Kelly I. Hitchcock
She Writes Press
Paperback, 978-1647423735, 240 pgs.
June 21, 2022
“You can’t expect to move forward if all you’re willing to do is step back.”
Hiding in plain sight takes skill and dedication, but anonymity often comes at a price and can only be maintained for so long. For 25-year-old Ann Josephson, stealing random items from the Percival O’Shaughnessy Community Center in Johnson County, Kansas, is too easy and apparently necessary to keep her social anxiety at bay. Who would suspect a nondescript young woman, who works out at the gym almost every day, of petty theft? What thief would return to the scene of the crime over and over, expertly nicking things from under everyone’s nose? With the pile of stolen items growing in a spare room in her apartment, Ann experiences a subtle internal shift after swiping a man’s green cardigan with an iPhone in the pocket. While Ann does not live in her wealthy parents’ basement, as is common with the Millennial stereotype, she does rely on their money, which will only continue if she attends her weekly therapy sessions. Will joining social workouts at the gym, as her therapist suggests, be the antidote to her social awkwardness and pilfering tendencies? When Joe at the gym asks Ann to fill a slot on a dodgeball team, her self-destructive routine starts to drift.
Community Klepto by Kelly I. Hitchcock is a humorous yet wistful look at how social anxiety can be quite difficult to control and to conceal. Ann spends almost all her free time at the community gym, where she blends in simply by her constant presence, but is she as invisible as she thinks? Through Ann’s point of view, Hitchcock presents a facetious look into the self-constricted life of a young, privileged woman who silently judges others at the gym based on their appearance and attitude. As Ann sidesteps obliquely through a few new relationships and joins some group exercise classes and the dodgeball team at the gym, her tendency to swipe stuff diminishes, but is she getting better or just inching toward profound detection and consequences?
“For most people, working out is the thing they do to block out the rest of the world. For me, it’s pretty much the only way I am a part of it.”
Texas-resident Hitchcock offers unique prose that is quite comic and engaging but with an underlying morose tone, providing the overall fiction with plenty of depth and conflict. As both the protagonist and antagonist, Ann is a broken soul who steals to quell her anxiety, with careless owners making it too easy for her to grab their unattended possessions. Ann also exercises somewhat maniacally, perhaps to sweat out the guilt for the daily heists and the socially inept demons that torment her. The kickboxing class that Ann joins later in the story provides some interesting imagery. The instructor tells the class to attack their invisible opponents, but as Ann punches at her reflection in the gym’s mirror, she cracks after realizing she is her own visible-invisible opponent. Ann has been fighting her identity and self-worth all along, harming both herself and the people from whom she steals in the process.
Ann’s story culminates into a bittersweet pile of residue from her actions and inactions, leaving the reader feeling satisfied at the outcome but still saddened by the knowledge that this work of fiction reflects the reality for many who struggle socially because they have too much time on their hands and money at their disposal but no real direction or purpose. Community Klepto is the perfect amalgam of cautionary tale, witty narration, and pure entertainment that will appeal to both discerning and casual readers alike.
“If I never talk to people, I never have to lie.”
Kelly I. Hitchcock is a literary fiction author and poet. She has published several poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works in literary journals and is the author of the coming-of-age novel The Redheaded Stepchild, a semi-finalist in the literary category for The Kindle Book Review's "Best Indie Books of 2011," and Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. Her work has appeared in Clackamas Literary Review and Foliate Oak Literary Journal, in anthologies by Line Zero and Alien Buddha Press, and more. Kelly holds a BA in creative writing from Missouri State University. She has five-year-old identical twins and a full-time job, so writing and picking up LEGO are the only other things she can devote herself to. She lives in the Austin, Texas area.