It was a normal bustling afternoon at the South Bend Savings And Loan. Everyone knows the ‘a’ in ‘and’ is traditionally lower case in business titles such as this but the craftsman who hand carved the granite edifice made it a capital so it’s been that way ever since. The original board of directors used the Lands’ End clothing company as a precedent. The day was like all others as the perma-cloud covered citizens and livestock in their usual grey mid-summer gloom.
Old Mrs. Bunkel was commandeering the head teller, Ellen, so she can have her explain why her trust fund dividend check was direct deposited into her account at 12:07AM instead of 12:05AM like last month. But don’t you worry, if it had been deposited at 12:05AM she still would have been here. Ellen would have had to calmly reassure her that no one was trying to embezzle her account at what is obviously a very vulnerable time at the South Bend Savings And Loan.
The rest of the customers busied themselves filling out deposit and withdrawal slips, aimlessly standing in line or have buried themselves deeply into the digital world ignoring all the life and motion that surrounds them. In the middle of all this ebb with little flow Stephen stands upright and still. He’s not an imposing man, few would say more than average in every way. But he has enough assurance to make sure you know his name is not Steve, any childish derivation of that or even Steven. He’s one to let you know that he’s StePHen. Some find that trait annoying others openly mock him in social situations when he righteously corrects the spelling of his name.
StePHen steps up moments after Lindsay does. Lindsay, by anyone’s estimation, is a lovely woman who holds herself in a manner of one who knows it. She’s not standoffish by any means, it is a fact that she has more and closer friends than any person in the bank at this time. Her kindness and helpfulness is known to all her South Bend social and family friends. But sometimes they take advantage of her good and gullible nature.
Such as the time co-workers convinced her a local fraternity, who have suffered many bouts of probation, is holding a horrific cat juggling contest. Enraged by this barbaric display of cruelty Lindsay drove eighty miles from her home to shut down this event. She was quite relieved and in her own (fairly saucy for her) words, ‘A little P.O.’d.’ that her co-workers took full advantage of her. But she, after finding out the event was actually the frats yearly table tennis championships, got the last laugh when she met a very handsome fraternity brother, Jeff, to whom she is now engaged.
The line moves forward slowly with everyone keeping a respectful silence inside these walls. Every once in a while a cellphone will chirp and there will be a rustle of low level harumphing which would quickly embarrass the offender to, at the very least, silence his device with most wishing he or she would put it away and enjoy the soft communal experience within the South Bend Savings And Loan.
“This is a robbery of this bank.” The masked robber bellows as five or six compatriots dressed exactly the same while carrying the same automatic weapon swarm the room. The words bouncing off walls and floor and ceiling giving it an almost operatic depth and clarity. “Nobody moves nobody gets hurt. Now put your belly to the floor.”
The confusing demands placed many customers in a dilemma. Which barked order is the robbers most urgent? There was a total hesitation before someone, many felt bravely and stupidly, slowly placed his belly on the floor. Many were also consumed by the poor grammar but that was a subject they didn’t have time to discuss now. But it will lead to hours of discussion for whomever survives at the inevitably South Bend Savings And Loan Robbery support group.
The first robber is getting impatient with the slow reaction of the now hostages. “Get on the ground or we all start shooting.”
The five or six other robbers, the correct count would not be agreed upon until the ordeal was over, began strong arming some of the customers to the ground while other, obvious frightened, customers were still having issue with the still confounding directions. One by one people reached the floor on their belly’s. Some more effortlessly horizontal than others. While there were quite a few who resembled a childs human rocking ride.
Once all of the customers were suitably floored the five or six robbers moved with a practiced precision to the teller area. The tellers, well trained in the event of any tragic occurrence, remained poised at their station awaiting there commands.
“If my Macy’s skirt gets stained, young man, I’ll be sending you the bill.” Old Mrs. Bunkel snaps. The five or six robbers look at Old Mrs. Bunkel who could be barely termed ‘on her belly’. One of them uttered words that no one had ever spoken aloud to Old Mrs. Bunkel in all her born years.
“Shut up, old lady.” If she only know the number of times Ellen had that same dreadful thought.
The five or six robbers ignored Old Mrs. Bunkel but until her dying day, even more so than the grammatical miscue, those words would be her highlight whenever this tale left her lips. The five or six robbers quickly make their desires known to the tellers who swiftly fill the orders.
In the middle of the room Stephen begins fidgeting. Lindsay looks over with concern etched upon her face. “Stop.” she says. “They’ll kill you.” But it does no good. Stephen’s fidgeting rises him to his knees. The customers are the first to notice him and begin to murmur their displeasure.
“I’m sorry.” Stephen says. “I have to do this.” The first robber notices Stephen standing fully straight up. This was obviously not an expected option. The first robber levels his weapon at Stephen who remains still.
“What are you doing? Get down.” The only people moving are the five or six robbers who have completed their part of the job and want nothing more than to flee the scene. “I’m not kidding. Get back on the ground.”
“I’m sorry.” Stephen repeats. “I just can’t do that.”
The seven or eight of them stand for a moment totally still. In an instance the first robber starts to shake his masked face.
“Uh, what is that?” With his free hand the first robber tears off his mask.
“What are you doing? They can see your face.” One of the five or six robbers asks and explains.
“No! It’s stinks in here.”
“What are you talking abo. . .” One other robber starts retching.
“. . .oh man, is someone baking a cat in here?” He asks.
One after the other all five or six robbers are enveloped in the stench. One of them points the gun at Stephen.
“Did you do this?”
“Maybe it’s some type of gas.” A robber choked out.
“No,” answers the first robber. “It’s this guy. He farted.” The first robber reaches Stephen. “Didn’t you? You couldn’t wait until we left, could you?” While the questions pile up Stephen remains still.
Suddenly the odor begins to fall to the ground and the prone customers begin protesting their position.
“Stay down.” A robber commands. “It’s no better up here.” The first robber has tired of the staring contest he’s losing with Stephen.
“What died inside you? A yeti?” The robber points the gun at the surprisingly calm Stephen. “I’ve got to kill you. Maybe that’ll take some of the sting out of it.” The first robber shoulders his weapon securely.
“I wouldn’t do that?”
“Oh? And why not?”
“Because the moment you pull that trigger a tiny spark inside your weapon will cause a huge explosion due to all the gas in here.” The robber looks around wondering if he should believe this.
“Oh, and what are you? A scientist?”
“Yes. ” Stephen grabs the first robber. “A scientist of killing.” Stephen turns the first robber upside down gaining control of the weapon while turning in a semi-circle rapidly firing at the five or six (although we now know it was five) stunned robbers.
As the smoke clears Stephen drops the first robber on his head swiftly disarming him. Stephen places a strong foot on the first robber to keep him still. As customers slowly begin standing Stephen begins, “You always leave one alive. . .” The customers stop for a moment before responding in unison.
“. . .to tell the story.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all saw Usual Suspects.” Says a man, Dirk, walking up to Stephen. Dirk stands next to Stephen as they survey the scene of the carnage. “I think I speak for everyone when I say thanks.” Stephen stands there humbly taking in the thankful murmurs. “But I also have to say you really stunk up the joint.” Everyone starts making waving motions with their hands as they exit the bank.
Stephen stands there as people file past.
“Sorry.” He says with sincerity oozing from every pore. “I had kimchi for lunch.”
People hurry past Stephen to the crisp, clear out of doors while the Indiana State Police SWAT Team enters the South Bend Savings And Loan.