“Instantly Irresistible” read the label on the perfume bottle at a shop in Bangkok. I was, shall we say, drawn here after several misunderstandings with the Sydney Police Department. I called it “gaining a profit”; they called it “pickpocketing”.

Contrary to the Sydney Police, my parents and my friends, I’m not a complete loser – just a partial one. I worked in a book store back home but got canned when I ‘borrowed’ a few dollars from the register. The shop owner called the police on me, even though “he really liked me and hated doing it” . Then there was the ‘incident’ which brought me here. 

Now I’m washing dishes for a restaurant, just barely getting by. The waitresses, all sisters, live together downstairs in a shoebox of an apartment near the supply room. I sleep on a cot in the basement and use the grungy bathroom – better than nothing. There’s a basement window which I crawl through when I get home late and the restaurant is closed. Only the owner and the eldest sister have a key. 

Sometimes when the sisters are working I’ll go downstairs for supplies, take a small detour into that shoebox and help myself to their tip money. I’m wondering – can I be considered a ‘housebreaker’ if the door isn’t locked? 

I have a clandestine girlfriend, too. She’s a cleaner at the tailor shop nearby. I saw her through the shop window and she looked up and smiled. One dark night after work I waited for her outside the shop and asked if I could walk her home. She agreed but said only half way – her family would not approve. She lives with her parents and 11 siblings. All of what she earns goes to her family. She owns only a few clothes and a ragged cloth pouch. I surprised her with a bottle of perfume which I found in a moldy wood crate behind the shop. She smiled happily and slipped it into her pouch. Her name is “Piti” and she calls me “Sam” which isn’t even my name but that’s ok. No one knows I exist.  

After dark the next night I waited for Piti but she never showed. Disappointed, I skulked home. The same thing happened the next two nights and on the fourth day during my break I glanced in the tailor shop window only to see a different cleaning girl. “Where was Piti?” I wondered, becoming concerned. 

Several days later I overheard the sisters talking. Piti had become deathly sick – an apparent toxic reaction to old perfume from a bottle found in her pouch. She had been in quarantine, but died this morning. 

I was reeling. I did this to Piti. I killed her! She was a perfect angel, the sweetest part of my life. Everything I do hurts someone. In the course of three weeks I’ve gone from petty thief to murderer. Everyone is right. I’m a complete loser. I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself.       

NAR © 2019

Reposted for Fandango’s FOWC –


Monday after school my friends and I are in our usual hang out .. Carroni Brothers Grocery store. We go for snacks, gum .. typical things 10 year old boys like. I want chips but I forgot my money. My friends don’t have any to loan me so I just walk around the store .. but those chips keep calling me. Next thing I know, I snatch the bag of chips and bolt out the side door. Instead of running as fast as lightning, I toss the bag into a nearby milk crate and squat down next to it. Whew! I made it! Suddenly Mr. Carroni is looming over me. He grabs the bag of chips and snarls at me “Get out of here, you little thief, and never come back!”  

That night I prayed Carroni’s would burn down. No such luck.

Every day that week I gazed longingly at the store from my school bus. 

One thought kept haunting me: Sunday morning .. when Dad and I take our customary walk to Carroni’s for fresh Italian bread, a box of macaroni, cannoli and the newspaper. Maybe I should just run away from home. 

Sunday arrives and Dad’s calling for me to “get a move on!” I keep making up excuses why I can’t go but he’s not buying them. 

Dead man walking. I’m dilly-dallying the whole way .. watching caterpillars, kicking pebbles, stopping to tie my shoelaces … again. 

“C’mon, kiddo! What is this…a funeral?” Yeah. Mine! I start crying, blubbering gibberish. Taking hold of my shoulders, Dad looked me square in the eye and said “Ok, what’s going on?”  

Sobbing pathetically, I told Dad the whole sordid story. Taking out his handkerchief, he wiped my face, held it to my nose and said “Blow. Listen, kiddo, what you did was wrong but it’s over. Now we go apologize .. and not a word about any of this to your Mom. This stays between us guys.” 

We walked into the store, picked out our usual items and walked up to the counter. “Mr. Carroni, my son has something to say.” I managed to squeak out “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll never steal anything from you again” and extended my hand. An eternity seemed to go by but to my shock, Mr. Carroni took my little hand in his meaty one, gave me a solid handshake and nodded in agreement. 

Anything else?” he asked my Dad.

“Just this” responded Dad as he tossed a bag of my favorite chips onto the counter. 

To this day I don’t think Mom ever knew. 

NAR © 2018