I'm a middle-aged balding bank employee, working in the loadn department in a midwestern savings and loan. On Friday mornings I drop the kids off at school...little Sarah has been looking sort of lost lately, and Jake hates everything about me...and on my way in to work, I stop off at the Starbucks. The girl there flirts with me, is friendly in a way that she isn't with anyone else except for maybe this one kid, one of those hip guys with a man purse and spiky hair. This morning I was leaving, a smile on my face, when he pulled up in a Vespa or something like it. I got in the Dodge. I backed up. I felt a little jolt. I drove away.
It's best left as an exercise for the writer.
Sixteen is my favorite number. I'm trying hard not to obsess on the number of times sixteen shows up in my life and in my cubical. Our new receptionist Marissa is 32 years old. She doesn't act like a receptionist with me. I stand outside in the smoking section, on a patch of ground pounded flat and hard by anxious feet, and sip coffee as she smokes. Sometimes she talks to herself or to me. Sometimes she just hugs herself in the cool morning air and stares at the sky, eyes catching on birds or contrails from jets. She wants to go somewhere exotic. It's a Friday. There is a taste of freedom in the air, somewhere behind the stale office smell. I sip my coffee. Marissa lights another cigarette. I contemplate the rope in my truck.
It's not like he killed someone.
Lunchtime is the perfect time. There is nothing more perfect than lunchtime. We take our lunch, Marissa and I and our co-workers on the C lunch schedule, we take our lunch in the breakroom. It is white and powder blue, and lit very brightly by flourescent lights. I bring my lunch every day in a blue lunch bag, one that keeps cold food cold or hot food hot. It has the company logo on it. I got it after one of our promotions had ended. Marketing had about a hundred and fifty of them leftover, they'd only given away ten or fifteen. Everyt employee got one or two, but mine is the only one that still shows up in the breakroom fridge. There's a white spot for my name at the top, and I've written it in red. When I sit down during the perfect time of day and have my sandwich or my leftover chicken, I stare at my name in red. I stare at it and it sometimes tells me what I have to do.
It's not like he spit on you.
The man with the gun looked scared. He had the gun, but his eyes darted crazy, his eyes dark with pupil, and he was really sweaty and really looked lost and terrified. But he had the gun, and he'd knocked out the guard (an ex-cope named Jose) and he'd stood there yelling for a while and everyone dropped down. I sat behind my cubical. I had a good vantage point through a gap. The leaves of a fake ficus tree obscured it a bit. In my right hand I hefted the award...a heavy crystal flame attached to a plastic base with the logo of the company on it, ten years of loyal service.
Later on, we'll all laugh.
Trajectories. I'm half sitting, leaning against the trunk of a cop car, hands on my knees. The man with the gun is in an ambulance. My hands have been cleaned of the blood, though some of it sticks in the lines in my hands. I wonder about my wife, worry she'll be angry about the blood on my shirt.
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