It was sitting on a shelf in the
back of the closet weighing heavily on his mind. He had stolen it
30 years ago. Now he decided to put it back. Doing so would be a
mess and definetely embarrasing. It's always embarrasing
returning something you've stolen isn't it? Would he go through
with it then? That was the thing. There would be questions. Both
from customs officials, our and theirs, then the department of
Antiquities would get involved. It was,after all, not just old.
It was ancient.
It was a symbol of the power and
glory that once was Rome. Vespasian had decreed it be made and
his son Titus benefitted from it. They knew its power. Certainly
then he should return it. It would be the right thing to do. In
the meantime it just sat, wrapped up tightly in a bag from the
ninety-nine cent store. It was easy to grab back then, far harder
to return right now.
Unlike many museums there seemed to
be no ticket window, entrance gate, and certainly no guards. Even
so they never planned to steal it. It just happened. The couple
picked an arch and walked in. The sun was overhead but the wind
was blowing in the clouds. The place was all ochre, olive and
brown. There was one large piece of shining white marble. On it
was a hand carved V. It hit him that much of it had been white
marble at the start. One by one the smaller pieces had
disappeared and were now dispersed to the far corners of the
world. It made him jealous. They walked up the stairs to take a
better look. A dust devil swirled around them forcing them to
close their eyes.
He, always in the past, thought he
heard voices. On one side squeals of awe and delight, on the
other screams of fear and pain.
She, always in the present,
smelled ancient dust being lifted by still more ancient rain.
They were both right, it all had been or was.
A steel-grey cloud overhead
started to rain. He pressed her back under an archway to avoid
the wet. They were close. They'd always been close. Perhaps
because they each had qualities the other wanted. He, educated,
reserved, and cautious. She, an ingenue, spontaneous and daring.
Each wanted what the other had, and in the wanting had become
"It's stopped," she said looking
up," Come on." She took his hand. They took the stairs two at a
time to the top. A short marble pillar was nearby.
She sat on top. "Take my picture,"
she said," smiling." He did. As they walked away she ran her
fingers carelessly over the wall. Part moved. "It's loose,"she
said," it wiggles!" She rocked it back and forth. "Let me see,"
he said, and carefully grabbing a corner he pulled it out. That
That's how it was done. No alarms,
no laser beams, motion detectors or infared. He just put it in
his pocket. Simple.
In the year sixty-six Vespasian
first saw it in a dream. He had plenty of time to dream, having
been banished to Sicily by Nero for falling asleep during one of
his poetry readings. Now in Sicily he was keeping bees. Later he
would keep Rome.
In the year two-thousand nine this
piece of Italian clay, first pressed by prisoners taken during
the sacking of Jerusalem, then fired by slaves who washed their
hands in the Tiber, had ended up with him. It was in his care.
Now it was, as I said before, sitting in the back of his closet
He got up, walked over, picked it
up and carefully tore off the bag. He would give Vespasian's
dream room to breathe. He handled it carefully.
The dream of a Roman emperor was
now resting between his fingers and thumbs. Never mind the two
thousand years between. Time was fleeting. The brick was
there. I mean who did he think he was, to steal from an
emperor? A common thief? He would do something about it. He would
make it right. It had waited long enough. He checked in the
drawer for his passport. It was there. He called the airport.
"Hello," he said," Alitalia?" After all, it was at once a
marvelous and terrible dream, a simple and plain brick. A brick
from the Coliseum.