The Magazine

The Paper Chase

Vengeance is mine when the crime is so abhorrent.

Mar 18, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 26 • By JOE QUEENAN
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I immediately recalled that when I had launched into my tirade about what I would do to anyone horrible enough to steal a complete stranger’s jaunty, jolly wrapping paper, a man had been standing right beside the van. The man was now gone, though the van was still there. I was sure he was the culprit. I was sure he’d heard my threats and decided to save his hide by ditching the stolen wrapping paper. 

I hung around for a while, but did not see the man again. I was happy to have the wrapping paper back, yet I still felt unsatisfied. The man had committed an outrageous crime and had coughed up the goods out of fear of reprisal. But he had not been punished for what I viewed as a crime against humanity.

But he will be. Next week I’m going back over to Pleasantville with a roll of even jauntier wrapping paper. As before, I’m going to leave it out on full display. As before, I’m going to wander inside to buy a coffee. And then, with the trap baited, I will wait. I might need to stay there a few hours—there is no way of telling when he will come back—and I might need to return to the scene of the crime more than once. I might even need to buy still jollier wrapping paper. This could take a while. 

But I can wait. Because a person that villainous needs to be chastised for his misdeed. A person who would steal wrapping paper that sweet, that cute, that life-affirming, that jolly, is a person incapable of being rehabilitated. In the fullness of time, he will strike again. And when he does, I’ll be waiting for him with a two-by-four at the ready. It’s not going to be jolly.

Joe Queenan is the author, most recently, of One for the Books.

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