Please just read it.

It's my favorite book.

You remember that, at least. You must. It annoyed you terribly, do you remember?

Do you remember the time you stole it from me? I do.

You stole your dad's pickup truck to do it. Do you remember the pickup truck? The one that's orange and has the bumper sticker on the back that reads "REPUBLICANS FOR VOLDEMORT." The license plate said TBD 9770. It had a ladder on the back, remember. Your dad sold it to pay for your hospital bills. 

You stole the truck. Then you drove to my house in the middle of the night hoping a police officer wouldn't stop you and find out you were 9. You're thirteen now. But you were 9 then.

No police officer stopped you. And no one realized when you used the ladder on the back of the stolen pickup truck to climb into my bedroom.

If I had to choose the time you'd gotten caught, it would have been then. While you on the ladder, climbing up to my room.

Now remember, I was nine. Nine! So I had the right to sleep with 10 or so stuffed animals. I used to stuff them in my closet before you came over to play, remember?

I should have locked my window. I did in the days after. But it wasn't locked then. So you effortlessly opened the window and crawled in. 

You're lucky I didn't wake when you came in. I still sleep lightly today.

Remember when you snuck over to my house at midnight, right when I turned 10? My mom let you in so you could surprise me. I woke up when you were halfway up the stairs. Remember how upset you were when I was already awake? You were so mad.

But right now we're talking about the time you stole the Phantom Tollbooth. You took it, right out of the glass case I so delicately kept it in, except when I was reading it, of course

You stole it and put it in your jacket pocket. Most jackets can't fit a book in their pockets, but you were wearing the special one with the big pockets on the inside. It was your favorite jacket. You were so sad when your mom declared it too small.

You left then. With my book. Right through the window and down the ladder and you drove away in the orange truck you stole from your father.

That's called breaking and entering. It's illegal. I could have pressed charges, if I had wanted to.

You locked it up. My book. In your green safe. The iron one, with the bad hinge. You had safes for everything, remember? If it held any physical or sentimental value to you, it went into a safe. You had an impeccable memory, so you didn't need to write down the codes. Your dad's been trying to get your things out, to bring to your hospital room, but he doesn't know the codes, and you can't remember them.

I was so sad the next day when it was gone. But after I got over the initial thought, one thing was clear: revenge.

I knew you had stolen it. My parents wouldn't have, and your parents wouldn't have, and if a thief had broken into my room, he would have taken more than just the Phantom Tollbooth. 

So I sought out your house. I walked to my crime, unlike you. I walked with a baseball bat and a bucket of paint.

You weren't home. I don't know where you were, you weren't on the basketball team when you were nine.

Your window was locked, unlike mine. I could have smashed it with the bat, but I wasn't about to rise to that level.

The front door was locked, but the back door wasn't. I didn't need to steal a pickup truck or a ladder, I just walked in.

I knew it was in the green safe, the blue one was empty and those two were the only ones that had been empty before.

I ended up not needing the baseball bat. The hinge was worse than you thought, especially after I took the green safe outside and banged it against the big cluster of small boulders your dad keeps. He had to sell those too.

When you got home later, you found your precious green safe broken and mangled and-most importantly-empty.

Then, as you went into your room, you saw THE PYTHOGOREAN THEOREM in blue paint on your off-white walls, followed by a scalene triangle and A squared+B squared=C squared just for you. You used to draw in your notebook during math, do you remember?

I, however, brought the Phantom Tollbooth home. I put it back in the glass case, but it hasn't moved since then. Occasionally, I check it out from the library on Montgomery St, the one with the bean bag chairs. I'd check it out and take it home. And then I'd read it, looking up every now and then to gaze at my copy-like it's some sort of sacred object.

I come visit you every day, except Thursday. Thursday I have school and then flute and then theater and then it's too late.

I brought gifts today. My most recent school picture, in a frame with my name on it. One of your nurses recommended it. It's so tomorrow, when you wake up, you can at least recognize me when I come to visit you.

And a sketch book, along with some really nice art pencils so you can draw me something. Draw me the sky.

Also, a gift from your basketball team. They all signed a basketball for me to bring you. They know you can't play, but they thought it would be nice for you to have it.

And the Phantom Tollbooth. My copy, the one you stole so long ago. I took it out of the glass case for the first time in four years. I don't need it anymore. So I want you to have it. Pick it up. Read it. Love it. Think about it and talk about it and talk to me about it, even if you don't recognize me. It's yours. Keep it.

The End

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