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by Tao Lin >


There’s this noise that wakes me. It’s very late at night. I get up. There are two people by my dresser, stuffing my clothes into a garbage bag. I watch them a while. It’s a mother and a daughter. “What are you doing?” I say. The mother takes one of my sweaters, puts it to her body, then stuffs it in the garbage bag. They don’t say anything. They’re in my bedroom, taking my stuff. The garbage bag is getting really big, bulging on the ground. I think about this. I want to go back to sleep. “Okay,” I say. “Fine. Take the clothes. All of them, I don’t care.”

I go to my bed to go back to sleep. But I notice someone on my back porch. It’s a man. It must be the husband, I think. This must be a family thing, I think. I go out there. He’s trying to lift my back porch table. The one I like. He’s spreading his arms out on it like a bird, trying to carry it like that. “Hey,” I say, “what’re you doing?” He says, “I’m trying to take this table.” I say, “You can’t have that.” He has it lifted a little when I say that. He drops it. It makes a noise. He stands there and I stand here. I think, a family of robbers. “Okay,” I say, “I’m going back to sleep.” In the bedroom the mother pulls a second garbage bag out of her pocket. The daughter is tying the first garbage bag with a twisty thing. I go to my bed and sleep.
The next day I see the robber husband at the mall, in the parking lot. I run to him. “Hey,” he says. “Hey,” I say. I want to know how he knew my address. I’ve been thinking about this all day. “How did you get my address?” I say. He says, “I work for an information company, I know everyone’s address.” He pulls out his wallet, opens it, takes out two business cards. “See,” he says. I take the cards, look at them, run back to my car.

That night I can’t stop laughing. I’m telling my husband and son what happened. “This guy is so stupid,” I say. “He’s a burglar and he robbed our house and he gave me two of his business cards. I know where he lives.” I’m at my dinner table, laughing. My husband is frantic, serious. He wants to know when the robbery happened and why I didn’t tell him and why I didn’t call the police and what was taken and what the robbers looked like and why I didn’t wake him. But I can’t stop laughing. I keep thinking that the robber gave me his business card. I turn to my son. “I know his name, phone number, everything,” I say. My son looks at me blankly. I can’t stop laughing.

The next day I come home from the grocery store. I’m carrying two brown paper grocery bags. I notice someone on the back porch. It’s the robber who gave me two of his business cards. The information person. I run out there, carrying the bags. I’m annoyed. I trip a little and a thing of tomato sauce falls out of a bag and shatters on the floor. I keep going. I see he’s pulling my plants out. My little garden by my pool. He reaches down to get something. He has a shovel. He pushes it into my garden and lifts one of my flower plants. His wife comes in from the side screen door, holding a garbage bag. “Hey,” I yell, “you can’t have those.” I shift the groceries in my arms. I’m angry. The husband slides the flower plant from the shovel into the garbage bag. The daughter comes in from the other screen door. I can’t believe this. I drop one of the grocery bags on my foot. I shout, “Put those flowers back.” I’m shrieking. “You can’t have those.” My foot stings. I drop the other bag. Strawberries roll out everywhere. I’m furious. Then I remember the business card. I almost laugh. But I see the daughter with my pool-cleaning thing, my Creepy Crawler. She’s pulling it out of my swimming pool, stuffing it into a garbage bag. “You’re just a little girl,” I yell. “What kind of parents are you?” They ignore me. I run back in my house. I see the tomato sauce on the ground. I leap over it. I land on glass. Glass goes in my foot. I keep going. My heart’s beating fast. I hurry to the phone where I’ve taped the business card on the receiver. I dial the police.