Dream of:01 February 1996 "Purloined Dictionary"
Carolina and I were in the living room of our Summerdale Drive House. In my hand I was holding a dictionary which was about a foot long and about four inches thick. It had a gray cover and was used, but still in good condition. I had had the dictionary for about six months. It had been given to me by a young black-haired fellow who had lived in the House with me for a while. The fellow, who had seemed foreign, had been tall and lanky, and had probably only been in his early twenties.
At the time the fellow had given me the dictionary, I had known that it wasn't his; it actually belonged to the public library. He had borrowed the dictionary with his library card; but since he was moving away and would never return, he had decided not to take the dictionary back to the library, and had given it to me instead.
I now had a problem with the dictionary. I had become acquainted with a woman who worked at the library. She was a tall, thin, black-haired woman probably in her mid-thirties. While she had been visiting me, she had seen the dictionary and had liked it. She hadn't realized it actually belonged to the library, and I had told her I would either give or sell it to her.
I knew she was going to be coming back to get the dictionary today. But now I was deeply worried, because I was afraid she would discover that the dictionary actually belonged to the library. I had been careless in dealing with the dictionary and I hadn't even looked to see if the library had stamped its name on any of the pages. Now as I examined the dictionary more closely, I was chagrined to discover the library's stamp on many places on the dictionary. Right on the inside of the dictionary was a blank page on which the library had stamped its name in large letters. I thought I could probably just tear that page out. But I would have to flip through the other pages to find other places where the library had stamped its name.
I also noticed that the words "Public Library" were stamped in ink on the outside of the dictionary – across the pages. I picked up a pencil with an eraser and began trying to erase the words. I succeeded in erasing most of one of the letters, but I could see that this was going to be an extremely difficult task. And I knew I didn't have time to finish – the woman was supposed to arrive at any moment.
What would I say if she knew the dictionary actually belonged to the library? I would try to explain that the book had been given to me and that I hadn't known. But would she notice that I had erased one of the letters? That would be incriminating evidence that I had known.
Just then the woman walked into the room. She seemed cold and distant. She immediately asked me where the dictionary was and she began looking around the room for it. Seeing it lying on a table in front of me, she picked it up. She went straight to the point. She said she had discovered that this dictionary belonged to the library. I shuddered. I knew it was all over. Now I would have to tell her the big lie about how I hadn't known anything about it. But I was unsure I had all the facts of the lie straight in my mind. I hadn't had enough time to think it over to make sure all the parts of my story were correct.
The woman had sat down at a table. I stood up, walked over to where she was, and sat down across from her. (She somewhat resembled my ninth grade teacher, Mrs. York, and I felt about the same way as the time Mrs. York had taken me out into the hall and confronted me with plagiarism on a book report I had written on Nathaniel Hawthorn's The House of the Seven Gables. I had copied my report straight out of a Classics Comic, not realizing the words were the exact words written in the book.)
As I sat down, I changed my mind: I wasn't going to lie. I was going to tell the truth and admit everything. I would admit that I had known all along that the book belonged to the library, and that I had been wrong in keeping it. I already felt a sense of relief come over me at the thought of being done with the whole affair. My only concern was that my act would be revealed to the public. I hoped I could keep the whole thing quiet.
I made my confession. The woman was all business and we went straight to the details. Of course she would keep the book and return it to the library. But in addition I would have to pay a fine of $388. I quickly agreed and told her I would pay it out in payments. I was already paying $27 to the library every month for something else. I would now simply add an extra amount to my monthly payment and pay until the $388 was paid off.
I told the woman I would go get a check, and I rose to go get one. I kept my checks in my bedroom closet, which was on the other side of my bedroom bathroom. But when I reached the door of the bathroom, I found that it was locked. Then I remembered something else: Wheat was living with me, and he was using part of the House. He was using my bathroom, while I was using Carolina's bedroom bathroom.
Now I saw another problem. Wheat and I had had an argument and we were no longer getting along. We weren't even speaking. So he had locked the bathroom door so I wouldn't use it. He wasn't in the House at the moment, and I hoped he wouldn't return until I finished up my business with the woman. I didn't want him to know about the affair with the dictionary. I recalled that he had been aware of what I was doing with the dictionary since the beginning and that he had frowned upon it. In fact, his displeasure with the way I was appropriating the dictionary had been part of the reason we had fallen out.
But now I had no time to think of all of that. I needed to get into my closet, which was behind Wheat's bathroom, to get my check. I quickly began unlocking the door, which turned out to be several small doors, all of which were intricately carved in rich wood, carved like something from India. I opened the doors and passed through the bathroom and into the closet. Up on the shelf I could see some boxes of checks. I pulled one down and was surprised to see that the checks weren't mine, but Mary Biester's (a Dallas attorney who was a friend seven or eight years before). I quickly put them back, and picked up another box of checks which had the name "Hutchins" on them (coincidentally the name of the people from whom I had bought the Summerdale Drive House). I put those checks back. Finally I found a box of checks with Carolina's name on them and I took them. I walked back out of the closet and through the bathroom and headed for the front room.
When I reached the living room I was dismayed to see that Wheat had returned and was sitting there. He had a friend – a man (about 30 years old) – with him. They seemed occupied in something else and they didn't appear to be paying any attention to what I was doing; but I was concerned that Wheat would be able to figure out what was going on.
I walked back over to the woman and sat down. I pulled out a check and began trying to figure out how much it should be for. I was dividing $388 by the number of months I would be paying, trying to come up with a figure. I worked on this for several minutes until I stopped and thought this was ridiculous. I had the money to pay off the whole $388 right now and be done with it. I turned to the woman and said I would just pay off the whole thing right now. She gave me a look as if to say that was the prudent thing to do. I turned to Carolina, who was still in the room and asked her to write a check for $388.
I was glad to have the whole affair concluded, although I knew it was still uncertain whether my deed would be made public. I also realized my income was going to be reduced, because somehow I had planned to use the dictionary to obtain extra income. It was unclear how I had planned to do that, but now I saw the whole scheme go up in smoke.
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