A lesson learned
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The Burglar. By J.B. Pick.

The boy found himself standing on the pavement five doors I from his parents' house without recognising himself or knowing why he was there. In fact he was where he was because he did not know where else to be, or what else to do.

He had no friends and did not expect to have any. He had once cajoled two other boys to enter his parents' garden - which he did not believe to be his - by promising them that they would be able to light a bonfire and would be given food. Of course they were not allowed to light a bonfire and were given only a packet of plain biscuits, which they despised while eating them, and then left.

The boy could not explain his actions to himself but knew that he had boasted for no reason and gained nothing by it. He did not, in any case, like the two boys, and was sure they did not like him, because nobody did.

The reason that nobody liked him was that when anyone approached him attempting to be polite or amicable he was rude and grumpy on the grounds that they were only being friendly as a duty. In the case of adults this was usually true.

Now, in front of the neighbours' house he felt he must do something because something is what you do. Perhaps if he became brave enough to creep into this house and steal an ornament it would convince him that he was capable of doing that and so think better of his existence. He did not believe that he did have the necessary courage and for this reason moved step by step carefully down the path toward a door. He did not know whether it was the front door or the back door because the house was not designed like his parents' house and seemed a bit sideways.

The door he reached was painted a restrained yellow, which was a more dashing colour than any other door in the road and would have disconcerted him had he been concerted in the first place.

He turned the handle of the door without thinking of anything whatever and was in a kitchen which led into a room. A clock ticked with satisfaction in this room, content with its place and function, unlike the boy. A fire burned comfortably in the hearth. The stillness in the room was deeper than silence.

The boy was afraid of the room's satisfaction, which did not register him or respond to him in any way. He was not of its world, and therefore unworthy of notice.

He looked round as if turning his neck would make a noise. There was a pot pig on the mantelpiece. It would be brave to take the pot pig even if you felt cowardly while doing so. What would he do with the pig when he had it? To have it would prove that he had entered this house but only to himself because he could not show it to anyone. If he threw it away he could not prove even to himself that he had stolen it. If he kept it where would he hide it? He wanted to leave at once, immediately, but to leave without the pig would make his whole adventure meaningless.

Before he could take a step towards the mantelpiece, which he was very reluctant to do, there was a rush of footsteps of a definite and untroubled kind and suddenly a breath of vigorous life filled the room and a fresh-faced comfortable lady was in a place which knew her and accepted her as a necessary part of its world.

She said with cheerful briskness and no sign of surprise, "Oh, hello. How nice of you to pay us a visit. I've seen you before, haven't I? You live down the road. Would you like a bun?"

His heart, which had stopped and then jumped spasmodically like an alarmed frog, began to bump loudly to remind him that he was still alive, which was terrible.

Five minutes later he was again outside on the pavement, but now with a bun in his hand. He did not want to eat the bun or to throw it away. A bun could not prove he had been in that room and he no longer wanted to prove it, anyway. He wanted not to have been there at all. He took a bite of the bun but could not swallow and thought he would choke. He found himself afraid and began to run down the road ridiculously fast.

He avoided the house from then on, crossing to the other side of the road to pass it. He never looked at the yellow door in case it had changed. He did not want it to change. He did not want the lady to be reminded of him. Her face would appear suddenly and inconveniently in his mind, and he was unable to find an answer to any of the questions which she had refrained from asking. Of course she would have forgotten him.
That troubled him on the edge of sleep.

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