JODY RAY GETS A PAYDAY • by Carmela Starace

Jody Ray had been out of work since ruining his back months ago and the eviction deadline was looming. Which is why, on that Tuesday afternoon, he found himself standing in line at the Barnett Bank, carrying a backpack that held a fake bomb he’d made using his battery-operated clock radio, some duct tape and a fistful of freshly purchased white play-doh.

When it was finally his turn, he discovered an unanticipated problem.

There, behind the counter, was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen.

Jody Ray had a problem with pretty girls. Specifically, he went dumb around them.

“Hey there,” she drawled.

“How can I help you?” the pretty teller asked.

On the veneered counter in front of her was a nameplate that said, “My Name Is Robyn.” Jody Ray stared at the white letters engraved on the black metal. He did not want to raise his head and see her up close.

His plan had been to make serious eye contact to let the teller know he meant business and to get the right level of intensity going. But that was before he knew the teller was going to be this pretty girl named Robyn. Making eye contact with Robyn would be his undoing.

“You don’t have to be afraid,” Jody Ray started, his voice breaking, “I have a bag.” Jody Ray gestured to his backpack.

“A bag of what?” she interrupted, leaning forward so that the space between her breasts became a tunnel that Jody Ray wished he could disappear into.

He cleared his throat. “All I need is fifteen hundred dollars.”

“I can barely hear you. You have an account number for me, sir?” she said loudly. “You want that fifteen dollars out of your savings?”

“No. No,” he said and grabbed the bag off his shoulder and held it next to his face. “Listen to me. No one has to get hurt. This is serious. In this bag, I have a bomb. Do you understand me? I have a bomb, lady. I don’t want to use it, but I will if you don’t do exactly what I say.” He unzipped the bag a few inches so she would be able to see the red glow of the clock radio.

Robyn leaned back, as if to deny him the privilege of her cleavage.

She licked her lips and looked from side to side.

“Don’t act… suspicious. Don’t make me use this thing. All I need is fifteen hundred dollars. No more, no less. Just count that up and put it in an envelope and everything will be fine. Now open your drawer and start counting.”

Robyn shook her head and rubbed a tear off her cheek with her fingertips. Even her nails were pretty, thought Jody Ray.

She pulled out a stack of twenties held together by a paper clip and started counting.

“Would you really kill everybody in here for a lousy couple of grand?” she asked after counting out five one hundred dollar piles.

“Not two thousand!” he almost shouted and then collected himself.

“One thousand, five hundred dollars. I ain’t no criminal. I just need to borrow that much to pay my rent.”

At the word borrow, Robyn looked up, interested.

“That’s right. If you must know, I am planning to return this money when I can. I make my own way. Just need a little help right now cause I’ve been down on my luck this year.”

“Really?” Robyn asked, lowering her voice. “Are you really planning on paying this money back? You’re not just saying that?”

“No, ma’am.” Jody Ray said solemnly. “I plan on paying back every cent. When I can.”

“Well, then, you don’t have to rob the bank at all!” Robyn smiled at him triumphantly, but Jody Ray just felt blank.

“Don’t you see? You said it yourself. You’re just borrowing. Well, this is a bank, isn’t it? That’s our business. Loaning money. You don’t need a bomb.”

“I don’t?” he asked.

“Hell, honey. What you need is a loan application.”

Of course. Why hadn’t it occurred to him? He could get a loan.

People got loans to buy cars or build houses. He could get a rent loan.

“Do you think they’d approve me?” he asked.

“I’d approve you. Me. Robyn C. Mills.” Robyn collected the piles of bills and put them in a white envelope. Then she reached under the counter and returned with a sheet of paper. “Now all you need to do is fill this out. Then I’ll stamp it approved…” she reached to her left and picked up a rubber stamp, “with this. And you can take this envelope and go pay your rent.”

“It’s that easy?” he asked.

“It is for such a small amount. Now truthfully if you wanted ten thousand dollars, I’d have to get my manager involved. But for a little loan like fifteen hundred bucks, I can authorize that right here.

“Fifteen hundred,” he said. “Not a penny more.”

“Of course.” Robyn held out the pen and piece of paper.

“It says New Account form.”

“That’s right. You’ll have a new loan account. All we need is your name and your address. And maybe your phone number.” Robyn winked as she said the last part.

She’s flirting with me, he thought. Jody Ray couldn’t believe his incredible luck. He wasn’t going to have to rob the bank after all, he still got the money, and maybe she would go out with him.

“That’s all you need?” he asked.

“That’s all,” she said. She exchanged the application for the envelope.

“I sure do appreciate the help.”

“Of course. That’s what we are here for.”

“Umm… my phone number is on there. If you wanted to go out.”

She smiled. “Oh, honey, I’ll be calling you.”

She was going to call. He didn’t even have to ask for her number.

He smiled all the way back to the apartment, where the police were already waiting.

Carmela Starace is a teacher and attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is currently finishing her MFA at the University of New Mexico, which has a kick ass program.

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