Gillian English / QSL

A Small Collection

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At a pretty young age, I kept a metal collection. I was six or seven years old, and I kept a box under my bed of contraband nuts, bolts, screws, and nails. They were pretty important to me, and I kept it a secret.

I say “contraband” because I stole them.

Dads love to take their kids to Home Depot. It’s like chicken wings and jeans that fit weird–it’s how they’re wired. Any day of the week, you can go into Home Depot and there’s always a few dads with children in tow. The kids roam throughout the store, often unsupervised, playing with the paint samples, running around in the kitchen displays, and sitting on all of the John Deere tractors. You had to make your own fun in a place like that. The day you go into a Home Depot genuinely comparing paint swatches and trying to decide between different types of faucet heads is the day that your heart dies. Things stop being fun once you can spot the differences between types of granite.

So, while my dad was browsing the power tools, or whatever else it is dads do when they go to that store every other damn weekend, I’d go over to the section where they kept bins of nails and screws. Hopefully now, in 2016, their security precautions have been improved, but at the time, all of their tiny metal items were kept in little bags in little bins. I’d open up the plastic bags and put a few pieces in my pocket. Every time we came back from Home Depot, I’d add a different type of metal, a new species of size and shape, to the box under my bed. I had a pretty hefty collection.

I don’t think it really registered in me that what I was doing was bad until I was a little older, probably about nine or ten, when a girl in my class told me about how she took a Nerds Rope from a gas station and when her mom found out, she made her apologize and give it back. Apparently it was a really scary experience.

Honestly, I should’ve been stealing candy instead of metal, because the box of nails under my bed was really doing nothing for me. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking economically.

I was old enough to ride my bike around the neighborhood without any help, so once the box of metal under my bed started weighing on my conscience, I stuffed my backpack full of assorted stolen metal and told my parents I was going to a friend’s house on the next block. I dumped it behind a hedge at a cul-de-sac a few streets over. Even if someone discovered, they would never know its source.

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