TITLE: The Crystal Figurines (Part 1) 12/5/14
By Richard McCaw
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The Crystal Figurines (Part 1)
No doubt from childhood my profuse sweating in my hands always embarrassed me. Right now the very pen is bathed in perspiration.
I cannot remember how the idea came to me, but once there, it kept nagging me day and night. I could not forget the delicate structures of the crystal figurines artistically arranged on the old lady’s centerpiece in the living room.
Regard me as foolish, but I had planned every detail how to smuggle it from her presence. The week before I stole them, I brought the old lady tea, a box of chocolates and fudge. You should have seen her utter delight when she considered that someone so youthful had remembered her.
She had always talked of her crystal figurines - the little cats and dogs - the crystal fountain around which they seemed to play. Each night near midnight, when she was fast asleep I opened the door of my room, slipped out into the living room and tip-toed to the centerpiece. I almost picked them up in my hands. But I dare not. I just drooled over them, thinking that very soon they would be mine.
I must have spent fifteen minutes tip-toeing back and forth. For when I returned to my room I could not keep myself from one final look, as I thought of my coming possession on the edge of my bed.
There is no doubt of my wisdom. Ha! To call me a fool would have been folly! I was more than cautious. I would not fail like many and be caught.
On the last night, the moonlight shone faintly through the curtains. The night seemed unusually cool. I got the scare of my life when upon opening the door, the draught of breeze almost made me sneeze, but I stifled the explosion in time. What was astonishing was the loud groan from the old lady’s room and the restless turning in her bed. I was nonplussed because I had barely made any sound. She seemed to react to my spirit.
My hands began sweating, my heart thumped wildly. I could see in the wall-mirror the perspiration that dotted my forehead like droplets of dew, and this increased my anxiety for the crystal figurines.
The more I considered them, the more my breathing quickened until I felt my heart would burst. Nevertheless, I completely controlled the whole nerve-wracking affair. In the midst of it she groaned once more. My heart could not beat faster! I felt I was about to faint. My breathing seemed to stop during that time – for an eternity!
Then, I knew that the time had come. I was like some machine in which pressure had increased against some gigantic cork. Suddenly I exploded with a gasp and hurried directly through the darkness to the centerpiece.
For some moments I stopped, hardly able to breathe. I could feel the pulse of my neck pounding away faster and faster into my ears. The beating of each moment was like the beating of drums. I remembered something I had read about soldiers marching to the beating of drums, nearer and nearer into the hands of their enemies.
My hands shook, my fingers trembled, my knees felt like melting. I bent slowly down and reached with hands. My lips quivered. I could hear the chatter of my teeth. I grasped the crystal figurines, the small miniature cats and dogs, the fountain, the golden chain and clutched the prize to my chest. A smile of triumph crossed my mouth. Perspiration washed down from my forehead, through my eyelashes unto my cheeks and ran down my neck. My vest was damp. I turned...
Just as stealthily, I left. Inch by inch. As how I came. I could not have been heard. As I closed the door and thought that all my fear had gone, a dreadful cry struck out in the night from the old lady’s room…then subsided little by little into a pitiful, oh so pitiful groan and then a final sigh.
I sat on the edge of my bed, clutching my precious figurines. I would not let them go. Then, I heard her awful restless turning and tossing and finally the stillness of the night, the pounding of my heart and the whistling of crickets outside in the bushes. My head began to ache.
I must have sat there fully for one half hour listening to the night noises through all the stillness. How would I keep her from knowing that I had stolen the figurines? A window open... a little mud from the garden under the window, that was it! I had heard it said that at three thirty in the night any soul is too far away from the body to hear anything.
So I sat there counting the minutes and the hours...fully three hours and a half. At exactly three thirty I wrapped my precious figurines into a mass of cotton and that into a piece of cloth, and carefully hid it in an old basket stuffed with old jackets and trousers and covered them all with odd pieces of junk in the junk-box under my bed.
Within minutes I was executing the rest of my plan. Firstly, the slow inching up of that dreadfully heavy window in the living room. Then slipping through to the earth beneath, I picked up and stealthily dropped pieces of mud in a trail from the window to the centerpiece. But oh! the sweating of my hands and my forehead! Then back to my room. Inch by inch. Sitting on my bed. Waiting! Counting the minutes! The hours!
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