Here is another work in progress:
“Grandma, can we get ice cream before we go home?”
This from eight year old Caleb who leaned over a picnic table bench as a grey haired slightly overweight woman packed picnic fixings into a wicker basket.
“Caleb, you just finished three hot dogs and potato salad! Are you sure you’ve got room for ice cream?”
“Sure do, Grandma.”
“Me too! Me too, Grandma!” This from freckled faced Jeannie who jumped up and down in her excitement.
“Oh, okay, then. We’ll stop at the Dairy Queen on Front Street before I take you kids home.”
The little group made their way to the older, dark blue sedan that Joyce had owned since new. She made sure the kids were buckled into their seats before she started the car and drove in the direction of the ice cream shop.
After they had got back in the car, the kids happily licking their cones, Joyce made plans.
She dropped the kids off at their house.
“Were they good, Mom?” asked her daughter.
“They were absolute angels, Andrea. I couldn’t ask for better grandkids. Anyway, I’m off to play bingo. See you later.”
Back in her car, Joyce Parker checked her hair in the rear view mirror, patting her perm. She liked to keep her hair short and neat. Like her little house and her yard too. On the other hand, her purse was a mishmash of items, and now, before she drove away, she checked for the important things she would need that afternoon.
She murmured to herself, as she pawed through her handbag.
“Facial tissue, lipstick, comb, cloth bag, ski mask, gun.” Joyce smiled into the rear view mirror, zipped up her pocketbook, and then started her car. She drove carefully, as always, obeying the traffic signs and stopping for pedestrians.
She arrived in the next town a little after three o’clock. The bank would not be very busy, she thought, since it was a Wednesday, not a payday for the average person, and in a small and sleepy town. Robbing it would be a snap.
This wasn’t the first time, but Joyce resolved to herself that it would be the last time. She’d been lucky three times now, in not getting caught. But she didn’t believe in pushing her luck. It was bound to run out if she didn’t stop.
She pulled the car into the alley next to the bank and pulled on the ski mask. She tucked the gun into the top of her purse and exited the car. As she entered the bank, she noticed that the security guard was nowhere to be seen. Good. Probably on a bathroom or smoke break. There was one till open, and three people in the lineup. She pushed past them and shoved the young woman standing at the till out of her way. She stepped up and said, “I want the money!” She pulled the gun and the cloth bag out of her purse, as she spoke. The girl behind the till began to tremble. Her pony tail quivered. The girl took the money from the till and put it in the bag Joyce had thrust at her.
Joyce looked around as the girl handled the money. Still no security guard. Good. This was all going according to plan.
The girl pushed the now bulging bag at Joyce, and Joyce picked it up. She stepped back from the counter and kept walking until she reached the bank doors. She turned then, and ran. She got into her car and drove off down the alley, onto Green Street and then past the cemetery. As soon as she was out of town, she tucked the gun back into her handbag as she drove.
At home, she dumped the bag of money on the dining room table and then, after making herself a cup of tea, she sat down and began to count the haul. It was good. After she’d counted it out, she leaned back in her chair and smiled. There was enough here for the grand kids’ college tuition and enough to pay for Max’s surgery.
The next morning, Joyce sat at the table in the kitchen nook, light from the sun shone in the high narrow bay windows, glimmering over her hair as she sipped her coffee. Max, who she thought seemed even more crippled up today than usual, limped over to the table and sat down opposite her with the cup of coffee he’d poured, before he spoke.
“Joyce, you say I don’t have to worry anymore about the surgery costs. What do you mean, my girl?”
Joyce smiled at Max. She loved how her neighbor liked to call her his girl, even though she had about five years on him.
“Max, I’ve got enough money saved up that I can lend you the money for the operation on your back. What do you think of that?” She took another sip of her coffee and looked at the grey haired man. His eyes were especially blue this morning, she thought. She certainly was getting involved with him, more than she had realized until this moment.
Max said, “Joyce, I probably couldn’t ever pay it all back, so no, I won’t borrow money from you.”
“Oh, but you will. If you don’t,” and Joyce hesitated then went on, “I’ll tell everyone about your daughter.”
This was a low blow, but Joyce was determined that Max had suffered with his bad back long enough.
“You wouldn’t do that, Joyce! Would you?” Max looked at her, his eyes wide.
“I would. I realize it could end our friendship, but I would do it. So you had better just accept my offer and let it be.”
Max shook his head in amazement.
“You are one tough bird, my girl. I hate to be in pain, that’s true. And I don’t want anyone to ever learn about Cindy’s drug use and jail term. She’s got a brand new life here, and she might lose it all, if people found out. So, I guess you win.”
Joyce sipped her coffee and grinned at Max.
“Are you mad at me?”
“No, just a little put out about being blackmailed.”
“Okay, then. Let me get those cinnamon rolls and we’ll have one each with some butter. Then we’ll plan your next doctor visit, so we can get things going for your surgery.”
Joyce got up and put the cinnamon rolls on yellow plates, then brought knives and the butter over to the table. Max dove in, and Joyce smiled in satisfaction, as she helped herself to a roll with the butter too.
They munched in companionable silence for several minutes.
“Joyce, I’d marry you if you’d promise to make these cinnamon rolls a few times a week.”
“Max, if I made these treats that often we’d both be overweight, you and me.”
“It’d be worth it,” said Max, between bites.
“No way. If we got married, I’d be feeding you salads and fruit and all those healthy things that we are supposed to eat. Keep us both slim and living into our golden years.”
The cinnamon rolls dealt with, the two set about planning when Max should make his doctor appointment, and Joyce, as usual, said she would be happy to drive him to the meeting.
“I sure wish I could drive,” said Max. “I hate having to rely on other people to get into the city.”
“Never mind, Max. If the surgery is successful, you’ll be able to do all kinds of things that you’ve had to give up, and that includes driving.”
Max smiled at Joyce. “And then I could take you for a night on the town, dinner, dancing….” Max trailed off.
“If it’s successful! Think positive, my friend.”
About a month later, Joyce and Max went into Carson. The city confused Max, he told Joyce, and he didn’t think he would ever be able to live there. This was where his daughter had moved after high school, the place where she had got into drugs and worse.
“Well, Max, we’re here.” Joyce pulled into a parking stall and turned to face her friend.
“Now, you don’t have to hang around, while I wait to see the doctor, you know. Maybe you’d like to shop, or go to the museum…” Max’s voice trailed off, and Joyce felt that little stab of emotion again. Max was quite endearing in his way.
“Now, you just never mind. I am going to that waiting room and I’ll be there to hear the good news about your surgery when you come out, okay?”
Max grinned as the two of them left the car and went into the building. It was a ten storey brick building and Max told Joyce that he was glad that his doctor’s office was on the main floor. He couldn’t do stairs anymore and he was rather frightened of elevators. They made him feel nervous, and claustrophobic.
The two made their way into the doctor’s waiting room. There were big rectangular windows in the room, making it bright and airy. It was a spacious area, with comfortable dark green seating placed in rows that faced a large television. The TV was tuned to a news channel, something that pleased Joyce. She loved to keep up with current events. While Max checked in with the young receptionist, and then joined Joyce.
She was about to ask Max if he wanted her to accompany him into the doctor’s examination room, when something on the television caught her attention. A news reporter came into view, a familiar looking building just behind her.
“And so, the police chief thinks he has finally got a lead on the current situation,” she said.
Joyce caught her breath, as she listened, Max forgotten now.
The police chief was introduced by the reporter as Captain O’Neill. He said, “The perpetrator is believed to be an older woman, or a man, with a wig. The hair color is gray, and the wig or hair, is a medium length, and curly.”
Joyce ran her hand over her hair. This was bad.
Max was called by the nurse just then, and Joyce nodded to him, as he told her he’d be out in a bit.
She listened, as the chief said, “Furthermore, we think this same person is responsible for at least two other robberies, in Shasta and in Colborne.”
Joyce looked around the waiting room. She saw that the four people who sat in various locations in the room were either talking to each other or reading magazines. She felt so vulnerable now, for what if one of them looked up at the television screen? For now, the reporter said, “We have a sketch of the thief.” And she held up a drawing that looked like Joyce, in her mask. The gray hair was evident in the picture even though her facial features were hidden.Why, oh why had she robbed that last bank? She should have been content with the money from the first couple of places. But no, she had been greedy. Instead of getting enough for Max, she had thought she needed more – enough for the kids. That had been her downfall, she supposed. What to do now? She thought for a minute, and then sighed.
And as she watched, the station proceeded to show video footage from all three banks. In each shot, Joyce saw that she had been caught clearly in the camera’s eye.
The news channel now shifted to the weather forecast, and Joyce relaxed a little. Maybe she would be safe. There was no use in worry for nothing. She would have to dispose of that mask, though. She resolved to do that as soon as she got home.