A fabric mosaic covered the wall behind his desk. Each square was three inches of cotton, nylon, or wool knit stretched over cardboard. Greys, browns and blacks dominated the matrix, and there didn’t seem to be any pattern emerging.
The mosaic began three years ago. An agile mind wasn’t enough. Jesse needed to develop hands as nimble and clever as his mind. He acquired a set of lock picks and set about learning to open a variety of locks.
That was amusing for few weeks, but became less satisfying as his proficiency grew. He needed to test his wits under more demanding circumstances. He began breaking into houses around town, which required that he learn how to perform surveillance and navigate home alarm systems and dogs. There was no point to the burglary at first. He just wanted to prove that he could get in and out without getting caught. By the third house, however, an idea lodged in Jesse’s brain and refused to budge. He deserved a trophy from each house: and so the mosaic was born.
From each home, Jesse removed a single dress sock. The left one. It was unlikely that the owner would notice it was missing, and if they did, burglary would not spring to mind. People simply do not break into a home and steal a sock. Everyone knows that the washing machine eats them.
Jesse preferred men’s dress socks, the older and more worn the better. Failing that, women’s socks would work, but nylons had a tendency to run when stretched over the cardboard. He rationalized that in a way, he was doing a favour to the owner. The owner would probably throw out the remaining right sock and, if the stars aligned, go out and buy a new pair. There was even a chance that the new pair would be a more daring colour. Red. Purple. Perhaps something with stripes. He might nudge someone in a new direction in their life. If all else failed, they’d have one less boring pair of socks with holes in them.
The thrill held for a while, but the game was starting to lose its allure. As Jesse became more accustomed to observing the routines of his neighbours to pick the right time for his incursion, there were fewer surprises on his outings. One night he was startled by the sudden appearance of a pot-bellied pig, but it did not attempt to apprehend him so much as snuffle his pants for the possibility of treats.
In another home, he discovered a clandestine war being waged between its occupants. She had attached a single brown hair across the crack of her top dresser drawer, affixing it with spit, so that she would know if the drawer had been opened. He left a fine dusting of baby power on the lip of the drawer on his computer desk that would show fingerprints if the drawer was opened. Intrigued, he felt the need to investigate the contents of both. In her case, the dresser contained some unpaid parking tickets. His drawer held a small box of cigars, even though there was no sign of any occupant of the house having smoked at all. Jesse briefly considered exchanging the contents, but quashed the urge, as it would only draw attention to his presence. He left with only a single charcoal gray sock in his pocket.