“The antidote to hubris, to overweening pride, is irony…”
- Ralph Ellison
One might think that two fully-grown, lifelong criminals would have no problem addressing and dispatching an eight-year-old sheltered suburban boy in order to loot his house and take what they wish. One would be wrong.
When Harry and I, Marv, went on our robbery spree in December of 1990, it was our inability to know our enemy that was instrumental in our downfall. We were brash, dismissive, and foolish. We have served our debt to society, but the blows to our egos, the shame of falling prey to a tiny blonde boy in a sweater, will haunt us to our graves. Also, I told the story once in prison and got raped because of it.
Never again. Never again with the rapings. Never again with the nails. Never again fooled by cardboard cutouts on model train tracks. As we live and breathe, never again will we suffer the indignities of those cold winter days two decades ago. Hardly a moment passes that I don’t revisit our strategy, our enemy. Where did we err? Was Harry the right man for the job? Was our unbelievable stupidity a factor in our defeat?
I have thought and thought. For so long, I had only questions, but later in life, the answers have come as I’ve made peace with my decisions.
I sincerely believe that our folly and capture resulted from an unfortunate blend of overthinking and underthinking. That may not be clear, so let me elaborate. I believe that we initially underthought many things, namely, the fact that the house was full of people rather than cardboard cutouts mechanically moving to rag music. See below. Ultimately, I feel we overthought our entrance. We should have smashed a big window, overpowered the boy, then perhaps stabbed him with a knife or simply broken his neck. Harry told me he learned how to do that in Vietnam.
When we went back to the house after Harry cased it, we returned only to find the silhouettes of many people moving, and loud music playing. As though a party was taking place. All evidence pointed to the parents being out of town. The entire family was scurrying in preparation two nights before.
In hindsight, we should have more closely examined those silhouettes. They appeared to be moving laterally on the floor, but lacking other movements that people normally exhibit while walking or dancing. If an examination of a motionless silhouette gliding effortlessly along the floor proved inconclusive, perhaps we should have looked in through another window. In hindsight, this was the first of many big errors on our part.
If there’s one thing I regret, it’s allowing myself to be hit in the face with so many paint cans. It’s embarrassing, frankly. I mean, the manner in which those cans swung should have afforded me plenty of time to strafe left or right on the staircase, or at least deflect them with an arm. Instead, I just froze and screamed, somehow allowing the can to send my body, parallel to the ground, flying down the staircase. I play it over and over in my mind, and I’m just glad I wasn’t more seriously hurt.
I don’t feel bad about this and neither does Harry. This could have happened to anyone. This booby trap was just a very smart play by Kevin McCallister. We were bested by this one, plain and simple.
In case you were wondering, Harry and I still talk on occasion, though it’s pretty clear that our relationship would never be the same after failing to rob the McCallister residence. I wouldn’t say we resent each other for the failure, but seeing each other now just constantly reminds us of that very unpleasant series of events. That said, I wish him nothing but the best. I took his niece out on a few dates, but it didn’t pan out. To his credit, he was a very good sport about that.
This one hurt most of all, if only because it seemed gratuitous. Say what you will about our motives, but we were never out to attack Kevin McCallister’s esteem or sense of self-worth. He knew those feathers wouldn’t save him or slow us down, yet he installed the trap anyway, knowing that it would demoralize us. I’ve forgiven him for the crushed ornaments, the scalding doorknob, and nail on the stairs, but I’m not sure I’ve made my peace with his infliction of that indignity.
Oh. And that time I stuck my head through the doggy door and he shot me with a godamned air rifle. Again, we may not have been bastions of integrity, but the Wet Bandits made an oath a long time ago to never use firearms. If we hadn’t stuck to that oath, I can assure you things would have turned out very differently for Kevin McCallister.
Ultimately, this was what did us in. Not the booby traps, not even the old guy with the shovel who seemed to literally come out of nowhere. Years ago, I would euphemistically call what we exhibited “resilience,” but that’s simply not the case. We were too stubborn, too damn determined to accept the fact that an 8 year-old boy was better at defending his house than two career robbers were at infiltrating it.
Do I think about Kevin these days? Not often, but yes, I do. The last I heard, about a decade ago he had graduated from Bard. And you know what? I wish him the best. I really do. I even considered friending him on Facebook, but thought better of it. I was sitting around the other day, after my dinner party had left, and I was thinking that Kevin’s almost of the age to have an eight-year old of his own by now.
Me? I never found the right person to have kids with. Harry was very badly injured during our attempted break-in, and, in prison, ended up falling in love with his physical therapist. So I guess things worked out pretty well for him. He can’t have any kids though, because that little bastard shot him in the crotch with an air rifle.