25. The gravel thief.

Enough. I’m taking a break from politics today since I have uncovered a monstrous crime taking place right beneath my nose. It’s not at all because I’ve been reading the papers every day for a week and this morning I reached critical mass, and couldn’t bear another word of the endless dreck we are subjected to. We’ll go back to politics again tomorrow. You haven’t heard about the open toilets yet.

Those of you who have been following this blog for a very long time may remember that, towards the end of last year, I fell victim to a spate of robberies in my own home. My wallet was stolen. Twice. On both occasions, I was able to apprehend the criminal and retrieve my property. I learned my lesson (mostly), and am now far more careful with my possessions (mostly). And it’s worked. My home has been largely crime free ever since. The occasional chocolate gets stolen, but I don’t like chocolate, so it’s no business of mine.

The wallet thief. Behind those cold, empty eyes lies a mind like a steel trap.

The wallet thief. Behind those cold, empty eyes lies a mind like a steel trap.

But a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a mystery. And in the beginning, that’s all it was. I found a stone on the coffee table. It wasn’t a particularly special stone, but it was a fairly distinctive one. It was one of these.

I never said it was an exciting mystery.

I never said it was an exciting mystery.

I’m not even sure what they are called. What I do know is that they are not the sort of stone you find lying around your garden. It’s a quarried stone. It’s used as gravel in driveways and mixed with tar to pave our roads. No big deal. Kids are weird. They carry stuff around. My son used to bring home every piece of quartz he ever found, informing us that they were “stones of power”. Weirdo. If he builds a pyramid in our garden and feng shui’s the TV room we’re going to have to have a little chat.

I went to the door and threw the stone out into the street. And thought no more of it. Until later that afternoon. When I found two stones on the coffee table. They were the same sort of stones as the first one. We don’t have a gravelled driveway, and our kids are not allowed to play in the street. Odd. But I’ve seen stranger things round here. I threw the stones out into the street and went about my business. All went back to what passes for normal round here.

Twice as mysterious!  Twice as exciting!

Twice as mysterious!
Twice as exciting!

Until the next evening. I was loading up the washing machine. We have to check all the pockets very carefully when we do this because someone around here (I won’t mention any names) is constantly leaving things like tissues in their pockets (It’s my wife. Tracyloveshistory is the tissue fiend!). I picked up my daughter’s pants (My wife sometimes hides tissues in my kid’s clothes to try and keep me on my toes) and felt something hard. I emptied out the pockets. Another stone. Same kind.

I couldn’t question her at the time, since she was asleep already, and it slipped my mind. Until the next day, when I fetched her from playschool. I picked up her bag for her. And I felt an odd shape in the side pocket. I reached in to fetch out the two stones that were sitting there, and simultaneously heard an unearthly shriek and felt a sharp blow in my knee.

Like many criminals, she is not above using violence.

Like many criminals, she is not above using violence.

How dare I!

How dare I try to take away her mom’s present!?!?

What the hell was wrong with me?

I know the game by now. This is the second time round for us, and we’ve learned a thing or two. We are not as smart as our children, and I am not equipped to fathom the workings of the mind of a psychopath, but we can just about keep up some of the time.

Misdirection. I know it when I see it. It’s an old conjuror’s trick. The stones were no present. That story was plucked from the ether in response to my discovery. But I’ll give it to her, she followed through to the bitter end. When we got home she made a big show of wrapping one of the stones in purple, sticking some googly eyes and a pipe-cleaner on it, and presenting it to her mother like a Faberge egg.

Why do dads never get the cool presents?

Why do dads never get the cool presents?

The next day she smuggled home two more stones. No wrapping. No presents. They were simply tucked away in a corner of her room. I know what’s going on now. My four-year-old daughter is stealing the driveway from her school. Stone by stone. Two or three a day.

It’s quite a big driveway. At this rate it’s going to take her years. But she is committed to the task. Slowly but surely, the driveway is going to end up in our home, tucked away in corners, forgotten in pockets, left lying around on coffee tables.

How much excitement and mystery can you cope with?

How much excitement and mystery can you cope with?

I wish I could say that the crime has been solved. But it hasn’t. There is something missing. Motive. Why? What does she want with a school driveway? Can’t she find some money to steal instead? Why is an enormous pile of gravel being smuggled into my home? I know the suspect well enough to know these questions will never be answered. And so the case will never come to court.

But I’ve come up with a solution. Like Batman, I’m going to have to work outside official channels. Justice and the law are not always the same thing. I’ve started gathering her ill-gotten gains together. I’m going to present her with the proceeds of her crime this afternoon. And ask her what they are for. She will not tell me the truth. She will stick to her story.

But maybe, as she wraps the part of the driveway she has stolen already, stone by stone, she will see the error of her ways. Maybe, as she sticks on the hundredth googly eye, the hundredth twisted pipe-cleaner, she will come to realise that crime doesn’t pay. Maybe as she presents her mother with yet another glue-covered gravel-monster, she will realise that the game is up, that she has been rumbled.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

And then, as one does when dealing with a master criminal, we will sit back and wait for the next nefarious scheme to reveal itself. If only she would start stealing her mother’s tissues.

Shortly after the writing of this post, the main suspect fled with the proceeds of a massive black-market gravel deal. Interpol is after her, but all they have to go on is this postcard from an unnamed beach in Mexico.

Shortly after the writing of this post, the main suspect fled with the proceeds of a massive black-market gravel deal. Interpol is after her, but all they have to go on is this postcard from an unnamed beach in Mexico.

64 thoughts on “25. The gravel thief.

  1. albertine says:

    Really nice story – and beautifully told. Thanks for taking the trouble!

  2. safariguru says:

    Lovely story – what would the world be without our children ?

  3. dweezer19 says:

    You rock, Dad. 😉

  4. butterflyj50 says:

    Thank you this story was so sweet!

  5. You have a wonderful voice for writing! This post just filled my mind with memories of our sweet little kleptomaniac. In a closet in our house is a drawer filled with floor items from Home Depot, bird’s next accessories, rocks from every land, ribbons, zippers, you name it. (And this child is now in college, not in prison!) But I can’t part with the items. When this child was asked to bring to his class his most favored possession, we decided it would be his…pockets.
    Don’t give up writing the novel. I am taking the on-line children’s writing program at VCFA and it is a one drop in the bucket process, but worth every minute. I can tell by your blog…you are addicted to writing, as I am. Let the world in, by setting your words free…Thanks for liking my father’s day post. 🙂

  6. viralsmile says:

    Haha! Great post! No doubt the eighth wonder is the inner workings of a “psychopaths” mind lmao!!! I have five under my roof never a dull moment. EVER.

  7. She is gorgeous not dangerous. Leaders of tomorrow.

  8. emmylgant says:

    Loved the post. I am glad you are watching the gravel thief closely… With that kind of mind you will probably be at least one step behind at all times. But you knew that already. 🙂

  9. Marcia says:

    Wait! Stop the presses!! You do LAUNDRY, 23?

    O. M. and G. Where were you when I was single. And young? Oh, that’s right. Not born yet. Well, don’t think that makes it any better. The damage is done. The vision of a husband doing actual laundry, with actual clothes and actual detergent, is mind-boggling. And that’s without the image of him actually checking the actual pockets, too.

    I have to go lie down now. This is too much for a granny to take in all at once.

    • Lyn says:


    • 23thorns says:

      Will it bring you back down to earth if I reveal that I don’t do ironing?

      • Marcia says:

        Heck, 23! Even I don’t do ironing! Body heat, my friend. That’s the ticket.
        Going back to lie down again, and ponder a universe that would allow some lucky lady in South Africa to find a husband who does laundry, whilst I, a very nice granny and all around good person, must sort through the dirty clothes myself. Life can be so…arbitrary. *sigh*

      • 23thorns says:

        🙂 Thank you for your kind words the other day, by the way- I didn’t respond because we had been temporarily relegated to the dark ages.

      • Marcia says:

        You are most welcome. Just remember what a bright spot in the day you are to so many of your readers. It’s a gift beyond measure to be able to make people laugh, you know. Oh, how the world needs more of YOU.

  10. 4R_A_TTLES says:

    Purple and orange? Your daughter has a strong aesthetic sense already.

  11. mollytopia says:

    Oh we forever have rocks in our dryer as well. I hope that turns to cash or something more interesting. Meanwhile, that last pic is genius. Long live the stone thief! Excellent post.

    • 23thorns says:

      If you add some coins to the stone you get a nice background rhythm to laundry day. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Our dryer broke. It seems that the motor got clogged op with bits of tissue.

  12. The cuter the daughter the more evil they are. I know this because my daughter too is evil. She uses her charms to manipulate daddy into doing whatever she wants and giggles at me after being naughty which ruins my ability to hold a straight face. Good luck with the slow growth driveway and you’d better watch out for a retaliatory strike from your wife for your tissue slander.

    • 23thorns says:

      It’s not slander. She has always had tissues. I have suggested we sit down and work through her tissues together, or even consult a professional. No such luck. She insists she will deal with her own tissues.

  13. Dera Luce says:

    What a great opening! I was genuinely worried for you in the beginning. Not so much now, but still…I suggest you tread carefully from now on 🙂

  14. Lyn says:

    When I was a child, gravel driveways and roads adored me. No, that’s not strictly correct – they adored my knees, and would stick their little feet out as I ran by and trip me just so they could kiss my knees and the palms of my hands. I thought it was a love affair that would last a lifetime, but sadly I was wrong. I’m delighted to say, however, that now at the age of 65, I have found a new admirer – actually two – the front and back stairs. I think the role reversal with your daughter and gravel is a much saner idea. Perhaps you could suggest she gets some goldfish (if you don’t already have an aquarium) and uses the gravel as a base for their tank. No, perhaps not…the poor fish would probably end up swimming in 2mm of water 😀
    P/S I think your daughter is gorgeous by the way.

  15. narf77 says:

    Your son is a psychopath and your daughter a hobbit…you and Mrs 23Thorns must be offered a LOT of money not to breed again…I fear the world is nowhere NEAR ready for 23Thorns progeny number 3… Mr 23Thorns! I can’t believe you are stooping so very VERY low as to be dragging poor Mrs 23Thorns tissues into the public eye…I admit, tissues in the pocket (or toilet paper if you live 50km away from the nearest shop and run out…) do tend to be a “girl” thing and if you are prone to lazy (yes Mr 23Thorns LAZY!) washing habits and just “chucking” everything in willy nilly like a MAN WOULD DO you are going to end up with fluffy washing (or pink whites…Steve is a MAN too…). You can hardly blame us women for leaving tissues in our pockets if you men refuse point blank to slow down and do things properly now can you? I fear your tiny hobbit has gone to the dark side…as the youngest child she has obviously fallen prey to the need to steal things to be noticed. My youngest (also a daughter) has taken to collecting stones as well…the problem is, her stones are much MUCH larger than your daughters and she proudly displays them in her front garden for everyone to see…I wouldn’t mind, what a thief does in their own time is NONE of my business…but you see she lives in OUR house in town…anyone recognising their rocks may just see fit to pick up said rock and sent it hurtling through the time space continuum directly into a pane of glass that is curiously also owned by us and thus “our” responsibility (as patiently explained to us by both our daughters who expect us to repair everything in said house when it breaks, falls apart or is abused by wounded ex-owners…)…I fear you have just started out on the broken path of the parent and my heart goes out to both you and Mrs 23Thorns but as they say, misery LOVES company so you can count me in to gloat with obvious glee and a whole lot of schadenfreude (don’t you just LOVE that word? 😉 ) for the duration of the time where you are still able to function as a reasonably “normal”, “rational” human being (the pre-teen years) in the blogging world. After that…you are on your own sir!

    • 23thorns says:

      I would hold off on the schadenfreude if i were you. Didn’t I tell you we were getting a free driveway! It should be fully installed by 2052

      • narf77 says:

        Make sure progeny number 3 (still shuddering at the thought) is able to hustle you a truckload of tarmac mix (preferably all at once and not in dribs and drabs) or that driveway AINT gonna take your wheelchair Mr 23Thorns…

    • I’m not usually a whiner but 23, not having been ‘re-educated’ by 7 straight hours of Edith Piaf, appears to have left out a very important titbit in his reply to you. HE is the tissue fiend! I am not the tissue fiend. It is HIM.

      You cut me deep, 23, that you allow this to continue. I saw the Sound of Music on special at Look & Listen and I’m thinking that instead of Game of Thrones tonight, we should perhaps try to solve a problem like Maria.

      • narf77 says:

        That makes it even WORSE! Not only is Mr 23 Thorns doing a shabby job of checking pockets, but he actually KNOWS that there are tissues in the pockets…because he put them there! Methinks there might be a bit of sabotage going on Mrs 23 and you know what? I think a bit of Maria’s problem solving might be JUST the ticket this weekend! Forget Edith Piaff, a bit of death metal might jog his memory about the tissues and elicit the appropriate degree of apology…perhaps breakfast in bed…for the next month? Throw in a foot rub or two and tea/coffee on tap whenever you call for it and you might even consider forgiveness…

      • Now we’re talking! Are you taking notes, 23?

        While I am setting the record straight and earning massage points, if anybody has clicked on the links to the older articles, I am not a crack addict either. Not a tissue fiend. Not a crack addict. A crack addict! For shame!

      • narf77 says:

        And you thought that Mrs 23 Thorns wouldn’t be able to find out what you have been (most slanderously) writing about her Mr 23Thorns! Not only are you bringing her name into disrepute, but you are, in effect, telling us all that she is somewhat “dimwitted” and technophobic in the process…MAN I wouldn’t want to be you for the next year and a half having to massage Mrs 23Thorns, bring her chocolates, carry her from room to room and look after the hobbit and psychopath at least 3 nights a week while she gets to go out with her friends and enjoy herself and even then she might not let you off the hook! (schadenfreude thy name is narf77! 😉 )

  16. safia says:

    I’ve got one just like her at home – except she’s got dark hair and eyes – those blondes are so cool when it comes to thieving. Mind you, just stole this myself from another blogger: “I have frequently gained my first real insight into the character of parents by studying their children.” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). A near perfect blog – thank you for sharing.

  17. Spy Garden says:

    Hahahah we live on a gravel road. Gravel is kid-treasure for sure. They love it so. What adult could understand the obsession? This post is just perfect!

    • 23thorns says:

      I still don’t get it. I picked her up from school just now, and there were another two stones.

      • Lyn says:

        HAAA HAAA HAAA HEE HEE HEEE You realise what’s happening don’t you…the blonde haired gravel thief is trying to send you mad (it seems to be working 😀 )

  18. My angelic looking daughter (3) is slowly, and illegally, transporting all of the wood chips from the daycare playground into our back yard. Which explains why the daycare has to replenish their wood chip supply every spring. She hides them in pockets, shoes and pant cuffs.

  19. jazzytower says:

    Just wanted to say, if the stones start appearing in your driveway then she is in for the big hall, watch our. Adorable!!

  20. PinotNinja says:

    Haha! Her dedication to her nefarious plot, which I think may be to slowly drive her parents mad so that she can take full control of their chocolate supply, is astounding. That little girl is going to be running the world one day.

  21. Your girl is adorable, but I am well aware of the devious nature behind “innocent” little girl grins. They are all plotting to take over the world. Or steal it.

  22. Your daughter is gorgeous, even if she is a professional criminal.
    In the primary school I used to work in, about half the school budget must have been spent on blu-tak, as the kids were so obsessed by stealing it. Nothing you said or did seemed to stop it and you practically never actually caught someone in the act of thievery. Though I did once find a 7 year old girl chewing the stuff like gum.

    (Aaagh that brings back such bad memories of spending the end of a ten hour day trailing round sticking up all the low-level things that had fallen off walls and chairs due to blu-tak theft…)

  23. billgncs says:

    this is very serious… first gravel, then sapphires, then diamonds…. 🙂

  24. I’m going to make you listen to Edith Piaf all afternoon as punishment for this slander.

  25. At my house we just have a boring, run-of-the-mill snack thief. What sets my seven-year-old master criminal apart is that she doesn’t actually EAT the spoils of her crimes; she hides them in the sofa. Not behind it, IN it. Thankfully so far they are all wrapped snacks, like candy. Maybe for my next punishment, I’ll wait til she has a considerable stash, then make her eat them all at once…

  26. Tracy says:

    Absolutely love your blog!

  27. The Rider says:

    She does look dangerous…

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