All his life, he’d been a thief. It was all he knew. He could expertly pick any lock, snake between the sensors of security systems, slip through an army of guards, undetected. But, he was getting old and less nimble, on some days needing a cane for his leg. He knew, It was only a matter of time before they caught him.
But, objects had a hold over him.
Under the cover of darkness he stole shimmering jewels, masterful works of art, invaluable artifacts from ancient ages. Then, he’d limp home, securing his winnings in a large house on the edge of the dark woods.
The thief loved animals almost as much as he loved stealing.
One morning, he went to the zoo and spent some time watching the spotted leopards pace back and forth in their steel cages. He watched the tuxedoed penguins dive into their cool pool. He studied the black bears snoozing on a flat rock outside their fabricated cement cave.
But, the thief was most interested in the monkey room. He stood in there looking in wonder at them. They leapt from tree to tree and reminded him of himself in his youth. He smiled broadly. Off to the side was an even smaller room full of ringtail lemurs. He got quite a kick out of them.
He studied the plaque explaining all about their diets, disposition and natural environment: the rain-forests of Madagascar.
Before he could even explain it, the thief was jimmying the lock, taking a baby lemur out of its cage. It crawled under his armpit into the warmth there.
As he left, the remaining lemurs were bouncing around, screaming in shrill horror and pounding on the bars. They wanted to come too.
The thief trained the lemur. He taught it everything he knew about stealing. The lemur was quite a natural at it. Quick hands. Leaping around like lightning. Scaling drain pipes, coming through heating ducks and ventilation shafts.
The jewels were more abundant than ever. The paintings. The sculptures. Valuable coins and stamps. Ceremonial items from secret crypts forgotten beneath the surface of the earth and housed on display at mammoth commercial museums.
The two of them were inseparable. Most of the time the lemur sat on the thief’s shoulder. It’s ringed tail curled loosely around the thief’s neck, as if it were a fuzzy striped necklace.
The thief was pleased as he filled up his house near the dark woods. The lemur was rewarded well for his part in the burglaries with blackberries and cashews.
The thief taught it about laser alarms. He showed it a complex blueprint of the inside of a sophisticated bank vault. The lemur just chirped woefully.
“What? What’s the problem, Lemur?” the thief said, impatiently. Already it seemed that his pet was getting tired of the game that they were playing at night. That was unacceptable.
“Look, it’s simple … this will be the last job. We’ll go somewhere nice. After that, we’ll retire. You’d like that.”
That bank had a very curious thing in its vault. One of the world’s rarest jewels: a glimmering green gem that was so large that the lemur would barely be able to lift it. The thief watched nervously from the shadows, and when the lemur came out of the bank with the massive gem, the thief exhaled a sigh of relief.
“Alexandrite,” he cooed.
He took the gem from the animal, cradled it like a baby. the lemur shuffled around dissatisfied with his treatment.
The bank wasn’t the last job of course. There were other jobs. There would always be more.
Even the lemur knew that.
Still, they kept stealing. At first, together—then after sometime, the man didn’t even have to get involved anymore, he just send the lemur.
This bothered the lemur and a cold distance grew between the two of them. One day the thief came into the kitchen and found that the lemur was eating his chocolate chip cookies. The thief, like all thieves, was very possessive by nature and scolded the lemur and took the cookies away. This angered the lemur even more, only added to his feeling of resentment towards the thief.
The next day, the thief noticed that some gold doubloons were missing. He went to the jungle conservatory where the lemur lived, wasn’t surprised to see it playing with some of the coins. He thought he had to make an example to the animal of why it shouldn’t mess with his things, so he snatched the coins away, scolded it even harsher, threatening the lemur with the back of his hand, a sharp diamond ring on each finger..
This sent the lemur into a frenzy and almost caused his razor teeth and claws to be used on the thief. Instead, cooler heads prevailed and the lemur went out the window, made his new home in the trees in the dark woods.
After that, little by little, things disappeared from the thief’s house. He was powerless to stop it. He would come home from a stroll in the park or a chess game at the library and find more of his winnings gone.
Fearful, he went immediately to his safe, checked to see if the Alexandrite remained. It always was. Everything else, the lemur cleared from the house.
The thief was greatly troubled by this, but what could he do? He was forced to stay home and guard his possessions at all times. He sat by the widow looking out at the trees in the woods watching for the lemur.
It was a clever animal. It could get in and out of the house so quickly and it could take whatever it wanted, no matter what precautions the thief took to stop it.
Oh, the precautions were maddening.
Attack dogs. Alarm systems. Motion detectors. Traps. Traps. More traps. The lemur slipped through all of that. It had been taught too well.
Now the thief himself was a like an animal in the zoo, locked in his own home.
Things kept disappearing. One by one. The thief blink ed the couch vanished. The thief yawned, the book case of rare hand scribed texts vanished. Poof.
The thief broke down, sprawled on the marble floor, he wept.
All that was left was the safe and the massive gem. Also, some dust bunnies. The lemur even took the window panes out, so that the rain washed in. It was thunderstorm season. The storms swept inside. The clouds burst. The electricity lit up the dark woods and made midnight seem briefly like mid day.
The thief laid on his side, gazing through the shell of his empty house.
A feeling began to creep over him that he would not have suspected.
He felt very peaceful. His mind was clear. The thief looked all around him, there wasn’t anything to distract him. For the first time in a long time, he thought about his own life and what it meant and what he could do with it.
The thief let out a sigh of relief.
He went out in the rain to the drugstore and he bought himself a fancy notebook and an expensive pen. He came back to his house, sat Indian style on the cold marble floor. He had decided to make a list of what he ease going to do with his life. He realized that he didn’t want to be a thief anymore. That was number one on his list. There were many things on his list. With each addition, his heart lifted.
Halfway through his list he got, went in the kitchen to get a drink of water from the tap.
When he came back, his fancy notebook and the expensive pen were gone.
The man sat down on the empty floor, cleared his mind and closed his eyes.
For two days, the man stared up at the ceiling. He dreamt occasionally, of lucid, beautiful things.
On the third day, he went to the safe and took out the shimmering green gem and set it on the floor.
He kneeled down in front of it and watched the way that the light made it glow. Then, he spun the gem as if it was a top and watched it twirl at an incredible speed. It appeared as if it was gonna lift off and float through the air of the house.
The man whistled and the Lemur appeared down the hallway.
The thief pointed at the gem.
The lemur sat and watched the gem spin and so did the man. When it wobbled and lost speed and toppled, the man motioned to it.
The lemur walked to the gem, picked it up. It stood there for a moment, set it back down. Then, hopped up the man’s arm. Sat on peacefully his shoulder.
They left together on a plane the following day for Madagascar. The man was done being a thief, he wanted to bring the lemur back into the rain forest, where he imagined it would be happier.
There in the trees on the edge of the ocean, the man found himself a clear area and he built a hut.
After that the only thing the man ever stole was fish from the sea. The only thing the lemur ever stole was ripe fruit hanging from the trees.