Box of Rocks
by Marian Allen
They say there’s no honor among thieves. I’m sure that, just like any other arbitrarily sliced segment of society, the honor of the subset of thieves exists as a continuum, not as an either/or toggle. In other words, some are honorable toward other thieves and some aren’t.
His partners in the Gems R Us armored car heist scolded him about it, as soon as they caught up with him on a deserted pebble beach. They scolded him strenuously, at length, and with a creativity that would have astonished their long-ago high school English teachers.
All Basil would say (other than Ow and Stop that and Aiiiiii) was, “Ain’t tellin’. I done the most work, and you bums was gonna cut me out.”
They tried, cogently and with practical demonstrations, to illustrate to him what “cutting out” really meant, but he remained unswayed by their arguments.
At length, still without answering his former partners’ really quite insistent questioning, Basil passed away.
“Now what?” As ever, Louis deferred to his elder brother.
Vince regarded the remains of their handiwork. “Roll ‘im down past the tideline and let the sharks eat ‘im.”
When that was done, Louis asked, “But what about the jewelry?”
Vince gave that some thought while he considered whether to rinse away the evidence of their interrogation or to let nature, as nature will, erase all traces of humanity.
A spark of inspiration brightened his mind.
“Gimme your cap,” he commanded.
Louis, a New England Patriots fan, reluctantly handed over his favorite hat, and Vince filled it with blood-flecked pebbles.
On the way back to their get-away car, he explained. “If you die a violent death, see, you haunt the place you died. So that’s these rocks. So now we got his ghost.”
Just when Louis thought his admiration for his brother could be no greater, Vince did or said something that elevated him even further.
“But,” he said, ashamed that his own pedestrian intelligence couldn’t follow his brother’s leaping brilliance, “how do we torture a ghost?”
Demonstrating yet again why he was the leader in their partnership, Vince said, “We don’t. We give these to Mom for a decoration, like. In the TV room.”
The pebbles looked very pretty in an earthenware bowl. Once a week, Vince and Louis visited their mother. While their mother fixed lunch, the men snarled at the pebbles, saying things like, “Had enough Price is Right yet? Had enough hearing Mom talk baby-talk to the cat? Had enough listening to gossip on the speaker phone? Want us to give her a dancercize video and a leotard? Where’s them jewels?”
Meanwhile, under the sea, Basil, who had sold the swag for a song and blown all the money on one glorious spree, floated happily about saying Boo to fish. Basil was easily amused.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Beach, honor, pebbles, crime.