keeping my credit score at a steady f plus. aside from rent and utilities (no phone, no cable, no car) there was alimony each month to a woman who did not share a drop of my interests and whose heart was paved with myrrh, or something equally expensive and useless.

instead of the traditional red symbol, with plump bosoms on top and the devil's tail below that usually symbolized a heart, in this woman's chest, was one shaped more like the letter S which had been brutally pierced by two spears, each having easily penetrated and passed through the head, middles, and bottom of its green body.

but that's me. a sucker for them. i still fancy myself the hero, cape and coach and all, driving the horses as hard and as fast as they will allow, to reach the damsel of the day. and whatever her particular dragon (and how often a financial one!) i rise to meet it, slay it, and from its weighty carcass prepare a feast fit for two kings.

you wouldn't think a man with such an honorable and just self opinion could be following such a low down and dishonest path.

the way i saw it, the money was gone, the business plan apparently allowed for such sloppiness, especially considering the caliber of employees that they were able to find with these dirt cheap wages... there must have been something i was missing though. something obvious that would keep someone like me from just walking off with a whole week's profits.

there are security cameras everywhere around the front desk (like they really didn't trust us or something) one of which was pointed almost directly at the desktop calculator. beneath that spot was the cash drawer and directly beneath that was the combination safe. the time lapse recorder was located to your left, when standing at the register, within arm's reach, but just out of view of any of the cameras.

this ancient recorder would often jam up and it would power down, in lieu of chewing up the tape. standard procedure, a few times a week when this would happen, would be to turn the power back on, rewind the tape for a second, then start recording again. i suppose something like that could happen again, just long enough for me to transfer the stack of checks and bills to my knapsack. i could hit the buttons on the recorder without even looking at it. once the booty was in the bag, so to speak, it would be right back on with the vcr and life goes on like usual. no alarms, no swat teams, not an eyebrow raised.

i can't believe how much thought i have already put into this... a master caper. yeah, you really can't understand how badly i needed that money. it was twelve hundred dollars, right? not peanuts.

there is a cash box located under my bed. the gray metal kind, with a lock and key, fire proof, water proof... i also took that from the job when i was bored and digging around in the dirty corners of the office, where it had been thrown, then forgotten about. i had placed a stripe of masking tape across the top of the box and with a marker which was also stolen from work, wrote in slow, deliberate strokes


inside the box was my meager savings, obviously not the kind of savings that you put in the bank. like i said before, i didn't have the kind of money that would justify a savings account. i know my scams were small-time, but it still wouldn't be smart to have little bank deposits matching the cash drawer shortages, either. currently claiming residence in the cash box was two hundred seventy five dollars and thirty six cents, the tiny harvest of almost a year of toiling in the field. a twelve hundred dollar addition to the box would be a joyful one. i don't have a head for numbers, especially when you start mixing letters in with them, but i can comprehend the weight of a five hundred percent increase and to me it sounds like sleigh bells ringing their gay little tune.

speaking of which, outside, snow had started to fall. even after a lifetime in a town such as this, where it is possible to have snow on the ground nine months out of the year, i am still made to think of the joys of a childhood christmas when fresh snow falls and piles through the night. and there it is, sparkling like diamonds in the new morning sun, waiting for you to catch that first sleepy glimpse through the bedroom window when you awake. it doesn't take long, though, for the car exhaust, road cinders, litter, and various other pollutants to turn that beautiful snow into the gray and black slush that lines the streets and refreezes, making every town look like detroit in february.

the money was burning a hole in the counter under the calculator. i wanted it to be in my gas tank on the way out west, or possibly burning in my hash pipe as i reclined on a deserted beach somewhere outside the confines of this wretched country... the one that presents us all with the options of either being born rich or working like a dog just to die poor. i imagine places far away from worries like that. i envision a place where money CAN and WILL buy you happiness.

today, i would be happy just knowing that i didn't ever have to go to a shitty job such as this just to pay my way through a lifetime of poverty.

was this possibly a test? a trap? had the small amounts of cash that i had pilfered been missed by someone? had a pattern of missing money formed around the shifts that i worked? maybe someone was conducting frequent checks to see if the "lost" money had been removed from under the calculator. it could have slipped back there on its own, in the shuffle of closing-time paperwork, or could just as easily have been put there by someone, waiting to pounce on a dishonest, cheating so and so such as myself. the chances were slim. anyway, without the video record, they wouldn't be able to bring charges against me, so, at worst, i would run the risk of losing this shitty job. looking at it closely, this job offered nothing of value to my resume, which is full of jobs that offer nothing to my resume, so...

i had filled up my little idea and watched it for a while. so far it was holding water, so i set the plan in motion.

i walked to the computer terminal, swung my left hand out to the side, hit the power button on the time lapse recorder, waited for the mechanical slide, click, slide, whine, click, click, powering-down whine, click, then lifted up the front of the calculator, removed the bank deposit, all neatly bundled with paper clips and a rubber band, spun on one heel, dropped it into the gaping front pocket of my carry all, zipped it up, returned to the terminal, powered up the recorder, and hit record.

the mechanical sounds repeated, this time in reverse order and i resumed my business of sitting and staring out the window at the falling snow.