The Thief

It was close to the last hour. There was little discomfort. Religion granted him the prospect of forgiveness and eternal rest. The morphine sedated his body and relieved most of the pain. The thief waited for death the way one waits for an old friend or a nurse, with only the slightest impatience and only a minimum of excitement. Nostalgia was the only difficulty. He remembered the early days of stealing scissors, paper, bicycles, flowers and umbrellas. The morning light on the pavement as the wheels spun and he dashed off into arcane city streets to hide. The nocturnal fragrance of the flowers he clipped from the gardens of great villas. Those were precious moments. Once he stole some cigarettes. Never had he intended real harm; never had he threatened or resorted to violence. And he had never been caught. The inventory of his stolen goods amounted to cheap trinkets few would have missed. One could hardly call them crimes or even sins. The more he thought about it, however, the more he wondered. What if those cigarettes had belonged to someone suffering great sorrow? What if the absence of his cigarettes drove the poor victim into madness or suicide? What if one of the missing bicycles prevented a doctor from making a housecall or a woman from reaching her true love in time to reveal her feelings? What if those flowers were meant to cheer invalid children in run-down hospitals? Then another thought occurred to him. What if nobody really had noticed the thefts? After all, he had never been caught. It were almost as if his life had left no mark on the earth, no ripple on its waters. It were as though he had not even existed.

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