He was a small time thief. Never stealing more than what it took to get by. He’d been caught a couple of times, but managed to work his way out of any real time behind bars by turning snitch or offering some other piece of information the cops could use.
But this was one theft attempt he couldn’t believe. He was being paid to steal two pairs of eyeglasses: a mother’s and a daughter’s. He didn’t like the idea of stealing a young girl’s glasses. He had less than 20/20 vision himself, but because it wasn’t discovered until he was in high school, he had already been labeled difficult to teach, a problem student, and his grades had suffered, and so at sixteen, he dropped out of school and into a life of crime. He didn’t want that to happen to her, but eventually decided the money was too good to pass up. The guy who wanted the glasses, wanted both pairs. He wouldn’t settle for only one.
But he had to steal the glasses today, before 9 PM, or no money. It was already 4 PM when he got the job. It was 5:30 and storming when he found the mother and daughter.
He followed them and decided to strike when they walked into a building that had once housed a milling company. The banner on the awning of the renovated entryway said: “Amateur joke night: Everybody welcome.”
Certainly, there would be a chance here to steal the glasses. His only concern was he had not seen the glasses he was supposed to steal, at least not up close. Like most women he knew, they were probably vain about wearing them, unless they had to. Of course, he was a little vain about wearing his glasses, too, and he hated the idea of contacts. His poor eyesight has been one of the main reasons he had never been more than a petty thief.
He sat beside the mother and daughter, the mother’s big handbag on the floor between them.
The joke telling went on for too long. Most of the jokes were old, and most of the telling was enthusiastic but unpolished. Every now and then there was a good laugh. On top of that, the room was warm. Sweat ran down the back of the petty thief’s neck. The time was 8:37 PM. It would take him ten minutes to get to the meeting point.
The mother picked up the bag, took something out, laid the bag back down, and then turned away from the thief and was talking with her young daughter.
The petty thief glanced around to see if anybody was looking, then reached down and gently pulled the bag into this lap. He was looking down into it when the lightning cackled, the thunder boomed, and then the lights immediately went out.
When the lights winked back on, he was still holding the handbag. It was 8:46. The mother and daughter turned to look at him. He screamed, threw the bag down, and bolted from the room.
It wasn’t until he was safely outside in the rain that the petty thief understood why the person he was stealing the glasses for was called “The Clown.”