The Wrong Kind of Risks: Fiction

I wrote this short story yesterday and it's not bad.  In fact, I'm sort of proud of it.  I wanted to share it with you.  Please leave your honest comments and tell me what you think.  I think you will enjoy it. 

 Photo: Archetype: The Shadow, by Jone Reed

  The Wrong Kind of Risks, by Maryellen Grady/MsRefusenik

"Good does not become better by being exaggerated, but worse, and a small evil becomes a big one through being disregarded and repressed. The shadow is very much a part of human nature, and it is only at night that no shadows exist." Carl Jung*

"If only someone had stopped me," Jane wrote in her journal. "What happened is in the dead past and can't be changed, but I can change, and I will," she added.

No one tried to stop Jane from what her shadow self was up to, because no one knew. Her friends she never saw or talked to, co-workers, family, and that was a very small group of people, had no idea.

Jane couldn't remember the first time her shadow self had emerged. It might have started after the break-up of her long engagement, or maybe when she was fired as a mental health counselor and told by Jan, the psychiatrist, that she needed help. Something switched in her. She felt out of it and sort of drugged, when she went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, but she also loved the adrenaline rush, the thrills, and the danger.

She knew from her studies of Carl Gustav Jung in college and since, that a small evil becomes a big one through being disregarded and repressed.

She knew her shadow archetype was running her life, but she didn't have the necessary self-knowledge to make it stop.

Jane had always been a cautious girl, and grown up into a cautious adult. As a child. she refused swimming lessons, rides on Ferris wheels and roller coasters, because she worried she would die. As an adult, she had been at her low-paying, dead-end job for six years before getting fired, ignoring her dream of becoming a writer. Writing was too much of a risk she believed. Other people would judge her writing and find it lacking, her inner critic told her. If she submitted her writing to publications, or sent a query, she would be rejected and she could not face that.

Jane was 31, had a B.S. degree in psychology, and never took risks or chances. She was a woman who owned several umbrellas and used them in the slightest of drizzles. She also wore galoshes to work on days the weather forecaster said there was even a tiny chance of rain. She ate the same seven frozen dinners every week, and was afraid if she altered her diet, her health would suffer. She was attractive but not stunning. She had the same hairstyle she had at 14: Her long copper-colored hair hung long and straight from its part in the middle. She only read New York Times' best sellers, and travel and self-help books along with some biographies and memoirs. She read fiction that had met her standards and values. She avoided authors who drank too much like Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald. She herself never had more than two drinks at a time. She had given up pot, psychedelics and pills when she was a sophomore in college, after giving into peer pressure freshman year.

She rarely left her comfort zone--her apartment--except to buy groceries, and go to the library or work. She avoided her family, and she didn't believe in socializing with coworkers. She didn't get out to have fun, and mostly forgotten what it was to laugh till your stomach hurt.

Jane wished more than anything she could stop taking admission information from mental patients and make a living writing, but she was so scared of failure. She preferred believing she had a gift for writing, and could write well any time she wished, rather than face failure and be forced to give up that fantasy.

Then one night she slipped into an unlocked car and discovered booty. She loved the thrill of it. She loved the adventure, the danger and the fact that she was actually taking the first major risk in her life.

She started her late night prowling more frequently until she found out she'd made it part of her daily routine. She dressed in pretty much the same outfit everyday: Black jeans, black hoodie sweatshirts in cooler weather and black T-shirts when it was warm. She wore black Keds with black socks, and elbow length black leather gloves to hide her white flesh and prevent fingerprints.

She learned to wear a large backpack and carry a gym bag for all the loot she found in unlocked cars. She was initially amazed by how many people didn't bother locking their cars or turning on their alarms, except for sports cars, luxury cars and SUV's. Although part of her was proud that she never broke into a car by force, she did wish that slim jims worked on the newer cars. She had read up on car alarms and how they were installed, and she always looked for the tiny blinking "courtesy light" showing the alarm was on. A few times she hadn't seen a light, and the alarm sirens went off as soon as she mashed in the door handle with her thumb. She was glad she had on her fast Keds those nights.

After a couple of months of daily night prowling, she started taking more risks. She entered cars parked in private residence driveways and some parked on busy streets. One day she found herself silently opening up a Volvo station wagon door. The Volvo was full of bags, boxes and groceries. She could see paper money on the panel between the front seats. She started to move towards the glove compartment, when she caught herself and asked what the hell she thought she was doing. It was broad daylight, and the car was parked in front of a house. The owner was probably coming to get the stuff out of the car any minute. That incident scared her. Was she cracking up? She wondered.

It was an addiction, she rationalized, and she was powerless to control it. She was addicted to all of the different smells in each car, seeing the various contents of the glove compartment, and checking to see if the trunk was unlocked. She liked to pretend she was invisible. Thinking if she didn't see anyone no one saw her, she moved with confidence, ignoring the lit windows and the cars driving down the streets.

She had grown quite a collection of found sunglasses, filled coin changers for the tollways, flashlights, pens and even maps. She liked to look at them and fantasize where she would move to if she ever felt she was close to getting caught. When that would be, and what would indicate it, she couldn't say.

She also had a nice supply of prescription pills from the glove boxes, and she spent a lot of time looking up the various drugs in the Physicians' Desk Reference she had found in what was probably a doctor's car parked outside a hospital. She was tempted by the codeine, Vicodine, Adderall and a few others. She hoped she wouldn't go back to pill popping. She learned a lot of people must have acid indigestion and reflux. So many medicines for those two things, and Pepcid tabs in every other car. And what was with all that gum, hard candy, Tic-Tacs, breath spray, breath drops and breath mints? The average person must do a lot of kissing, she figured. She left those alone. She hated holding something in her mouth like that.

Before her shadow had had enough of her always cautions ways and refusal to take risks, she had a handful of C.D.'s that she listened to on a little boom box. She had the usual Yanni, Michael Jackson, old John Denver, and Johnny Cash C.D.'s. Now her C.D. collection took up a whole wall in her living room and a large corner of her office. She'd had to buy storage containers for them. She once had been as frugal as her mother. Now when she accidentally brought home duplicates, she just tossed them in the garbage.

Jane had always been on the thin side, now she was wearing a size 2 in jeans and knew she had lost a lot of weight. She just couldn't make herself stop her appointed nightly rounds to go get a bite to eat. Her skin was sort of gray, but she ignored it. She didn't see anyone so no one commented about the changes in her appearance.

She was intrigued by her new behaviors and looked up psychological interpretations online. She was fascinated by Jung's archetypes, and wondered at her own shadow self.

As Christmas approached that year, Jane began to hit a pirate's treasure chest of loot in the cars. Wrapped gifts included things like "Apple® iPad® 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G - 64GB (Verizon Wireless) - Black," according to the box label. She found digital cameras, camcorders, Playstations, and Nintendo Wii players. Her nephews and nieces would love her Christmas presents this year. She had so many cell phones that she stopped taking them. She just couldn't take the risk of trying to sell any of the stuff she found.

Then one freezing cold December night a week before Christmas it happened. She was in the middle of packing up her gym bag with wrapped Christmas presents that covered the entire back seat, when she heard one loud short alarm of a police car. No gumdrop red lights flashing, but the car pulled up and a police officer knocked on the back window and mimed rolling down the window. The cop had appeared so suddenly out of nowhere she couldn't even think about making a run for it.

She rolled down the driver's side window, smiled her best practiced smile and said, "Yes officer, what can I do for you? How's it going?"

"It's kind of late to be out here by yourself, Ma'am. Is everything okay?"

"Oh fine. I was just getting ready to sneak some Christmas presents into my house while my husband and kids are sleeping."

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, I hear what you're saying, but I still need to see your license and registration."

"Please Cosmo, the Universe, or a Higher Power of any kind, let there be a registration in the glove box," she prayed. Her former good deeds must have brought her good karma because there it was.

"Here's my registration, Officer, but I didn't bring my purse with my license, since I was only going to my own driveway. I wasn't driving any place."

Now she felt currents of sweat dripping down her arm and onto her breasts. She hoped he couldn't hear how loud her heart was pounding.

"Okay, then, I'll let it go. It's Christmas. Do you need some help bringing in the gifts?"

"No, I'm fine. Two people might create noise and wake up my babies. They all still believe in Santa. I really don't want them to see me with these gifts."

"Sure. I'll let you get back to work. Please get back in your house and off the streets as quick as you can."

"I will, Officer."

He hadn't driven off the side-street she was on, when she went back to stuffing mystery gifts into her backpack, gym bag, and a new black duffel bag she had found in somebody's car. Then slowly, calmly and quietly she opened and closed the car door without a sound--something she had learned to do with practice.

That morning she looked online for more about Jung's Shadow Archetype. She read this by Jung:

Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.**

She was glad her consciousness was very aware of her shadow. She may have repressed this knowledge at first, but now she accepted it. She wondered if she got into her shadow because of repressing risk taking. Perhaps she had a need to take risks that she denied, and it had gone to the shadow self to see that those urges were fulfilled.

Two nights later she hit the parking lot at the train depot. She figured the cops patrolled it, but told herself she would be careful. She saw a newer red Buick LaCrosse and no little lights were blinking on the dash. She carefully pushed in the door handle and no alarms when off.

The Buick's glove compartment held her third money bag of some business's undeposited money and checks for the night. People were so busy at Christmas time they must not take ten minutes to go to the bank she thought. She didn't see much else, not even any C.D.'s, and she scooted back to the driver's door to go looking for more money bags.

Suddenly she saw a car with its brights on headed down the row of cars she was in. She did her best to duck under the dashboard, being grateful she was only 5'2" or there would be no way. It was one tight squeeze. A flashlight beam ran across the back seat of the car and moved forward to the front. She tried not to move and didn't dare scratch the itch on her nose. She waited for the cop to leave.

The bright beam of the flashlight then hit her in the eyes. She'd been spotted. She was going to be caught red-handed. Those money bags would give her away as soon as she was searched. There'd be no lying and pretending tonight.

"Come out with your hands up," yelled a woman. Now Jane could see the police uniform and the squad. The cop pushed her against the side of the car and demanded that she spread her legs. She searched Jane thoroughly and patted her down after first asking if she was carrying any weapons, a question which Jane couldn't even believe a person like herself would ever be asked.

Jane didn't use the shallow pockets of her jeans for anything but a little change. Clean sweep of her clothing and body. She waited.

"You want to tell me what you were doing in there hiding?," the cop snarled. She was chewing and popping gum loudly. She had short, helmet-style dyed black hair pressed to her head beneath her hat. She must have weighed over 200 pounds. This was one big woman.

"Officer, a man followed me from Nick's Cave down the street. He started screaming at me to come to him. I ran like hell and jumped into the first car I saw and hid."

"You know you're still trespassing on private property no matter what your excuse is? Are those your duffel bags?"

"No, Officer. They were here."

"Well you're wearing the backpack so I know that's yours. Do I have your permission to search it?"

"I'd really rather you not go through my private belongings. There are some personal things in it," Jane managed.

"I can get a warrant if you want to play it that way, but I'll have to take you in and lock you up while I fill out the forms and make the phone calls."

"That won't be necessary," Jane said in her most polite, friendly customer service voice that she used to use on the mental patients. "Here. It's mostly Christmas presents I picked up earlier."

Jane saw her hand's shaking as she handed over the backpack. She hoped the cop hadn't noticed.

"What's your name?" The cop was pulling things out of the backpack.

"Cindy Sue Helper," Jane said, and had to wonder where in hell that name came from.

"These are some expensive Christmas presents--electronics, stacks of C.D.'s, some without cases, and these. She held up the three money bags. These are from three different businesses. Are they your businesses?"

"No, Ma'am. I work for those three businesses, and it's my job to put the day's receipts in the bank."

"What's the names of the businesses, since you work there?"

It was over Jane realized. She hadn't looked and didn't have a clue. She hadn't seen anything but the 20, 50 and 100 dollar bills.

"I am bringing you in on charges of suspicious behavior and car burglary--a felony--by the way. What other crimes have you committed? What will I find on your record?"

"Nothing except a ticket for going through a red light. It was an accident."

She read Jane her rights and handcuffed her. She pushed her by the neck and shoulders to walk to the squad car and get in the back seat behind the steel gate that separated it from where the police sat.

She was terrified. A felony? Shit and goddamn! Didn't you have to commit a misdemeanor first? She couldn't believe this happening to her, Jane Ulrich, cautious, law-abiding Jane for most of her life.

They put her in a cell by herself. She heard male prisoners hooting and hollering at her. She really wasn't in the mood, and hoped they shut up soon.

After an hour or so, a different cop, a gruff male one, came and told her she could make her one phone call now.

She had no one to call. For sure she wasn't calling her mother, sister or brother that lived in the City, or any former coworker. She was so desperate she even considered calling her ex-fiancee for a minute. Finally, she asked to see a phone book.

After wasting $1.00 calling "24-hour" help-lines at two legal aid places and getting recordings, she got a human being. She told the woman her story, and asked if she could help. The woman told her that she would bypass the waiting list since she was arrested and in jail. Someone would be there to represent her later that day.

The lawyer, who didn't show up until after Jane's brief court hearing, told her that since she didn't get probation, and she had no one to pay her $10,000 bond or $1,000 cash, she would probably be sent to Cook County Jail soon. She also learned her new court date wasn't for ten days. She started re-thinking calling her mother.

She finally decided not to upset her mother, and to call her brother. She begged the cop that came to her cell bringing breakfast to make one more phone call. He finally relented, saying it was almost Christmas.

Bill was cold as Frosty the Snowman as soon as he knew who had called. She spit out her plight, condensing it as she told it. She boiled it down to the $1,000 bond, and Bill told her absolutely not. He didn't even have $1,000 he claimed. He'd just paid for his new car in cash, and he was out of "mad money." He chuckled at something, what it was, Jane had no idea. "Sadistic S.O.B." she muttered into the phone, but did not repeat it when he asked what she had said. He abruptly hung up on her without saying goodbye. "Rich f'n bastard" she told the desk phone now back in its cradle.

She spent ten of the worst days of her life locked up in Cook County Jail. She felt like she could write a book about the cruelties, injustices and general horrible and demeaning treatment inflicted on her.

Her lawyer, looking even younger and more wet behind the ears to her, met her in the room outside the court room, where she sat handcuffed to a folding chair. He told her there was a plea bargain on the table and that she should take it. If she didn't accept it, she was looking at the possibility of doing three years in Dwight Women's Prison.

Jane knew that prison had to be worse than jail, and she didn't think she could handle it. She decided to have the word "felon" behind her name on her records for the rest of her life. Now she had to work for herself. She was sure no one would hire her after a background check.

After a few weeks of being home, she began writing about her jail experience. She told the whole story including details about what she had done to get put in there. She revised it and polished it many times, and sent it off to three magazines. "Reader's Digest" bought it. They planned to use it as a deterrent for boys and girls who were considering committing crimes.

Jane framed her first check and kept on writing. She set up a writer's website and began marketing herself as a freelance writer. Soon she was making enough to comfortably support herself.

She was fearlessly taking risks--healthy risks. She was doing what she loved. She didn't catch her shadow side lurking in the background any longer. Everyday she was grateful for this second chance and for the opportunity to follow her bliss.

*"A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity" (1942) In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.286

**"Psychology and Religion" (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131

Author Notes "The Shadow Archetype of Carl Gustov Jung:

The shadow is an archetypal form that serves as the focus for material that has been repressed from consciousness; its contents include those tendencies desires and memories that are rejected by the individual as incompatible with the persona and contrary to social standards and ideals. The shadow contains all the negative tendencies the individual wishes to deny, including our animal instincts, as well as undeveloped positive and negative qualities.

The stronger our persona is and the more we identify with it, the more we deny other parts of ourselves. The shadow represents what we consider to be inferior in our personality and also that which we have neglected and never developed in ourselves. In dreams, a shadow figure may appear as an animal, a dwarf, a vagrant, or any other low-status figure.

The shadow is most dangerous when unrecognized. Then the individual tends to project his or her unwanted qualities onto others or to become dominated by the shadow without realizing it. Images of evil, the devil and the concept of original sin are all aspects of the shadow archetype. The more the shadow material is made conscious, the less it can dominate. But the shadow is an integral part of our nature, and it can never be simply eliminated. A person who claims to be without a shadow is not a complete individual but a two-dimensional caricature, denying the mixture of good and evil that is necessarily present in all of us."***

***"Transpersonal Pioneers: Carl Jung, the Shadow," Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto, CA

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