I looked casually around the newsagents. Mr Cole was busy at the cash register counting out change. Mrs Cole was facing the gift shelf, stacking ceramic donkeys pulling carts of colorful fruit. One swift move and the magazine was tucked securely under my shirt. I drifted out of the shop. Once out of sight I transferred it to my school bag where it joined the chocolate bar Iíd previously liberated from the adjoining shop.
It wasnít really stealing. We all did it. I remembered with happy nostalgia brazenly taking handfuls of chocolate from shops with my brothers. The shopkeeper knew who we were, knew who our dad was. ĎIíll tell your old man!í But we knew dad would just laugh and say the shopkeeper was stupid for leaving stuff where kids could get it. Look after number one, that was his motto and thatís what he taught us to do.
That was five years ago. Weíd moved half way across the world and here the shopkeepers werenít so intimidated by my dad.
I loved my dad but I didnít realize until I was older that he was a criminal. I donít mean big time, like breaking peopleís legs if they didnít pay up criminal. He had mobile morality - it moved around to suit his needs. And when it came to other peoples property, well, if they left it where he could get it, it was no longer theirs but his.
Being very poor didnít make things easy; so poor that we went without water and electricity for months because the bills couldnít be paid. Before store detectives and CCTV became the norm, if I wanted something that my parents couldnít afford I used to steal it.
This way of thinking sat quite comfortably with me until another Parent took me under his wing. Turning my face to another Father for nurturing turned my worlds upside down; bringing into focus old habits that had to be dealt with. Old habits that were firmly ingrained. Even with a new Father it was hard walking into a shop and seeing things on display and knowing that, with a little subterfuge, they could be mineÖ.
Mr Cole was on the phone, face creased, scribbling furiously. Mrs Cole was at the cash register. I began flicking through the magazines. When I found the one I wanted, I looked casually around the newsagents. Mrs Cole was now to my right, tidying the pile of Womenís Weekly magazines. She turned away for a second, my eyes flicked over to the counter. Mr Coleís eyes were still down. I didnít even need to think as I found a home for the magazine under my shirt.
But I was learning fast that my new Father was imprinting his law upon my heart. Thou shalt not steel. Oh, so much easier to say than do.
Mrs Cole turned back to me. I was sure she could hear the unexpected tell-tale beat of my heart and see the betraying blush on my cheeks. She returned to the cash register where a customer waited.
Remember what you learnt, child, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. I am faithful and will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to endure but will, with the temptation, provide a way of escape that you might be able to endure it.
I pressed the magazine against my tummy. Why canít I have this?
I am faithful. Here is your way of escape. No one will see you. Put it back.
The exit was only a few steps away.
I am your Father, now.
I let the magazine slip back onto the pile and browsed my way to the door. Mrs Cole blocked my passage out.
She tapped imperiously at a sign SHOP LIFTERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. ĎYour bag.í
She upended my bag. A ragged math book, Macbeth, cloth pencil case, plastic lunch box, sports uniform and a novel from the school library spilled out onto the counter.
I opened my smart mouth to berate her for falsely accusing me, but no words came out.
Bony fingers poked at my clothes and felt my pockets. ĎI know your tricks, girl. Iíll be watching you like a hawk. Now, get out.í
Grateful for my reprise, I hastily pushed my things back into the bag and left.
Sadly, my dad never understood my shift of allegiance from him to a Father who would lead me in the paths of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 10:13
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. KJV
Thou shalt not steal. KJV
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