In the pitch black a lanky tall man with long brown hair neatly tied back with a bandanna moved stealthily around the building trying to find an open window or door to gain access to the house through. He eventually found an unlocked window and crept through it. He silently climbed up the stairs and gazed upon the soundly sleeping couple. He then entered the other bedroom and the young girl in it was also dead to the world so he went back down the stairs and entered the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and made a sandwich and ate all of it except a couple of bites which he left sitting on the counter while he quietly stole out of the house.
X X X X
“Anna. Get Cassie and bring her into the kitchen?” Dan yelled.
Anna went to her daughter’s bedroom and asked her to come down the stairs with her.
“Which one of you two did this?” Dan glared at them as they entered the room.
“Did what?” Anna didn’t know what Dan was upset about.
“Look at the counter. It’s a mess.” Dan was staring at what looked like the remains of a sandwich setting on the counter.
“So what? If Cassie was hungry it’s alright if she wants to make a sandwich.” Anna couldn’t believe Dan was making a big deal out of this. “We have plenty of food.”
“I didn’t do that!” Cassie looked back and forth from her mother to her father.
“And what difference does it make who did it anyway?” Anna asked her husband. “Why do you always have to blame someone?”
“So neither of you made this mess?” Dan was yelling now.
“I didn’t get up in the middle of the night and make a fricking sandwich! Cassie you won’t get in trouble if just tell your father you got hungry last night.”
“But I didn’t.” She looked at her parents like they were crazy.
“I suppose someone broke into our house, made a sandwich, ate it and left?” Dan said.
“I guess they did.” Anna defiantly answered. She couldn’t believe what a big deal her husband was making over a stupid sandwich.
“Then you better call the police and tell them about it.” Dan replied.
Anna went over and picked up the phone. “Hello. I would like to report a burglary.” She couldn’t believe how silly her husband was acting but she didn’t feel like fighting about it.
“What’s your name?” The man asked.
“When and where did the theft occur?”
“Last night at our house. We live at 2755 Elm.”
“What items were stolen?”
“Well, food is all we can tell for sure.”
“What do you mean, food from the freezer?
“No not exactly.”
“Quit wasting my time. What was stolen?” The man on the other end was very brusque.
“Someone came in to our house while my husband and I were asleep and it looks like they made a sandwich and I think they ate most of it and left.”
“You are kidding right?” Came the skeptical question.
“No. I thought I should report it but I guess I was wrong. Sorry I wasted your time.” Anna quickly hung up the phone and looked at her husband sitting there watching her. “They thought I was kidding so I hung up.”
“Well when the next house gets broken into and someone gets killed they will be sorry they treated this like it was a joke.” Dan seriously replied.
“That’s probably true but I didn’t get the impression that they believed anything I said. I felt really stupid. I tried to warn them just like you wanted me to do.”
“That’s all you can do. Don’t worry about it.”
X X X X
The man ran around the outside of the house pulling at all of the windows but none of them came open. Then he went to the back door but it was also locked. He walked up to the front door and when he turned the door knob it opened right up. The man cautiously entered the house. He located the bedrooms at the end of the hall. There was a man sleeping in one bed and a woman sleeping with a child in another. He pulled the doors shut and went to the kitchen and looked in the refrigerator. He found a package from the labeled ‘stroganoff’ and opened it, ate it and put the empty box back in the refrigerator. He opened a bottle of wine and poured some of it into two glasses and left them sitting on the counter and drank the rest of the bottle which he took with him when he left the house.
X X X X
When the woman woke up she got up to go back to bed with her husband. She noticed the door to the bedroom was closed and she knew she didn’t close it so she assumed her husband came in to check on her and their child and decided to just let her sleep. That was sweet of him. Then she went to their room and noticed he had shut that door as well. That seemed a little odd but then she didn’t usually get up and sleep in their son’s room. She went ahead and shut the door since she found it that way and got in bed with her husband.
“Why did you get up and shut the door last night?” Georgie heard her husband say as she was waking up.
“Because when I got up from lying with Isaak after he woke up yelling you had shut his door and our door when I came back from his room.”
“I didn’t shut this door or Isaak’s door. I didn’t even know you were in his room last night.”
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t shut either door, why would I?”
“Last night when I heard Isaak yell I got up to see what the problem was and then I fell asleep on his bed. When I woke up and left his room the door was shut. Are trying to tell me that you didn’t get up and shut his or our door last night?”
“No I didn’t.” Hal was starting to think Georgie was imagining things so he just shut up and went to the kitchen. When he got there he couldn’t believe what he was looking at. “Georgie, would you please come in here.”
She was starting to get a little freaked out at the odd way her husband was acting. She put on her sweats and went to the kitchen. She was shocked by the sight she was looking at. “You want me to start drinking wine this morning?”
“What do you mean? These two glasses were sitting on the counter when I walked in here.” Hal was looking at her like she was crazy.
“Yeah, right, sure they were.” She couldn’t figure out why he was screwing with her like this.
“I am dead serious. Are you trying to tell me you didn’t pour these two glasses of wine?” Hal looked really mad. Georgie was getting a little worried. What the hell was going on here she wondered?
“No I didn’t pour the wine. What the hell is going on?” Georgie was starting to think she was in an episode of the twilight zone. If Hal didn’t pour the wine and she didn’t that only left Isaak, right? “Do you think Isaak could have done this?”
“I seriously doubt it but if he could why would he open up a bottle and leave two glasses with wine in them on the table? Wouldn’t he just drink it?” Hal was giving Georgie a very odd look.
“I have no idea, but why would I do it?” Besides getting freaked out she was getting pissed off at being accused of doing something that made no sense.
“Well if you think he could have done this then get him out here and ask him why he did.” Hal was deadly serious.
This couldn’t really be happening. “Isaak doesn’t know how to use a corkscrew. He isn’t even tall enough to even reach the wine glasses. Let’s get reasonable.” She was pleading with her husband to act reasonably.
“If we are going to be reasonable then you must have done this.” Hal was glaring at Georgie.
“Okay. I am going to get Isaak dressed and take him to school. Then I will come home and we’ll talk about this.” She didn’t know what else to do.
“Okay. I’ll get the cereal out and you go get Isaak and bring him in to the kitchen and let’s see how he reacts to the wine glasses at the breakfast table.”
Georgie didn’t like Hal’s suggestion but she didn’t know how else to handle this situation. She went in to Isaak’s bedroom. He was already up and getting dressed.
“Did you have any more nightmares after I left your room?” She watched to see what kind of reaction he had.
“No, I just had the dream that scared me that someone was in my bedroom. Then you came in and it went away.” Isaak sounded sincere.
“Finish putting your clothes on and lets go eat some cereal. I am going to drive you to school this morning instead of your dad.” She wasn’t about to spill the beans about how odd things were going at the moment.
“Okay. I need to go to the bathroom.” Isaak left his room for the bathroom. Georgie went to the kitchen.
“Boy I don’t know what to think. Isaak is acting normal.” Georgie looked at Hal’s back as he was just standing in front of the refrigerator looking into it. “Can you bring the milk to the table?”
Hal just stood by the refrigerator. “Did you eat the stroganoff we got from the market last night?” He sounded odd.
“Yeah, right after we finished the lasagna we heated up for dinner.” She thought he was teasing so she kidded him back.
“It’s not in the box. The box is in the refrigerator but it’s open and it’s empty. The wine bottle is also missing.” He sounded kind of freaked out.
“This is getting too weird. What’s happening?” Georgie was getting scared. What the hell was going on?
Isaak walked into the kitchen. He sat down at the table and looked at the bowl of cereal on the counter and looked at his parents. “Where is the milk for the cereal?”
Hal turned and looked at him blankly. Georgie jumped up and went to the refrigerator and took out the milk and brought it to Isaak. “Here you go dear.”
“Thanks.” By this time Isaak had noticed his parents were acting strangely. “Why do you have wine glasses on the table?” He looked at his mother.
“Oh they are left from last night.” Georgie quickly answered.
“You and dad had beer last night. You let me have some.” Isaak looked to his father for confirmation.
“That’s right. I remember that you didn’t like it did you?” Hal responded.
“It tasted icky.” Isaak replied.
“Finish up your cereal and I’ll take you to school.” Georgie was getting freaked out about what was going on. Either Hal or her must have gotten up in the middle of the night and raided the refrigerator but she had no memory of it or Hal was lying. Either answer was scary.
Isaak finished his cereal and Georgie drove him to school.
“Are you okay mom?” Isaak asked after they had been driving for a few minutes.
“Sure honey.” Although she was far from being certain when she said that. She hoped they would both drop the subject when she got home and leave it an unsolved mystery.
X X X X
The man was casing another house and this one was going to be much more challenging than the last one. The house was three stories and had so many rooms in it he felt needed to get a good look inside before he entered in the night. He had volunteered as a coach’s assistant at the middle school which the couple’s children attended.
X X X X
“James. Would you go help show the boys how to set up the ball thrower and how to safely use it?” The coach told him. This was a good thing.
“Alright kids gather around and I will show you how to use this machine.” They were all quite interested in the contraption. It could be a little dangerous if you weren’t careful. James wasn’t interested in hurting any children. It was the adults he had a problem with. He spent half an hour working with the boys showing them how to load the balls and where to stand when they were batting.
“Thanks James. You are really good at doing this.” The coach told him and the praise made James feel good. He hadn’t received much of it when he was growing up. He was walking off the field when one of the parents came up to him.
“You are really good with my boys. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Whose father are you?” James asked, even though he already knew he didn’t want to appear over eager.
“Kelly and Les are mine and my name is Mark, Mark Noonan.” The father volunteered.
“They are two fine young men. You should be proud of them.” James was so excited he could hardly contain himself.
“Would you like to join our family for dinner this evening to thank you for volunteering here at the school?” This was exactly what he had been hoping for.
“That’s a nice offer but it isn’t necessary.” He didn’t want this man to suspect how badly he wanted this.
“Nonsense, you’ve been very helpful to my kids and having you to dinner is the least I can do. I wrote the address on this piece of paper. We usually eat around six thirty but feel free to come by any time after six o’clock.” The father walked away and James celebrated a personal victory. He was in! Everything was going as he had hoped for.
James showed up at the house a little after six and was greeted by Mark at the front door. “Welcome to our house. I forgot to ask your name earlier. My wife thought I was a jerk but I told her it wasn’t important.”
“You are right that it isn’t important. My name is James.”
“Come on in James and let me show you the house.” Mark turned and led the way to give James a tour of the house.
This was even more than he had hoped for. James eagerly followed Mark while he led him through the house. This had been so easy.
“This is my wife Opal.” Mark introduced James as he was taking him on the tour of the house.
Dinner was excellent and James really enjoyed eating with the family. He almost felt guilty for what he was about to do. Almost.
James now knew where the family’s beds were all located and now all he had to do was come back in the night.
“Thank you for a lovely dinner.” James told Opal and Mark as he took leave of the house.
“You are welcome and thank you for volunteering to help our boys with the softball practice.”
“With food like this I would be happy to help them every day. Just kidding but this was one of the best meals I have had in a long time.”
“You are welcome here any time.”
“Don’t say that or I will have to take you up on it.” James replied.
“We really mean it. Come back to dinner on Friday if you would like.”
James could hardly contain his excitement. “Oh you don’t have to do that.”
“Of course we don’t have to. We insist.”
“We’ll see if you really mean that on Friday.” James said teasingly.
“See you then.” The couple said and James knew he was in.
X X X X
James grew up in a poor family and his mother would make dinner for them one night and the rest of what she cooked was saved for them to eat the next night when she was working at her night job as a janitor three days a week. She made a lot of one dish meals, like lasagna, tuna casserole and macaroni and cheese. James’ dad would get up in the middle of the night and eat some of the leftover food and blame his son for it when his wife discovered it. James was constantly punished by his mother for eating the food that was supposed to be for the next night’s dinner. He grew up with eating disorders and even now he got really distressed when he went to people’s houses for dinner and they saved the leftovers. It brought back the horrible years he was constantly being punished for doing something his father finally confessed to doing after James’ mother died. He had nightmares about food and he set out to make them go away by getting someone’s father in trouble to them pay for what his father never paid for but he had.
X X X X
The next evening the family barbecued chicken for dinner and had made extra so they all would have leftovers for their lunches the next day.
X X X X
That night James entered the Noonan house through an open window and after making sure the family members were all asleep he went to the refrigerator and took the leftover chicken and put it in the bag he brought with him. He ate a piece of chicken and left the bones from it lying on the counter. He carefully left the house so it didn’t look like anyone had entered it.
X X X X
Opal was the first one up and when she walked into the kitchen she saw the bones sitting on the counter, obviously one of the boys got hungry in the middle of the night, no big deal.
Les was the first one up after his mother. He looked at the chicken bones on the counter “Are we having leftovers for breakfast?”
“No. Someone got up last night at ate this. I guess it wasn’t you?” She looked at her son and waited for his answer.
“No it wasn’t me.”
Mark entered the kitchen. “Is the coffee ready?”
“Yes. Sit down and I’ll bring you a cup.” She poured a cup for herself and Mark and took them to the kitchen table.
Mark saw the chicken bones on the counter. “Someone didn’t want eggs for breakfast huh?”
“I guess Kelly got hungry last night because the bones were on the counter when I got up.” She figured that it had to be him since everyone else was up and obviously didn’t know anything about the chicken bones.
Kelly finally walked into the kitchen as Opal was finishing up cooking scrambled eggs for breakfast.
“It’s about time you got in here lazy bones.” Mark said to his youngest son. “Maybe you aren’t as hungry as the rest of us.”
“I’m hungry.” Kelly replied.
“I thought maybe that chicken you ate last night spoiled your appetite.” Mark teased him.
“We all had chicken last night.” Kelly didn’t understand what his father meant.
“Yes but some of us had some in the middle of the night.”
“Who did that?” Kelly responded.
“You didn’t?” Mark said.
“No I didn’t.” Kelly said.
“It’s alright if you did honey.” Opal added.
“I didn’t eat anything after dinner.” Kelly was adamant.
“Well someone did.” Mark said
“It wasn’t me. Is breakfast ready?” Kelly said.
“It’s almost ready. Sit down and have some orange juice.” Opal told her son.
“Someone got up in the middle of the night and ate some of the leftover chicken out of the refrigerator.” Mark informed Kelly.
“Well it wasn’t me. I never get up and eat in the middle of the night. It was probably the dork.” Kelly smiled at his brother.
“Don’t call me a dork. You probably did it.” Les stuck his tongue out.
“If it wasn’t either one of you and it wasn’t me or your father so I guess we must have had a chicken burglar. Maybe it was Caspar.” Opal added.
“Ha Ha mom. That’s funny.” Kelly laughed.
“Okay so I guess it must have been Caspar, it doesn’t matter anyhow. Let’s finish breakfast.” Mark was failing to see the humor in this any longer.
Opal put the scrambled eggs and toast on the table and sat down to eat. When they were done eating she got up and started to put her son’s lunches together.
“What the heck? Alright there is more chicken missing than the piece on the counter.” Opal was mystified.
“What are you talking about?” Mark walked over to the refrigerator. “Are you sure you even put it in here?”
“Where else would I put it?” Opal was getting frustrated.
“I don’t know. I was just asking.” Mark wasn’t sure what to think.
The boys finished eating their breakfast and as oddly entertaining as the saga of the missing chicken was they needed to go to school.
“Who is driving us to school?” Kelly asked.
“I will take you on my way to work. Get ready.” Mark looked at his wife. “I don’t understand what happened last night. I’ll just give the boys some money so they can buy their lunch.”
“That sounds like a good idea. This is the weirdest thing I have ever seen. How can leftovers just disappear from the refrigerator? Oh well. I guess what’s done is done no matter how it happened. We can call this the mysterious case of the chicken burglar.” She laughed and started cleaning up the mess from breakfast.
Mark dropped the boys off at school and went to work.
That evening James knocked on the door. This was evening he had been waiting for his whole life. Father was going to get in trouble.
“Come on in James. We just started to cook dinner. You have good timing.” Mark showed James to the family room where he and the boys were taking turns playing foosball with each other.
“Now we can play teams!” Les excitedly yelled out.
“I’m not very good.” James protested.
“Trust me, neither are we! You can be Les’ partner and I will be Kelly’s. I would team up with you against the kids but then they would really kick our asses.” Mark smiled and led James to the table.
After a few turns on the table Opal called out that dinner was on the table.
“When Mark reminded me he had invited you for dinner tonight I decided it was a good excuse to have something special. We don’t seem to ever have time to go out to dinner so I decided to make something we always enjoy from our favorite Italian take out, Lasagna. Except this was made by me and not by a store or a restaurant. I also made garlic bread and a salad.”
“Wow this sounds even better than the barbecued chicken last night.” Mark complimented his wife.
“I don’t know about that. The chicken was so good someone broke in and stole our leftovers.” She smiled at James when she said that.
How did they know he broke in and took the chicken, he was starting to get nervous.
“Very funny dear.” Mark looked at James and as if he needed to explain what his wife just said. “We seemed to have misplaced the leftover chicken from our dinner last night. That’s what my wife is humorously trying to tell you by saying someone broke in and stole it. As if anyone would ever do that.”
James just about choked on his lasagna. This wasn’t going as he had planned. “Someone broke into your house and ate your food? That sounds like an inside job to me.” He was trying to steer the blame back to the husband.
“It does sound kind of chicken doesn’t it?” Opal said with a smile and a wink.
James felt they were getting back on track. “Who would break in to your house and steal your food?”
“That’s what we all wondered this morning but after no one confessed it seemed kind of pointless to beat a dead chicken.”
“I thought you said Caspar did it.” Les offered.
“It seemed like it was a possibility.” Opal replied.
“When I was a kid my dad used get up at night and eat the leftovers and then blame me for it in the morning.” James tried to lead the family in the direction he wanted them to go in.
“Really. That’s a terrible thing to do. Why would he do that? It’s only food.” Kelly couldn’t believe someone would get in trouble for eating food.
“Well we were kind of poor and my mom worked a lot and she made dinners that part of them were supposed to be left over for dad and I to eat the next night when she was at work. Dad didn’t want mom to know was hungry so he would eat some of the food for the next night and blame it on me and then I would get in trouble.”
“That’s horrible. I’m so sorry that happened to you James.” Opal was appalled at James story.
James was surprised by the way this family reacted to his story but mostly he was surprised that these people hadn’t reacted in the same way his family had. Maybe all parents weren’t screwed up, just his. He started feeling guilty about what he had done but he wasn’t going to admit he had done it. For the first time in his life he felt what growing up in a normal family life might have been like, or at least in one that didn’t punish their kids for things they hadn’t done. He never had any problems with food after that and for the first time since he could remember he enjoyed eating Lasagna.