Word Count: 2,792
A/N: When badgering my sister for ideas about what I ought to write about, she suggested shoplifting. Therefore, I decided to take her suggestion, and write a series of stories about shoplifting. The first one is about Naruto stealing food from the grocery store because he doesn't have the money to buy it. I had a lot of fun thinking about the logistics of how he gets his money, and how he's taken care of when he has no parents.
I'm not sure what other shoplifting scenarios I'll write, but when I do, I'll post them here. If you have any ideas, or anything you'd like to see, let me know, and I'll consider it.
Flopping onto his narrow bed and clutching his abdomen, Naruto groans. He digs his head into his pillow, and gnaws his bottom lip as if it's food. His stomach is completely empty—he hasn't eaten since yesterday, and both yesterday and today involved some very physically intense training at Ninja Academy. Naruto doesn't usually eat much—a bowl of cereal, a cup of red bean broth, and a few cups of ramen are usually enough to get him through the day—but he has to eat something. Unfortunately, he's run out of food since his last trip to the grocery store, and his check is late.
This check is issued to him by the Fire Country government on a monthly basis. A ten-year-old with no parents can't be expected to provide for himself. There was, apparently, some talk about having him adopted by a family outside of Konoha, but this was considered unacceptable for some reason—Naruto doesn't know why. Konoha itself doesn't have a system in place to support its orphans, so Naruto gets welfare checks. The checks are supposed to cover the rent on his apartment, pay for utilities, and electricity, buy him groceries, clothes, and ninja essentials like kunai and shuriken. It never quite covers all that, and he ends up wearing the same few ill-fitting outfits for months on end, borrowing other people's weapons, buying the cheapest food he can find, and swiping napkins from Ichiraku Ramen to use as toilet paper. He often goes without utilities or electricity. By the end of the month, he's usually completely broke and out of food.
The check is supposed to come on the first of each month. Sometimes, it's a day or two early, or a day or two late. Naruto allows for a little lateness when he plans how to spend it, and he tries to have a few packages of ramen stored away for when it's late. This time, it's late by more than just a day or two. It's been a week since it was supposed to come, and Naruto hasn't gotten anything in the mail except unpayable bills. Yesterday, he ran out of food. He'd eaten about a third of Hinata's lunch, which she offered to him when she noticed he hadn't brought anything, but that was barely enough to get him through the school day. He had hoped to ask Iruka to buy him dinner, but Iruka hadn't come to school that day, and he'd left the class in the charge of a white-haired chuunin who had looked at Naruto with those eyes—those eyes that said, you're inferior, I hate you, you're the grime beneath my shoe and I want you dead. With those eyes trained on him all day, he didn't have the nerve to go to Iruka's house and ask him, all Naruto could do was plod straight home.
His stomach growls again, the sound echoing in the cavern of his empty gut. Naruto doesn't know when the check is coming, so he doesn't know how long he's going to have to go without food. If there were a fixed date, he'd be able to deal with it, but this has the potential to be endless. The check might not come at all. They might have decided...no, that's unthinkable. They wouldn't take away his only means of survival, even if he is a hated monster. To the bureaucracy in the Fire Country, he's just a name and a case number. They have no reason to hate him, no reason to look at him with burning eyes. He sighs. He's going to have to go without dinner again if he doesn't figure something out soon.
After lying on his bed for a few minutes trying to ignore his snarling stomach, Naruto shuffles to the kitchen. He put a small deposit on his utility bill last week, enough, apparently, to keep them from shutting off the water. This works if he talks to Sato-san, but not if he talks to Suzuki-san, so he always tries to pay with Sato-san if he doesn't have enough to pay the bill. Right now, he has water. It isn't food, but it will fill up his stomach and help him think. Naruto fishes a plastic cup out of his overfilled sink, and rinses it for a few seconds before filling it up with murky water. He drains the cup, slams it down on the counter, and shouts, "wow, that sure was delicious!" into the air. There is, of course, no one there to answer. He feels full for about thirty seconds before his stomach starts to growl again.
"Let's see..." he mutters, pacing around the kitchen with his hands behind his back. "I could go fishing! Except...I don't have a fishing pole...and I don't know how to fish...or cook fish. Or prepare it so it's fit to cook...I could go pick berries? Except it isn't berry season..." He trails off. He doesn't know what to do, except ask Iruka to feed him, but he's asked him to do that too many times in the past few weeks, and anyway, Iruka was probably out of school for a reason. Maybe he's off on a mission, or maybe he's sick. He shouldn't pester him, but then, what other choice does he have? He heaves a sigh, and fills up another glass of water. He could always steal something from the grocery store.
That actually sounds like a good idea.
Outside, the air is thick and soupy, making Naruto sweat inside of his orange jumpsuit. He wanted to leave wearing just a tee shirt, but if he's planning on shoplifting, he needs someplace to hide the loot. His jumpsuit has six huge pockets sewed into the lining. Not that he's planning to steal enough to fill six huge pockets, but his tee shirts don't have room for anything, and if he puts stolen goods in his pants pockets, they will stick out of the top. The jumpsuit is pretty flashy, but he wears it often enough that people associate it with him, and look away.
It takes ten minutes to get to the grocery store. Naruto walks inside with his heart slamming against his ribcage like a child throwing a tantrum. The fluorescent lights make his eyes hurt. The first thing he sees is the produce section. Though attractively arranged, is easy enough for him to ignore. He doesn't like fruit, or vegetables. What makes his stomach shriek is the shelf of cookies in the next row, and the bags of candy perched next to them. Naruto likescandy. After dancing his hands over a bag for a few seconds, he stalks over to the next row in search of something he could actually eat for dinner. The noodle aisle has an entire shelf dedicated to different kinds of ramen, so he head there. Naruto prefers cup ramen to the kind that requires your own bowl, because the burners on his stove won't turn on half the time, and when they do sometimes the flames lick so high that he almost burns himself. The styrofoam cups are too big to fit in his pockets without bulging, though, so he slips a slim package of beef ramen under his shirt. No one notices, and so, grinning widely, he takes three more, then moves onto the miso ramen and loads up on that, too. This is too easy. He could take something else. He could take candy. He could take anything he wants, and no one would notice. After all, no one wants to look at him.
After cramming his pockets with bags of chocolate and gummy worms while trying to block his actions from a fellow shopper with his back, Naruto wanders around the shop in search of something else to steal. He considers taking some fruit, but decides against it—fruit is too bulky, and anyway it will probably rot before he gets around to eating it. The only fruit Naruto has ever liked is the huge, fuzzy peach that Iruka had given him once after class. There's no point in stealing something he probably won't eat. Vegetables are out for the same reason. Naruto doesn't understand why anybody eats those vile things. He wanders over to the chip aisle, and stuffs a small bag of shrimp chips under his shirt. At this point, the edges of bags are poking out and threatening to fall. Fellow customers are avoiding his eyes, and whispering about him, but none of them dare to confront him. That's how it always is—people ignore him, until the moment when they snap and start throwing cans at him as he flees down the street. That's better. At least when they curse at him and try to kill him, they acknowledge him.
He sticks his tongue out at an old woman in an oversized sweater who is eying him with disdain, and pulls his eyelid down. He scampers over to the next aisle and grabs the first item he finds—a box of tampons—and stuffs it down his overburdened jacket. Ramen, chips, candy, and the tampons cascade around his feet. His cheeks turn red and he says with a shaky laugh, "I wonder how that got in there!"
He is descended upon by two policemen. One, a tall man with unruly red hair, grabs him from behind, while the other, a potbellied man with a bushy mustache, forms a series of seals that stop Naruto from kicking at the air. It feels like his legs are bound with ropes. "Let me go!" Naruto yelps. "I…I don't know how any of that got there! I didn't do anything!" The potbellied cop rolls his eyes, and tells Naruto that he's going to have to answer to the Hokage. "No, don't tell the Hokage! He's the Hokage, he has more important things to do, right? It's just some candy! Just let me go!" Another series of seals, and Naruto finds himself unable to protest. All he can do is whimper, and stare at the ground.
The redhead says, "normally, we wouldn't bother the Hokage about some petty shoplifting…but if it's you, we have to bring in the big guns." As he speaks, he crushes Naruto's collarbone with his hairy forearm. Under his breath, thinking that Naruto can't hear him, he mutters, "thieving fucking monster." The two of them march Naruto out of the store, his feet dangling a foot off the ground. Inside he's screaming for them to let him go, but he can't say anything, or move.
It's a long trek from the supermarket to the Hokage's office. Each person they pass stares at Naruto with venom in their eyes, but not one person asks where the police are taking him. Whatever is about to happen, they believe that Naruto deserves it. He shuts his eyes and tries not to let their acid hatred burn his skin.
Finally, they arrive in front of the Hokage's door. The potbellied one pounds on it, and when the Hokage answers, confusion welling in his rheumy eyes, the redhead says, "we found Uzumaki here stealing from the grocery store. He took ramen, candy, chips, and a package of tampons." Naruto bites his lip to keep from laughing. "All items have been recovered and replaced. We thought it'd be best if you dealt with it, since it pertains to him…it's not really a regular case. Officer Kagawa did few jutsu on him to keep him from resisting, but they should be wearing off soon. Want us to hit him again before we go?"
"No…thank you, Himura-san, that won't be necessary. I'm sure we can settle this without more force." The Hokage clears his throat, and says, "you can put him down. If it will make you more comfortable, you may remain on standby, but I'd like to talk to Naruto-kun alone." Himura releases Naruto, making him land, hard, on his butt. He groans, rubs the injured area, and tries to stand on his rubbery, jutsu-affected legs. It takes some muscle to make himself move, and some throat-clearing to make himself talk. "Naruto-kun," says the Hokage. "Step into my office, won't you?"
He shuffles in, dreading the verbal lashing he's about to get. No one ever has anything kind to say to Naruto, even when he hasn't done anything wrong. He's a criminal, now, he's broken the law, and the punishment is bound to be severe. Instead of crying, like he wants to, Naruto pastes on a sloppy smile and says, "awww, you guys caught me! Thought I could get away with it…I was practicing being sneaky! 'Cause when I'm going on missions and stuff, I'll have to steal scrolls, right?" He puts his arms, still numb from the jutsu, behind his head. "You guys are good, though! Saw through all my tricks!"
"Naruto-kun, you did not use one single ninja technique that could have prevented you from being caught," growls the Hokage, plopping onto a deerhide chair behind an oak desk. "Although, according to the curriculum that Iruka-sensei presented to me, you ought to have learned several by now." He sighs, and kneads his arthritic fingers together. "However, your academic progress is not what we need to talk about just now. You know that stealing is illegal, right?" Naruto nods, still smiling. He sits down on a wooden chair next to the Hokage's desk. "Well then, why did you do it? If you needed practice with subterfuge, I'm sure you could have asked your teacher for some assistance."
"I…uhh…" Naruto stares at the wooden floor, and knits his eyebrows. He isn't sure how to respond in the face of genuine questions. He was expecting to be yelled at, not for the Hokage to actually care why he did it. Part of him squirms at the thought of telling the truth, and longs to make up nonsense, but he stops himself. A chance to be heard should not be wasted, especially not a chance to be heard by the Hokage. He slumps forward, his goggles nearly grazing his knees, and says, "I was hungry."
"Hungry?" The Hokage lifts a bushy white eyebrow, and purses his lips. "Why didn't you just buy the food, then? Don't tell me you spent your check already?"
"It hasn't come yet," says Naruto, shaking his head. "It was supposed to be here a week ago. I ran out of food, and then I got too hungry to keep waiting. I didn't think they'd miss a few packages of ramen."
"Tampons are not, as I understand it, food." Naruto snickers, then blushes and ducks his head. He tells the Hokage that he just got carried away, and thought it would be funny. "Stealing isn't funny. The owners of the grocery store work hard to run their business, and it isn't fair to undermine that." He sighs, and scribbles something on a notepad. Naruto narrows his eyes to see the writing, but can't get close enough to make it out. "This note gives you permission to return to the store. The owners would be well within their rights to ban you, but I'm going to override that, just this once." He digs into his pocket and produces five 10,000 ryo notes, then shoves the money and the permission slip across the table to Naruto. "Take this, and buy yourself something to eat. You should buy fruit and vegetables in addition to your ramen. I'll get in contact with the office that takes care of your check. Next time it's late, let me know right away, so that you're not in this position again." He shakes his head. "If your landlord gives you any trouble about the rent, have him see me."
Naruto stammers a thank you, and exits the office with a huge grin splitting his face in two.