How to Steal Copper Wire by Jonny Eberle

Step 1

     Hit absolute rock bottom. Sell your guitar and move back in with your parents. Send out resumes. Admit that a studio art degree was an unwise choice in this economy and allow yourself to be humbled by the experience of losing it all and starting over. Send out a few more resumes, but you can stop personalizing them for each job, because you know they’re just going into the junk folder. See how long you can coast on paying your debts, do elaborate budgeting on the back of a past-due envelope and realize that you’re screwed.

Step 2

     Find an old pair of bolt cutters in the basement. Imagine yourself in a black ski mask, cutting perfectly square holes in chain-link fences all over town, and being dubbed the Polygon Bandit by the local newspaper. Watch stupid daytime soap operas on TV and get caught up in their labyrinthine plots. Devolve into watching the daytime business shows and spend an entire week tracking the commodities exchanges for no real reason. Watch the value of copper go up and up and up.

Step 3

     Dig up an old yearbook and call Bobby from high school. Learn that Bobby never left town. He makes ends meet working part-time bagging groceries. Catch up over a drink, reminisce about people you can barely remember, start talking about money and dreams. Ever so casually, after a few drinks, mention your budding plan. Clarify that it’s a hypothetical scenario — not anything you’d ever really do. Just a random thought. Laugh it off. In the parking lot, ask Bobby if he’d be interested in splitting the proceeds of your scheme 50-50.

Step 4

     Study in depth every angle of the heist. Sketch out the initial recon, the approach, the getaway. Style yourself as a gentleman thief, not one of those petty criminals. Call a few scrapyards. Impress upon Bobby the need for code names. Structure an alibi loosely based on the plot of the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Dive deep into the history of the metal you are poised to steal from its rightful owners. Fall down a rabbit hole of linked Wikipedia pages. Come to believe that the need to obtain copper is an integral part of the human condition, from the first crude copper arrowheads forged 10,000 years ago to the smelters that used to line the waterfront and belch out arsenic. Cast yourself as the hero of the story. This will help later.

Step 5

     Scope out the location ahead of time. Note important details like where the wire is located. Is it underground? Inside a streetlight pole? In the guts of an electrical substation? Select a target that’s out of the way and unguarded. Under no circumstances attempt a theft during a heavy downpour or without proper footwear to prevent accidental electrocution.

Step 6

     Take Bobby’s truck for the heist. In case you appear on security-camera footage, be sure to wear matching gloves and masks to avoid embarrassment and project an aura of professionalism. Bring the bolt cutters from the basement and put them to good use. Work quickly, but carefully. Never forget that you’re standing in a puddle during a rainstorm while handling 10,000 volts of electricity. Now would be a good time to remind Bobby as well. After all, you are a team, even if he refuses to answer to his assigned code name. Let the copper conduct. That’s what it does best.

Step 7

     Don’t inadvertently kill yourself.

Step 8

     Once you’ve cut one end of the wire loose, secure it to the bumper of the truck. Stand clear while Bobby guns the engine and rips the rest out. Coil the mass of wire in your parent’s basement. They never go down there anyway. Lay out in the backyard and marvel at the stars. You’ve never seen them so bright. In retrospect, you may decide it would have been better to knock out power to another town instead of the one you live in. Eat all the ice cream in the freezer before it melts.

Step 9

     In the morning, drive to the scrapyard that asked the fewest questions over the phone. Feign carsickness and ask Bobby to leave you at the gas station while he sells the wire. While he’s gone, buy a bottle of gas station rosé and a package of baby wipes. When he returns to pick you up, split the money and suggest a celebratory drink down by the water.

Step 10

     Take turns drinking straight from the bottle and talk about what you’ll do with your half of the money. Before Bobby can tell you about going back to school for his AA or putting in a hot tub or whatever, hit him over the head with the wine bottle. Hit him again for good measure. Take his half of the money and wipe down the interior of the truck. Shift it into neutral and let it roll into the water. Dispose of the wine bottle (drinking the rest first, if you find it helpful to calm your nerves) and catch the bus back to your parent’s house. Count your money. Do a little more back-of-the-envelope budgeting. Double-check your math. Shake your head. Dig up your old yearbook again. This time, maybe try calling that guy from your art class who ate papier-mâché or your ex-girlfriend’s little brother. Any loser will do, as long as they drive a truck.

Jonny Eberle is a blogger, filmmaker, photographer and writer. He lives in Tacoma with his wife and three typewriters. His recent short stories have all been published by Creative Colloquy.