Of Mice and Men

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On being rich.

Published October 6, 2013 by mandileighbean

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.”

bankrobbery1THIEVES

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.

bankrobbery

On wishes.

Published April 9, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was a great day. I had an absolutely wonderful time with my oldest sister and her family at the beach. Afterwards, I made myself an absolutely delicious spaghetti dinner. You know, sometimes, I think there’s no greater feeling than when you’re so completely stuffed with pasta that your chest becomes tight and breathing is momentarily impeded. Then again, maybe that’s just me. I had some beer and enjoyed some really great movies, too. I just watched this one movie titled, “All Good Things” starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Lagella. Apparently, it’s based upon the true story of the missing person case of Katie Marks. I’m currently investigating the veracity of the facts as portrayed in the movie, but OH MAN – it was so entertaining! Gosling and Dunst had a totally believable tortured chemistry; Gosling himself is so beautiful but there is something mysterious, and possibly dangerous, lurking beneath the surface, and that is truly where the attraction is. I really believe that a strong majority of women prefer attractive men who are vague and impossible to fully figure out. Hell, I’d even say that we all prefer a partner who keeps us on our toes and keeps us guessing. If there is no mystery, than what is left? In my opinion, that complacency I so fear is left. Also, that movie (for me, at least) really proves that well-known saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” It had me captivated because the male protagonist is mind-boggling; suspected of murder, cross-dressing, pretending to be mute, confessing to murder … he’s a strange, strange character who lives, breathes and currently resides in New York City. He’s a veritable goldmine of inspiration. There has to be more out there, no?

Excuse these ramblings – I had a few beers with dinner. That, coupled with the movies I watched, seem to have inspired me and stimulated my creative neurons. I hope you enjoy the result.

🙂

THE PROMPT: “Three Wishes”
You bump into a genie and she offers to grant you three wishes. What are your wishes and why?

THE PIECE:

Sean was on his way out; leaving the party that was, by all other accounts, still raging. He had to be up early the next morning for work and unlike some of his friends, he couldn’t meddle through the day hung over. A couple of years ago, in college, he would have certainly stayed past 2:00AM and convinced everyone else to stay as well. With an air of nostalgia hanging about his small smile, his feet hit the pavement outside the apartment building, and headed towards the right. Thinking back to college kept Sean distracted and as one foot was put in front of the other, he was unaware of the sights, sounds and smells around him – the same sights, sounds and smells that captivated so many others. Mindlessly, he reached inside his coat for his battered pack of cigarettes. Not pausing as he lit the cigarette he had chosen to dangle from thin lips, he bumped hard into another passerby. The cigarette fell to the ground, wet from the rain just an hour or so early, and his spirits fell with it. He looked to the stranger with a markedly adolescent pout.

“Oh hey, I’m sorry,” the stranger replied. The reply was not at all what Sean had expected – and not at all what Sean would have offered – so he focused on the human being before him. She was very thin with long, dark hair. He wondered if she had styled it or something, like before the rain came, because now it just hung heavily. Her eyes were ringed in dark, smudged eyeliner and mascara and Sean also wondered if she had been walking in the rain. Did she not have a car? Was she poor? Why was she being so nice? She pulled her hair back as best she could, but really, all it did was stick to her fingers and the wet mass was now surely knotted.

“It’s my fault, really. I should have been looking where I was going. Truth is I’m coming from a party and things are fuzzy,” he said, smiling weakly. Stepping closer, Sean asked, “Are you okay? You’re all wet. Do you need me to call you a cab or something?”

The lines in the young woman’s face seemed to lengthen and become smooth. A change of emotion was passing over her, but Sean was not sober enough to follow it. Her tone was kind when she said, “That’s very sweet of you, but really, I’m okay. I’m on my way to a party, too.” She indicated what she was wearing and Sean felt very stupid for not noticing earlier – she looked like Jasmine from “Aladdin.” The light blue bikini-kind of top with the billowing pants that rode the hips, complete with sandals, made for the perfect Arabian princess.

“I like your costume. Jasmine, right?”

She looked down to her feet, as if she were embarrassed. “No – actually, I’m supposed to be a genie.”

“I see that,” Sean suddenly insisted. “I totally see that! It’s well done.”

She laughed and shrugged good-naturedly. “You really are sweet.” She paused for a moment, perhaps to consider him, before she said, “Is there something I can do for you? Do you need more cigarettes?” Her dark eyes lighted at the fallen nicotine between them.

Sean shook his head. “Nah, I should quit anyway. I’m always game for three wishes.”

“Three wishes?” The young repeated the words because she was confused. Sean had thought he was being clever.

“Genies give three wishes, right?” he explained, feeling more and more stupid. How dare he try to be anything but buzzed and tired?

The young woman stood tall before him, straightening her back and squaring her shoulders. She shook her long, dark hair and looked incredibly proud. In a way that was more impressive than insulting, she looked down her nose at Sean and said, “Your wish is my command.”

“Okay,” Sean laughed. “First, I’d like enough money to pay off my student loans and never work again. I don’t have to be crazy rich, just comfortable.”

Nodding, she crossed her arms over her chest. “Why?”

Sean laughed. “Genies don’t have to know why. They never ask for reasons in the movies.”

She didn’t laugh or smile. She remained stoic.

“Well,” Sean began haltingly, “I hate my job. I only show up to the office for the paycheck because in this society, you need money. You need money for food and clothes and shelter, and you need it to be able to do what you want. For example, I would love to spend a week in every state in this country. I could do it in a year, probably, so I have the time. Hell, I have nothing but time. I have the desire, the opportunity, but not the means. I would need to pay for gas, food, hotels and to do that, I would need an income, but there is no income when you’re road-tripping. I just want to live, you know?”

“You have two more wishes.”

Sean was less amused and this time, answered brusquely. “I’d want the same for my family. Immediate family, that is; mom, dad and my two sisters and their kids.”

“Why?”

“I thought that would be obvious,” Sean sighed. “It’s because I love them and I care about them, want to share my happiness with them, and want them to have the same opportunities.”

She took a step backwards. “You have one more.”

“Look, this isn’t fun anymore. I’m sorry I ran into you. Enjoy your party.” Sean made to walk past the young woman, but she blocked his path, moving deftly. After all, she was sober.

“You have one more, Sean. Use it,” she said.

“Fine; I would love to bump into Christine Horton from high school and tell her I’m sorry. I’d tell her that I really did like her, and that I should have been man enough to admit that. I’d tell her I’m sorry no one would sit with her at lunch, and that I didn’t know they were going to read her diary out loud at the lunch table, or post copies of entries in the bathroom. I wish for this because it still bothers me. I think about her all the time and the awful things I did. I’d want her to forgive me.”

She softened and seemed to shrink before him. “There was no hesitation on that one. It’s late, you’ve been drinking and yet, that was surprisingly lucid and specific.” Covering her mouth with her hand, she mumbled, “You’ve been holding on to that one for a while.”

Sean pushed past her. “Goodnight; I’m sorry I knocked into you.” Decidedly grumpy, Sean was walking fast, mentally kicking himself for leaving the party at all. He had been so carefree and had so been looking forward to falling into bed with a dumb grin stretched across his face. Now he was bitter and regretful. Why couldn’t he have bumped into some hot chick? Why was it always the crazies he met? Why hadn’t he left well enough alone? Why had he tried to impress her with the cleverness he didn’t possess, drunk or sober?

Sean made it home some time later, crashing into bed.

He awoke late for work the next morning, just barely making it to the staff meeting on time. The meeting was long, tedious and awful. To avoid falling asleep at his desk, Sean decided to head out for lunch. He was devoid of cash, so he made a quick stop at the ATM. Green in hand, he waited for his receipt. It printed and as Sean turned to walk away, he read the information.

There was suddenly $500,000 in his checking account.

 

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