No one seems very perturbed by the news; they all sort of slip into some role ingrained into the fabric of their current existence. The hostages whimper and sob about having children and not deserving this, Poh pretends to have very important things to check and Piglet distributes copies of the Communist Manifesto. I think I start to like Piglet. I have no idea if she is my type physically, but the sheer absurdity of distributing the Communist Manifesto in a bank she is robbing is very endearing. She is clad very mannishly so that I cannot see any semblance of a feminine figure, and having her father close at hand with an SMG isn’t doing much to encourage me to getting overly friendly with her, but I am getting curious.
Poh eventually gets bored and comes to join me at in the tellers’ rec-room. From where we can more or less still see the lobby. He puts a cigarette to his little plastic maw and offers me one too. I decline, with those same after school specials’ slogans about cigarettes running through my head as I did in basic training, where everyone smoked, either to look cool or pass the time.
“You served?” He finally says between two drags.
“Yep.” The jarhead response. It often makes people think you’re the strong, silent type when in fact you’re just antisocial and don’t know what to say.
“My folks wanted me to join for the Gulf War, spent three years in Canada instead, then Uncle Sam forgot about me and it was safe to come back.” He had that look of remembering old lovers and great pot; a sort of dumb grin that you instantly hate because you are envious of their reason for having it.
“Well, I didn’t.” As I often do, I feel that I have very little to contribute to this conversation, so I keep any and all statement as vague and uncommitted as possible.
“It was great.” I suppose he is trying to find some sort of common denominator with me. People often do when they are thrown together with complete strangers and are forced put their lives in those peoples’ hands.
“How’d you know I served?” I decide to join in the conversation.
“Oh, just the way you talked more about their guns than who they are. The cops, I mean.”
“You’re little girl doesn’t seem to like them very much.” We both share an unseen smile beneath our masks as we see Piglet given any and all outwards facing windows the finger and pointing at her pig shaped mask for the cops to make some point; I suppose the irony is lost on her that right now, she’s the pig.
He ignores my comment and we look at each other through cheap Halloween masks. I am pretty sure only drunk college kids and bank robbers in movies ever buy these kinds of masks, which makes me wonder who makes them, and why. Is it still a profitable business? Is it a dead industry and toy stores are still trying to dump all the stock they bought in the seventies? So I decide to ground it in reality with a question.
“Why a bear and a pig?”
“Oh, I got those for Halloween ten years ago, when my daughter was just a little girl, she loved them. She wore the pig mask to school for a month. Her teacher, I forgot her name, called me every day to ‘express his concern’ at her behavior.” He nods and I imagine him smiling underneath those painted on fangs and ursine teeth. “Why Nixon?”
“Oh… promise not to tell anyone?” I smile conspiratorially without realizing he can’t see it. “Because I love that movie… Point Break.” He laughs so hard the hostages are all looking at us, probably wonder if we are working on some plan and that was our effort at a proper evil laugh. Piglet is also looking, but her body language speaks more of bemusement. I think she likes hearing her father laugh.
“I’m gonna go do a round, don’t want the hostages thinking we got complacent.” He pats me on the shoulder before leaving.
I return to looking at Piglet energetically distributing little gray leaflets with a large picture of Karl Marx on it and his famous, world-changing manifesto printed in microscopic letters. I try to guess her age by water Poh told me. I assume she is in her late teens of really early twenties, and her behavior certainly supports that theory. I am convinced that she would display the same sense of bravado even without the mask and the gun and the hostages. She would stare down the “Man” and stick out her tongue in an adolescent gusto of defiance.
In that age of youth, everything takes on epic proportions. Nothing is just a nuisance or a snag in your daily routine. Every single thing that happens becomes an indication of the beauty or ills or humanity. I was the same when I was that age, wanting to change a world I never bothered to understand. Regardless of her actual age, that is how I see her; besides, I do firmly believe that all punks and anarchists stop maturing somewhere around the age of fifteen.
From imagining her age, I start imagining what she looks like. The only part of her skin I have seen are her ears and her neck; everything else is covered in dark, baggy clothing that looks like something an old lady donated to charity after her husband died, or left for a younger woman. I also saw her eyes for a second, which are a very rich green. There was nothing truly deep about them besides their color, which was in no way porcine, but there was no hidden intelligence, no latent brilliance, just pent up belligerence and a desire to do something great with the convenience of not having to do anything at all.
I haven’t even noticed, but she’s in the tellers’ rec room with me now, eating a granola bar and drinking something that smells like rotten plums. Her little mouth-hole is still dripping that weird-smelling purple fluid when she turns to me and throws me a granola bar.
“I made them myself; all organic ingredients and eco-friendly baking process. I suppose you think it’s dumb, but screw you.” She keeps chewing and I join her.
“Richard Nixon and a Pig walk into a bank…” I start, but I’m not sure how to continue the joke, so I let it hang there and decide to assume an air of poignant solemnity, as if I was making the cleverest point ever made. The granola bar really is very good.
“Technically, a Bear and a Pig walk into a bank with an awesome plan and guns and stuff, and Nixon just shows up and confuses everyone, very presidential. Did you know that Nixon not only led America into an unjust, unjustifiable, senseless war, he was also a cheat and a scoundrel?” She doesn’t sound like she is speaking to the, for her at least, ever present ghost of evil politicians and commonly hated public figures, her accusatory tone feels to center on me.
“Did you know Marx was just an overly articulate unemployed sick dude?” I retort, not really knowing why I am being dragged into this childish game, unsure of why I need to defend myself against her accusations. Aren’t we both committing literally the same crime here? “Well, Dickey may have been tricky, but he makes a good mask.” I try to soften the impact of my previous statement.
“Whatever. Take this. Some overly articulate, unemployed, sick dude wrote it, and it changed the world.” She hands me a leaflet that, if memory serve, is urging me to take arms against the bourgeoisie and build up a new nation led by the working class, or something like that. I suppose robbing a few thousand dollars from the local bank can be seen as a start.
“Do you know what’s the take?”
“Not really, dad said it ain’t much. I’m not in it for the money.” That is something I would expect a struggling artist to say, or a passionate athlete, not a bank robber. “I do it so I could liberate these people from their money. They are its prisoners.” I can see her teeth through the small mouth-hole of the mask and assume she is grinning.
“Well, I am doing it because I am broke and I know how to shoot a gun.”
“Everyone knows how to shoot a gun, this is America. It’s a wonder more people don’t think like you, since a lot of people are also broke.”
“Isn’t being broke a virtue to you? Aren’t they free of their money?” I try very hard not to sound mocking, but I can see it didn’t go so well.
“There’s a difference between being broke and not being a slave to money. Money is there and is unavoidable, I mean, we can’t go back to a society that trades in chickens or whatever, I mean, how many potatoes does a visit to school cost? Or how many slabs of cheese do I give my gynecologist after a routine check-up? It’s stupid. We need money as a central monetary system, but it shouldn’t define us.” I am surprised at the burst of eloquence, but oddly enough, the mention of a gynecologist reminds me she is a girl and my mind returns to wondering what she looks like, not only naked.
“So, I have to ask, what’s your name?”
“Like I’d tell you.”
“You can call me…” I am very unimaginative, so I just give her a variation of my name. “John.”
“So, John. Do you vote?” That was definitely not the question I was expecting. The last time I voted was in Afghanistan, for good ol’ Obama, hoping that he would do some magic with the practically non-existent welfare system.
“Not for a while. I did during a tour.”
“Cool, you’re in a band or something?” She takes another big sip of that purple fluid that smells of plums.
“No, a tour in Afghanistan, with the army.” I doubt she takes words like ‘army’ in her stride, words she associates with it are probably inspired by Germany, Spain, and Italy in the thirties and forties. She doesn’t say anything, though.
“I voted Obama.” It’s a feeble attempt, but she takes the bait and relaxes a bit.
“Good, slightly let fascist.”
“Aren’t the cops supposed to call us or something?” I ask when I notice the rec room has a small, black, cordless phone in the corner, right next to the toaster.
“They don’t do that, that’s just in the movies. They let you sweat and hope you’d just surrender.” She says with a surprisingly restrained level of contempt.
“Oh, is that your edge? You know that if you just wait long enough they’d just give up?”
“She sticks out her tongue at me. “No, my dad was a cop.” She gets up and leaves. I follow her, pretending to take a look at the hostages, but focus on her as she rearranges one of the barricades and adds stacks of financial reports with very elaborate pie-charts on them.
“Please, let me go, I have kids at home, and my husband must be worried sick, he, he’s a lawyer, if you let me go he’d help you, I can see you are not like the other two, I’m not stupid, I was a paralegal for seven years, I know about law enforcement, I…” The verbal ambush came from a well-dressed and overly accessorized woman in her forties who found herself a place to hunker down right between a water cooler and a disfigured looking houseplant; I suppose she was naturally attracted to the better neighborhood of the bank to settle down in a place befitting her social status.
I kneel down to be more or less at eye level with her. “Or, I take you hostage and get out of here, leaving your body somewhere for hubby, attorney at law, to find.” I don’t know why I said that. I was actually kind of counting on the hostages testifying that I was the nice one. Now that hope is shattered. Women like her, even in circumstances like this, have an uncanny ability to spread rumors and opinions like it was gospel.
I move away from Mrs. Hubby, attorney at law, and see an elderly couple in an embrace. I see someone looking incredibly confused as to what is happening. I see a young woman crying onto the shoulder of a guy who is either a stranger or a poor woman’s sugar daddy. The Tellers are mostly bunched up together with Mr. Schweinhofer against the counter, still in their nice suits, although I find it funny that some of the women are wearing sneakers, taking advantage that customers can’t see their feet and the mismatch between general attire and footwear. There is a teenager reading Piglet’s leaflet with interest and Mrs. Shaw close to him, taking some pill.
I go over to Piglet again and point out Mrs. Shaw. “That was my teacher in school.”
“Mine too, science, right? Or maybe math… No, science.” Piglet confirms to me that she and Poh are from town, which might mean I know them.
“So your dad’s a cop gone bad? That’s kind of badass.” I sit on a desk, throwing occasional, random nasty looks to the hostages.
“No, he just had a change of career. Hold these.” She drops a stack of papers into my hands and goes to the front door only to come back a few seconds later. “So, they’re just standing around, and people are taking selfies with them.” I assume she means the cops.
“Come on, I have to know.”
“He was a cop, he stopped being a cop, and now he robs banks wearing a bear mask with his little girl wearing a pig mask, what’s the big mystery? Give me.” She takes the stack away from me and distributes them among the hostages. I start wondering where has Poh gone to.
“Read those carefully!” Piglet screams at our hostages and their faces lock onto the sheets. I look at one too, out of curiosity. It’s an info sheet from the Church of Scientology.
“Are you guys Scientologists?” I ask, rather disappointed.
“Oh, hell no. I am just curious to see whether they take it seriously. Besides, it’s good to offset the intelligent stuff I give them with Marx with some bullshit by Hubbard.” I think I am seriously starting to like her. She is immature and odd, but the freest spirit I have ever met.
“Where is daddy?” I ask her.
“Beats me.” She shrugs. “Why? Do you miss him? You want to be my second daddy?”
“Well, I would like to know where all persons holding guns are.”
“I think I saw him go into the men’s room. Go look for him there, I can’t go in, I’m a lady.” She turns away more regally than I would have believed and starts taking random files and mixing their contents.
I do go into the men’s room and look for Poh, trying very hard not to make a pun out of it in my head. I don’t really need to work very hard on avoiding the pun. Poh has gone the way Elvis did. He is sitting on the toilet, dead as dead can be. More for ritual than medical reasons, I check for a pulse. I find none. What I do find are some heart pills in his hands and his MAC 10 on the floor. I guess he had a heart attack and croaked. I can’t help it and take off his mask. I’ve seen him around town, sure, but he doesn’t strike me as overly familiar or important to the fabric of my life until about forty five minutes ago. I put the mask back on him and exit the restroom.
Piglet has moved on to actually counting the money in the bag. She is doing it slowly, showing personal contempt for every dead president she sees, no matter how many times she sees the face of the same man, for her, each and every piece is an individual manifestation of evil.
I have no idea what to tell her. I am sure she and her father knew that what they do might get them killed, maybe they even reveled in the thought of going in a hail of bullets, but I doubt either of them imagined going by means of some ultimate bowel movement.
“Did you find him?”
I might count myself as lucky. I was dreading many things before setting out to rob this bank, getting arrested, getting shot, making a fool of myself by somehow doing it wrong, but I didn’t think I would have to tell a young woman her father has died in probably the most inglorious way. Instead, luckily for me, the cops burst in. Four of them, yelling for everyone to put their guns down, to put our hands up, turn around, put our hands behind our backs, do the hokey pokey. I get confused, my arms shoot up, but still with my pistol and Poh’s MAC 10, I see the Piglet has already lain down her weapon and is being put in handcuffs. My arms go up so fast that my finger is inadvertently pushed against the trigger. A salve of 9 mm rounds hits the ceiling, the front door, and Sheriff Crane. The other cops, except the one leading Piglet away, maskless now, all start shooting me. Mostly, I get hit with 0.45s, I also see one 9 mm, but slowly, a 12 gauge is aimed at me, and I decide, screw it, too late to surrender. I shoot at the 12 gauge, he goes down after a hit in the chest. I doubt it would be lethal with vests and all, but it would leave him with a nice bruise for a while so he could tell everyone in the gym that he was shot on duty so they’d buy him drinks later at the bar.
I get shot twice more until the 0.45s need to reload, but it’s over and we all know it. I see Piglet lowered into a squad car. I was right, she isn’t pretty. She has way too many piercings and her eyes are too small for her face, but it’s nice to see a face that doesn’t want to kill me before I fall. The last thing I hear is Crane.
“Son of a bitch.”