My toddler steals boxes…or little packets of fruit snacks from the pantry. Or M&M’s actually handed to him as a gift from mommy’s boss. Or his own Mega Blocks from his own toy bin.
The thefts are performed in bizarre sequences of quick stashing under his shirts, even when he knows he’s being watched. He skirts around a room, sometimes with his arm wrapped across his back, his fists seized tightly, holding the item in place under his shirt because his developing brain has not yet conquered the abnormality of it all. When I ask about the strange lump against his skin, the toddler then drops the offending item suddenly, as if framed, or as if mommy would not notice the stream of noisy chocolate candies pooling around his feet. If he could speak “Adult English,” it would be a stammering blast of incoherent twaddle, a red herring, an irrational rationale of why.
I am amused. My toddler thinks he’s the smartest man in the room.
And, yet, he reminds me of a character from an older movie. I am drawn to one of the most diminutive, yet sizable details from the 1995 motion picture “Friday” starring Ice Cube as protagonist Craig Jones. This detail created the occasion for even the smallest events of the plot, but is only explored within theories and assessment and not mentioned any further in the film or in its subsequent series continuations. Namely, there is no one real answer to the issue, just as there is little preponderance regarding my toddler’s chosen engagement.
Here is the question: Did Craig, or did Craig not, really steal boxes, resulting in his termination?
What we discover as viewers: The day began on a Friday morning. Movie watchers learn that Craig’s supervisor had phoned him on the Thursday before at 4:00 after Craig had gone in to work on his day off to pick up his paycheck (Friday). The supervisor relayed a message more or less that the security cameras at the job showed Craig doing what seemed to be “stealing boxes” (Friday). His consequential termination would, then, commence immediately. As a result of the firing, the great painted world at this home, on this street, in this neighborhood, a world that would not have existed otherwise, showed up and unraveled, in cinema time.
I’m not quite sure what this telephone conversation sounded like, however, and this is where it gets peculiar. What proof did his supervisor provide that led to Craig’s firing? Were the cameras positioned in a way that, presumably, suspicious back and forth movement was captured too many times? Did the cameras display Craig’s skill in tossing boxes into the back of a truck when the boxes should have been broken down to go to a dumpster? Did Craig fold up the boxes into tiny squares and stuff them under his shirt, then parade into the room as if with a float?
If Craig stole those boxes, within whatever particular reasoning and method, it may have been out of a certain thrill or money-making opportunity in the product contained in those boxes, so much that Craig completely disregarded the potential of getting caught. With his juvenile mindset, and an ill-solicited custom of being heaved into cycles of trouble, Craig may have rarely contemplated the idea that those cameras were even working, let alone that the supervisor checked them. Thus, when his supervisor phoned him in confrontation and to probably recap the company’s policies towards internal theft, Craig voluntarily accepted the termination in lieu of criminal prosecution, which he alluded to in the fact that they expressed “pressing charges” (Friday).
I must also fairly consider the fact that Craig may not have stolen those boxes. Craig’s response to his friend Smokey’s inquiry about being fired on his day off was more an inert reaction than an admission of guilt or a line of inference, paraphrased, “They didn’t catch me on camera, but they said they did” (Friday). His attitude towards what seemed to be an unlawful termination is one likely evident in situations where a credible dislike of the job existed anyway, resulting in a concluding nonchalance of sudden unemployment. He apparently did not get along with his supervisor, also shown through his ready acceptance of the termination. On that Friday, he made no particular plans to seek out another position, though, he showed slight interest in working at the gym (but definitely not working as a dog-catcher) (Friday). His paycheck—monies mysteriously nonexistent as he was dragged into financial jeopardy and marijuana liability throughout the movie—would, hypothetically, satisfy any immediate housing obligations to his parents on the first, so there was no panic.
It does not change the story, in the big picture, if Craig was or was not guilty—the security cameras showed him in some position of presumed violation, leading to his termination and, thus, the order of the day. He looked guilty, which was, ultimately, his destiny.
And, so, my toddler, with his penchant for unruly defiance and lack of clear execution, is and is not guilty of stealing, if examined within the presentation of all circumstances.
There is something deliciously tempting about hoarding an item safely from mommy’s gaze, an item that he may or may not be scheduled to have at that moment, that knocks what little logic he has off kilter. The item itself, with its pitiful, anthropomorphic cries to my son of “Take me and hide me now,” harbors enough of a worthy reward that being caught does not immediately come to mind. The toddler would rather risk mommy’s questioning and drop the item and run than to leave the item be.
That way, later, he could sit on a porch with a friend and mutter, “She didn’t catch me, but she said she did.”
Friday. Directed by F. Gary Gray, performances by Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, New Line Cinema, 1995.