The Big Heist


You've heard of The Thomas Crown Affair and The Maltese Falcon.
You've seen Ocean's 12, Once a Thief and Entrapment.
Who doesn't talk about D.B. Cooper?
But why the silence surrounding The Big Heist?
No book. No movie. No Nothing.
Well, I am here to tell you the whole story.
I was there.

It took place in the spring.
I, just like the rest of my senior classmates, was preparing for a bright and lucrative future with a heavy load, which included three art classes. Not only that, but I had also signed up for an elective course called, Home Life, which was the new name for Home Economics. And in the second semester, I had selected Thanatology, which translated to, the study of death.
"What's that Louisa?"
My sister doesn't think that sounds like a heavy load.
What I didn't mention is that I was also being tutored by poor Mr. Losby in both algebra and geometry, the classes that I had taken as a freshman and then as a sophomore. Because without passing those two courses with at least a D-, I wasn't going anywhere.
Mr. Losby had his work cut out.
Home Life was boring.
But you can't go wrong with three art classes.
And I learned more about life and how to live it in the class about death than anywhere else before or since.
I can still remember the hard desk chair underneath my Levi covered behind, the view across the street of the modern insurance building that was just built with windows from top to bottom, probably three stories high, complete with a tree and a fountain, that I could see through all the glass, from my desk.
The shoe that I was tapping on the speckled vinyl floor, was a navy-blue leather clog. My left butt-cheek was sporting an embroidered orange and yellow sun on the pocket. The cotton peasant top that I was wearing had a little string that was tied into a bow in the front. My hair was long, it was straight, and it was parted down the middle.
Because it was 1975.
"What the?" I whispered and turned around.
Paul, a guy I sort of knew, had just ripped a strand of hair out of my scalp.
He raised his eyebrows, batted his baby-blues a few times at me and smiled.
I turned my attention back to Mrs. Kinder who was talking about our upcoming end of the year assignment.
Other than this project, I liked her.
You see, she said the word, presentation.
"Damn it."
Ironically, whenever the word presentation comes up, I hope to be dead before the day actually arrives. And there I was learning all about the five stages.
I would probably remain in denial until the night before and by morning go through the other four.
I heard a few snickers.
I noticed some heads turning Paul's way.
I took the bait and slowly cranked my neck.
Paul had a pet horsefly.
The horsefly was on a leash.
The leash was my hair.
Now, I do not tolerate any kind of cruelty to any kind of animals.
Not even to people.
But I found the surprise of that scene to be extremely hilarious.
My shoulders shook with subdued laughter as Mrs. Kinder went on to explain how we were to take all of the information that we'd learned about aging, death and dying, for example, did you know that you do not just grow into a sweet little old lady because you want to?
You do not.
Not unless you are a sweet young girl.
I found that very interesting.
Did you know that sometimes a simple hello to an elderly person or helping a little old guy cross a street may be the only words spoken to them in a week, the only time they have been touched for as long as they can remember?
And did you know that if you want to recall what it feels like to be young, you must make a decision to do so?
Otherwise, it all fades away and you only live in the moment.
That is why the moment is vivid to me.
I vowed that day to never forget what it was like being a kid.
Snorts, groans and giggles were mounting all around me.
Fingers were pointing.
Paul's pet fly was on the loose, leash and all.
The class burst into hysterics as that fly and that strand of my long hair buzzed right in front of Mrs. Kinder's face.
Her green eyes widened as she followed it, and I watched them calculate the situation.
She quickly moved over to the door and closed it.
"Okay," she says. "That is very funny. But we must catch that fly and set him free."
Hence every tall boy was standing on their desk chair until finally, Eric got a hold of that leash up near the ceiling tile and brought him down.
Paul delicately untied the tiny knot around his pet horsefly's neck, like he was a surgeon. He let his buddy loose and handed me back my hair.
The class cheered.
And the bell rang.
What does this have to do with The Big Heist?
I'm getting closer.
I do not recall what I said up there for my presentation, other than a bunch of "ums" and stuttering, but somehow, I managed to incorporate Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn into whatever the hell I said, and I'd painted a canvas of the two of them floating down a river on a raft. This way my peers would have something to look at besides yours truly.
Mrs. Kinder asked if she could keep the painting to show the other classes.
"Sure," I said.
On Thursday at 10:15 I walked into Thanatology, happy that all I had to do was sit there and listen to other presenters without a care in the world.
"Millie," says Mrs. Kinder as I made my way to my desk, "I need to talk to you."
"Sure," I say.
"Out there," she points to the hall.
"Jesus Christ," I am thinking. "What did I do? Did I swear?"
She had tears in her eyes.
"I have to apologize," she says.
"I am so, so, sorry."
At this point I am feeling confused relief.
"Millie, somebody broke into this room last night and stole your painting."
"I am just so sorry, appalled and very, very, angry."
"Are you serious?" I was grinning.
And she hangs her head.
"That is so cool."
"Holy shit Mrs. Kinder, my painting was heisted! That is outstanding."
"Somebody stole my painting!"
"You just made my day."
Mrs. Kinder put out an all-points bulletin, set up roadblocks, contacted the FBI and announced to every classroom the despicable atrocities of the thief at large and demanded the return of that famous Millie Noe painting.
It never did show.
Forty-two years later, nothing.
I still wonder who done it.
And it still makes me smile.

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