The first thing they stole from him was his laughter, for laughter is a small thing, and easily missed. He smiled none the less, and nodded his head in quick humour, but silently.
Next they stole, on silent, creeping feet, the rhythm and fleetness of the dance from his feet. No more did he spin and whirl and skip lightly over the ground, but strode solemnly, soberly, and his feet made little click-clack noises with every step. He did not notice this theft, or not much, or called it ‘weariness’ or ‘maturity’ if he did, and so their thefts continued.
His anger they stole, his quick temper, that flashed so sudden and so quickly for himself and for others, and so he slept easily at night, hands folded peacably above an unturmoiled belly.
In darkness and through the years, four years of days and nights and lidless eyes behind square glasses, they stole his joy (and left contentment), they stole excitement (and left anticipation), they stole one shining thing after another and hid them away to glitter and glisten in their dark towers and rooty holes, where they might watch them of a night, or run them through their calloused fingers when they returned from wearisome digging. The more they stole, the less he noticed, but stooped a little bit more, or dwindled, or looked with indifferent eyes on the wonders of the world.
His hope they left for the end, because hope is a large thing and difficult of theft, but, that, too, they took, and laughed at its small and tender beauty, and he shrugged his shoulders in the mornings and yawned and looked through eyes of grey.