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I Tried To Steal a Book at Work

June 25, 2021

Three days. The book had been sitting on the counter by the sink in the break room at work for three days, and nobody had claimed it. I don’t think it had even moved.

The book was a paperback copy of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Even though I’d already read the novel decades ago, I’d been thinking about reading it again recently. I remember enjoying Lonesome Dove a lot.

This copy of Lonesome Dove was in nice condition, but it was in danger of getting wet from so many coworkers washing their hands. I thought about just taking the book home with me. It wasn’t mine, but I wanted to read it.

On this particular day, there was a chocolate cake next to the book, and coworkers were hovering over the mystery cake.

“Who made it?” one guy asked.

“It’s chocolate cake,” another guy said. “With chocolate icing. I don’t care who made it.”

“Is it safe to eat?”

“Whose book is that?” I asked.

“I want to know who made the cake,” the guy kept saying. “If it was Jackie, she’s always licking her fingers.”

“It could have been Dolores,” the other guy said. “She wears two masks and always washes her hands, even when she has gloves on.”

The guy turned to me. “Are you going to eat this?”

“I’m fasting,” I said. I don’t eat food unless I prepare it myself, but I just claim I’m fasting to avoid awkward situations. The problem is that then I can’t be seen eating for a while. That’s why lying is bad. I probably should just tell people that I don’t eat food unless I prepare it myself.

After much deliberation, everybody except me ate the cake, but nobody claimed the book. I decided to wait until the end of the day to make my move. Friday was clean-up day, and the custodians would throw out everything unclaimed at 5:30. If the book was still there, I’d take it. It’s not stealing if it’s about to get thrown out. In that situation, I’d be saving the book, not stealing it.

At 5:30 I was ready to make my move. I’d stayed a little late to get ready for Monday, and I hung around the corner waiting for the custodian. He was a young guy with air pods (I think). First he wiped the tables. Then he threw out everything in the refrigerator (and there was some truly disgusting stuff in there). What was taking him so long to get to the sink? He was doing everything except cleaning the sink!

Finally he grabbed the cake remnants and tossed them into the trash can. Then he reached slowly for the book… and… and…

“I’ll take that,” I proclaimed as I stepped forward.

“Is this yours?” he asked. I had expected him to just hand me the book.

“No…. um… no… it’s just been sitting there for three days.”

“This doesn’t belong to you?”

“No,” I said sheepishly. “I just want to read it.”

“So do I,” the custodian said. “Do you mind if I read this over the weekend, and I’ll bring it back?”

I almost said, “You’re going to read Lonesome Dove over a weekend?”

Instead, I said, “Sure, it’s not my book.”

So the custodian took the book.

And I haven’t seen him since.


A couple days ago I just went ahead and bought a copy of Lonesome Dove for a few bucks at a used book store.

Yesterday I had some time to read it, but I didn’t feel like it. I’m pretty sure I’ll get to it today.

  1. This is such a wonderful book heist story…

  2. I would think that saying you are fasting might create an awkward situation.

    • That’s interesting. Maybe I’ve been approaching this wrong (even without the lying) the whole time. I think from now on I should just tell the truth and admit I eat (almost) only food that I or somebody I trust prepares.

  3. I think the desire to reread it was in the stealing. Now that you bought it, the thrill is just not there…

    • Maybe there’s something to that.

      I actually started reading it last night. I remember I originally thought the first 30-50 pages were kind of dull, but I think I enjoyed that section more the second time.

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