Tag Archives: short story




Elle me dévisage. Son regard est froid.  « T’as la frousse tout d’un coup?”

Nous pensions cambrioler la maison de ses parents et elle me demande si j’ai peur. 

« Tu as déjà fait ce genre de choses? T’es une cambrioleuse expérimentée? »

« Non, je n’ai jamais cambriolé, » dit-elle en fronçant les sourcils, « même pas mes parents, mais cela devrait être facile, je crois.  Ils ne verrouillent jamais leur porte et ils laissent les choses de valeur partout, même l’argent. »

J’ai vraiment la trouille, mais je ne peux pas l’avouer en face d’elle. Je fais semblant d’être insouciant, et je lui dis, « je suis étudiant en médecine et je n’ai peur de rien. Mais je ne veux pas être pris la main dans le sac. Est-ce qu’il n’y a pas de système d’alarme? »

« Je crois pas.  Mes parents s’attendent à de l’honnêteté de la part de tous les gens, comme ils en attendent d’eux-mêmes. Ils ne s’attendent pas à être cambriolés. Et ils ne font rien pour l’empêcher. Je voudrais leur donner une bonne leçon. »

« Ils font  souvent l’expérience des cambriolages quand même, non? Les gens ne sont pas très honnêtes en général et s’ils savent qu’une maison n’est pas verrouillée… »,

« En fait, ils n’ont jamais été cambriolés  que je sache. »

« Ça m’étonne. Jamais auparavant d’avoir été victimes des voIeurs, ils ont vraiment de la chance! »

« Si, si, ils ont été volés, mais ils ne s’en sont pas rendu compte. Moi, je leur ai souvent dérobé des choses. De la monnaie et des petites choses qu’ils ne ne remarqueraient jamais. Comme cette bague. » Et elle me montre la bague, sur une chaîne autour de son cou. Elle me la donne, comme si elle voulait que je la garde. « Ils n’ont jamais remarqué que quelque chose leur manquait. » Elle parle d’un ton décontracté comme si c’était une chose normale de voler aux parents. Puis elle dit d’une voix blanche de colère, « ils sont trop bons. Les gens comme eux, je les haïs.  Les gens bons ne me remarquent jamais… » Elle rit jaune.

Si j’avais la trouille avant, maintenant je suis vraiment pétrifié. J’ai une peur bleue. 

Je ne veux plus cambrioler la maison de ses parents, je ne veux plus rien avoir à faire avec cette jeune femme dont je connais si peu de choses.

Elle me parle tout d’un coup d’un ton changé. Elle a l’air triste, comme si elle broie du noir. C’était cette tristesse qui m’a attiré dès le début. Je pensais que je pourrais lui remonter le moral. Mais ce changement soudain me fait peur. Elle est si lunatique, son humeur tellement  changeante, que je ne comprends rien sauf qu’elle n’est pas qui je la croyais être. Je la regarde, sa tête enfouie dans les bras, l’image de quelqu’un de tourmenté.

J’y vois mon opportunité et je la prends. Je m’enfuis, c’est -à -dire que je l’abandonne,  triste ou faisant semblant de l’être,  sur le banc dans le parc. Je ne sais pas ce qu’elle va faire, si elle cambriolera ses parents ou pas. Je ne la comprends pas du tout. 

Je rentre soulagé chez moi, avec l’intention d’étudier. Je ne suis pas un cambrioleur, je ne l’ai jamais été, je ne le serai jamais. On peut dire que ce qui m’est arrivé n’était qu’un cauchemar, quelque chose comme une mauvais rêve. Peut-être. Mais je porte toujours sous mes vêtements une chaîne avec une bague autour de mon cou afin de ne jamais oublier mon échappée belle.


She stares at me. Her eyes are icy. “You’re getting cold feet?”

We were thinking about breaking into her parents’ house and she asks me if I am scared. “You’ve done this before? This sort of thing? Are you an experienced burglar?”

“No, I’ve never burglarized before,” she says, frowning, “not even my parents, but it should be easy, I think.  They never lock their doors and they leave things everywhere, even money.”

I’m really scared, but I can’t admit it in front of her. I pretend to be insouciant, and I say, “I’m a medical student and I’m not afraid of anything. But I don’t want to be caught red-handed. Isn’t  there an alarm system?”

“I don’t think so. My parents expect honesty from everyone, just as they expect it from themselves. They don’t expect people to steal from them. And they don’t do anything to stop it. I want to teach them a lesson.”

“They must often be victims of  burglaries anyway, right? People are not very honest in general, and if they know a house isn’t well locked…. “

“In fact, they have never been burglarized as far as I know.”

“I’m surprised. They’ve never been robbed before? They’re really lucky!”

“Yes, yes, they were robbed, but they were not aware of it. I myself often stole things from them. Money and little things they would never notice. Like this ring.” And she shows me the ring, which is on a chain around her neck. She hands it to me, as if she wants me to keep it. “They never noticed that they were missing a thing.” She talks in a casual tone like it’s normal to steal from one’s parents. Then, her voice goes toneless with anger, “They are good, too good. I hate people like them. Good people never notice me.”  And she gives a hollow laugh.

If I had cold feet before, now I’m really petrified. I’m scared to death. 

I don’t want to break into her parents’ house anymore, I don’t want to have anything to do with this young woman I know so little about.

Then she speaks and her tone is completely different. She looks sad, as if she’s suddenly down in the dumps. It was that sadness that attracted me from the beginning. I thought I could cheer her up, even save her. But this sudden change scares me. She’s so moody, I don’t understand anything except that she’s not who I thought she was. I look at her, her head buried in her arms, the image of someone tormented.

I see my opportunity and I take it. I run away, leaving her, sad or pretending to be, on the bench in the park. I don’t know what she’s going to do, whether she’s going to rob her parents or not. I don’t understand her at all. 

I go home relieved, intending to resume my studies. I am not a burglar, I have never been one, and I never will be. You could say that what happened to me must have been a nightmare, a really bad dream. Maybe. But under my shirt I wear her ring on a chain around my neck so I never forget how close I came to disaster.

by phoebe sparrow wagner 2022

Award-Winning Short Story — 1 page — and art


by Phoebe Sparrow Wagner (formerly Pamela Spiro Wagner)

I will never forget The Dress. Worn only once, with three quarter-length sleeves cuffed in white, and a demure white collar, it had two layers of navy blue crepe skirting, with a dropped waist and a sash. This was the first “dressy” dress I ever picked out all on my own.
The first thing about The Dress was that it was not the pale pink tent that I had worn to my first mixer with Sheffield Academy, which I was convinced scared away my freckled red-haired date, not that I minded much, once I saw him dance. The second thing about The Dress was the look in the eyes of the boy at the Gunnery, where my second mixer was held. This boy was matched with me strictly by height. I don’t know why, but something clicked with us, and the first thing he said to me, to my huge relief, was, “I hate dancing, don’t you? Let’s take a walk.” With that, we linked arms and spent the evening strolling arm in arm around his campus.

To say that nothing happened would seem almost hilarious these days, except that nothing did, besides our shared and passionate discussion of Plato and the books we’d read and other schoolish stuff. By the time the bells rang to call everyone back to the buses, I knew, because after all, I was a teenage girl who had read books, what might happen. I also knew, because I was an avid fan of the advice columnist Ann Landers, that no self-respecting young girl allowed a kiss on her first date. We had been walking arms around each other’s waist all evening; I liked him, it was equally clear that he liked me. It was inevitable what would happen next. But I was a good girl. What to do?

I tried to say good-bye, smiling sadly and keeping the distance that would protect me. My adoring young man nevertheless leaned in to kiss me. Turning my cheek, I rebuffed him. I did not mean to hurt his feelings, but I knew that Ann Landers was watching me and would be happy my virginity was safe. As I climbed onto the bus with a heavy heart, I looked back and waved but my date was nowhere to be seen. I took my seat, feelings mixed about whether the rebuff had truly been a success.

Then someone behind me spoke. “Good for you, Pammy, not kissing the black boy!”

What? I looked at her. My classmate was smiling grimly. “You didn’t kiss that -–“ and she used the terrible word I had never heard anyone say to my face.

In that moment, I knew that if I could have, I would have raced off the bus and grabbed that young man and kissed him full on the lips, and to hell with Ann Landers and her crappy advice.

But it was too late to change anything. Too late to let him know why I had not kissed him, too late to kiss him in spite of my classmates and too late to spite Ann Landers and my proper upbringing. Too late, too late, too late. I never wore that dress again.


This short account, all too true, won first place at Vermont’s Counterpoint’s annual writing contest in 2015. You can see it and the other first place winner at

Click to access Counterpoint_Summer_2015.pdf

Below is my very first painting done in about 2009 or 2010 when I was first starting to do art. I called it First Love, and now you know why.

First painting ever