To Placate Frustration

Photo courtesy of I-5 Design

Photo courtesy of I-5 Design

-1-

“Candy and masturbation can only do so much to placate frustration,” Explained John from the driver’s seat of a rusted 1983 Lincoln Continental. A Colt .22 Diamondback lay across his lap.

“What kind of candy?” Max asked, sitting in the passenger seat.

“I really like those chocolate Riesens.”

“Those are good.”

“They are, but it’s not enough anymore.” The motionless Continental was parked amidst the matinee patrons of the suburban strip mall’s AMC Theater.

“Well it’s better than the alternative.”

“And that would be?” John questioned.

“I don’t know,” Max smiled like a little boy asking for a cookie. “How about robbing a bank?”

John wore a yellow track suit with black piping. He had received it from a nearly forgotten aunt a few Christmases ago. It made him look like a bumblebee and was odd in contrast to his generally earth-toned wardrobe. “I’ve always wanted to rob something ever since I was a kid and saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the movie they robbed a train, but there isn’t anything good on trains anymore. A bank is where it’s at.”

“You see Dead Presidents? That one’s good too.” Max wore blue jeans and a pink zip-up hoody he had picked up from St. Vincent de Paul. The hoodie had the insignia for Curves Women’s Gym over the right breast.

Condensate fogged the windows of the Continental. “When we get caught, and it’s inevitable, I’m going to tell the judge that it was just too much trouble not robbing the bank.”

“We’re getting different lawyers. My defense is that you made me do it.”

“I’ve been a scapegoat before,” Said John.

“What about prison?” Max asked, having not considered that as a possibility.

“What about it?”

“Have you considered your time in a concrete box, demoralized and sodomized?”

“Yes.”

“And?” Max stretched out the word the same way grammar school teachers ask in order to draw out a response.

“I’m trying not to think that far ahead.”

“My defense is that you brainwashed me. Maybe I’ll get sent to a mental institution instead.” A black pistol grip belonging to a Smith and Wesson .38 poked out from the pocket of Max’s hoodie.

“You remember what Apollo Creed said in that Rocky movie where Stallone fights Mr. T?”

“Yeah”

“There is no tomorrow. There is no tomorrow.”

“Very zen of you.” The notion did nothing for Max’s new concern.

“You ready?”

“You don’t want to rethink this?”

John connected eyes with Max, “You don’t have to be here.”

“What else is there?” Max conceded, “You’re right it really is too much trouble not to do it.”

John turned over the Windsor V8 engine. The old beast gargled and coughed then lurched from its parking spot.

The bank in question was the Wells Fargo located in a standalone building at the other end of the parking lot. The building had housed a bank well before Max and John were born. First it was a local credit union, then a regional lender, before being bought out by the larger financial institution. The exterior was gray painted brick.

The drive only lasted one hundred yards. As they pulled into a nearby parking stall, Max asked “You know Cat from Mrs. Helms English class used to work here?”

“It is really all about connections, networking.” John shut off the Continental and popped his driver side door.

Max followed suit and exited the car. His left hand found the grip of his gun.

Johns slid his weapon into his elastic waistband but kept his hand against it so it would not slip. The steel barrel rested in the space between his cock and his thigh. Instantly his member engorged rock hard. For a split second John questioned his heterosexuality.

“What’s the plan?” Max asked as the two men made their way towards the target.

“Shoot visible cameras. Gather cash. Try not to kill anyone that isn’t a douchebag.”

“Douchebag okay to shoot. Non-douche not okay. Got it.”

-2-

At nine-forty-five in the morning John sat on a paisley couch eating Lucky Charms dry from the box. He watched Drew Carey on The Price Is Right and yelled numbers at the self-loading baseball launcher.

The first floor apartment stunk from the unchecked black mold. The furnishings were sparse: a coffee table, television on a small book shelf, a stand up light and the couch. The hardwood floor was dusty with tumbleweeds of lint that would roll around anytime someone opened the front door.

On the coffee table piled a collection of termination notices. In all there were nine dated over the last calendar year. The first two were from tech firms dealing in digital security, John’s chosen field. After he was dismissed from two different locations for unruly conduct he found it impossible to find a similar job. The remaining seven termination letters ran the gamut of shitty vocations. A barista at a coffee chain. Telemarketer for a timeshare company. Front desk at a car rental location. Bagger at a grocery store. McDonald’s. Taco Bell. Popeye’s.

After the two Price is Right finalists competed in the showcase and before the soap operas, John scanned through the channels. Soon he came across Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid just as B. J. Thomas started to sing “Raindrops Keeps Falling on My Head.”

By the end of the song John had used his cell phone to call Max.

-3-

“Get your faces on the floor and your asses in the air!” Max yelled at the frightened cluster of humanity. Two tellers stood behind three inches of bulletproof glass one dropped to the floor but a mousey blonde remained standing. The bank manager, a loan officer, a security guard and four patrons panicked in the lobby,

The security guard stood near the teller’s windows. He reached for a 9 millimeter, but before he could get it out of his holster, John fired. The bullet burrowed into the guard’s trachea. He fell to the floor clutching his neck. The reverberation of the gun shot caused a chorus of screams.

Max trained his pistol on a muscular man wearing a Fox Racing shirt and Corona ball cap. The man had not taken the initial warning to lay down with the other patrons. “I was told I could shoot the douchebags?”

Fox Racing started to sob, “I’m not a douche. I’m sorry. I’m not a douche. Please don’t kill me.”

“Fine.” Max dropped his aim. “Get down on the deck! Fucking cry baby.”

John aimed at a black dome hanging from the overheads. It shattered and rained plastic on a young female teller. He then shot two more visible domes near the doors.

The bank manager, a woman in grey and white pants suit lay next to a desk, “Just take the money and leave! You’re scaring people!”

“And you must be the one in charge.” John said. He reached down with his free hand and gathered up loose fabric from the back of woman’s blazer. John pulled trying to lift her but was not strong enough for the desired effect. “Stand up.”

“Don’t kill me,” gasped the bank manager.

“I don’t want to kill anyone. Not really.” John held the woman close and walked her towards the teller windows. “I hate this actually. This would be way more comfortable if the person in charge was a man. I despise violence against women. I really do.”

Terror and confusion staggered the Bank manager, “Wha … What?”

“Just tell your tellers to handover a bunch of cash. I don’t want one of those dye bundles that blows up all over the place when we leave. In fact no bundles, just loose bills. It doesn’t really matter how much,” John instructed.

Max swept his .38 around the lobby scanning for movement.

The Bank manager did as she was told and demanded the Teller to supply the loose cash.

The mousey blonde teller in a blue striped cashmere sweater, stuffed a handful of bills through a thin slot under the bulletproof glass.

“Is that all we’re taking?” Max asked.

John looked over his shoulder at Max, “It’s not really about the money, is it?”

The teller continued to stuff bills through the slot, “You guys are not what I thought you’d be.”

“What the fuck does that mean?!” Max screamed.

John echoed, “Yeah, what does that mean?”

“I mean, I thought you’d be more professional, you know like the movies or something.” The teller pointed over at Max, “Look at that guy, he’s wearing a pink sweatshirt.”

“She is right.” John agreed still holding the bank manager.

“This is a half-ass commitment, at best!” Max shrieked. “You said let’s rob a bank. I said, why not? I don’t have anything going on. It wasn’t like we spent months planning this shit. It’s totally on whim. Totally half-assed bullshit.” Max grew redder and he drew deep breaths between sentences. “In fact, take the money, drop the lady and let’s get going. This is stupid.”

“I told you, you didn’t have to be here,” reiterated John. He let go of the bank manager who remained standing by John’s side unsure of what to do next. With his hand now free he grabbed at the loose cash extruding from the teller window and stuffed it into his track suit pockets.

Out of frustration Max pointed his gun into the overhead and shot twice. “You’re fucking right. I don’t have to be here. I hadn’t really thought it through when you asked. But it wasn’t until that bitch behind the glass said something that I realized how silly this all was.”

“What did you think would happen?”

“Have you ever seen Heat?”

From Fox Racing laying the floor came, “Dude, that movie’s boss.”

The yelling had calmed Max and now he was near deflated. “Thanks, douche.”

“Let’s get out of here,” implored John. “I’ve done the bank robbery thing. I’m good now.”

Max hung his head and slunk out the door they came in. John followed. Sirens could be heard somewhere approaching quickly.

“You killed a guy,” stated Max.

John shook his head, “I don’t think he’s dead.”

They walked bristly and without a care to the Continental as if they had been visiting a friend.

“We’re going to jail, aren’t we?” Max asked.

“It is very probable.”

As the two approached the car they heard a loud echoing crack.

Max jumped, “What the fuck!”

John ducked and spun around to see where the noise came from.

Standing in the open doorway of the bank stood the mousey blonde teller with the security guard’s 9 millimeter in hand. She fired another round and hit the trunk of the Continental.

“Fuck!” John barked. “Get behind the car.”

Another two shots rang out. Screams came from all around the strip mall.

“Bitch shot me,” declared Max.

John circled the vehicle creating a physical barrier between him and the shooter. From where he squatted he could see Max holding his belly with both hands. Blood turned the pink hoodie a dark maroon. In the confusion he forgot he still held the Colt Diamondback. He only had two shots left.

Another shot from the 9 millimeter slugged into the rear of the Continental.

John poked his head up and tried for a clear shot. He estimated he crouched thirty feet away from the teller. The first round John shot shattered a pane of glass in a door adjacent to his target. He took aim again, breathed deep and focused on the teller. Squeezing the trigger the Diamondback’s hammer slammed down releasing the final bullet. The round ricocheted off the exterior grey brick. Out of some remote hope John pulled the trigger again and again, only clicks of hammer signifying the end of John’s ammunition.

Max lay in a crumpled heap. The blood that was not immediately sopped up by his hoodie filled in the cracks of the black pavement of the parking lot.

Hiding behind the Continental, John heard impending clacks of high heels. He curled into as small of an object as he could and closed his eyes tight. The footsteps stopped. Two rapid shots fired at close range. John could only imagine that those bullets were now firmly buried in Max. A few more clacks of the high heels and John knew the teller stood directly in front of him.

John opened his eyes. The 9 millimeter was pointed squarely at his head. Behind it, the mousey blonde teller stood in her blue cashmere sweater.

“This is more like how I thought it would go,” said the teller.

“This is a strange situation and all, but I think I love you.” As John said it he knew for that moment it was true.

“That’s sweet.” And then a loud bang, followed by nothing.