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The Revenants

Last night, everything that had ever been stolen was returned. It was a black winter night illuminated by swirls of snowflakes spinning around the streetlights, and in the morning, appearing as silently and magically as the snowfall, everything was back in its rightful place.

My little brother, now a 30-year-old architect in a city different from mine, opened his mailbox and out spilled all the candy I had stolen from his Halloween bag and Christmas stocking in the years 1980 to 1984. He called to remind me that a lime Dum-Dum for a Reese’s peanut butter cup is still not a fair trade and further, he had always suspected my sticky hand in the infamous Peppermint Patty caper.

The crucifix, which had been a gift to my grandmother from her grandmother, and which was later given to me on the occasion of my Confirmation, only to be ripped off during a burglary ten years later, dumped from jewelry box to pillow case in one of my city’s many unsolved cases, has reappeared. The slender gold chain shimmers as I loop it around my fingers. I also got back the pillow case, laundered and neatly folded.

The streets are clogged with cars that haven’t been seen in years. Even if they were delivered to a chop shop, dismembered, and efficiently resold in different forms within an hour of their theft, they are back, fresh from the carwash, engines purring. People run into the street, throw open the doors, and dive for the glove compartments, looking for everything that’s been taken from them.

My neighbor’s heart has been restored. It was stolen, heedlessly, thoughtlessly, by a man who points his finger and clicks his tongue rather than commit to the words "Hello" and "Good-bye." She feels like she’s waking up from a long and troubled sleep. She has stopped wearing the sweatshirt he left behind and plans to get a haircut.

The ramifications of all this are not yet clear. Certainly, some people have some explaining to do. My boss’s laptop has vanished. He claimed he got a great deal on it when he traveled to Miami on business, but it turns out that someone left it unattended in the airport and he just walked off with it. He couldn’t help himself. Trouble is, his work for the year is on that laptop and it is gone forever. He thinks this is the worst thing that could possibly happen. It’s not. The worst thing would be if the original owner is still mad about the theft, gets my boss’s name and address from the new files, and tracks him down.

Kleptomaniacs and career thieves woke up this morning to empty shelves, barren drawers. They walked around their looted dens in shock, their senses of entitlement and outrage even greater than in those from whom they had stolen in the first place. But they can’t tell anyone and their rage simmers into a thick and tangy stew.

Pieces are falling into place and the resulting picture isn’t always pretty. For every cry of surprise and delight, there’s a bitter hiss, "It was you! I knew it!"

After her lover walked out, my neighbor’s sister bustled over to help her get through the heartbreak. She neatly bundled up all the photographs of that handsome man and said, "Let me get rid of these for you. It’s not healthy to keep them around, you’ll just mope over them." This morning, each and every one of those photographs, tattered and curly-cornered, fell around my neighbor’s bed like dead, dry leaves. Instantly, she was able to put a face to the low voice she sometimes hears in the background when she talks to her sister on the phone at night. After she gets her haircut, she will head over, unannounced, to her sister’s place. She doesn’t know what will happen after that.

Colleen Quinn lives on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.


Colleen Quinn


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2004

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