by Jack Somers

It started with a Snickers bar. I waited until the clerk was ringing up another customer and then slipped it into the sleeve of my coat. I wasn’t just stealing because I was an asshole or because I was bored. I hadn’t eaten anything in three days. I was desperate. The nearest soup kitchen was on the other side of town, and I didn’t have a car.

I took the Snickers back to the basement where I was squatting and ate it slowly, savoring each sweet, nutty bite. That night I slept better than I had in weeks. For the first time since I lost my job, I didn’t dream about food. I dreamed about tossing a football around with my son who I hadn’t seen in eighteen years.

The next day I stole a box of Raisin Bran. I figured I needed something that would last me a little longer, something that would cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The way I did it was I took the bag out of the box, stuffed it into the front of my shirt, and zipped my coat over it. I put the empty box back on the shelf. After the cereal was gone, I told myself, I would go out and look for work.

But I was back at it again two days later. I lifted a loaf of bread and a bottle of Grey Goose. Then I went into a drug store and swiped a bar of soap, shaving cream, and a razor. It had been so long since I’d seen myself clean-shaven that I didn’t recognize the guy in the mirror at first. He had cheeks like lunar craters, sagging flesh under his chin, deep wrinkles bracketing his chapped mouth. He wasn’t me; he was a corroding effigy of me, a withered husk, as empty and derelict as the factory in downtown Cleveland where I used to work.

After a couple weeks, I stopped stealing stuff I needed and started stealing random things just to see if I could. I stole cologne and cutlery and reading spectacles. I walked out of a home goods store with three ceramic dishes and four cinnamon scented candles. I nabbed a three hundred dollar Patagonia jacket and a small stainless steel desk lamp from Nordstrom. I drifted into a jewelry store and made off with a Rolex and two white gold wedding rings.

I spread my plunder out around the basement. I put the dishes on the table, the desk lamp by my mattress, and the candles in the window. I wanted to fill the whole place up, to banish the emptiness.

I was on my way to pinch a toaster when the kid approached me and pulled a gun. He took everything I had on me—my Patagonia jacket, my Rolex, and my rings. I didn’t mind. I actually wished him well. Maybe he was desperate, too. Maybe he was just trying to fill his own empty places.

Jack Somers’ writing has appeared in a number of publications including Literary Orphans, Jellyfish Review, and DecomP Magazine and is forthcoming in WhiskeyPaper. Find him on Twitter @jsomers530 or visit his website