Scribbler Nabbed in Library Heist

by

05/31/2006

444 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

My writing teacher Sue said getting published would change my life. But as I prepared to dart past the security guard at the library, a stolen copy of The New York Post hidden in my parka, I sensed this wasn’t what she had in mind.

Only a month ago, everything had seemed so promising. An editor from The Post had called to say they were buying one of my humor pieces. I had been submitting my work for months and had nothing but rejection letters to show for it, so I was crazy with excitement. This was in early December and they said the essay, a Christmas piece, would run in the next few days.

Every day I hurried down to the corner store to buy a copy. Every day, nothing.

I was in a gloomy mood on Christmas Eve when I boarded a plane to San Francisco. I doubted I could find The Post in California, but didn’t care. If they hadn’t run a Christmas piece by Christmas Eve, it wasn’t going to happen.

A few days later I checked my e-mail and found a message from the Post editor– my piece had run on Christmas Day. My spirits soared, but then fell again. How was I going to get my hands on an old copy of the Post?

As soon as I got back to Manhattan, I went to all the local bookstores and magazine stands to see if they had any back issues. They didn’t, of course. I was walking home through a light snowfall, when I suddenly thought of the one place I hadn’t checked: the public library.

Sure enough, tucked away in a dusty corner of my local branch was a pile of New York Posts. I feverishly dug through the stack, which went back exactly two weeks to December 25th. I pulled it out and flipped to the Op-Ed page. There was my story, my name in print. I read it over quickly, barely absorbing the words. After happily scanning it several times, I realized I had a new problem. I was determined to hang on to the original copy of the paper, but didn’t have a clue how to proceed. Finally, I got up the courage to face the librarian.

She was unmoved by my plight, answering with a decisive “No” before turning back to her computer.

I went back to the periodical section to re-group. Okay, maybe I didn’t have to have the original, I could survive with a copy or two.

Unfortunately, the Xerox machine was being used by an odd looking woman who was copying the unabridged version of “David Copperfield.” I settled down to wait, passing the time by reading old copies of Seventeen and Out.

After what seemed like forever, but was actually 15 minutes, I couldn’t stand it any longer. As the woman fed another nickel into the copy machine, I sneaked a glance over her shoulder. She was only half way through chapter two.

I made up my mind. There was only one way to get The Post. I was going to have to steal it.

Back in junior high I had nerves of steel when it came to shoplifting, but as I thought over how I would make my theft now, my heart was pounding. Despite the fact that the library was grossly overheated, I put on all my winter clothes– parka, wool hat, cashmere-lined gloves. Once I made my move, I had to be able to get out of there fast.

I waited until the librarian was distracted by another customer, then hid behind the magazine rack where I ripped the Op-Ed section out of the Post. I looked around to see if anyone had watched me. An old man wearing a parka was staring. I tried to look casual as I strolled around to the other side of the magazine rack, although my hair was sticking to the back of my neck, and my glasses were so fogged I could barely see. Once there, I stuffed the Op-Ed page into the folds of my winter coat, then put the rest of the newspaper back on the stand. I peered over the magazine rack to see if the old man was still staring at me. He was.

“Scribbler Nabbed In Library Heist!” screamed my brain, addled by reading too many Post headlines. “Studly Senior Makes The Collar.”

I decided to make a break for it before it was too late. Zipping up my coat, I hot-footed it for the exit, pushing past some toddlers who were clogging the turnstile. The security guard was sitting on a stool on the far side of the turnstile, looking right at me. I lowered my head, and scurried past, certain at any moment the cry would ring out for my arrest.

I shot down the icy steps and into the snowstorm, not feeling safe until I reached my apartment. Inside, I stamped the snow off my boots and pulled out the paper. The Post had survived the ordeal untouched by snow, unwrinkled by my parka. I laid it lovingly on the table and saw my article, mine at last.

January, 1999

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