I read this really cool short story in middle school about a heist that gets foiled because the thief unknowingly crosses the international dateline to where it's the day before the crime happened.

  • I've edited to use a better title more descriptive of the work. Could you edit the post to add in more details? For example, when did you read this i.e. when was you in middle school? Also is time travel involved here? I.e. when he crosses the international dateline that means the crime hadn't happened at all yet? – TheLethalCarrot Oct 10 '18 at 15:51
  • It's not clear at this time that this is a story with a significant SFF element. If not, this question would be better ask on the Literature stack. – RDFozz Oct 10 '18 at 16:29
  • 1
    @RDFozz There's potential for time travel and if the answer is correct it certainly is SFF-nal. I'd give it the benefit of the doubt. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 10 '18 at 16:30
  • @TheLethalCarrot - Just including fairly standard info for a story-id with no obvious SFF-nal elements listed. I suspect I'd loaded the page before your answer was posted, or I probably wouldn't have bothered. – RDFozz Oct 10 '18 at 17:35
  • @RDFozz: I actually did vote to close before I found and posted my answer, then I retracted it since it suddenly became SF by virtue of Mars. Funny, that. – FuzzyBoots Oct 10 '18 at 20:05

This is probably Arthur C. Clarke's "Trouble with Time".

Main plot involves a foiled theft attempt of a valuable museum piece in the generally crime free human colony on Mars. Thief wanted to take "Siren Godess" from the Museum in Meridian City on Mars.

This Siren Godess [sic] is sort of an enigma. It's the "head of a young woman, with slightly oriental features, elongated earlobes, hair curled in tight ringlets close to the scalp, lips half parted in an expression of pleasure or surprise". It's "eight or nine inches high". It was "discovered in the Mare Sirenium by the Third Expedition, AD 2012 (AM 23)." Baffling aspect - thing that makes it so valuable - is that it's very old & of Martian origins!!

Punchline of the story is the reason thief, Danny Weaver, gets caught. It's curious, but I had difficulty buying it. You see - he thought he had all night after Saturday closing & all of Sunday to do the stealing; museum is empty during this period, & city deserted.

Now this Meridian City "gets its name because it's exactly on the longitude one hundred & eighty degrees" - this line sort of divides the city into East & West. And the administrators of this city, in their infinite wisdom, have allowed the little covered city to have two time zones - across this diving line! OK, crazy, but I'll accept it. So the time difference between the two halves should be 30 minutes or at most 1 hour. But we are told the difference is an entire day! When it's morning Sunday in one half, it's only Saturday morning in the other half! Update, 15 August 2008: An anonymous guest clarifies in this comment how the two sides can be on different days - 7 am in the eastern half, & 6:30 am the previous day in the western half. Thanks friend.

It's this confusion that made the thief - a visitor from earth - get caught. On the day of theft, if was a Sunday in his hotel & only Saturday in the museum! Rather than expected empty museum, thief saw the staff entering in the morning while he was still inside!

I found it by searching for short story thief "international date line", which brought up a Quora article about the "international date line", which had a comment from someone saying that Arthur C. Clarke had a story with this plotline which mentioned "Meridian East"

Someone, I believe it was Arthur C. Clarke, wrote about a thief who plotted to rob a museum on Mars in the town of Meridian West. He sneaked in before dawn on Sunday, pulled off the heist, then came out to find that it was Monday. He barely made it back to his hotel in Meridian East, where it was still Sunday. Because as the narrator pointed out, with no oceans on Mars, somebody has to live with the International Date Line.

So I searched for clarke "meridian east" and that led me to a Google Books entry for collected stories by Arthur C. Clarke. From there, I just searched for the story itself to find a good summary.

  • If this is the correct answer, you can accept it by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons. – FuzzyBoots Oct 10 '18 at 16:22
  • 3
    It's a shame that this story needs to take place on Mars out of necessity. We could have had the same situation on our own planet; but oh no, they made the international dateline curve around so that it doesn't touch any landmasses. What a waste of opportunity! – Mr Lister Oct 10 '18 at 18:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.