Author’s Note: As part of a writing challenge, I submitted this short story. The challenge was to write a story which included a torch, a football and a crime, all under 400 words.
Chris wasn’t to know.
That was the best defence I could come up for my little brother, and I was sticking to it. He might have been eight, but even for a eight-year-old he wasn’t that bright.
Dad had brought it home and positioned it in pride of place in his study, right between the Bradman cricket ball and framed glove autographed by Brocky.
He had to buy a special plastic cylinder to hold it upright, and then install a light above so it would stand out for all his mates when they came to visit, but for Dad’s freshly acquired Sherrin footy autographed by Tony Lockett, nothing was too good.
Imagine then to his horror when Dad walked into his study that morning to find his prize possession missing. First he thought it must have fallen off its stand, but it was nowhere to be found. He stomped around the house, blustering and swearing, accusing us of taking it, but I had no clue what he was talking about until I saw the horrifying gap on the shelf for myself.
All through high school that day I was baffled, and when I got home that afternoon was startled to find Mum being interviewed by a policeman. Chris arrived home soon after and was particularly quiet.
Dinner was subdued, table conversation all about the police and changing house locks.
In our darkened bedroom that night, I whispered to my brother if he knew anything about Dad’s footy. A sniffling from the top bunk got me out of bed, and by torchlight I could see his face running with tears. He made me promise not to tell he’d taken it to trade for a huge bag of lollies with a mate, thinking nobody would miss a half-inflated, worn out football with the previous owner’s name on it.
He was terrified of being labelled a baddie and ending up in prison.
Next morning I left for school after secretly making him promise he’d swap it back again.
Imagine Dad’s surprise when that night he came home from work and walked into his study to find the footy replaced on the shelf. It took him a few moments to find Tony Lockett’s autograph crossed out and “THIS IS CHARLIES DONT STEAL” scrawled next to it in black permanent marker.