A short story based on some prompts.

What I was given:

  1. I suppose it was having a bad chest that turned me into an observer, a watcher, at an early age.
  2. So it came as no surprise to me that I was the only one to notice the tall young man stealing packets of ketchup.
  3. One by one he placed them in his bag, until they began spilling out.
  4. I don’t know why but I knelt down and helped him pick them up, stuffing a few in my own pocket.

What I wrote:

I suppose it was having a bad chest that turned me into an observer, a watcher, at an early age. Always confined to the sidelines, I was forced to watch others with envy as they ran about the field and had fun playing games. Never did I learn the joys of belonging to a sports team or even come close to feeling real exhilaration. Exertion of any sort puts me into a terrible state, you see. They say that I can die if I’m not careful (Mum certainly wouldn’t want that). So I’m as careful as can be, handling myself like an imported box of fragile porcelain dishes – always right side up, with breakable contents inside. Even though I’ve always treated myself with the utmost care, I cannot really say the same for my classmates. Perhaps it was because they were jealous that I got to miss gym, or perhaps it was due to the fact that they found me funny looking with my distinctive nose and awkward facing ears. Whatever their problem was with me, they always seemed to go out of their way in order to make me feel uncomfortable. I was pushed to the outer regions by my peers, which only further defined my role as observer in this petty world.

So it really came as no surprise to me that I was the only one to notice the tall young man stealing packets of ketchup from a fast food restaurant that I frequent. He was an awkward looking fellow (though I suppose I’m one to talk). His back was hunched over and his neck jutted out at an angle that looked like it must have been painful. I’ve never really been a good judge of age, but he looked to be perhaps two, or possibly three years older than myself. I watched him from the line-up, making a mental note of his physical appearance lest I be the only one capable of giving the police an accurate description in order to apprehend this vile criminal. He was wearing a pair of light tan corduroy pants that were much too short. His socks shot out of them about a foot too early. These pants were partially covered up by his oversized dark green winter jacket. The top of his head was covered in shaggy hair of a most uninteresting dirty blond. What seemed the most interesting to me was the bag that he was holding in his left hand. It was a pretty nondescript off-white coloured sack. It was into this that he was corralling the ketchup packets into.

One by one he placed the packets into his bag until they begun to spill out. By this time I had not only placed my order, but I’d received my food as well. I probably should have mentioned the ketchup stealer to the cashier at the register. She didn’t really seem like a nice woman though, so for one reason or another I withheld the information from her. Instead I slowly walked toward the ketchup culprit (he was at the condiment stand after all), holding my tray of food tightly with both of my hands. I couldn’t have said right then what I intended to do. With his bag now full of ketchup, the young man was now beginning to stuff his oversized jacket with the small packets. Into his pockets they went, one by one. I set my tray down on the condiment stand. If the man noticed my presence, he made no acknowledgement. He simply continued to stuff ketchup into every orifice on his person. He was starting to shove some of them up his sleeves and into his socks. Whenever he moved, another packet or two would fall out and litter the ground.

I don’t know why, but I knelt down and started to help him. I picked up a few of the fallen packets of ketchup, stuffing several of them into my own pockets as well. I’ll tell you again, I don’t know why I did it. I don’t even like ketchup. It’s disgusting, horrible over processed stuff. Seriously, why would anyone ever want so much of the damned junk? I was an accomplice now though. My actions succeeded in capturing the young man’s attention for a moment. Although his hands appeared to be on autopilot, stashing ketchup away at a frightening pace, his grey eyes met mine briefly. I guess we had a moment, because he smiled at me and I smiled back. Pausing, only briefly in his actions, the man held open his jacket. I followed his gaze and peered inside. Inside there was some sort of white tube. Recognition hit me like an oncoming train. It was an inhaler. Wide-eyed now, I pulled open my jacket to show the stranger my own inhaler. It was an odd thing to do now that I think of it, but it’s also pretty odd to hoard packets of ketchup as well. The man grinned then resumed his activities. I, feeling some sort of camaraderie with him, helped out with even more enthusiasm. He was a watcher like me, and this, as I slowly came to realize, was what real exhilaration felt like.