KING OF THIEVES BY LF GILLIS
Raccoon raked the falling leaves out of his way. “There must be some worms or insects under here somewhere. Where could they be?”
“I don’t know.” Rabbit twitched his pink nose. “Tender vegetation is getting hard to find as well.”
“You’re welcome to share my acorns.” Deer munched more of the crunchy seeds. “They’re falling everywhere.”
Squirrel peered from his nest inside the oak tree. “Did someone say acorns?” He scampered down the tree. “I’ll just gather some of these for the winter.”
“Don’t you have enough food stored yet?” Rabbit asked. “You do nothing but store nuts.”
“While you idiots are starving this winter, I’ll be snug inside my tree.” Squirrel picked up a few more acorns. “And it’s all due to hard work and planning.”
Crow lit on a tree limb. “Stupid creatures. Don’t you know what tomorrow is?”
Raccoon rubbed his face. “Saturday?”
Crow threw an acorn at the animal. “It’s the first day of the fall camping season. The only ones who are going to starve, are those who aren’t stealthy enough to steal from the humans.”
“What would you know about being stealthy, crow?” Rabbit asked.
“More than you.” Crow dropped another acorn. This time it hit Rabbit in the center of his head. “I can take anything I want.”
“I steal vegetables from the forest ranger’s garden all the time.” Rabbit sat up on his haunches. “What have you stolen lately?”
Crow swooped down, landing in front of Rabbit. “The coins out of his truck.”
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“Come up to my nest and check it out,” Crow said.
“You know rabbits can’t climb trees.”
Crow flapped his wings. “Then you’ll just have to take my word for it.”
“Not the way you lie,” said Rabbit.
Raccoon raced in between them. “Now, boys, past misdeeds are of no consequence now. It’s what you do next that counts.”
“What are you proposing?” asked the crow.
“The best thief award.” Raccoon sat on his haunches. “Since you and I are the best thieves, this will be a contest for just the two of us.”
“Deal,” Crow squawked. “You and me, here next Saturday.”
Once Crow flew away, Rabbit protested, “Who said you and Crow are the best thieves? We all steal something.”
“Yes.” Raccoon rubbed his paws together. “That’s why I’m enlisting all of you to help me.”
“And what if we don’t want to?” asked Rabbit.
“Why wouldn’t you help me? We all hate that squawking crow. Isn’t it about time we put him in his place?”
“Alright,” Rabbit conceded. “I’m in. What’s the plan?”
For days, the campers came and left. Rabbit hopped around various campsites, scoffing out the goods. Little kids happily chased him around, proclaiming, “Bunny!” When Rabbit reported something worth stealing, Baby Deer would let the humans catch a glimpse of him, just long enough to distract the humans. Then Raccoon would slip in and take whatever was deemed valuable.
All the while, Crow was doing aerial surveillance, not only on the humans, but on the other animals, as well. He saw how Squirrel kept the humans’ dogs busy, chasing him around trees. Even innocent Fawn as in on the plot to rob him of the King of Thieves crown.
“Try all you want,” he squawked from the air. “I’m the best thief, and by Saturday, all of you will have to admit it.”
“Get out of here, Crow,” a woman who was standing next to a picnic table shouted. “Shoo!”
“Ooh,” Crow cringed. “I wish I could get back at her.” Then he saw it. Something was glittering next to a big pile of stuff, laying on a blanket not far from the woman. “Shoo me again, will you?” he said, swooping down, just as she turned her back. With a necklace suspended in his talons, he flew back to his nest.
“I don’t know what you are,” he pecked at the locket, “but I’ll bet you’re worth more than anything that foolish raccoon will ever come up with.”
That afternoon, all the animals met under a tree, hidden deep in the woods. “Have you heard?” Squirrel asked Raccoon. “The park rangers are using metal detectors to find some lady’s necklace.”
“Those stupid humans lose things out here all the time,” said Raccoon. “Why is this one necklace so important?”
“The locket contains a picture of her mother,” Squirrel explained. “It’s the only picture that the woman has of her. She’s very distraught about it.”
Crow perched himself on a low-hanging tree limb. “What’s going on?”
“Some lady lost a picture of her mother,” said Rabbit. “It was in a locket, and is the only picture she has of her. The park rangers are scouring the earth, looking for it.”
Crow thought about the necklace he stole. “If they’re making all this fuss, I guess that means it’s very valuable.”
“Priceless,” said Rabbit.
“Okay, Crow.” Raccoon climbed the tree. “Where is it?”
“Me?” He brought his wing to his beak. “Why would you think I know anything about it?”
“Because you’ve never cared about anyone but yourself.” Raccoon raised his paw. “Now you’re asking us for everything but a description.”
“Let’s say that I may, rhetorically, know something about this bobble.” He pecked Raccoon’s paw. “What’s in it for me?”
Raccoon dropped his head in concession. “The King of Thieves crown.”
“Oh dear.” Rabbit watched one of the rangers shine a flashlight inside a hole. “They’re searching my den. You have to give that necklace back, and force them to stop this madness, Crow.”
He flapped his wings. “What do I care if they search your dens and nests?”
Squirrel rubbed his paws together. “Because eventually, they’ll locate your nest. What do you think will happen when they find that locket?” He raised up on his hind legs. “They’ll destroy your nest, that’s what.”
“I’ll help, if you want to return it to the lady’s campsite,” said Fawn. “Who better to be proclaimed the King of Thieves, than someone who can not only steal, but return things, undetected?”
“The Ultimate King of Thieves.” Crow clicked his beak together. “I like it.” He flapped his wings. “Okay, Young Fawn. I accept your challenge. All you have to do is run through the woman’s campsite, while I drop the necklace onto the picnic table. She’ll think she just misplaced it.”
“You might want to drop it on the ground next to the picnic table,” Fawn suggested. “Those humans aren’t as stupid as you think.”
“Genius idea. Miss Deer, you have raised a brilliant buck.”
“She’s a doe,” Deer corrected Crow. “And thank you for noticing.”
Crow flew back to his nest and retrieved the locket. Then he simply dropped it while Fawn was running around the campsite.
The woman’s daughter, who had been playing in the dirt, just under the table, caught the necklace. “Mommy, your locket fell out of the sky.”
“What?” The woman came running toward her daughter. “Jewelry doesn’t just fall from the sky.”
“Then Grandma found it, and sent it from Heaven.” The little girl placed the locket in her mother’s hand. “Because it fell into my hand.”
“Don’t be hard on her, Chrissy.” The woman’s husband fastened the chain around her neck. “You took it off to go swimming, remember?”
“Yes.” She squeezed the locket, relieved that she had her mother’s picture back again.
“It probably got hung in the slats of the table. Emma just happened to be there when it fell.”
“You know that warm feeling you have, Crow?” Squirrel asked, as he and Crow sat on a limb, watching the family below. “That’s the feeling you get when you care about someone other than yourself.”
“Feels weird.” He shook. “How long does it last?”
“A good, long while.” Squirrel chattered. “But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”
“I don’t want to.” Crow flew away, squawking. “Make it go away!”
Thank you toLF Gillis for this excellent short story which I've illustrated using image from my works in Fine Art America print on demand gallery.
LF Gillis is a writer and novelist who is deeply connected to the great outdoors and nature. You will experience small-town southern states of American life through this author's beautiful writing. The most amazing thing is the way the characters in a Gillis novel interact, and the author's gift for showing the full depth of their feelings. The stories below are gripping and inspirational reads that I would highly recommend.
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