Who I am is just the habit of what I always was, and who I’ll be is the result. This came clear to me at the wrong time. I was standing in a line, almost rehabilitated. Walgreens was the store in downtown Fargo. I had my purchase in my arms, and I was listening to canned carols on the loudspeaker. I was going to buy this huge stuffed parrot with purple wings and a yellow beak. Really, it was a toucan, I was told this later in the tank.

You think you know everything about yourself, how much money it would take, for instance, to make you take it. How you would react when caught. But then you find yourself walking out the door with a stuffed toucan, just to see if getting caught happens again, and it does, though no one stopped me right at first.

My motive was my girlfriend’s Christmas present. And it was strange because I did have the money to pay for a present, though nothing very big or elaborate. I thought of Dawn the minute I saw that bird, and wished I’d won it for her at the county fair, though we never went to a fair. I saw myself throwing a half-dozen softballs and hitting every wooden milk jug, or maybe tossing rings. But those things are weighted or loaded wrong and that’s another reason. I never could have won this toucan for Dawn, because the whole thing’s a cheat in general. So what the hell, I thought, and lifted the bird.

The Great Santa
Boys in Zinc