Flash fiction – 498 words

Doug's Idea

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash
Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Doug said he’d been doing it for months. Said he’d seen it on a television show. Showed us the proof. It wasn’t like he was stealing anything worth taking. They didn’t even notice, he said.

The first time was more thrilling than I expected. Breaking into someone’s house and just looking around, rifling through their stuff, walking through their rooms. It was a game, educational, not criminal, to see how other people lived.

The rules were that we had to move something and take something. They shouldn’t even realise someone had been inside their house. We had to take a before and after photo of the thing we moved. Whatever we took had to be small enough to fit in our pocket.

That first time, the tingling in my gut was intense. I quickly learnt that picking a lock isn’t as easy as it looks. I climbed through a window and landed in a stranger’s kitchen.

I stood there for a minute, breathing deeply, trying not to throw up. Clean plates and cutlery sat drying in a dish rack, next to a retro toaster and aluminium kettle. I grabbed a silver fork and shoved it in my pocket. I unlocked the back door, opening it so I could get out faster if something unexpected happened.

I tiptoed into the living room and sat on the chunky blue sofa, put my feet on the coffee table. I switched the television on and off. In the study, I ran my fingertips over the book spines. I photographed some, moved them around, took my ‘after’ photo.

I wandered through the house, making sure I went into every room: bedrooms, laundry, bathroom, toilet. Did you know every house has its own smell? Like families exude their own pheromones so they can find each other in a crowd? The high I felt was so powerful, it made my head spin.

Every Sunday, we’d meet at the treehouse, show each other our photos and souvenirs. We talked and laughed and shoved each other, typical teenage boys.

My stash grew steadily: the silver fork, a box of chalk from a kid’s playroom, a glass unicorn smaller than my thumb, a pen with ‘Congratulations Susan’ etched on its golden side, a notepad, a tiny teddy who looked at me with disappointment in its eyes.

Then, Doug got bored with empty houses and upped the stakes. He decided people had to be home. I didn’t think I could do that but after a while, when the high wasn’t so high, I changed my mind.

I watched the target house. When all the lights went out, I snuck around the back. I shimmied up a drainpipe, climbed through a window, dropped onto the soft carpet.

Pain flared in my ankle as a small terrier yelped and bit deep. A light blinded me. When my eyes adjusted, Mr Davidson, my history teacher, stood in the doorway, pointing a big black gun at me.

“It was Doug’s idea!” I whimpered.