The Shoplifter

Submitted into Contest #180 in response to: Start your story with someone having a run of bad luck.... view prompt



March 3rd, 2022 

Gratiot; The Red Zone; Detroit, MI, USA 

     The wind whipped through his thin clothes and penetrated his bones. He bent over and dug deeper into the trash can, ignoring the stench of rotting food and dirty diapers. It was a shame that people didn’t throw away good clothes. He could sure use something more than the pair of ragged jeans and the light, sleeveless vest that currently were doing little to keep out the weather. 

     Reaching the bottom of the garbage bag, he tossed out a jagged piece of glass and wrapped his long fingers around the item he had been looking for. It was an old bag. The leather was faded and worn smooth, but he figured it would do for what he wanted it for. He seen a drunk throw it away the night before. Now if he could just get past that jerk of a pharmacist. 

     As he stepped backward to turn around, a sharp pain shot through his bare foot, and he bit back an exclamation of anger and pain. Limping toward the curb, he plopped down and picked up his foot. The glass that he had thrown out of the dumpster had sliced the bottom of his foot open and blood seeped out onto his hands as he made a useless attempt to close the wound with his fingers. Blast! Talk about a day gone wrong. First, the theft of his wallet and now this. On the bright side, at least now he had a real reason to slip into the pharmacy.  



     She started and spun around. “Y-yes?” 

     Her uncle towered over her. His face was twisted with a sour frown. “What are you doing?” 

     His breath smelled of cigarettes and alcohol. She took a step back. “N-nothing.” 

     “Don’t lie to me, girl.” He shoved a large box into her arms. “These are packets of the Tylenol that finally came in. If it wasn’t for your forgetfulness, we would have had it two weeks ago. Now git to work.” 

     She hadn’t been here for two weeks, but she didn’t see the wisdom in reminding him of that little fact while he was in this foul mood. Wordlessly, she trudged back to the back of the store and set the box on the floor. Producing a little box knife, she set to work. 

     After several minutes, she heard the doorbell ring, indicating that a customer had entered. Knowing that her uncle would take care of it, she continued stocking the Tylenol. 

Setting the last bottle of medicine onto the shelf, she picked up the empty cardboard box and started toward the front. As she passed by the bandages aisle, she glanced down it just in time to see a lanky young man near her own age slip a box of gauze into a worn leather bag. He grabbed a roll of tape and repeated the process. 


She stepped into the aisle and started toward him. “Excuse me?” 

He flinched and whirled around to face her. He wasn’t wearing much, considering the weather. Just a pair of trashy jeans and a vest that did nothing to hide the tattooed eagles on his arms. His dark brown eyes showed white around the edges. 

She pointed at his bag. “What are you doing?” 

“Nothin’.” His voice tone was low and hard. 

“Did you know that's the most common lie ever?” She grimaced inwardly, realizing that she had just said the same lie to her uncle not ten minutes before. 

He muttered something under his breath and turned away from her, as if to make for the exit.  

She scurried around him, blocking his path, and held out her hand, palm up. 

His jaw clenched. “What?” 

“Hand it over.” 

He blew out his breath in frustration. “Jis’ m’ luck. This lovely day jis’ keeps gittin’ better.” 

She ignored the sarcasm in his voice and did not withdraw her hand. “There is no such thing as luck.” 

“Oh, please don’ give me that junk.”  

He tried to slip past her, and she noticed he was limping. “What happened to your foot?” 


She held up her finger. “Lie number two. Now let me see that foot.” 

With one quick movement, he upended the leather bag and its contents clattered to the floor. “I don’t need no babysitter, little gal.”  

She watched him as he pushed past her and half-ran, half-hobbled through the door, heading down the street toward the dumpiest part of town. The bell loudly announced his departure, and she jammed her hands down onto her hips. Babysitter, indeed!  


She tiptoed up to the open door of her uncle’s highly unorganized office and peeked in. He was seated in front of his desk with his back to her, shuffling through paper work and muttering to himself about how he wished he could hire on another employee and how “Alicia’s worse than no workers at all”. 

She grimaced and slowly made her way toward the cash register. In one hand, she carried a bag in which she had placed a few peanut butter sandwiches, some raw veggies, and the gauze and tape that her shoplifter had tried to steal, plus some salve. With the other hand, she placed some money in the cash register and then, donning her coat and boots, she detached the door bell chord and slipped out. 

She walked fast in the same direction that she had seen him go and kept her eyes peeled, searching the shadows. It was hard to see in the dark and for all she knew, he could be in Virginia by now, but she had to give it a try. On the other hand, he couldn’t have gotten far with that limp. 

Up ahead, she could see the outline of two men lounging on the street corner. The foul stench of body odor mixed with cigarrette smoke drifted toward her and she wrinkled her nose. As she approached, one man rose to his feet and started toward her. “Hey, perty gal, whatcha doin’ out on a cold night like this ‘un. Wanna sit an’ talk a bit? Two is warmer than one.” 

“No, thank you.” She tried to slip past him, but he grabbed her wrist. Her heart rate sped up. “Let me go, please.” 

“Aww, come on. Jis’ ten minutes, huh?” 

Fear grabbed her throat. “No, I have to go.” 

His grip tightened. “Come on, now-” 

“The girl said no.” 

The hand on her wrist loosened and the man turned toward the voice. “What’s that you say?” His tone was shrill. 

A tall figure stepped out of the shadows and onto the sidewalk and Alicia heaved a sigh of relief when she recogized her shoplifter. “I said, ‘The girl said no’. Now leggo o’ her arm.” 

The street man’s lip curled, but he did as the shoplifter said and let go of her wrist. Mumbling, he melted into the darkness. 

Alicia turned to her rescuer. “Thank you. I didn’t know what I was going to do.” 

He gave a quick nod. The dim street lights accented the angles of his face, making him look even younger than when she had seen him before. “No problem.” 

She held up her sack of goods. “I brought some food and stuff for you.” 

“You didn’t have t’ do that.” 

“Where do you live? I’ll fix up your foot while you eat.” 

His voice tone hardened. “You shouldn’t even be out here this time o’ night. How d’ya know I won’t do t’ya what that man woulda done?” 

She set her lips in a long thin line. “Do you want a sandwich or not?” 

He eyed the bag for a long moment, then glanced down at his foot. “Fine. But we kin sit here on the curb, an’ after we’re done, I’m takin’ ya back t’ the pharmacy.” 

“Sounds good.” 

He limped over to the edge of the street and carefully sat down. She followed suit and, handing him a sandwich, she picked up his foot. It was slightly swollen and an angry red cut ran along the bottom.  

“Good greif,” she exclaimed. “What did you do?” 

He had already stuffed down half the sandwhich. “Stepped on a piece o’ glass.” 

Carefully, she dabbed some salve on the wound and then wound the gauze around his foot, securing it with some tape. Then she gave him a second sandwich. “Why were you stealing stuff this morning? Why didn’t you just pay for it?” 

She could see the pain working in his eyes. “Um, I don’t have a job and I don’t have any money ‘cause somebody stole what little I had.” 

“I see.” She smiled, suddenly recalling something. “I think I can get you a job. My uncle could use another employee at the pharmacy.” She rose to her feet and brushed the dirt from her clothes. “Also, those bandages aren’t very good. They won’t last long and that cut needs to be cleaned properly. Come to the pharmacy at eight tomorrow morning and we’ll see what I can do.” 

He shook his head. “You don’t have t’ do this. I was plannin’ the take more than bandages this mornin’.” 

“With a job, you can buy what you need.” She picked up her bag. “What’s your name?” 


“Okay, Lucas. Don’t forget: Eight o’clock.” 

He stood up and wiped his mouth. Then one corner of his mouth quirked up. “Okay.” 

January 13, 2023 16:40

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Mary Ann Ford
21:36 Jan 22, 2023

I like it! But as a suggestion, perhaps you shouldn't have two mouths in the last paragraphs.


Molly Layne
14:29 Jan 23, 2023

Yeah, I should try and edit that. Thanks for the comment !!


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