Stealing Home Depot
I didn’t steal the whole thing. Only one track of it, a stealer engine maybe. Me, Dogwalker Bill, that’s what they called me. Then they called me with a phone. They said I couldn’t walk dogs for them anymore and I promised not to lose any more. I promised not to like the sound of chains unlatching. Then they said that was why they were calling. Said they were trying to run a business. I had already let too many go. It was then I was fired. Anyways, I needed a job and was trying to work there at the Home Depot. Actually, I wanted to be a roofer cause it sounded good and I like heights, so I went to the Home Depot to get tools in my best sport coat, hoping to make a “good impression.” There were mini orange forklifts beeping and just as many people in orange vests pounding on paint cans with rubber mallets or sawing smelly vinyl roller shades or walking slow behind you with their orange aprons tied to you by some invisible leash. I found the loneliest aisle I could and climbed an orange ladder to get to where they keep hex bolts for going around corners. Then it dawned on me. Why not work here? And so I went to the back looking for an office maybe, and the manager. He’d hand me a piece of paper and see if I got my own pen and when I don’t, I’d borrow his orange one, real polite. And when I can’t fill it out right there, he’d show me to some stool or chair where I could fill it out and give it back and then jump off a building. All of us together. Manager, pen, me, filled-out paper, and fast receding clouds. We’d form a pattern like skydivers in the shape of a crankshaft. I was going to go back there to do all that. Whenever you go where you’re not supposed to be it looks very interesting no matter what. There’s a bathroom in the back of the grocery store I go to. To get there you have to pass through a gate made of long strips of heavy dirty plastic, the kind the back wheels of semi trucks have to keep the rain off the tires. You feel like unwanted rain when you go in there. At the back of the Home Depot was only a door, not orange, and no flaps. The room it opened to was big, empty. I felt like a mouse who’d just crawled into some old lady’s ranch house garage, the rakes and shovels labeled and dangling from yarn knots on church white pegboard. I scampered along the sawdust until I passed what I thought was the bathroom and another door. I knocked and somebody shouted “Command!” So I shouted “Get a job!” I was going to keep on, but the door opened. It was the manager with some nervous guy in a chair, almost a kid, and another guy: older, fatter than the manager, dressed like a cop. The cop laughed and patted my arm like we were friends saying, “Well, here he is.” He showed me the kid like he was mine. Before any talk of payments, I was going to say the kid looked nothing like me. Plus, I was only here for the job. But I didn’t have to on account of them nodding so much. To them, I was on the job already. I tugged on the collars of my sport coat to make sure I was still making a good impression. I must have been because they told me real slow and real serious how the kid, head in hands, had taken something from the Home Depot. It left them no choice but to call me. The kid wouldn’t sign all the orange forms they wanted him to. They said more about security cameras and how glad they were I was there. I only nodded. The manager agreed and said that my partner was going to come for the paperwork afterwards like it was a question. I only nodded. He nodded more too. That must have been the cure, because once the cop shoved the kid up, out of the chair, and toward me—just like that, the pain in my chest was gone. When I turned around and walked back to the memory of the plastic strips, the kid was trailing me like a dropped leash. It was then he shot me a look. He was sorry or guilty or maybe something else. I saw him go, tail between his legs, checking out through the express lane. I was feeling victorious. Another job well done and all that. I thought I’d take my time. Self check out. I got two hex bolts on the glass and two in my pocket, snug in there with their magnetic little shock collars set and ready to spring at the automatic doors. They sigh so impatiently just before it happens.
< Originally published in The Los Angeles Review >