Her mother’s party dress sparkled red and gold, but not with the same clarity as the stars in the sky. She was a child drawn to bright things like the shine of a silver cup or the two candlesticks that stood on the fireplace mantel with their matching glow. Doris thought that the best game in the world would be to catch the stars inside a silver cup and roll them out again, which is how she resolved to become a jewel thief.
It was easy enough to practice as a child inside cheap variety stores selling heaps of rhinestone rings, easy enough to slip one on her finger, turn it toward the inside of her palm and walk out the door. The trick was never to rush, never to seem like she was in a hurry. Either that or appear bored as though any item was beyond her refinement. She gathered a collection of red and blue glass rings which, if worn long enough, left a green band on her finger. She distributed the rings amongst friends at school, which made her instantly popular. No one believed that a girl in braids with a neatly folded collar and a smile on her face would dare what she did, not Doris, a little black girl. She didn’t see why she couldn’t have beautiful things that would shine a light on her neighborhood of tenements and liquor stores.
By the time she’d graduated from high school, Doris had a lock box filled with diamond bracelets and earrings; she plied her trade at luxury malls dressed in designer shoes and handbags, her hair neatly rolled in a bun. Throughout the course of her career, she stole at least two million dollars in fine jewelry traveling from Paris, Monaco, and Tokyo with an occasional stop in Palm Springs.
Salespeople were particularly kind because they did not want to question her ability to pay, which would’ve been insensitive, even racist, and why would they, this woman who spoke so well, who was so impeccably dressed? She came with a backstory. On some days she was originally from Jamaica where her family owned a highly productive sweet potato farm, on others, her husband was an international business realtor. “Oh, I just dropped that earring on the floor. It must’ve rolled beneath the counter.” Feigning distress at her own clumsiness, she slipped a pair of 24-caret diamonds into her purse as a nice young man got on his hands and knees trying to find the lost jewel.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ll help you look.”
He was terrified. “No, madam, that won’t be necessary.” Management only wanted customers in front of and not beneath a display counter.
By now, she was a woman in her eighties, who had pursued her American dream to the tune of several new houses and a lifetime of travel. The judge asked why a woman of her age stole jewelry. Didn’t she have grandchildren to keep her busy and away from illegal pursuits? “Because I can,” she said, and flashed a smile that shone as brightly as the stars in the sky, and so did the ring on her hand.