Was that a tremor of a curtain in a darkened window? No matter. A pivot, a leap, and I’m over the garden fence. A shimmy and a jump take me on top of the shed. I listen for the sound of pursuers, for the creak of a back door opening as someone checks that all is well. There is nothing but the warm night air pressing in on my eardrums.
My objective is still above me, but for a moment I look not up, but out. I feel like Dick Van Dyke taking in Victorian London, but instead of soot-stained chimneys and greasy roof tiles I have row upon row of bristling satellite dishes and TV aerials, their angles cocked at the skies to hear the better.
How has it come to this?
I wipe my hands on my trousers and take a firm grip of the satellite dish. One, two, three heaves brings it away from the wall. Brick dust sprinkles over the driveway below me, followed by the clatter of the dish as it cartwheels into the road. It stops in front of a police car. Torchlight swivels from the patrol car window, fumbling over the rooftops before finding me. They know who they’re looking for – the same man they’ve caught tearing satellite equipment from houses every night this week. No matter. My work here is done.
In a few hours that family will wake. They’ll reach for their mobiles, their television remotes. They’ll ask for Alexa. They’ll tap away at their laptops. Eventually they will conclude that they have no choice but to converse, at least in the short term. Perhaps teenagers will scuttle down from their bedrooms. Maybe parents will concern themselves with what their children have planned for the upcoming day instead of what some politician did in London yesterday. If I’m lucky, they’ll remember what it is to construct sentences, to be curious about each other.
Of course, they will need something to be curious about. Fear not nomophobics, for I have provided once again. What could be more conversation-provoking, after all, than a night prowler loose on the rooftops. My crimes will provide a spark, a fire to set those tongues wagging.
Chim Chim Cheroo.
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order