I was a fool to meddle with someone else’s property. A fool and a jerk, a real jerk. It was New Year’s Eve and I was in Key West, FLA. It was the southernmost NY’s Eve celebration in the continental U.S, but any geographical significance was lost on me. I was simply out of my head from a day of drinking beer and smoking marijuana as we drove from central Florida south all day.

Now it was nearing the hour and I, along with my two friends, was looking for mischief. But isn’t that an innocent-sounding way of saying we were being jerks and messing with peoples’ stuff? Yes, it is. Let’s be clear.

We were all relieving ourselves in a parking lot–bad enough, right there, to be doing so in a public space, darkness and the cover of night notwithstanding. But then, as we finished and turned to go, we walked by a VW bus, and it got much worse. For some idiot reason I tested the doors, which turned out to be unlocked. Suddenly we were in someone else’s car, rummaging around like we belonged there, looking for anything worth the taking. A cooler was on the floor! Surely it held alcohol! The lid flew off, but it proved to be empty. Not ready to give up in my stupidity, I then spied a little something sweet hanging from the rear view mirror, waiting just for me.

A beaded necklace, just two rows of tiny plastic beads, simple and red, with a little-bitty pair of moccasins at the center. I was blown away. I had just finished reading the book “The Tracker” days ago,  a story of a young man growing up in the wilds of southern New Jersey, learning to live off the land from a native elder. I saw this necklace as my prize, spoils of war, if you will. It was waiting there for me to find it, and I had been drawn to it with purpose. I took it and immediately put it on my neck, claiming it was good medicine.

I was such an ass, I wore it that night in our drunken revelry, I wore it as we slept on the beach under a cluster of palm trees. And the next day, as we recovered from the party and made our long drive home, I repeated time and again that it was my medicine, as if I’d won it in honorable battle.

Of course, I hadn’t won it, and of course it wasn’t good medicine. That point would be driven home very shortly. I lived in St. Petersburg, half a state away from Key West, and had been home for barely a week. I came back to my little alley apartment one afternoon to find that my bicycle had been stolen. Just like that.

I swore! I gnashed my teeth! I shook my fists! I railed against evil, proclaiming that it was the lowest of the low to take from someone else. Steal all you want, I don’t care, as long as it’s from the rich, the powerful, the privileged. But don’t steal from some poor slob who’s just trying to get by. I would…that….to…..someone……..Hmmmmm. And in that moment I saw the black hand of Karma rise like a cartoon colossus from Key West, stretch hundreds of miles across space, and set things right by making my bike disappear.

Sure, maybe I was foolish for not locking the bike while I was at work. But I know what happened. I meddled where I shouldn’t have, and I was meddled in return.