Only Take the Small Stuff by Abi Hennig
Number One: Only take the small stuff.
Kacey has so many top tips to follow, sometimes it’s hard to keep up. She is the real deal: foot-high quiff, liquorice-thick lashes and a fuck-you stare you never want aimed in your direction.
I lean against the drinks fridge, try to act dead casual – easier said than done. My eyelid’s on fire. I’m starting to think Copydex isn’t a natural substitute for lash glue. Luckily, there’s some loser in the next aisle who is attracting everyone’s attention. He keeps eyeing the pick ‘n’ mix then looking over his shoulder. Every so often he glances at his watch. Weirdo.
He needs Kacey’s instructions. I’ve learned them off by heart.
Number Two: Walk with purpose.
I push off from the fridge and start moving, stop to pick up a magazine and flick through it, get distracted for a minute or two as I try to work out if Darren is a ‘sorta’ boyfriend or the real sort. I’m up to number five in the quiz when I remember why I’m here. I’ve got a job to do.
Number Three: Nothing bigger than your palm- too hard to hide or drop if you have to.
I decided to start with the penny sweets. Make-up is the obvious entry point, but if I get caught stealing and wearing make-up, the rest of my life will be spent on my knees in confession. Besides, I like sweets. Kacey would snort at that, and look me up and down, say something about a diet that’s designed to sound offhand but actually comes out with all the pointy edges - like it’s supposed to.
I hear her in my head all the time.
Number Four: Don’t rush. Rushing’s like whacking an illuminous sign on your face saying, ‘I’m a thief.’
She’s still talking when the security guard wanders past. She doesn’t hold back what she thinks of him. He was part of the reason I’d chosen Woolworths – some spliff-stinking, acne-ridden seventeen-year-old is hardly likely to notice me half-inching a handful of confectionary. I’m invisible to teenage boys, anyway. It’s my super-power.
I needn’t have bothered worrying. Captain Obvious in the aisle next door is basically waving a massive flag over his head with ‘I’m planning a heist’ emblazoned on it. His girlfriend has turned up and they’re whispering to each other next to the gardening gloves. Security man’s hand is hovering over his radio. This is his big moment – standby for the take-down of the wheelbarrow burglars.
Number Five: Use your sleeve - tuck the goods inside.
Taking advantage of this distraction, I make my move. I grab a fistful of cola bottles (why did I choose THEM?) and, sleeve tucked neatly over fist, deposit them into my jacket pocket. I keep my hand in there, reasoning that hands in pockets pitches me the right side of cool, and sashay out of the store.
Sashay might be a bit strong. That’s what I was doing in my head but, in reality, it was probably more of a waddle. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Captain Obvious and his girlfriend head for the confectionary, the security guard shadowing their every step like a two-bit gumshoe.
Number Six: Get in. Get out. Make it snappy.
Smooth as you like, or with an undignified shuffle, depending on if you were actually watching me, or watching the in-my-head version of me, I make it out of the shop. The cola bottles have congealed into a shapeless pulp in the centre of my sweaty fist. They’re inedible, but I’ve done it. I’ve passed the test.
I savour the moment and begin to rehearse my re-telling of the story, imagining Kacey nodding sagely as she twirls her extensions around a perfectly manicured finger. She’ll give critical feedback of course, but that’s to be expected. She is an expert after all: last Christmas she smuggled three hairdryers out of Boots in the bottom of her cousin’s buggy.
Gingerly, I remove the stodgy, sticky mess from my pocket. Hovering over the bin, I half consider keeping it as proof, but the blue fluff from my jacket lining which decorates the lump made me think again.
And that’s when I spot it – something glinting in the centre of the gelatinous ball.
Number Seven: Don’t steal anything worth more than your CD collection.
I pick a few of the sweets off the edges and my stomach does a full three-sixty. Buried under misshapen globules of sugar is the unmistakable form of a ring. A gold ring. A gold ring with a weighty diamond encrusted like an eye, glaring at me, asking,
“And what, precisely, are you going to do now?’
I turn to look back through Woolworths’ window. Inside is a scene of disarray: Captain Obvious elbow deep in cola bottles, mouth open in abject horror; his girlfriend weeping and screaming soundlessly at the traumatised security guard who seems to have plumped for clinging onto the distressed boyfriend’s waist, and, having committed, isn’t letting go. I look back at the bundle of goo in my palm.
Number Eight: Don’t come crying to me when it all goes wrong.
Abi Hennig lives in Brighton and spends her time teaching, writing mini stories and losing gracefully at complicated board games. Her words have popped up in various places - recently in Ellipsis Zine, Molotov, Splonk and The Prompt Mag. (She/her) @abihennig