Reflections on a Misdemeanor
Mark stole a glance at the old woman. She was small, herfeet barely touching the floor. Her hands were folded demurely in her lap. Hereyes were bright, and darted around curiously. Her grey, frazzled hair was mussed. She looked like she might laugh atanything. Mark thought she also looked like she might be mentally unbalanced.

They were the only two people in the room. Time wasbeginning to stretch from minutes into hours, the minute hand on the clock wasmoving at an excruciating pace.

The boy was getting restless. He cleared his throat.


The woman’s attention turned slowly to him, like a daydreamhad been interrupted.

“Hello yourself.”

Her eyes settled on the boy. Mark was lanky, but the hints ofa muscular teen were starting to show in his broad shoulders and strong biceps.His thick glasses had been replaced by contacts, after much begging and pulingto his father. He seemed nervous.

“I was ah, wondering what you’re here for?” he asked.

She gave him a bemused look.

 “Well, I’ve always loved riding bicycles,” she said, “and itwas such a pleasant day that I decided to walk to the bike mart and buy one. AsI was deciding between the mountain and the street bike, I realized I didn’thave any money. I thought I’d just take the bike and return with the moneylater. For some reason, the store clerk didn’t believe me!”

Her eyes twinkled and she gazed steadily back at Mark. Hewondered what was wrong with her. She had to be at least 80.

“Is this uh, your first time here?” he asked.

“Oh no! She laughed. “I’m in here about once a month. I usedto get away with things, but my slow body has started to betray me.”

Mark was shocked. This little old lady was a chronic jailbird?

“What kinds of things have you stolen?”
“Oh, all kinds,” she said.
She’d stolen candy from the local 7-11, hats from theclothing store down the street. Once, on a dare, she’d stolen an ostrich. But her favorite items were lingerie, whichMark found both curious and upsetting.

“It just makes me feel young again!” she said. Mark turnedsix different shades of red.

“What about you, young man?”
Mark was embarrassed. He’d been dared by his friends to takethe CD from the music store. He’d only wanted it because he knew his parentscouldn’t afford it.
He didn’t want to do it, but everyone seemed to think itwould be so easy. As it turned out, the clerk had spotted him the minute hetried to slip it into the pocket of his cargo shorts.

So here he sat, with an outlaw octogenarian, in a dirtycounty jail cell.

Mark thought about his life. What if he ended up like uncledon, cited for drug possession every other month? Or Jimmy Byers, who boasted atattoo for time he’d done in juvenile hall?

Eventually, his parents bailed him out. They gave him a goodlong time to think about his transgressions – 24 hours. By the time he emergedfrom the jail cell, he was hungry, thirsty, dirty, and ready to stay on thestraight and narrow path or righteousness.

In later years, he often thought back to the old woman inthe jail cell. Was she still out there – creeping through lingerie stores witha secret smile on her face?

He thought she might be.
Reflections on a Misdemeanor

Reflections on a Misdemeanor

Here's the beginning of a short story I wrote recently.

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