You learn a lot about people by breaking into their houses. You find the weirdest things hidden in the weirdest places, as long as you know where to look. The thing about it is you find that the weird things are usually hidden in the same places, no matter how different the houses are from each other. Liquor is almost always hidden in the back of the toilet. Gross, yes, but that’s where they hide it. Teenagers hide their weed in the tower of their computers. That always kills me. It’s almost the parents’ fault for not knowing how computers are put together. There’s almost no way they will ever find it. Hilarious. And porn is always hidden under a mattress or cushion. Occasionally you’ll find it in really weird places though. The weirder the porn, the weirder the hiding place. I kid you not. I don’t much find it in the younger generation’s houses though. It’s only old people with actually magazines or videos anymore. I almost always throw it out when I find it. Unless it’s something illegal. In that case, I usually leave it out in the open and call the cops and run like hell. I’m not going back to prison, especially not for something like that. Honestly, sometimes I think I’m doing the world a favor by breaking into houses.
But I’m not a regular burglar or anything. I’m more of a snoop. I break into houses and all, but I don’t go for the usual kinds of stuff like the TVs or stereos. Those are a dime a dozen. Not worth much. I go for stuff that the owners don’t even know the still have. You know, the retro stuff that’s always tucked away somewhere upstairs or in the basement. They don’t even miss it and usually don’t even report the robbery, as far as I know. But occasionally I’ll take a video game system or two if I think the family is spoiling their kid too much. Sometimes I’ll steal a bottle of wine from the kitchen if I think the family is too snooty and whatnot. Same goes for expensive cigars. And if I think the man of the house is an accident waiting to happen, I’ll take his guns. I’m really a kind of superhero, if you think about it. But really I’m just there to snoop around. Sometimes it pays off and other times it just makes me sad.
The saddest thing I’ve ever found was this set of Polaroid pictures that a wife took of herself. But they weren’t like what you are thinking. These were pictures of bruises and scratches and black eyes. Interestingly enough, I found these hidden in the wife’s shoes. Well, I technically didn’t find them. The dog did. See, dogs are another tricky aspect of breaking into houses. Sometimes they really like you. Other times they really don’t. Other dogs really like shoes. This one liked shoes. Anyway, I gave this one shoe to the dog and he immediately started slobbering and chewing all over it. You know how dogs will shake something all around and go crazy? He was doing that. The pictures must have been tucked under the insert or something. I looked at them for quite a bit. I figured that the wife must have been building a case against her husband or something. If she were to take them with a digital camera, they could just be deleted. Or the camera would be harder to hide and would probably be used by someone in the family at some point. So I deduced that she must have thought about how she would take the pictures and know that the husband couldn’t know that she had taken them. No one would suspect that she was actually using the old Polaroid. Then I realized that I hadn’t actually come across the Polaroid yet. I made it my mission to find it. But first I rescued the pictures from the dog. I checked his collar while I was at it. His name was “Toto.”
Toto and I headed to the upstairs that was more of an attic, where the really valuable things are. In my earlier years breaking into houses I passed over this old man’s comic book collection that was tucked away deep in the far end of an attic. He was on the news the next day thanking “whoever I was” for finding his copy of Action Comics #1. I still kick myself over that one. I take every comic book I come across now. Namely I was looking for typewriters and things like that. Records and record players are pretty common too. Basically anything that falls into the category of the retro stuff I mentioned earlier. And, of course, there’s almost always some type of chest in an attic and that’s where I always start. This one had a chest, they all do. So I hunched down and walked towards the chest with Toto at my heels. I dove right in. Damn near everything in the chest was covered in dust. I never understand how dust gets inside of something like a chest, but it always does. The only thing that wasn’t dusty was the Polaroid camera. Made me really sad. The thing worked like it was brand new, and it probably was. You can buy anything online now. There were probably a bunch of times she needed one but didn’t have this one. I put it back in its spot and sat down next to Toto.
“What do you think I should do, Toto?” I was whispering more to myself, but Toto seemed to like it. “What would you do?”
He did that head tilt thing that some of them do.
“Whatcha think, boy? You think the old lady is brave enough to do anything?”
I started going through the chest again. I felt this nice quilt that had something rectangular and stiff wrapped up inside of it. I knew it was a shoebox or book before I even unwrapped it. You always find diaries and books and things that I really don’t care much about hidden in blankets. Found a First Edition of that Darwin-guy’s book once, Organs and Species or whatever. Almost felt bad for taking it, but I figured I was just fitter to have it. But this one turned out to be the wife’s diary shoved in with a bunch of other useless things in this shoe box. So of course I started reading towards the back of the journal to find out what I could about the pictures. Her last entry was talking about how well her “music lessons” were going. The weird thing was that she put it in quotes and never mentioned what kind of instrument she played. She’d just write “instrument” in quotes. I didn’t see any music instruments in the house either. I figured it wasn’t of much importance to the pictures, so I just kept flipping pages. Apparently she’d been talking to her sister and mother about how bad this guy Gary was (I guess that was her husband’s name) and how he had been treating her and it was her sister that gave her the camera and who took the picture on the Polaroid. I guess I was wrong about her buying it online. She said that her husband checks her phone when she gets home and that he even threw her camera so hard against the wall that it shattered into “a million pieces.” I guess it was a present Gary gave her when she brought Toto home as a puppy. She wrote about how sad she was that she lost all of those pictures.
The further I flipped towards the beginning of her diary, the sadder the diary got. I guess they were trying to have kids or something but nothing was going right. The husband blamed her for it, even though he was the one who refused to make an appointment, whatever that means. As I read the book backwards, everything started to make more and more sense. But, man, I was spending way too much time in that attic and had to start planning my exit. I didn’t find much of anything in the house worth taking and at this point I wasn’t too keen on taking anything from this house anyway. So I decided to start leaving.
I heard the front door open while I was still upstairs and trying as fast as I could to finish reading her diary. I’d made it to the part where they were about to get married. Man, I was almost finished with the whole book. But I had to put it away. I had to.
“Toto!” she yelled, only it wasn’t a yell, really. It was more of a stern whisper.
I could hear her footsteps coming closer to the stairs. I gave Toto a goodbye pet.
“Toto!” she whispered up the stairs. “Did you do that? Did you?” I couldn’t tell if she was really mad or not. But I heard her coming up the stairs. Man, was I scared.
“I guess some things can’t stay hidden forever. Can they, Toto? You up there?” she asked as she was getting closer to reaching the top of the stairs.
Now, I was never a violent criminal. Don’t get the wrong idea. Not since the first time I got locked up for armed robbery. Did five years for that one and decided that if I was going to keep robbing people, I’d do it without them knowing and without any weapons involved. But I was also determined not to go back to jail, so I did what I had to do with this lady.
I got up and hid behind this little door the attic had and waited for her back to show. I was always wearing slippers when I broke into houses on account of how quiet they were. I was pretty quiet about moving around. When she made it passed the door, I got up real quick and grabbed her from behind with one arm around her throat and the other controlling her hands. I let her be able to breathe though. I’m not a monster or anything.
“Now you just keep quiet, alright,” I whispered. “I’m not going to hurt you or do anything else you might be thinking. You have my word on that. And I ain’t gonna hurt little Toto there either. I was going to take some of your shoes, but Toto here got to them before I did. Now reach down real slow and give me your cellphone.”
She gasped for air and I realized that I was choking her a little bit on accident.
“I don’t have one,” she was starting to cry.
“Now stop your blubbering,” I said in a comforting voice. “What kind of girl that lives in this kind of a house doesn’t have a cellphone? Are you lying to me?”
I said the last part a bit meaner than I meant to, I think I even shook her a little. I felt bad about it, on account of her husband probably shook her all the time. But I did have to keep her a little scared. That’s just part of the job, you know?
“Now here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna keep that pretty little mouth of yours shut, and you’re gonna—”
Just then she let out a scream. I had to turn her around real quick and slap her real good across the face. I felt really bad about it, I really did.
“Now, what’d I tell you? Huh? What’d I tell you?” I grabbed her by the front of her flannel shirt so she could see that I wasn’t fooling around. “You keep that thing shut and that won’t happen again. I’m the best friend you ever had right now, you know that? Now you just shut the hell up.”
She was crying real good at this point, but she was doing a great job of keeping from making any more noises. I felt pretty bad cause Toto was starting to act a little scared up there.
“Now how long has Gary been beating on you for? And don’t ask how I know your dear husband’s name.”
She kept looking down at the floor and stuttering. It was really starting to piss me off.
“D-d-d-d-d-don’t just stand there talking to the floor, I asked you a simple question.” I was getting meaner and meaner but I couldn’t much control it. I was almost yelling at this point, which is never a smart thing to do when breaking into someone’s house. “Well?”
“F-f-f-few months,” she got it together and looked me in the eyes, which is never a good thing, but I wasn’t thinking too much about her identifying me later at the time.
“He been married before?” I asked. I really did care. “You’re ok, just answer the question.”
“Yeah, he’s been married before,” she was getting a little more comfortable.
“And where’s your husband now?”
“He’s gonna be at work for a few more hours and please, mister, if you’re planning on doing anything to me just please think ab—”
“I ain’t gonna do anything to you like that, I told you!” I threw her to the ground real hard. “Just answer the damn questions!”
She looked real pathetic down on the floor like that, but, man, I can’t take it when people try to fit in a few extra seconds of conversation for no reason. I was just trying to ask a simple question, you know?
“So sit down on that chest, you’re shaking like you’re scared or something.”
She shut the chest and took a seat. Toto followed her.
“What’s your name? Better yet, toss me your wallet.”
She threw the wallet down by my feet. I bent over to pick it up, keeping my eyes fixed on her. I took her ID out and learned her name and everything.
“You go by Lisa or Elizabeth or Beth or what?”
“Neither,” she said. “I go by my middle name.”
“You have got to be shitting me,” I laughed real maniacal like. “So you’re telling me that you’re dog’s name is ‘Toto’ and you go by ‘Dorothy’? Now that’s ironic.”
“It’s not ironic,” she mumbled.
“What?” I asked. This one was really starting to piss me off.
“That’s not ironic. There’s nothing ironic about our names. My name is Dorothy, so I named my dog Toto. That’s not ironic. It’s the opposite of irony. It’s exactly what would be expected.”
“I don’t need a grammar lesson,” I said. “You said your husband was married before you, right? He have any kids with that lady?”
“What? What are—”
“Just answer me,” I was getting really heated.
“No, my husband did not have any children with his ex-wife.”
“So you ain’t the reason you can’t have kids?”
“Oh my god,” she gasped, “you are completely insane, aren’t you?”
“I’m not the one staying married to someone that slaps women around, now am I?” I said.
“Can you please just leave? I won’t call the police. I won’t tell anyone. I just came to grab a few things from here and get out before my husband comes home. I was planning on leaving this place today.”
I wanted to believe her, but I knew she was lying. People always lie about these types of things. They say they’re leaving and leaving and they just keep staying and staying.
“I seen a lot of weird things in people’s houses, lady. A lot of things I wish I hadn’t seen. But most of them involved people that couldn’t much control the situations and lives they were living. Sad, really. But you, you are in complete control, you know. And you just choose to do nothing. Just cause you’re a woman and all—”
And that’s right about the time she shot me in the foot. The gun must have been hidden in the chest somewhere. Somewhere I didn’t look because I got distracted by that damn diary.
“What the hell’d you do that for?!” I was hopping all around and even hit my head on the damn ceiling. Blood was soaking through my slipper and everything.
Toto darted downstairs.
“Get out of my house! Get out!” Dorothy was yelling all sorts of crazy. “Get out!”
I couldn’t really move around at this point, so I sat down on the floor and held my foot in both my hands.
“Well, I can’t much do anything with my foot in pieces, now can I!”
“I swear to God, I’ll shoot your dick off if you don’t start crawling down those stairs in two seconds,” she said, pointing the barrel of her pistol toward the stairs.
First I thought I was just lucky that she missed my face and hit my foot, but now that I think about it, I think she meant to hit my foot. I think she must have been an amazing shot or something. Someone must have taught her how to shoot.
She looked at me one last time and said, “This gun wasn’t intended for you. Now get out.”