Yes, I know I haven’t posted in a while (bad blogger, bad), but that’s because I’ve been
playing video games actually writing for a change.
I’ve hit a bit of a wall with my novel, so I’ve been futzing about with some short stuff in order to keep writing regularly. Messing about with different genres and styles and having a go at some flash fiction. I have also (gulp) started submitting pieces to places that might possibly maybe consider publishing some of them. More likely I am invoking a rejectapalooza, but it’s about time I put some actual skin in the game and stopped being a fraidy-pants about it.
So, by way of apology for not posting anything for over a month (cripes, that’s bad), here’s a very silly story I wrote a long time ago. It was my first try at flash fiction, and I haven’t edited or updated it at all, even though I really REALLY want to. Especially since there’s way more of “me” in there than I’d be comfortable with in anything I wrote today.
Life is never simple, despite what the new-agers claim. There is always a spanner in every situation, waiting impatiently to toss itself kamikaze-style into the works. I had a “simple” plan, devised at leisure, to get me out of a situation that nipped constantly at my heels. I was broke, flat broke, and in debt up to my eyeballs (the same eyeballs that had the distasteful task of translating the final demands in their gruesome red ink for my brain’s digestion). I needed money, and needed it quickly. My landlord had taken to muttering (loudly, and if you think mutterings are never loud, you haven’t met him) about eviction. My electricity was on the verge of being cut off, my phone was long since disconnected, some bastard in a pub had stolen my pay-as-you-go mobile (that I couldn’t afford to top-up in any case) and I couldn’t afford my medication. Life sucked.
I had followed all the rules of the welfare people, and was stuck on a merry-go-round of interrogations and accusations while they held the purse strings and I struggled to stay polite. The rent-allowance man said my flat was too big for one person, even though the rent was very low, the medical card people wanted to know how I was surviving on the money I was on, instead of taking pity on me and rushing the card through so I could at least pay for my medication.
Medication, hmmm, I’ve mentioned it twice, I suppose I should explain. I’m mad you see. Mad as a march hare with a side-line in hat design. The doctors call it bipolar disorder, the man on the street calls it manic-depression, and crime-writers (especially James Patterson) see it as a reason for serial murder. Anyway you choose to put it, I am a loon. I tread the line between sanity and outright psychosis by taking a weird cocktail of pills every day. At last count I took 14 of them, yes, 14, and while they don’t always keep me “normal” (and boring), they stop me from chasing people around the supermarket wielding a Coke bottle like a club. I need them, and right now I can’t afford them. The flip side of outright lunacy is depression, not the “my boyfriend left me, I’m so depressed, pass the Haagen-Dazs” type of depression, but the crushing emptiness sort that leaves you bed-ridden and virtually catatonic. I don’t like that either, hence, again, I need my pills.
End of digression. I had three days worth of pills left and no way of getting my mitts on the €53.33 the health board says I must pay each month for my meds, no way that is, unless you count starving for a solid week – I do have to feed my cats, pay off a bit of my bills, and I refuse to live without a decent cup of coffee. So, as irksome golfers say, I was stymied.
That is, I was stymied until I noticed on a recent trip to the bank that they never seem to change the code that allows the cashiers entry to behind the counter, where they keep lovely lovely great wodges of cash. As the law-abiding life was giving me nothing but grief, and literally threatening my sanity, a plan began to form. I make it a habit of scoping out the security systems in banks, always thought it was a benign hobby, sort of camera-spotting, minus the anorak and the acne, but I now believe that somehow I knew it was information I may need to use someday.
So, my local bank, I knew well where the cameras were, I knew the access code to travel from the queue-infested part of the bank, to the part where they kept the money, I knew a lot. All I needed was a plan to get me from one side to the other, back again (with copious amounts of money), and out of the bank and safely home without being nabbed by the Gardaí – that being the tricky part.
I never went into the bank, unless it was with the embarrassing task of withdrawing less than €10 from my pitiful bank account, ergo I went once a week. And the codes never changed. The bank staff were so damn cocky that they didn’t even try to disguise them as they tapped them in on their way back from breaks. So I wondered how to use the information I had gleaned to my own benefit. I pondered it over coffee in the Parlour and began drawing up a plan in the scribble box of The Irish Times’s crossword.
It was a simple plan, as I have said before, simple but elegant. Required a minimum of investment (I had about €3 left for the rest of the week, and sod all money coming to me), a bit of legwork and research (well, I had nothing but time), and should reap a healthy reward. All very well and good apart from the little well-intentioned voice that whispered incessantly into my left ear that it’s not a very good, or a very nice thing, to rob a bank. The little voice at my right ear had a very different opinion, it informed me that I was not fit to work (thank you to my psychiatrist for pointing that out), that I had paid taxes for years and the government was dragging its heels in paying any of that money back to me, I deserved some cash goddammit, deserved a better existence than this hand-to-mouth lark.
And so the debate raged, not aided by the fact that I’m generally a very mild-mannered person, afraid even to ask the junkie scum in the flat above me to turn down their godawful MOR music (junkies listen to MOR music, another wonderful fact I have learned) at 3am. How in the hell was I supposed to summon up the gumption, the bare-faced cheek to rob a bank???
Another problem, I had no weapon, guns were out of the question, hadn’t the foggiest where to try to get one from, and besides I was pretty sure they cost more than €3. Knives? The sharpest one I had had issues with cutting cheese, so that was out of the picture too. I did have a bright pink water pistol that I used to fill with ink and use to threaten punters during my short-lived stint as a bouncer. If I spray-painted it black it would pass as a gun, if no-one looked at it too closely. So I went to the Art and Hobby shop and got myself a small spray-can of black gloss paint (with the rest of my money) and then trekked home to spray the pistol and see if it would pass muster.
It looked ok. I managed to spray it evenly enough (and managed not to spray-paint my overly-inquisitive tabby cat), there were a few drips, but on the grip, and that’d be covered by my hand. Once the gun had dried I started to work on the other parts of the plan, moving quite quickly through it all as I now had absolutely zero cash, and had no books or cds left that I’d feel good about flogging to fill my belly. Had food for the cats though, so they were looked after. I wondered about what would happen to them if I was caught, arrested, sentenced… and decided to leave written instructions at home foisting their care upon my unfortunate mother (who I had already tapped out when it came to readies). I also wrote a letter blaming the government, specifically the department of Social Welfare, for my actions, and left it sitting on the sideboard. I then left for the library and a quick scout of the block around the bank. Plenty of avenues for escape, the best being through the shopping centre, if I did “the job” at lunchtime the place’d be mobbed and the Gardaí would have terrible trouble getting hold of me. My plan was to wear two layers of clothing, get everything over with as quickly as possible, and make my escape through Tesco, shedding clothes as I ran from the bank to make identification as difficult as possible. I would also wear a wig (another remnant from my clubbing days) and tuck that into a pocket, going instantly from blonde to skinhead at whatever juncture I chose.
I planned to hit the bank at lunchtime, and spent the evening and the entire night (there was no way I could sleep) going over and over the plan. I made sure to dispose of the tell-tale spray-painted newspaper in a wheelie bin down the road, after having ensured there were no paint-encrusted fingerprints left on it. As zero hour approached I became more nervous, but having skipped my meds for a night I was also becoming increasingly manic and grandiose about the whole endeavour. They sort of cancelled one another out. I donned my double layer of clothing (making sure the outer layer was stuff I could live without ever wearing again), stuffed the “gun” in the pocket of my most threadbare jacket and sauntered off down the road, wondering idly where the sirens were coming from. I passed the Garda station, which was abuzz, and got a sinking feeling in my stomach, turned the corner and walked straight into a TV journo doing an on-the-scene report. You guessed it, some bastard had the same idea as me, only they got up earlier in the morning. The bank had been done over, and the crooks had gotten away. They haven’t been caught yet because there was rather a lot of confusion when they made their escape to a getaway car in the shopping centre parking lot. I turned tail and came home. I’m starving, the ESB cut me off, and I can’t even make coffee.