Writing

Grumpy Monkey Fiction: A Tough Day to Be A Bank Robber

{Dear erstwhile readers of the Grumpy Monkey Blog — It’s been a while since your benevolent primate has graced you with some of his pithy prose, but you can stop all of your lamentations, bribery attempts and animal sacrifices. Your new story is here. This one is about bank robbers, and it took your not-so-humble Monkey a good chunk of time to write. We hope you enjoy, and if you do enjoy, that you go ahead and click the “like” button so we can talk your overly sensitive Monkey out of jumping off a tall building tomorrow.}

A Tough Day to Be A Bank Robber

Gus slid the note underneath the protective glass and turned his gaze towards the teller, careful to keep his expression cool.

The note, carefully handwritten in his car before coming into the bank, said “There is a gun in my pocket. Fill a bag with all the money in your drawer and no one gets hurt. Don’t make a sound. Don’t sound any alarms.”

The bank teller, an attractive brunette in her 20s, took a look at the note and looked up at Gus.

Gus expected to see her go through the usual emotional cycle of fear, panic and acceptance as she absorbed the contents of his note, and maybe for her hands to shake a little as she filled up the bag with the cash in her drawer.

But instead, all he saw was bewilderment.

“You’re robbing us?” she asked. Then she nodded over at the next window. “But he’s already robbing us.”

Gus looked to his right.

Standing at the front of the next teller line, holding his hand inside his gray hooded sweatshirt and gesturing angrily at another teller, was Raphael.

Gus groaned. “Oh, come on.”

Raphael shot a glance in his direction, momentarily forgetting about his attempted heist. “Gus?”

“Raphael? What are you doing here?” Gus grumbled. “This is my job.”

Raphael sighed and struggled to keep his composure. The two men were so used to their holdup routines that running into each other in the middle of a bank job was like two actors from different plays ending up on the same stage.

“What you do mean, ‘what am I doing here?'” Raphael snapped back. “I was here first. Robbery in progress. Beat it. Hit the fucking bricks.”

From behind them, Gus and Raphael heard a rustling sound, and then a loud bang as a briefcase dropped to the floor with a clatter.

The two bank robbers turned around in time to see a tall man in a trench coat pull his jacket open at the waist and reveal a vest made of dynamite.

“Everyone stay calm,” the man said. “I have a bomb and this is a robbery.”

Gus rolled his eyes. “For crying out loud. John.”

John’s eyes widened in recognition. His face, at first a hard mask of anger, fell quickly into soft dejection. “Aw, come on.” he said. “I’ve been planning this heist for months. What’s going on? When did you guys team up?”

“We didn’t team up.” Raphael hissed back. “Gus was just leaving. You are just leaving, too. This is my score.”

All three stick-up men looked at each other in uncomfortable silence.

None of them wanted to give in, though none of them really had a way to enforce their will. Raphael knew that Gus never carried a gun—he just pretended that he had one and trusted the teller not to make trouble.

Gus knew that the gun-shaped lump in Raphael’s sweatshirt was actually his nephew’s toy cap gun.  Raphael figured that by using a fake gun on a heist job, he could avoid facing an actual armed robbery charge if he ever got caught (Raphael, as you may have guessed, wasn’t exactly a lawyer).

And John, well John was not what you’d call an explosives expert. He had purchased a bunch of novelty dynamite-shaped firestarters from a outdoor goods catalog and taped them to an old Army surplus vest to make it look like he was wired to explode.

In the new, post 9-11 world of suicide bombers, this fake-out tactic had worked surprisingly well, though Gus knew that John had a better chance of spontaneously combusting than he did of wiring an explosive device that would take down a bank.

Gus sighed and tried to weigh his options. The fault, he thought, was not totally with them.

Sure, from the outside it was easy to see this as a case of bank robber greed gone bad. Surely all three of them didn’t have to rob the same bank at the same time.

But the real culprit, Gus knew, was bank consolidation. As smaller banks merged into medium-sized banks, and medium-sized banks were gobbled up by mega banks, there were less and less places where common stick-up men like himself, Raphael and John could ply their trade.

In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before two of them crossed paths.

But for all three of them to show up at the same bank, at the same time, well that spoke to a deep dysfunction within the system.

“This will never do,” Gus said. “All three of us can’t go around robbing the same bank.”

“Right,” said Raphael. “And since I was here first, this is my heist. So you two beat it, and you”—he shifted his gaze in the direction of the bank teller working his window–“start loading up the bag with cash.”

“Look,” Gus said. “Maybe you were here first. But didn’t you just hit up First National Bank last week? Is it really fair for you to get this heist, too? I mean, just because you picked a shorter line?”

“You know the bank robber’s code,” Raphael snarled. “First man in gets the dough.”

“There isn’t any bank robber’s code,” John countered from the back. Gus knew from experience that this was just the type of argument John liked to start.

John continued. “We aren’t in a trade union. We’re criminals and we’re independent contractors. You just made that code stuff up because it makes you the winner.”

John shifted uncomfortably in his faux bomb vest. His voice took on a more petulant tone. “I’ve been setting up this job for weeks. And I haven’t had a score since the Credit Union job back in April. Gus, you just hit up King’s Bank two weeks ago. I remember reading about it in the paper. This one should go to me.”

A woman standing in line for the ATM cleared her throat. “Excuse me,” she said. “But I’m a preschool teacher, and one of the things that we talk about with our students is the importance of taking turns. If Raphael robbed a bank last week, and Gus robbed a bank two weeks ago, then I think this heist should go to John.”

“Exactly,” John said.

Gus and Raphael glared at her. “How do we know you aren’t working with him?” Raphael snapped. “Awful convenient for you to be standing in the bank right now.”

A man in a business suit holding a copy of the Wall Street journal piped in. “Pardon me, ” he said. “I’m a tax accountant and I can’t help but notice that it’s coming up on the end of the fiscal year. Why not total up your earnings from heists over the past year, and then the one who is furthest behind gets to keep the cash from the robbery today. That seems fair to me.”

Gus and Raphael again rolled their eyes. John was by far the least successful criminal of the three of them. If they agreed to the terms proposed by the tax accountant, the heist would go to John, too.

“Look,” Gus said. “With all due respect to everyone in the bank. We don’t need your help in figuring this out. We’re robbing a bank here, not holding a group therapy session.”

Gus looked imploringly at John and Raphael. “If we sit here arguing any longer, the cops are going to come and no one is going to get the score. I say we all walk away from this empty-handed and figure out how to stay out of each other’s way from now on.”

“Easy for you to say,” John whined back. “You guys have all the dough.”

“No way, bro,” Raphael glared at Gus. “I didn’t get into this business to back down.”

In the distance, Gus suddenly heard the faint sound of a police siren. He had particularly good hearing, a trait that had served him well in past bank robberies. A cold shiver of fear crept down his back. It was the same way he felt every time he heard that sound.

But with the fear came a flash of inspiration. If he, Raphael and John truly were independent contractors, then maybe he could work this situation to his advantage.

Gus spoke with a gleam in his eye. “Ok,” he said. “You guys win. I do all right for myself. I’m going to let this one go. But you two–” he shook his head sympathetically. “I don’t know how you’re ever going to figure it out. John needs the money. But Raphael was here first. It makes for a tough call. Glad I don’t have to make it.”

Gus tipped his cap sympathetically, and with a casual whistle, turned away from the bank window and walked out the front door.

As the glass doors swung shut behind him, he could hear John and Raphael pick up the argument again. Both voices sounded heated, and Gus knew neither man would give an inch.

Taking a casual seat on a bench across the street from the bank, Gus watched as police cruisers came rolling up en masse, and heavily armed police officers stormed inside the bank doors with their guns drawn.

Gus shook his head in amusement and then headed off in the direction of his parked car.

With John and Raphael doing hard time for this heist and out of the picture for the next few years, the next bank job would be all his.

 

Advertisements
Writing

Fast Fiction: Memos from the Corporation in Control of Arnold’s Life

Subject Name: Arnold Zimmerman
Age: 38
Height: 5’6″
Weight: 160 lbs
Project Objectives: To keep suspect in continuous state of dread and unease. To convince subject that the world is out to get him, but to provide no solid proof. To counterbalance small victories with major defeats.

Memo: May 25

Bonuses were handed out to all members of the Committee for Housing Insecurity this morning after a subject A signed the lease on a particularly ill-advised studio apartment in a bad part of town.

Subcommittee members gleefully report that building is plagued by terrible smells, criminal individuals, and a general lack of respect for personal space and privacy. Tentative plans call for smoking, shouting and drinking go on at all hours of the night, and numerous attempts will be made to break in to subject’s apartment through the rear windows.

Memo: July 1

This is the fourth straight day of temperatures in the mid-90s and subject appears to be maintaining sanity.

The excess heat has caused him to sweat through his shirts at work, leaving unsightly wet patches, and it has made him feel nauseous and winded when walking outside. However, the anticipated suffering does not meet our second quarter expectations.

The Subcommittee on Climate Inconvenience believes it may be time to up the pressure by short-circuiting subject’s air conditioner or hiding rotten food somewhere in his apartment.

Also, subliminal whispering will be employed at night to encourage subject to worry constantly about global warming, and to believe that his apartment is likely to catch on fire while he is at work.

Memo: August 23

The Subcommittee on Career Control reported in today that subject A has accepted a new position that is going to pay him substantially more than his previous job.

The subcommittee chairman has alerted the executive committee about a troubling new sense of peace and well being in subject A, as subject now believes that his financial worries have been resolved.

Accordingly the subcommittee will begin cost inflation adjustment accordingly to restore subject to state of constant worry.

Other financial adjustment tactics will include forcing subject to pay several hundred dollars to repair timing belt in car, sending subject on a series of expensive but ultimately unproductive dates with women who are too attractive for him, and increasing the finance charges on subject’s credit card without any notice.

Memo: September 5

The Subcommittee on Sexual Response reported in today that Subject A has taken tentative steps toward starting a new sexual relationship, which has him feeling pretty good about his appearance and desirability.

Initiating Tactical Response Plan 1B, in which subject will suddenly be seized by a crippling fear of unplanned pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted disease.

Memo: November 13

General status report meeting of all subcommittees and stakeholders involved in Project A indicates that subject A has reached generally desirable levels of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and self-doubt.

High fives were exchanged all around the boardroom, and plans for the company party were discussed.

Just a reminder that frozen turkeys will be distributed next Friday following the weekly ice cream social.

Memo: December 9

Annual performance reviews are due at the end of the week.

Anyone who has been implicated in any of Subject A’s goal achievements over the past year (the new job, decision to seek therapy, the attempt to maintain a more positive life outlook) will be expected to present a full accounting of their failures.

Those with two or more lapses in oversight on their work record will be asked to report to corporate headquarters for additional “re-training.”

Memo: December 20

The final touches on next year’s strategic plan were approved by the Board of Trustees prior to the long holiday break.

Among the initiatives for the coming fiscal year will be to have have subject’s car stolen just as he has accumulated enough money for a down payment on a house, and to have subject believe that friends and family secretly dislike him.

Other long term strategic plans include an increase in male pattern baldness and early onset erectile dysfunction.

Have a great holiday season everyone!

Writing

Fast Fiction: Gary Gets Mad, Kevin Gets Let Go, and a Monkey Compromises His Morals

{Dear Humble Grumpiest Monkey Reader — Please accept this latest offering as a companion piece to last week’s rather poorly done story about Kevin’s talking butthole. In fact, it will probably help your understanding of this tale to read that one first. Not that your Monkey wanted to continue crafting his prose in this admittedly crass vein, but he can only write what the muse tells him to write about. And right now it is office politics and buttholes. All apologies. }

Gary sighed and let his eyes drift over to his computer as another email dinged his inbox.

It was not even 9 o’clock in the morning and already Barry from accounting wanted a phone call about unpaid invoices, Bill from IT wanted to talk about new lead generation software, and Steve from human resources wanted to run some applications by him for new sales reps. There was shit to do.

But what was he doing? Listening as some sad-eyed paper pusher named Kevin went on and on with some ridiculous sob story about how he had discovered the meaning of his life with the help of his talking butthole, or something like that.

Gary had to admit that the whole talking butthole thing was a new twist, but it was the same old story. Every so often one of the sales reps would come into his office with a quavering voice and tell him they were leaving because it was time to go hike the Appalachian Trail or churn butter or fuck llamas or some other hippie dippie bullshit.

Every one of these jackasses would walk out of his office thinking they were going to go on rule the world, and every time they sent him a desperate email a few weeks later saying they made a terrible mistake, asking for another chance because the job market was bad and it was tough to get insurance.

Gary enjoyed deleting those emails without a reply.

“…I guess, that, you know, it’s time for me to do something other than work here,” Kevin was droning on in the background. “And I think what happened this morning helped me realize that.”

Gary grunted. “What’s that? This morning? The talking butthole thing? Yeah, sure. Sounds great.” He shuffled through some papers on his desk. “Look, ummm….Kevin. Your sales figures pretty much suck. I have one….two….three….looks like four separate sexual harassment complaints filed against you by Erica up in reception. I think we can agree to call it a day.”

But of course, Kevin couldn’t call it a day just yet. There were some protestations, some outright denials, some cries of “if only I had known she felt uncomfortable!” Gary had heard it all before. All it did was delay the inevitable.

Finally, Kevin gathered up his stuff, and he and his magic talking butthole started making their way to the door. Kevin reached his hand out for a final goodbye shake, but all that butthole talk had set Gary’s germ phobia on edge. “Just go, OK?”

At last, the door was shut. And Gary was alone to bask in the greatness that was his to create when other people weren’t holding him back.

If there was one thing that Gary hated, it was wasting fucking time. And if there was one thing the world was conspiring to do, it was waste his time.

Gary had sales figures to reach, phone calls to make, a staff to discipline, deals and discounts to negotiate. He didn’t have time for Kevin and his stupid talking butthole or Erica and her sorry HR complaints or any of the other distractions that ate up his hours.

These days there were time-suckers were everywhere. People who took five fucking minutes to put sugar and cream in their coffee at Starbucks.

Clueless assholes who shuffled in aimless circles on the sidewalk while they buried their faces in their smart phones.

Wrinkled old fucks doddering back and forth on their way to doctor’s appointments that would only prolong their inevitable demise. “Just die already,” Gary would mutter as he sprinted around them on his way into the office.

At work, the meetings that he didn’t take the lead on seemed to go on and on forever. It was like no one else had anything to do but waste his time. Gary would tap his pencil against the table and check his phone and check his phone and check his phone until someone got the message that it was time to wrap it the fuck up.

And now Gary was going to have to find someone to take over Kevin’s sales territory and follow up on his emails and answer his phone calls. Someone he could trust to tell them that Kevin had left, but not say anything about the psychotic break that had led the poor bastard to think his butthole was talking to him.

It never seemed to end. How was a man supposed to get ahead when the whole world was holding him back?

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

Fast Fiction: Competition, Ivy League, Mansion

{More fast fiction written by your humble Monkey protagonist. Thanks as always for your passive acceptance of my prose…}

The year was 1925 and there were hundreds of students graduating from Harvard that spring, but for all I cared, there were only two that mattered — me and Phineas T. Phelps.

Phineas was a business school major whose parents owned a large multinational coal conglomeration.

My father had been the surgeon in chief at a prominent Boston hospital and the personal physician to many of the city’s top politicians and businessmen.

Neither of us were lacking for money–or ambition. And the fact that Mr. Phelps Sr. was on my father’s patient roster was a perpetual source of irritation for my classmate and arch-nemesis.

It seemed like we were always trying to outdo each other; on the squash courts, on the debate team, in the drama productions.

If he got the lead in the fall musical, I’d take a turn heading up the spring Shakespeare production.

If I made it to the squash finals, he’d wind up in the same court and beat me on a tiebreaker in the final game.

If I got a 3.8 one semester, he’d fall all over himself to point out his 3.9.

If he bedded a pretty nursing student after a night of beers in Harvard Square, I’d take home a prettier one the next night.

I had figured that our competition would naturally come to an end when we donned our caps and gowns and picked up our diplomas, but here we were sitting across from each other in Harvard Yard one May morning with another contest about to begin.

We were both studying the property listings in the two competing papers of the time with one goal in mind– to turn our considerable family trust funds into a property that would shame the other’s.

Phineas’s face was buried in the back of the  blue-blooded Boston Globe. I was hoping that the more pedestrian Herald-American might reveal a hidden gem.

Our latest competition had started when I had casually mentioned that I would be moving out of my Harvard Square apartment in the summer and taking up residence at a family property in Andover that had recently been left vacant by a departed aunt.

I had hardy got the words out of my mouth when Phineas began chattering about a summer home in Newport that he planned to turn into his year-round residence.

I can’t remember the first person to use the word “mansion,” but things had escalated quickly in the property war, and now both of us were studying every real estate listing we could find, hoping to find some run-down piece of property, turn it into a restored gem, and claim the title of mansion for our own.

I heard a rustling from the other side of the bench. Phineas cocked an eye over the top of his paper and sniffed at me. “Surely you won’t be finding anything of note in that rag. Maybe an abandoned box car that you could live in.”

Anger flushed in my cheeks, but I tamped down my temper and tried to play it cool. ” I don’t know about that.” I tapped my finger against a random listing as if to suggested some secret knowledge. “There may be a property in here that’s a few coats of paint away from being a real dazzler. I’m not sure if I’ll need a carriage house, a barn and a separate house for the servants, though.”

There was no such property in the paper, of course. But it didn’t hurt to play with Phineas’ mind a little. And even if I got him to shell out a nickel for a copy of the Herald American once I walked away, I’d consider that a minor victory.

“In any case,” I continued. “I should be off. I don’t mean to read and run, but I have listings to see all day and decisions to make.”

This was also untrue. I was going out to Andover to see if there was any way I could turn my Aunt’s respectable old house into something that resembled an estate, but I wasn’t holding out much hope.

I turned and nearly tossed the paper into a nearby trash can, but then caught myself and folded it tightly under my arm.

Glancing back towards the Square as I started to walk up Mount Auburn Street, I couldn’t help but smile .

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Phineas slink out of the corner newsstand with a fresh newspaper tucked under his arm. The blue and red banner of the Herald American was just visible under the folds of his coat.

I fought the urge to leap into the air and tap my heels together. This round, at least, had gone to me.

Shameless self indulgence, Uncategorized, Writing

Grumpiest Monkey Fiction: Sympathy for Mr. Z (Part 1)

We are not so unlike, you and me.

You are a successful banker with a nice suburban home, a pretty wife and two charming children. A member of the rotary club, the coach of the town’s “squirts” Pop Warner team, and a scratch golfer.

I am the reanimated undead corpse of your next door neighbor, and I have an insatiable lust for your BRAINS.

OK, OK.

I know on the surface that seems like a pretty big difference.

But we zombies and you humans are not so unlike.

Sure, we can’t walk as nice as you, or talk as nice as you, and we might have a little trouble processing complex thoughts and actions.

We don’t have respiratory systems, or circulatory systems, or nerve endings that connect to a highly functioning, absolutely delicious living brain.

But I’m trying. I’m trying to grow as an undead person.

I am trying to say things other than “urrrrrrrrrrgh and “ermmmmmmmmmm.”

I am trying to do things other than just pressing my listless body against the side of your house, and scratching at your windows.

I am trying to figure out how I can get that doorknob to work.