It started young, as most things do. A sign here or there that in hindsight should have yielded a stronger reaction from those close to him. Charisma holds a dangerous role in a polite society. They start white and pale and innocent, and then contort and spin and weave until a rotting putrid misguided thought is all that remains. They start innocent and seemingly harmless, but what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
Going into his teens there was more pain and risk involved, but never enough for true repercussions. A slap on the wrist, the tears of his classmates, or the disapproval of another plain jane mother. Oh, how they bored him, how the mundane straight-lace cookie-cutter slack-jawed plebeians bored him so. It became sport more than anything, the testing of limits unbeknownst to most single-track minds viewing life through the same lens for which they lined up and inserted their quarters to see.
He continued without reason and without a goal in mind to twist the truth, if nothing else than just to provoke a reaction. Then, one day the realization struck him that it could be used to gain something. Now an adult, his desires moved far beyond the subtle fib and into a malignant streak of misdirection.
Today he was a waiter, dressed so he slipped into the French restaurant downtown and greeted the customers, his customers, with a thick accent as he asked them about their days. He sang along to La Mer and exhibited such confidence that even the many employees of the establishment could not dare question if he belonged there or not. Within the hour he had built up such a rapport with the customers that the plates meant for them were intercepted and brought to the table by the life of the party. As the night went on, he collected tips, and tucked them inside his coat pocket. When questioned, he laughed jovially and promised that at the end of the night they would all be distributed evenly amongst the servers. He looked them dead in the eye to see if they believed him, and was elated when no objection was exhibited. At the end of the night, the uniform was found on the floor of the bathroom below an opened window.
Today started as a mime, it would end as a mime, but the in between was the trick. Every day for the past week he had painted himself in shimmering gold, and posed, unmoving, for change, pennies, the forgotten currency that rides deep within the pockets of passerby like rats hidden in a crate aboard a ship.
The spot was meticulously chosen. Other buskers and performers lined the streets and at the same time daily, there was a grand performance by contortionists in the center of the square during which all other performers were left unnoticed. An old pawn shop stood not five feet from the alley in front of which he was poised, his hand aloft to the sky grasping at air. It was nothing different than anything he had done the day before, or even the day before that. Every Wednesday, an armored van arrived in the square to pick up the proceeds from the shops. Within ten minutes of the truck’s arrival, from 8:55 to 9:05 all the money in the till was placed in a small steel case behind the counter. All the proceeds from the pawned rings and gold long forgotten sat idle in plain view.
The music from the contortionists blasted loudly in the center of the square to the cheers of the starry-eyed passerby. It was 9:00. In the commotion he shifted his weight and grabbed the mannequin from the alley behind him, replacing the human flesh with his plastic counterpart. He ducked into the alley and crawled to the entrance that led from the pawn shop to the dumpsters outside. He slipped inside the pawn shop, which had been emptied of patrons by the beckoning of the music outside. There, behind the counter sat the steel box. Meticulously he peered over the brim to watch the store clerk, who was enthralled by the man on stage folding himself into a box much smaller than himself. Sensing his opportunity, his hands slid over the counter then onto the steel case and lifted it across for what seemed like a lifetime. Once cleared, he ducked through the same door, hid the case within a trash can, and closed the lid.
The mannequin was thrown into a nearby dumpster, and the lid closed, but before his post was resumed a phone emerged from his pocket. He pushed play on the video he had queued. From the end of the alley, hidden within a soiled diaper, a Bluetooth speaker blasted the sound of men yelling to run and the sounds of tires screeching.
The crowd turned around to the same mime grasping the air and painted in gold, just as he had the day before, and the day before that. From inside a cry of confusion was heard as the store clerk ran out to the back door in hot pursuit of his perceived thieves.
Police arrived, and naturally the buskers were the first questioned. He lowered his arms and shrugged in disbelief. Others vouched for him, “He was here the whole time.” He smiled politely and answered all the questions calmly and respectfully until the police had no choice but to set him free. He walked into the alley and reached into the trash can in which he had thrown the case. Next to it there was a moldy sandwich. He took it out and looked into the eyes of an officer at the entrance to the alley. He smiled and took a bite. Disgusted, the officer turned away long enough to allow him to take out the whole bag of trash and walk away as if nothing had happened. A despondent street performer, hoping for another slice of moldy bread. A nobody. A liar.