Bert Was A Thief (short fiction)


(Not 16, not sweet, but young.)

It was a half-moon lit night.

“It will be easy as pie,” Chuck said to Bert as they stealthily moved along side the school building in its shadow. “I put a piece of tape on the bolt in the door. It won’t lock.”

“If we get caught we’ll be suspended,” Bert said.

“The plan is full proof,” Chuck said. “Ain’t nothin’ gonna happen.”

They stepped quietly down the outside steps that led the schools projection room. At the bottom of the stairs Chuck grabbed the door handle.

“Watch this,” Chuck said. He opened the door slowly and smiled at Bert. “What did I tell ya, easy as pie.”

In the dark Bert felt along the side of the room. He came upon the movie projector’s chord plugged into the wall. He followed the chord to the projector.

“Pull the plug,” Bert said.

Chuck pulled the plug.

“Roll it up and put it around my neck,” Bert said.

Chuck did as Bert asked. Bert lifted the projector.

“Go open the door,” Bert said.

They inched through the doorway, up the steps and into the school yard. A faint light from the side door of the school briefly illuminated their escape route, but soon they were hid by the shrubs that surrounded the school yard. They rested there for a moment and strained their eyes to make sure no one noticed them.

“Do you find something about this strange?” Bert said.

“It’s fun,” Chuck said.

“This is your idea, but I’m holding the goods,” Bert said. “And it’s not fun.”

“Don’t worry, we’re in this together,” Chuck said.

They scurried tight beside parked cars on the street until they arrived at Bert’s home. Quietly they slipped through the outside door to the basement. They were in the furnace room. Bert flipped on the light with his elbow.

“This is heavy. I got to sit it someplace,” Bert said.

Chuck grabbed an old wooden chair and Bert sat the movie projector on it. They stood and admired the intricate details of the machine, how neatly things fit together with harmony and purpose. The mechanics were fascinating.

“What are we going to do with it?” Bert said.

“I don’t know,” Chuck said. “I thought you had something in mind.”

“We don’t have any film and how are we gonna keep this a secret?” Bert said. “What are we going to do, say we found it some place?”

“Let’s sleep on it,” Chuck said. “We’ll come up with something.”

They looked at it for a long time (30 seconds).

“We gotta take it back,” Bert said.

“What if we get caught taking it back?” Chuck said.

“We should have thought about that while we were planning to steal it,” Bert said.

“You take it back,” Chuck said. “I ain’t gonna tempt fate. You‘re on your own.”

Bert grabbed the projector from the chair. “Put the chord around my neck and turn off the light.”

Chuck did so. The boys exited the house and Chuck went home. Bert retraced his steps back to the school’s movie projector room. He sat the projector at the bottom of the steps and grabbed the door handle. The door did not open.

Bert saw a shadow at the top of the steps. He tried to conceal himself in the corner of the stairwell. Bert’s heart pounded and he was about to give way to tears.

“Hey, Bert.”

Bert jerked and began to tremble uncontrollably.

“It’s Chuck. I forgot to tell you I took the tape off the door. See ya tomorrow.”

“You scared the crap out of me,” Bert whispered.

Chuck was gone as quickly as he appeared.

Bert’s first instinct was to leave the projector at the bottom of the steps, but his conscience told him to return it to the place he found it. He left the projector at the bottom of the steps. He crouched low and moved along the outside of the school and tried each door in hopes that one might have been left unlocked. They were all locked.

Bert noticed a window cracked open. It was too far from the ground to reach. He crouched low and dashed across the alley. He fetched a garbage can and placed it beneath the window. He hoisted himself on the can and opened the window far enough to wiggle through.

Once in the school he tiptoed through the hallways and down the steps to the projection room. He opened the door and grabbed hold of the projector and sat it back in its place. He heaved a huge sigh of relief. It was over.

Bert quietly left the projection room and moved slowly up the outside steps. He sat the garbage can back in place and walked home like a pardoned prisoner – a prisoner of his own conscience.

(A submission to 365 Writing Prompts)

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