As I get older, I occasionally find myself doing something unexpected and then thinking, “Oh, I have apparently grown up to be the kind of person who does this.” It’s never revelatory, but it’s at least a tidbit—another bullet point on my resume, if my resume were to include things like joining a gym or sanding a wooden deck or paying slightly more for organic bananas or coming home to my dog and hugging him and saying out loud, “You are the softest teddy bear” when my windows open and I’m pretty sure my neighbors heard me.
These are things I do, apparently.
Another thing I do is steal rocks.
Here is a rock that I stole.
Since I moved into my house, I’ve been working on getting the garden looking good, but this is a hopeless task because nature seems intent on keeping my outdoor space ridden with weeds, cobwebs and general disorder. On top of that, I’m trying to keep a garden that doesn’t use that much water, and I guess I’m technically succeeding in the sense that a dusty, yellowed garden slowly dying of thirst is, in fact, a garden that doesn’t use much water. Perhaps the most drought-considerate thing you can do for your garden, however, is to put a decorative rock in it, as rocks need very little water and also no care of any kind whatsoever, save for removing bird shit from them. (Hint: White rocks hide bird shit well.) This is a happy thing for me because the soil on which my house sits is mostly rocks—smoothish river rocks from back when the L.A. River used to flood, because my house is in a flood plain, I can never forget—and I can just dig a hole whenever and produce a bountiful harvest of rocks.
While walking my dog a while back, I noticed a particularly attractive-looking rock. (This is another thing I do, I have learned: See the occasional rock and say to myself, “Well now, that is one good-looking rock!”) It was exactly the size to fill a blank space in my garden, and it was sitting in the no man’s land of the median between someone’s front yard and the sidewalk. The house in particular was a nicely kept one—no scrimping on water for you, well-to-do homeowner!—and it seemed like they’d arranged things with care. However, the rock was on the other side of the footpath, and I felt like I could just take the rock without feeling bad about it.
This turned out not to be true.
First, I looked around to see if anyone was watching. If you didn’t know, this is a clear sign that the thing you’re about to do is somehow illegal, because you don’t do that before you do something that no one would ever object to. Then I thought about whether I should just come back at night, when darkness could further conceal my crimes. Again, this is a sign that you are doing something wrong. People don’t wait until for the all-concealing cloak of darkness in order to do legal things. They only do that when they worry they will be caught. I took the rock, in the end, quite possibly in an effort to show myself that these fears were silly.
Do you know how many people I usually pass on my walks through my neighborhood? One or two. Do you know how many people I passed when I was holding my dog’s leash in one hand and a football-sized rock in the other? I’m going to say one hundred of them, each of them wondering if I thought my rock also needed to go for a walk or if maybe my dog and I were going to commit vandalism. But we got home, the three of us—me, Thurman and my newly pilfered rock, whereupon I found that it did, in fact, fit squarely in the empty space I had in mind for it.
Now I see the rock every day as I’m leaving or coming back to my house, and every time I’m reminded that I stole it. I suffer from Catholic guilt, you see. The only thing preventing me from taking it back is the entirely realistic fear that it would be then that the homeowner would catch me doing so and then ask me why I’m attempting to deposit my stupid garbage rock on his property, at which point I’d have to explain that it was his rock in the first place and I took it illegally but then felt like he might miss the rock enough to want it back.
That may yet happen, of course. I will keep you posted.
This has been my story about stealing a rock.