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A thief considers returning a stolen antiquity

Submitted:Oct 31, 2009    Reads: 74    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

The Antiquity
Steven Hunley
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 close.
"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 was it.
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 waiting patiently.
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.


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