Fired Up


I only took this job to get fired, and now this, Josh thought, standing there in his cute little bank teller window wearing his straight guy oxford blue shirt and the tie with the blue diamonds, both from the church thrift store, with his hands in the air.  The two guys had come out of nowhere, no real memory of them walking in the front door to his left or maybe from the hall just inside that led to the manager’s offices, but there they were in white lab suits, pointing guns aimlessly around the bank lobby.  The tall one was doing the talking, telling them this was a robbery, as if they needed a program for that, telling them to open their cash drawers and put their hands up. The short one reached up and pushed the video camera by the door up so that it saw only the ceiling.

They started down the long row of tellers, starting at the end away from him in the big bank.  He watched them, curious about how they did it, had never seen a robbery before, at least not a big time bank robbery like this.  The tall guy was doing all the talking, but looking at the short, silent one for something.  There: that was it.  The silent one shook his head, and the tall one skipped a teller.  The silent one knew something; he’s skipping the tellers that have dye packs.

He admired them for pulling this off, and he admired the details:  the paper lab suits were a good touch.  No one would remember anything later, just the white suits with hoods, like ghosts.  Probably buy them cheap, a couple of bucks apiece at some med supply place; add a white ski mask and you can wear anything you like underneath.

Except for the shoes.  That was a mistake, he thought.  The tall one, the noisy one, had flashy basketball shoes, kind that would demand some respect on the street, what you’d expect from a robber.  But the silent guy had a pair of black Ferragamos, rich businessman shoes, probably $200 new, but these weren’t new, not even close.  The kind of guy who would buy these shoes either has money or works in a job where he has to fit in with guys with money and wouldn’t keep shoes this long.  It offended Josh.  Josh was a pro, in his own way, and he respected pros.  You’ve got to get the details right.

The movements of the two guys were the same way: pro, but with a flaw.  They looked casual, even random, but he could tell it was rehearsed.  No one but him would remember that later.  Pro, well done.  But the body language was wrong.  The tall one moved like a bank robber in a movie, all swagger and attitude, waving the gun around, yelling at anything, scary.  The silent guy faded into the background, and that was good, what you wanted, but the pose was wrong.  He was hunched over, slight, shuffling like a kicked dog.  This wasn’t a man used to demanding other people’s money; he begged them for it every day, probably hated it, but did it to pay the rent and now he was getting his payback.

See, that was the tell, the one detail that would betray all your hard work because it was too much a part of you for you to even know it was there.  Josh was a pro, knew how to stay in character.  Even now, when he wanted to shake his head, grab the guys and tell them to start over, come through the doors this way not that, even now he just stood there impassively with his hands in the air.  Be a pro, he thought, talking to himself and them both.  Be a pro, or be burned.

Sorry guys, he thought.  “A” for effort, but that’s all.  He reached over, one arm quick, and took the dye pack from Kelly’s open drawer, one of the old style packs with a timer.  He pressed the timer button and put it in his own drawer.

Sorry guys, he thought, I can’t let you mess this up anymore than you have.  You’ve already cost me one job. I’ll have to quit tomorrow, tell them the robbery shook me up so bad I can’t come back, then start looking for the next one. I can’t let San Francisco’s finest start looking at the personnel records and asking questions, the kind of questions these companies should ask before they hire someone but never do, never do their homework because they secretly feel contempt for the little guys who really make up the companies.  And that’s why he hated these companies, hated so much of the world: be a pro, treat people and your job with respect, or get out.  Josh? He got out.

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