“A white male wearing a black puffy coat and dirty blue jeans with a goatee and mustache was seen running out of Kmart and into the woods.”
Star Beacon, January 4, 2012
“Why do I listen to her?” Calvin wondered; her being Marla, his girlfriend. She had a hold on him like no woman ever had. Most of the time she was sensible, but she had this thing for clothes. Marla liked men in flashy clothes. Calvin liked it best when his clothes went unnoticed. His goal was to be a standout shoplifter, and no one ever became a standout shoplifter by standing out in a horde of shoppers. All the jeans in his closet were at least two years old and utterly nondescript, indistinguishable from the jeans of millions of other men. He liked knowing that witnesses to his larcenies would be hard pressed to describe his attire.
“What was he wearing?” the cop might ask.
“Oh, you know, blue jeans,” the witness would say.
“Blue jeans, is that all?”
“No, I think he was wearing a T-shirt, too.”
“He wasn’t someone you’d notice. His jeans were faded, and he just faded into the crowd.”
Calvin had no idea if that’s how police investigations of his crimes proceeded. But he had never been caught, and he saw no reason to change modus operandi, or his pants. Marla, however, wanted a man with pizzazz. When her man walked into a store, she wanted him to be noticed. It was a matter of pride with her, a female thing. Calvin tried to tell her that having a dull wardrobe was a good career move. She wouldn’t hear of it. And Calvin never heard the end of Marla’s carping until he agreed to go with her one day to the big-box store. They went as honest citizens; a thirty-something couple on a shopping expedition. And Calvin was putty in her hands.
“Let’s go see if we can find some jeans for you,” Marla said as Calvin set a twelve pack of Miller’s Genuine Draft in the cart.
“Why? There’s nothing wrong my jeans,” he said.
“Everything is wrong with your jeans,” Marla said.
“Your jeans are boring, just like your beer,” she said. “Dull-as-dishwater blue jeans and MGD. I bet your favorite ice cream is vanilla.”
“You got a problem with that?”
“It doesn’t make my heart go pitter-pat,” she said, and the sad, pouty, disappointed spoiled-little-girl look that always turned Calvin to mush spread across her face.
“I guess it won’t hurt to look,” he said.” But that doesn’t mean I’m going to buy any.”
In the men’s department, Calvin went to the rack of discount jeans. As he searched for the jeans most like those he already owned, he realized Marla wasn’t at his side. What a relief. He’d grab a few pairs of ho-hum jeans while she was elsewhere. Good plan, but it didn’t work.
“Hey, Calvin, look at these,” said Marla, holding three pairs of jeans.
“What’s so special about them?”
“You’ve got to see the butt,” she said.
“Look,” she said, unfurling a pair. “Don’t you just love it.”
Calvin stared at the mustache that spanned the seat of the jeans and the goatee below it.
“You have to get these.”
“I can’t wear those,” Calvin said.
“You’ll look so handsome in them. I’m starting to feel all sexy just thinking about it.”
“Where do I get butt-sized Groucho glasses to complete the look?”
“You’re making fun of me,” Marla said. “If you don’t buy these, I’ll never speak to you again.”
That wasn’t true. If he didn’t buy them, she’d whine nonstop. And she was getting that look again.
“Please don’t look at me like that,” he said. “I’ll buy them if it will make you happy.”
“You don’t love me,” she said. “If you loved me, you’d buy them, and you’d wear them. But, obviously, you don’t love me.”
“Oh, Marla, I do love you.” Calvin said. “I'll buy the jeans, and then we'll get something to eat.”
Spending two-hundred dollars for three pairs of jeans he hated didn’t bother Calvin. He wasn’t buying the jeans; he was buying a month’s worth of intimate moments. Besides, he had no intention of wearing them anywhere but at home. He had a closet full of jeans. When he needed to go out, especially when it was time to apply the five-finger discount, he’d slip into something more comfortable and less noticeable.
Marla worked late Tuesday, and with nothing much to do, Calvin thought it would be a good time to procure a few things. But when he went to dress for the caper, he discovered Marla had taken the liberty of throwing out all his jeans except those with facial hair. After calling Marla all the names he would never call her to her face, Calvin went to Kmart in a pair of mustachioed jeans.
In the store, Calvin ignored the whispering and giggling his pants provoked. He had wanted to steal a few items from the electronics department, but now he thought it best just to grab some plain blue jeans, which he did. Then, trying hard to appear nonchalant, he made his way toward the exit. It was easier than he thought. People were so distracted by the jeans he was wearing, no one paid attention to the jeans he was carrying, until he got five feet from the door. Then someone yelled, “Grab that guy in the hairy pants!”
Calvin dashed out the door, through the parking lot and into the woods. Hiding among the trees, he took off the incriminating pants and changed into a pair of the filched pre-faded, pre-washed, replete-with- a-hole- in-the-knee jeans. He threw Marla’s favorite jeans on the ground and strolled nonchalantly back toward the store. He ignored the three cops in the parking lot; they’d be looking for a guy with unshaven jeans. But as he walked jauntily to his car, Calvin was surprised by a tap on his shoulder.
“What is it?” he demanded.
“I want to talk to you.”
“What’s the problem, officer?”
“I see you’re wearing new jeans,” the cop said.
“Nah, I’ve had these for years.”
“Didn’t you ever wash them?” the cop asked.
“Sure I did,” Calvin said. “That’s why they’re so faded. I probably wash them too much.”
“That’s funny. All those washings and the big cardboard tag on the back pocket still looks like new.”
“You better come with me.”