Funny Crime

Isidore Beckerman relished sitting down with a good book on the weekend. He had always loved reading, favoring detective mysteries and adventures, with the occasional how-to manual or inspirational text a close second choice. Following his usual Saturday morning breakfast of oatmeal with maple syrup and a banana cut in, Isidore made himself a nice, steaming cup of coffee and ambled over to his bookshelf to peruse his extensive collection and select his next read.

As he shuffled through the spines of the books, his eyes suddenly focused on an old book from his teen years. Pulling it out from the shelf and blowing off some dust, he recalled with sentimentality borrowing the book from the local library in his childhood town of Rosedale when he was 14 years old. The book, Honesty Pays, had certainly made an impression on him at that tender age. Now at 74 years old, he quietly nodded that, indeed yes, that message from 60 years ago had really resonated in his gut and guided him well. An honest life leads to self-satisfaction and psychological peace in later years.

Isidore sat down on his easy chair and cracked open the book. He immediately saw the distinct stamp on the inner cover: Property of Rosedale Public Library. It then dawned on him that he had either forgotten or perhaps neglected to return the book to the Library those many years ago. How ironic, he thought, that his only incident of dishonesty, so to speak, that he could recall was connected to the very book that had helped form the tenets of his character.

After enjoying a chuckle from the obvious irony, it was clear to him what had to be done. As the book commanded, it’s never too late to correct a mistake or act of dishonesty. He stood up, book in hand, and headed for the car. The Rosedale Public Library was only a short 10-minute drive from his home. Of course, he left a note for his wife, Betty, who had gone out shopping.

Arriving at the Library, he walked directly to the administrator’s desk and proudly presented the book to her. When he observed her surprise and bewilderment at the age of the book, he jumped at the opportunity to bestow upon her the entire story of how it had made such an impression on his life with its message of honesty.

The administrator, a thin-lipped, curt and slightly dehydrated woman, thanked him for the book.

“I want to thank you for returning this book after so many years, Mr. Beckerman. We certainly appreciate it. I’m sure our readers will enjoy having it back on our shelves.”

Isidore responded, warmly, “It is my greatest pleasure to honor the teachings of this wonderful book. Now, may I wish you a good day. Take care, Ms. Lanning.”

Ms. Lanning cut in. “Excuse me, Mr. Beckerman, but there is still the issue of the unpaid fine. I see that you borrowed this book exactly 60 years ago. Let’s see now. At the time, our fine consisted of $5 per week, accompanied by 18% compound interest, with a special late fee of $50 per month for any book not returned within 6 months of the date borrowed.”

With that, Ms. Lanning pulled over her desktop calculator.

“Let me just do some quick arithmetic,” she said, as she clicked away on the calculator. “Sixty years equals 720 months, which is equivalent to 3,120 weeks. OK, I have it. Well, Mr. Beckerman, it looks like you owe us $17,845,967.24. Will that be cash or charge?”

Isidore was flabbergasted. “What? Almost 18 million dollars!? You must be crazy! Here I am, bringing a book back just to be honest and nice, and you have the temerity to ask for such a gigantic amount of money?”

Ms. Lanning was perfunctory. “That’s right, Mr. Beckerman. We certainly appreciate your return of the book, but look at it from our perspective. You deprived generations of young readers of enjoying that book. I think it’s fair compensation.”

Isidore became agitated. “Look, there is no way I’m paying such a ridiculous fine. It’s absurd! You can forget it.”

Ms. Lanning didn’t bat an eye. “Very well, Mr. Beckerman, I’ll just have to call the police.”

With that, the administrator picked up the phone and dialed 911. Isidore, angry but also shaken, quickly shuffled towards the exit, but the police happened to be in the area and arrived as he was approaching the door.

“Police! Hold it right there!” Looking at the administrator, the officer said, “Is this the guy?”

Ms. Lanning pointed to Isidore. “That’s him. That’s the man I called about. He tried to abscond with over 17 million dollars in services and then threatened me!”

Isidore was stunned.

The more senior of the two police officers instructed his trainee. “OK, Mike, cuff him.”

Then, addressing Isidore, the policeman asked, “What is your name, sir?”

Isidore stammered, “My name is Isidore Beckerman, and I didn’t threaten anyone. I was just returning a book.”

The police officer continued, “Mr. Beckerman, you are under arrest. You are being charged with grand larceny, criminal mischief, and assault. You may retain the services of a lawyer of your choice, or, if you cannot afford one, a lawyer will be appointed by the court. Do you understand your rights?”

Later that evening, as Isidore Beckerman sat in a holding cell with 24 other perpetrators and criminals, a young man, a moose of a guy, with ponytail, sharp beard, nose ring and all the required tattoos, asked, “Hey, Pops, what are you in for?”

Isidore just shook his head. “All I did was return a book to the library.” The moose inquired, “Oh, man, that’s nuts. Which book?”

Isi, depressed and dejected, took a deep breath and sighed, “It was a book from my childhood. It’s called “Honesty Pays.”

The moose became excited. “What? Honesty Pays? You’ve got to be kidding! That’s my favorite book!” With that, the moose engulfed Isidore in a suffocating, full-body hug, his scraggly beard whisking Isi’s face like a cactus, his breath like from a wild boar with dyspepsia. Isidore struggled fecklessly to free himself, to no avail. The moose’s vice-like grip was overwhelming. Isi felt himself swooning, swooning, losing consciousness, crumpling to the ground, all around him someone screaming Isidore! Isidore!, the sound reverberating as if his head were in a garbage can.

Just then, Isidore slowly opened his eyes, coming to focus on the face of his wife, Betty, as she stood over him, shaking him awake. As he slowly regained consciousness, finding himself safely in his living room, sitting on his easy chair, he said, “Betty, I just had the most horrible dream! I was in some type of weird prison, surrounded by criminals. And all because I returned this book to the Rosedale Library.”

Betty responded enthusiastically, “Oh, Honesty Pays! That’s a great book. One of my favorites. Now, Isi, you just relax while I bring you a nice slice of pie.”

Sitting alone, Isidore Beckerman looked down at the book. He then stood up and walked over to the bookcase. Rearranging the places, Isi slid Honesty Pays into a space in the back, under a pile of heavy encyclopedias, where he would probably never see it again. 

December 02, 2022 17:48

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Wendy Kaminski
14:01 Dec 10, 2022

haha Good grief, I don't blame him...! Fun story!


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Helen A Smith
07:05 Dec 10, 2022

Very engrossing story Bruce. I enjoyed reading it. I was relieved the poor man was only having a dream! I wonder what happens in reality if a book was returned to the library after so many years. The character of the librarian is well drawn too


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