KNOW THYSELF • by Jennifer Foster

Mabel sat and sighed. Friday p.m. at the bank, always slow, now, in the brilliant pre-bank-holiday sunshine, passively moribund. Another half hour. Some of the girls brought magazines, or knitting, but not Mabel. Mabel filled the boring passages of life from her own resources; she daydreamed.
Mabel always grounded her dreams in reality. Here she was, stuck alone in the bank (Hatty had won the toss and gone out back to reconcile the ledgers) so she dreamed that an exciting customer came in. Sometimes, it was a foreign prince in a sharp grey suit clinking with chunky gold jewellery, who would be so struck with her beauty and winsome personality that he would whisk her away to a Mediterranean Island aboard his yacht, but mostly, it was a gangster who came in. She dreamed about the moment when a man dressed in black with a lady’s stocking over his head would push a gun through her partition and say
“Give me the cash, lady!”

Frank fiddled with the stocking, his palms wet. How the devil did women get these damned things on? It couldn’t be hard, if they did it. He began to suspect himself of funk: he knew he was nervous. He began to go through the actions in his head. Frank knew how this was going to go. He was going to walk into the bank, like any customer, without running, having parked his car and left the engine ticking over. In his right hand he would have the stocking, well stretched, which he would whip over his face. Then he would draw his gun, and point it firmly at the silly female behind the desk.
“Give me the cash, lady.”
He’d thrust a small cloth bag at her. Trembling, she would do as she was told.

Mabel’s reaction to the gunman varied. Sometimes she boldly stared back, and said, “No way!”, following this up by diving for cover and pressing the alarm. But mostly, she was more valorous than discreet. Her favourite response was “Oh yes… yes, please don’t shoot”, and pretending to be scared whilst she filled a cash bag, which she would then, suddenly and without warning, smack into his face.

When the bag was full Frank would utter some clear threats in a voice that was the more menacing for its cool and calm tones.
“Stand there for five minutes.”
“No police, I’ll still have you covered.”
“Do as I say, if you want to see tomorrow.”
And the scared rabbit would do just as he said.

Sometimes, Mabel imagined that she was not alone. Then she would heroically protect her customers, if necessary with her own body. And most exciting of all was the dream where Mabel, bravely protecting her fallen customer, was taken hostage, dragged out at gunpoint from the bank, driven miles at breakneck speed through the countryside, keeping her head and noting down all landmarks, or acceleration and decelerations if they’d been so inconsiderate as to tie her up and blindfold her.

And then Frank, money in one hand, gun in the other, stocking still over face, would run out of the bank, leap into the car, and drive away. He’d have to stop around the corner to remove the stocking but it would all be over so fast that no one would have time to think. And his number plates were covered in mud… time to stop havering, and get on with it. Frank took a deep breath, and got out of the car.

Once at the hideout, Mabel would be locked up, possibly, probably after some ungentlemanly threats to her maidenly virtue. Then she would escape with great ingenuity. Picking the lock with a hairgrip, perhaps, and also of course great courage. Then there would be a long trek back to —

Frank pushed open the bank door, and fumbled with the stocking.
Mabel woke up… what the…
Frank thrust the gun over the counter:
“Give me the money!”

“Bloody Hell!” said Mabel, and fainted, as Frank, fumbling to the last, pulled the trigger by mistake. The bullet shattered the glass partition and sank harmlessly into the plaster under the clock.
“Oh my God, I’ve killed her!”
Then instinct took over. Tearing off the stocking, dropping the gun, he fumbled his mobile phone from his pocket and called an ambulance.

It is pleasant to record that this action considerably reduced his sentence. And that Mabel often visited him in prison. Clearly, they shared a bond, though no one else was quite sure what it was.

Jennifer Foster is a Wiltshire (England) homemaker, currently writing for pleasure and to take her mind off the housework she hasn’t done!

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Every Day Fiction