It was funny. Wasn’t it? Sure, it was funny. And, besides, the kids were laughing as the skinny boy with the buzz-cut unzipped his pack to reveal a fat bundle of pens, pencils and other stationary. OK, he had stolen it all but you had to be impressed by the size of the haul. Even the kids he had stolen it from nodded their heads in approval. There had to be sixty or seventy all bound neatly with several rubber bands also stolen.
She can do the angry voice, this teacher. I’ve only been teaching in the alternative program for a week but I have heard it once or twice already. I’ve seen her look over her glasses at some girl or boy during DEAR when a giggle or snicker breaks the silence and all their eyes return to reading. But, now, she smiles sweetly and tells him to spread the loot on another kid’s desk.
“Find what’s yours!” she says. I watch, expecting a frenzy of payback theft, but there is none. They take what is theirs and return to their desks.
A period later, she waves me over and points to her laptop. She has the local paper on her screen. A mugshot of a man with a familiar-looking buzz cut stares glumly out at us beneath a headline that reads, “Local Jewelers Hit Twice, One Arrested.”
It’s the pencil thief’s father. The article was posted only an hour ago. The kid doesn’t even know.
When I left at the end of the day, I checked in at the main office to let the principal know I was leaving but he was on the phone ordering a pizza. Next to him, elbows on his knees and head in his hands, was the pencil thief.