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The Thief of Days

Janelle was asleep the night that someone stole Wednesday.

She’d gone to bed Tuesday night, quite pleased with herself because she’d managed to stay up ten full minutes past her bedtime. When she woke Thursday morning, she felt well rested but quite confused. She went to see her mother, who was getting ready for work. “Mom,” she asked, “isn’t it usually Wednesday today?” Surely she couldn’t have slept a whole day.

“Not now, honey,” her mother said, sounding a little frantic. “I have to get ready for work. I have a presentation today I’d been planning on getting ready Wednesday, and now I have to write it before the twelve o’clock meeting!”

She went to her father. ““Dad,” she asked, “isn’t it usually Wednesday today?” 

“Usually, Pumpkin,” he said, looking a little stressed. “But not this week, it looks like. And Wednesday, as you know, is laundry day, so I don’t know what we’re going to do about clean clothes now. Maybe I can do it on my way to the grocery shopping…”

Janelle went to school. At lunch, she sat with her friend Lin. “I don’t like this,” Janelle said. “We have gym Wednesday. I need my dodgeball time.”

Lin shrugged. “It’s alright with me,” she said. She was not a fan of dodgeball, even when she had Janelle on her team.

“I want to know what’s going on,” Janelle said, and she bit into her sandwich with fierce determination.

The next day was Saturday.

“What happened to Friday?” her father moaned. “Friday is grocery day! We’ll NEVER get our laundry clean!”

Janelle, who was contentedly eating a stack of pancakes, shrugged. “Maybe this isn’t so bad,” she thought. “Only three school days left on the calendar.” That afternoon, Lin came over for a sleepover. Since it wasn’t a school night, they were allowed to stay up past bedtime, and before bed they made plans to spend Sunday playing video games and doing their homework.

They woke up Monday. “Get dressed quickly!” Janelle’s mother was telling them. “You’re going to be late for school!” They got dressed in a hurry, and ate a breakfast of burnt toast and cream cheese as they ran out the door.

On top of Mondays being always terrible, they were tired from having stayed up late. Also, neither Janelle nor Lin had done her homework. At lunch, Janelle said to Lin, “I take it back. This is bad, alright.” 

“Bad as burnt toast,” agreed Lin. 

When she got home, Jamelle had to do her Monday chores, which was mostly dusting. She dusted the television. She dusted the bookshelves. She dusted the end tables. As she dusted the high shelf with the family pictures, she stopped to look at the picture of her Great-Aunt Bedelia, who had once stopped a mugger by saying, “I won’t be having with this!” and hitting him with a huge can of beans from her grocery bag, and then sitting on him until help arrived. 

Great-Aunt Bedelia, Janelle was certain, would not be putting up with this missing day nonsense.

After dusting and dinner, she had just enough time to do her homework, and then it was bedtime.

She woke up Thursday morning. “Well,” she later said to Lin in school, “I guess whoever is stealing the days doesn’t want Thursday.”

“You think someone’s stealing them?”asked Lin.

Janelle realized that she did. “Well, days don’t just get up and walk away, do they? Someone has to be taking them.”

Lin said, “I don’t know. I’ve heard that time flies.”

That’s just an expression,” Janelle said. “This is real.”

So they made plans to for another sleepover the coming Saturday, which, without Friday, would be the next day. This time they would be ready for Monday.

The next morning was Monday.

“I guess this is our life now,” said Lin, sadly. “There’s no weekend at all.”

“We can’t live without a weekend,” Janelle said, starting to get really angry. “There are laws! I have to catch up on my homework tonight, but Thursday we’ll figure out what to do about this.”

But the next day was Monday again.

“We can’t live like this,” Lin said at lunch. “Every day can’t be Monday!”

Oh no” Janelle agreed in her best Great-Aunt Bedelia voice. “I will NOT be having with this!”

“Everyone is tired and late with their homework,” Lin said. “Well, everyone except Lucien, anyway.”

“Lucien” was Lucien Caborrower. He’d been in Janelle’s class the previous year, but they’d changed up the classes over the summer and now he was in Lin’s class. She looked around the lunchroom for him. Indeed, he seemed to be much less upset than the rest of the students, who were all groaning about having to live the rest of their lives full of Mondays. (Among other things, on Monday the cafeteria served salisbury steak, which many of the children suspected was just leftover hamburgers from last week, warmed in gravy.) 

“He had all of his Monday homework ready?” asked Janelle. 

“Yep,” Lin replied. “And all his Thursday homework too.”

“Something is wrong here,” Janelle said. “How did he know he needed to do his Monday homework when the rest of us thought it was going to be Thursday?”

“I don’t know, said Lin, wondering. “Let’s get to the bottom of this.” 

But just then, the bell rang to signal the end of lunch. As they each lined up with their own class, Lin whispered to Janelle, “We’ll meet up after school and get to the bottom of this!” Janelle nodded her agreement.

After school, Janelle skipped out on her Monday chores (which she’d just done yesterday anyway) and met with Lin outside the school. Lin asked, “Do you know where Lucien lives?”

“No,” said Janelle. “We’ll have to follow him.”

Janelle and Lin used ninja skills they’d learned from television to follow Lucien unseen (though this mostly just meant staying a block behind him so they were too far away to be heard). Eventually, he came to a huge house with a high stone wall. He walked through the gate, across a great front yard, and into the house.

The gate was open, and the door unlocked. “Should we really be sneaking into someone’s house?” asked Lin as they opened the door.

“We’re here to rescue the missing days,” Janelle reminded her. “It’s not like we’re here to steal or spy or anything! Now let’s go.”

The first room was a big foyer. Lucien sat writing at a desk, with his back to them.  They sneaked past to the next room, the thick carpeting muffling their steps.

The next room was a long hallway with doors on each side. Each door had a handwritten sign taped to it. Janelle and Lin read the nearest sign. I said:   THURSDAY

“Well,” said Lin, “This looks like the place alright.” She and Janelle opened the door and slipped inside.

Inside was a vast grassland, like the Serengeti. Yellow-green grass and occasional trees covered the plains. Crouching in one tuft of particularly tall grass — and with his back to them — was Lucien’s older brother, Reginald Caborrower, holding a huge net.

“Reggie?” Janelle called. “What are you doing with Thursday?” 

Reginald turned in surprise. “SHHH!!!” he hushed — trying to sound both fierce and quiet at the same time. “You’ll scare them off!”

“Scare what off?” asked Lin

“Thurs,” he whispered, crouching again behind the tuft of grass “I’ve been hunting them.”

“Have you caught any yet?” asked Janelle. 

“Not yet,” he admitted. “but now that I have Thursday all to myself, they’re bound to show up soon!”

Janelle and Lin went back to the hall. “I don’t think that’s how it works,” Lin said.

“That’s not how any of this works,” Janelle agreed.

The sign on the room across the hall read:   FRIDAY

They went inside. It smelled delicious! There were several of the Caborrower family, children and cousins and uncles and aunts, sitting at tables enjoying crispy, delicious food. Behind a counter, Lucien’s uncle Rudbeck was cooking up a storm, plunging sweet and savory foods into vats of bubbling oil and pulling them out crisp and brown.

“What are you doing?” Janelle demanded.

“I’m frying!” said Rudbeck happily. “It was always my favorite way to cook, and now I have all day to do it! EVERY day! Want some chips?”

Janelle was furious, but Lin was hungry, and accepted a bowl of chips. 

“What?” Lin asked, once they were back in the hall “They’re delicious! Want one?”

“NO!” said Janelle as she went to the next door. Its sign said:  TUESDAY

Inside they found Lucien’s twin brothers, Allen and Alan, each eating two double scoop ice cream cones.

“What are you doing here?” the twins said, in unison. “This is our day, you get out!”

“What do you mean your day?” Janelle demanded.

“It’s Tuesday,” said Allen. 

“It’s the day for two of everything!” continued his brother Alan.

“Well,” said Lin, “There are two of us.”

“Oh,” Allen responded.

“We guess it’s okay then,” added Alan.

The the two of them hopped onto a bicycle built for two, and pedaled off, which was very impressive since they each still had an ice cream cone in either hand.

Out in the hall, Janelle said, “They never offered us ice cream”

“I thought you weren’t hungry,” Lin replied.

“I wasn’t,” said Janelle, “but it’s turning out to be a very long Monday.”

The sign on the next door read:   SATURDAY

Inside they found a huge bedroom. Janelle recognized the young woman sitting on the bed as Sistine Caborrower, Lucien’s big sister.

“What are you doing?” Janelle demanded.

“What am I doing?” Sistine responded, indignant. “I’m not doing anything, I’m just sitting! What are YOU doing in my room?”

“We’re looking for Saturday,” said Lin.

“Well, I’m using it!” Sistine insisted. “I’ve been using it all day.” She started pointing to the various chairs, counters, bean bags and rugs. “I sat three, and there, and there, an there… now I’m sitting here, and when I’ve sat long enough I’ll sit there, until I’ve sat my day away!”

Janelle pulled Lin into the hall, even more angry than before. “THAT, she shouted, “is the biggest WASTE of a Saturday I’ve ever heard of!”

The sign on the next door said: WEDNESDAY.

Janelle and Lin stepped through the door, into a room full of church pews, with organ music playing. Standing in the aisle in a long white dress was a girl she recognized as Lucien’s little sister, Alspeth. She was holding a bouquet

“What are you doing?” Janelle asked her.

“Oh,” said Alspeth, “I’ve always loved weddings! And now I can play wedding all day with Wedding’s Day!”

Janelle dragged Lin into the hall.

“That’s not even how you say it!” she fumed.

“Well, she’s little,” Lin pointed out. “Kids mix these things up all the time.”

This did not make Janelle feel any better about it.

The last door had a sign that read: SUNDAY

They opened the door.

They were on a vast, sandy beach. Nearby, Mr. and Mrs. Caborrower were sunbathing in lounge chairs, each sipping a drink with flowers and an umbrella in it.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Caborrower. “You must be Lucien’s friends. Well, we’re just enjoying the sun! would you like to join us?”

“It’s very exclusive now,” added Mr Caborrower. “I could never get the time before, but now we have Sunday all to ourselves, whenever we like!” 

That’s when Janelle lost it. “You can’t just STEAL the days! Other people need them too!”

“We didn’t STEAL anything!” cried Mrs. Caborrower, in an offended tone. “We’re the Caborrowers! We borrowed them! From the Calender!”

“That’s not even how it’s SPELLED!” shouted Janelle.

“Names aren’t always spelled the way you’d think,” commented Siobain McCaughrean, who was there to make a delivery from Colquhoun’s Deli.

“Well,” said Janelle, “I…” Then she had a thought. “I’m here from the Calendar. These days were out on a three-week loan, and they’re overdue.”

“Nonsense!” said Mr. Caborrower. “We only borrowed these a few days ago!”

“And with them gone from the calendar,” Janelle explained, “the week is only one day long. It’s been three Mondays since you took them, and it’s time to give them back.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Caborrower, turning to her husband. “Is that right?”

“Um. I suppose,” said Mr. Caborrower. “This is all rather new, after all.”

“Look,” said Janelle, “Just give them to me now and I’ll put them in my binder, and we can overlook the fine this time.”

“Do you have any idea what the fine is for six days kept a week overdue?” asked Lin with what she hoped was a sinister air.

“Oh, well, of course,” said Mr. Caborrower. “Here, let me round them up…”

Soon, Janelle had all six days stuffed into her binder.

“When will we, ah… be able to borrow them again?” asked Mrs. Caborrower nervously. 

“We’ll be reviewing your record carefully,” said Janelle, meaningfully. “We’ll give you a call when you’re eligible again.” And with that, she and Lin headed for the door.

On her way out of the Caborrower home, Janelle noticed Lucien still doing his homework. “Hey, Lucien,” she said. “Why are you the only one in your family who didn’t steal one of the days?”

Lucien looked up from his homework. “Well,” he said, “Everyone else needed some day to live in.” Then he thought for a moment “Besides,” he added, “I’ve never really had much use for Mondays.”

Janelle nodded. “Me either. And you’re alright, Lucien.” 

Then she and Lin went home. “Well,” said Lin as they walked, “at least there’s a whole Tuesday until I have to play dodgeball.”

“Don’t be so sure,” said Janelle. 

That night, after brushing her teeth, Janelle opened the binder and let out one the stolen days. Then she closed the binder and went to sleep.

She woke up Saturday morning. Everyone did. She called Lin. “Wanna come over and help me let the rest of the days loose?” she asked.

“Sure thing!” said Lin. “I think it’s going to be a nice weekend!”

Published inFictionShort fiction

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