Grand Larceny

Grand Larceny

The top, left-hand drawer of my Father’s oak roll-top desk had a special little purse. It was leather, well worn, with a simple clasp. The purse contained, always, the ten percent “Missionary Offering” that Father faithfully took from his pitiful Saskatchewan depression salary of the Dirty Thirties.

At age eight and nine, I was keenly aware that money was painfully scarce at our house, and we were constantly reminded that we could not spend, not even five cents, on special treats of any kind.

Legitimately so.

I felt deprived.

It was a shock to discover that a blue five-dollar bill was neatly folded into the purse on one of my searches. It was, in those days, a huge amount of money, given that a dozen eggs cost fifteen cents and a pound of butter was about twelve cents.

I was not just puzzled; I was affronted that the family had to be deprived of important things when “Missionary Money” was being given away. It nagged at me all day and into the next. I was angry and I wanted to even the score.

I slipped, secretly, the five-dollar bill into my pocket and went off to school. Yes, of course I felt guilty, but the need to deal with the painful unfairness of the situation won the day, and at lunchtime I went off to the General Store on Main Street, picked out a chocolate bar, and handed the cash to the merchant. There was long pause. He looked me in the eye, I looked straight back at him, we said nothing. He handed back the change which went back into the pocket, and I thoroughly enjoyed the marvelous forbidden chocolate. With a feeling that I had balanced the books.

Next day I treated my friends, who were very uncertain about the gift, and they looked at me suspiciously while enjoying the sweet treat.

The storekeeper kept the secret. Within a few days the money was spent. I never heard a word about the missing money from the Missionary Bag.

I was left with the nagging guilt, always balanced by the conviction that I had balance the score.

This is my confession.

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