My criminal career

It happened during the early stages of my marble craze, when I was nine or ten. I remember the sight in front of me, a goldfish bowl full of marbles, topped up with water. It stood on a low shelf on the veranda outside a toy shop. I remember staring at it for a few minutes, temptation building up, the devil in my ear urging me on (I was a good Christian boy in those days). Then, in a sudden almost out-of-body movement I succumbed. Water grabbed my hand as it plunged in like a cormorant zooming into the ocean to catch its dinner. In another quick, flashy movement, I pulled out one marble and dropped it in my trouser pocket. Did someone see me? I didn’t dare look around. Cold sweat moistened my brow and upper lip as I braced for admonishment followed by threats to call the police. When it didn’t happen, my panic subsided but what replaced it was much worse. I had crossed a line, my honesty and goodness compromised forever. My sin branded me as a common thief destined for hell. For months after that I squirmed inside at the enormity of what I did, of my misdeed, of my sin. Prayers, life and the passage of time eroded my guilt. Now, almost a lifetime later, I don’t squirm anymore, but I remember it as if it happened yesterday.

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