The older I grow, the more I believe that life truly does have a rather funny way of helping one out. I am fortunate enough to find myself in winning situations more often than not. For example, my dad offered to take me to see a film and then out to eat on Friday night. My little brother came along, and we saw “Runner Runner” with Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck. The movie was thoroughly entertaining (and I found Ben Affleck to be particularly engaging … and handsome) and as we were walking out of the theater, we were all intrigued by a small crowd outside. They were all females; seven teenagers and two middle-aged women. Dad, being the ultimate nosey body, asked what was up, and one of the women admitted they were in a bit of a pickle. Apparently, the women had dinner plans and purchased tickets for the teenagers to see “Prisoners.” However, because the movie was rated R, the employee who had sold the tickets insisted an adult over twenty-one years of age accompany the girls for the duration of the film and assured the women there would be a theater check conducted to prevent any kind of circumvention. Dad started laughing because I had in fact argued for seeing “Prisoners,” even though he had already seen it with my little brother a week or so ago. There I was, offered an opportunity to see a movie I was very anxious to see, for free. It isn’t a cosmically epic moment that decides the fates of nations or anything as brilliant, but it is a moment nonetheless. It is also the kind of moment that is readily and often attainable. I wonder if I shouldn’t chase small smile moments such as those, rather than scenes from silver screens.
I know I’ll chase both.
WEEKLY PROMPT #3: “Four men decide to rob a bank. Two of the men intend to take all of the money, even if it means killing their partners.”
Harvey sat at the end of the emptying bar, a tumbler of warming whiskey before him. He held his face in his hands, calloused palms scratched by the thick, rough bristles of hair coating his jawline and chin. It had been a while since the last time Harvey had shaved, most likely because it had been a while since the last time Harvey had identified any reason to shave. Pride in personal appearance had a tendency to go by the wayside when one found himself unemployed and miserable. It was that exact desperation that had led him here, to this seedy bar. Jeff, a buddy from Harvey’s old job, had stopped by the apartment to see how Harvey was making out. The accumulated trash and lack of even basic maintenance had concerned Jeff, and so he sat Harvey down and shared a detailed yet outrageous plan to rob the local bank. Harvey had scoffed until her saw the serious lines of Jeff’s face pull together in an almost convincing display. Inexplicably outraged, Harvey had leapt to his feet and roared about laws and safety and the improbability of making it out of there alive, let alone with the money. Jeff had persistent, however, and calmed Harvey down and inspired him with a dangerous kind of optimism that only desperate and miserable men are capable of. Thus, Harvey had followed Jeff to the Bar Miraculous to meet with the others, some guys named Ben and Matt that Harvey had never seen before. Ben was big and brawny, an intimidating fellow who seemed to dutifully follow Matt wherever and whenever. Matt was significantly smaller than his counterpart, and to see them seated beside one another at the bar would have made John Steinbeck nostalgic for his ranchers in Soledad.
The men had sat side by side at the bar, four in a row. They rarely, if ever, made eye contact with one another, and they talked out of the sides of their mouths, although Harvey hadn’t said a word. He had only nodded or grunted to show his approval and consent. The plan had been developed mainly by Matt, with Jeff tweaking and augmenting here and there as he seemed to be more familiar with the area and even the employees. The next course of action was to meet at Matt’s apartment in two nights, to case the bank the night before. They would also discuss further details and tighten any and all loose ends; dot the Is and cross the Ts as it were. Suddenly and simply, Matt and Ben had excused themselves and left. Jeff clapped Harvey on the shoulder and headed to the restroom. Thus, Harvey had been left to his own devices, to sit and drink and think. He wasn’t sure how he felt, how truly on board he was. Robbers never got away with it, not even in the movies, and they were not professionals by any stretch of the imagination. They were bums, average Joes who had suffered no great tragedy, but only wanted more than what they had faster than they could acquire it. Planning to rob a bank did not make them some antiheroes or anything as glamorous. It did not make them intelligent or brave. If anything, it defined them as lazy and cruel and dumb, dumb for taking such an absurd risk. They were no Dillinger, seemingly stealing from the rich. They were the poor so they would take and keep for themselves; where was the honor in that? Amidst Harvey’s existential sort of crisis, Jeff returned. There was the familiar clap on the shoulder and groan of the aged, wooden bar stool as Jeff reclaimed his seat.
“So what do you think? How are you feeling?”
Harvey shrugged and took the tumbler before him in his hand. Rather than sip from it, he moved his wrist to swirl the alcohol and he pensively watched the liquid lap against the sides. “I don’t know, man. It’s awfully risky.”
“It is,” Jeff conceded, “but look at us, man. Look at our lives, for Christ’s sake. We work too God damn hard to be this fucking poor.” He drank deeply from the bottle before him. “Shit, they kicked you to the curb. How long do you figure you’ll kick around, practically begging for a job, any job, even if it’s below your pay grade and skill level? What way is that for anyone to live?”
“I agree, you know I do, but –”
“Matt has everything figured out, Harvey. He has it timed to the fucking second, I shit you not. As long as we stick to the time table, we’ll be fine, just about untouchable.” Jeff smiled. “What have you got to lose?”
Harvey was not amused. “Oh, I don’t know; my life? My freedom?” In fact, Harvey was only sarcastic and bitter.
“It’s a solution to a problem,” Jeff persisted. “We need money, so we take money. We’re talking enough to get the hell out of dodge and start over. We can be whoever we want to be. We don’t have to be losers who go home alone night after night in cars that barely start in clothes off the clearance rack.” He looked down at the wooden grain of the countertop of the bar. He lowered his voice. “And if we knock off Matt and Ben, pin it on them and silence them, we can get away scot free.”
Harvey’s eyes went wide. “What?”
“The only thing holding you back is getting caught, right? Of course it is; that makes sense! So let’s eliminate that and we are suddenly completely uninhibited!”
“Stealing is one thing, Jeff, but murder is another. I can’t –”
“You’re going to go all noble on me, really? Do I have to remind you about the office Christmas party? Nancy was all sorts of messed up, but that didn’t stop you from –”
“Shut up,” Harvey said. He had intended it to be a command, but it had been more of a desperate plea. That’s all he was, was desperate. Jeff knew it, and seized upon the opportunity.
“Come on, man. They’re nothing to us. We could be doing the universe a karmic favor. What do you say?”
Harvey looked at himself for a long, long moment in the cracked mirror above the shelves of liquor.