Stolen Identity (Ch. 1)

Lancaster George Edgerton (George to most) sat in a worn arm chair in the non-descript living room of their, well actually his and his wife’s, very ordinary house on a indistinguishable residential street. (Her name was Clare.) He looked glumly out the window into nothing. It was a nothing day. The sun, though giving some light, gave scant comfort. The day was neither clement nor inclement. If an artist were painting that day, his palette would contain a lot of shades of grey.
He could have used the same palette for George as well. George was feeling grey. In fact George was mostly grey all of the time. Just ask Clare. George had yet to learn that you could always squeeze a little something even out of nothing, if you really tried. So it had not crossed his mind that he might squeeze something out of this grey day. Little did he know that sometime during this unmemorable day his whole life would start on a changed path. It started this way:
The phone beside his chair, rang.
“Hello. May I speak to Mr. Edgerton please?”
“I am Mr. Edgerton.”
“Is this Mr. Lancaster G. Edgerton?”
“Well… yes.”
Mr. Edgerton. This is VISA Card security. Do you mind answering a few identifying questions?”
George allowed that that would be OK, though he wondered what it was all about. There followed the usual series of personal questions. Apparently he passed this test.
“Now Mr. Edgerton, our computer has identified some unusual purchases charged to your VISA account. Do you have your VISA Card handy?”
George reached into his pocket for his wallet. “Yes, I have it right here.”
“Does your wife, or anyone else, have a second card on this account?”
“No. She has her own account.”
“Mr. Edgerton, were you recently in Vancouver and did you make a purchase there at Home Hardware?”
“Vancouver! Heavens. That’s in BC. No. I haven’t left Toronto. How much was it for?”
“That’s definitely not mine!… Were there any other purchases in Vancouver?”
“London Drugs. Two purchases. One for $123.68 and another for $727.31. Then there was one at the BC Liquor Store for $148.25.”
“But my card never left my wallet. How could that be?”
“Someone has skimmed your card, probably at a point of sale where you made a legitimate purchase, duplicated your card and then started to use it—in Vancouver. The computer detected that you made almost simultaneous purchase in cities thousands of kilometers apart. Now don’t worry Mr. Edgerton. Your next VISA statement will show these suspicious purchases but there will be an adjustment entry to cancel them. We have already cancelled your card so please destroy the one you have. A new one will be sent by mail to your house. For security reasons, we will not be able to inform you about our investigation into this fraud. Do you have any questions?”
“Well, I don’t know. This is very unsettling. I guess this is ‘Identity Theft’ that I read so much about. What has this guy stolen from me? What have I lost?”
“No Mr. Edgerton. You haven’t lost anything. It will just be inconvenient for you and that for only a short time.”
“But IDENTITY THEFT. That sounds pretty serious. Won’t there be any, ah, side effects?”
“No, Mr. Edgerton. No side effects.”
“Well if you’re sure… then thank you.” He hung up.
During the conversation, Clare had entered the room, immediately adding some colour to the grey scene. She was quite petite but her trim taupe trousers and plum blouse spoke with attractive determination. “What was that all about?” she asked curiously.
George snapped out of his reverie. “It was Visa Security. Apparently someone has stolen my identity.”
“Well, that’s no big loss.” Clare instantly regretted her response. “I mean what did they steal? Your credit card?”
George repeated the phone conversation to her at some length. He had been given a good memory. (Too bad he hadn’t been given an equal share of imagination.) He was writing notes as he was speaking to her—for future reference.
She regarded him critically. “You’re writing with your left hand.”
He looked at the pen between his fingers. “Don’t I always?”
“No you don’t. You’re right handed.”
“That’s odd,” he commented lamely.
“And you always wear a jacket, but now you’re in your shirt sleeves!”
“I guess I must have been hot.”
“In February?”
“Whatever.” And that ended the conversation. Clare left to prepare dinner.
George did get his new card in three days but he began to notice other changes. He subconsciously took different routes in driving to the office; his food tastes were erratic and unpredictable; he couldn’t find suitable clothes in his cupboard or drawers; he now shaved only every other day; his evening rye and soda (no ice) became a Martini or Manhattan; things like that, and more changes were added every day. He just wasn’t himself. He wasn’t any good waking or sleeping. Ask Clare.
One day as he was walking through the mall, he noticed a man. He noticed him because he looked like him—looked like George that is. He was George’s height and general colouring, he wore his brown hair the same, his facial features were similar and he made George’s characteristic grimaces; even his dress bore a remarkable likeness to what George habitually wore. George followed him unobtrusively to the parking lot. He was bowled over to discover the stranger drove a similar Volvo to his own—same colour, same year, same model. Could this be the man who had stolen his identity? Was this man becoming him while he changed into… What?
The VISA agent had told him that there would be no side effects from having his identity stolen… but what if he were wrong? He had noticed that he was losing all sort of characteristics, which made him who he was. Now it seemed that this stranger was acquiring them. The car was driving out of the parking lot. George made note of the license number. He got into his own car and drove home. Clare was sitting in the living room expectantly. He walked in and it struck him for the first time in many years that she really was a beautiful woman! How could he have ignored that in his everyday living?
He kissed her. Another change. He rarely did. “A Manhattan?” he asked her.
She paused, noticeably thinking about his question. “Do we have any champagne?”
“Yes, I think there may be a bottle in the fridge. Got it last Christmas. Can’t remember from who.”
“So why don’t we have champagne cocktails?”
He fingered his chin. “We usually save that for special occasions. Is this a special occasion?”
“Maybe it is. You just kissed me. I’ve got this feeling that something important is going to happen. So why not celebrate the anticipation rather than the accomplishment?”
“Good idea.” He left to prepare the drinks and returned ten minutes later. “I’ve got something to confess,” he said as he settled down beside her. “I think I’ve found the man who is stealing my identity.”
She looked at him askance. “Stealing your identity???”
“Look I know this sounds strange, but something has been happening to me in the last few weeks. I’m gradually losing those important characteristics that make me who I am. I don’t know whether this has anything to do with the VISA thing or not, but I’m not the man I was. I don’t know quite who I am anymore.” His voice ended up in a whine.
She looked at him seriously. “And you think you’ve found the man who is becoming you?”
“Yes, I really do. I have the license number of his car, but I don’t know what to do about it. I can hardly go up to him and say, ‘You stole my identity and I want it back.’ If it’s just a coincidence he will think I’m nuts. And if he really has stolen it, he may well attack me.”
Clare stared into her cocktail, watching the small bubbles ascend. She took another sip without looking at him. “OK, George, You’ve leveled with me; I’m going to do the same with you. Sure I’ve noticed the changes in you in the last few months. So maybe you are losing your identity. But pardon my frankness, it’ll be no big loss.”
George got huffy. “What do you mean, ‘It’ll be no big loss?’”
She reached out and took his hand. He found it warm and comforting. “George, you are a grey man, grey in manner, grey outlook, grey in your vision. You’re about as individualistic as a fish in a hatchery…” George winced visibly but she wouldn’t let him withdraw his hand. “If someone is indeed stealing your identity, maybe we should be thankful rather than concerned. Someone else is going to have to deal with your greyness.”
“But if my identity is stolen, then who am I? What have I got left?”
“What have you got left? A clean slate, that’s what you’ve got left.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You’ve got something that few people ever experience. A second chance. A clean slate. We can write anything we like on it.”
“Like what?” George was intrigued but still puzzled.
“So we’re building a new you. We’ll start with your name. ‘George’ is too grey for the new you. From now on you’ll be ‘Lancaster.” ‘Lanc’ for short. Try that on for size.”
“But I rather liked ‘George,’” he said wistfully.
“‘George’ is not available. It’s been stolen by the other guy. Say goodbye to ‘George.’”
“Goodbye George,” mouthed Lanc wistfully.
A disembodied voice seemed to fill the small living room. “G’bye Lanc. Don’t think for a moment this hasn’t been great.”
He addressed his wife,. “I’ll try and get used to ‘Lanc.’” He rolled the name on his tongue. “Lanc. Lanc. Llllllancaster. Hmm. Rather nice. OK, I’m Lanc from now on. The NEW ME! What’s next.”
“We have to give you a new personality. Wait here while I get a pad of paper and a pen.” She disappeared and came back into the room saying, “Now Lanc, what are some of the traits you always admired in others but were too shy to try on yourself?”
He looked sheepish. “You know I never win an argument, especially with you. I want to stand up for my opinion, rather than being steam rolled. You know what I mean?”
She tested him. “Oh, I don’t know that that’s very important.”
He pointed a rigid finger at her. “You’re dead wrong. It’s VERY important.”
“I’ve written it down. See you’re already more assertive.”
Lanc smiled in self-satisfaction. He was beginning to enjoy this re-creation exercise. He tried another tack. “OK, here’s another one. So many people shoot down my new ideas that I no longer have any. I want my creativity back.”
She wrote. “I’ve got it on the list.”
“And I seem to have lost my faith. I miss it.”
She scribbled a note. “Done!”
They carried on for a couple of hours (and three champagne cocktails) creating the new ‘Lanc” on the chassis of the old ‘George.’ Finally he said, “Thash pretty comprehenshive. (He tried to obscure the champagne slurring.) Anything else?”
“Tomorrow we dress the new Lanc. No more navy blue or dark browns. They’re too grey for the new Lanc. Tomorrow we go shopping.”
The next day she lead him to Holt, Renfrew and supervised a series of fittings. They ended up with a dress jacket of pale blue, a tweed sports jacket, two pair of army twill pants—tan and deep blue, three shirts—by this time he was picking out the colours himself, stripes and bold statements. In fact Clare had to hold him back on a couple of choices that were just a little too wild. She led him to the ties. The first in line was a whole selection of bow ties. She held one up to him along with a shirt.
“But I can’t tie a bow tie,” he lamented.
“Can you tie your shoe laces?”
“Of course I can.”
“Then you can learn. I see Lanc as a bow tie person. It’s your new statement.”
Finally she led him into the men’s underwear and sleep wear. He remonstrated when she picked out some brilliantly patterned pyjamas.
“Whoa. That’s pretty bold,” he complained. “Can’t we just use old George pyjamas? No one is going to see them anyway.”
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “It’s just that I’m tired of sleeping with old George. But I’m really looking forward to sleeping with new Lancaster!”
They left Holt Renfrew carrying parcels but still managing to walk hand in hand. The sun was shovelling the clouds to one side. There was only a little grey left in some of the shadows. All the rest was an explosion of colours—including the new Lanc. Ah yes, the new Lanc!!!!

7 Responses to “Stolen Identity (Ch. 1)”

  1. Graham says:

    This requires a sequel !!!! Great story but seriously requires further development. Maybe a surprise ending?? Keep it up Lyman ( THE STORY TELLING i MEAN!)

  2. Sandy Stuart says:

    Entertaining, Lyman, and New Year appropriate. Inspired, I bet, by those recent ads showing a vigorous person rising from the empty shell of their former self. Imaginative enough for your forthcoming short story collection.

  3. Cynthia Armour says:

    Good yarn Lyman … and after enjoying one of those champagne cocktails the other day I can certainly understand Lanc’s shlurrrrring after three! What’s most fun is having the time to rest and read while my shiny new hip improves each day.

    I agree that a sequel would be fun … a re-nude love affair between Clare and Lancaster? :-)

  4. Chloe says:

    Lyman, a great approach for one of life’s troublesome problems. You need a twist at the end though. Lancs creative juices have to be brightened into an art form.

  5. Rose says:

    Bravo Lyman. Loved it. Inspiring for everyone to try shed the old skin that no longer does the trick for a happy life and grow into a new skin that is closer to who we might be meant to be …. or dream to be. Just do it.

    Keep it on Lyman.

    May 2011 make all your dreams be dreams come true.

    xo Rose

  6. Silvana Ness says:

    What a lovely romp to start the year, Lyman!

    I like it as it is, actually: a “vignette”. A burst of optimism on a grey day.

    I’m also pretty sure there are many more of these “moments” where this came from, so I look forward to the next burst of imagination.

    Happy New Year!


  7. Rebecca Couch says:

    Loved it, Lyman and can’t wait to turn the page to the sequel!

    Happy New Year and happy writing!

    Lots of love,

    Rebecca XOXOX

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