“You’re a different type of stupid.”
Joseph was not the most tactful person in the world. He took a long drag from a neatly rolled joint and paused for a second, enjoying the high.
“I just don’t get it. How’d you get fired on your day off?” Joseph questioned, perplexed.
“I told you already. It wasn’t my fault. Someone was stealing pizza dough and I got blamed.” Ted pitifully defended.
“You said they caught you on camera. How’d someone else steal the pizza but you were caught on camera? Why the hell were you stealing raw pizza dough anyway?” Joseph added, now amused. Offering the joint to Ted who politely refused.
“I don’t want to talk about it any more.” Ted answered, ashamed.
He was understandably bothered. He had only been working at that pizza shop for two months before he was fired. He was supposed to be off on his last day of work but he got called in to cover his sick coworker’s shift. The next morning, Ted received a call from Randy, his manager, telling him that he was being let go. Apparently, Ted was caught on tape stealing raw pizza dough.
“You should probably get outta here, man. My mom’s gonna be back from work any minute, and I have to get ready for my interview.” Ted explained, rising from his comfortable living room couch and heading towards the adjoining kitchen. Joseph followed.
Just then, footsteps were heard coming down the stairs. Ted’s father, Theodore Dunn Sr., entered the room wearing a zebra patterned robe with zebra house slippers to match. Mr. Dunn had a flair for the dramatic, quite contrary to his less fashion savvy son.
“Why is it that every time I come down to the kitchen, you are in the kitchen?” Mr. Dunn asked Joseph. “Are you homeless, boy? Because since my son doesn’t work any more you can move into his room and pay rent.”
“Actually sir, I like the sound of that.” Joseph played along. “Am I allowed to have women over?” He asked reaching the joint back to his lips before having it snatched away by Ted’s dad.
“Just keep them out of my kitchen.” Ted Sr. remarked, taking a puff. “And I’ve told you not to smoke in here. My wife hates this shit.” He took one more pull before putting it out. “Did you see that game last night?” He continued, struggling to hold back a cough. He failed. It sounded like he was going to cough out his soul.
“How could I miss it? Lamar Adams’ clutch buzzer beater was legendary!” Joseph excitedly recapped, patting the elder Ted’s zebra patterned back.
It was strange to Ted that his best friend seemed to have more in common with his dad than himself. Now that he thought about it, he was pretty sure that Joseph often visited just to see his dad. The thought was shamefully depressing.
Ted Sr. maneuvered around Joseph to get to his liquor cabinet where he proceeded to make his favorite drink: an old fashioned.
“Isn’t it a little early for a drink, dad?” Ted questioned.
“I’m a writer, son. I need some liquid inspiration.” Ted Sr. responded. “Don’t you have a job interview to get to?”
“Yeah, I gotta get ready for that.” Ted remembered.
“And don’t even try stealing anything. If you couldn’t steal pizza there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to steal from a bank.” Ted Sr. teased. “Wasn’t it your day off?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Ted repeated.
“Just don’t screw this up, son. You have responsibilities around here. And clean up this kitchen, your mother will be home soon.” At that, Ted Sr. left the kitchen and headed upstairs.
He made it halfway up before he clumsily tripped and tumbled back down the stairs almost in slow motion, cursing all the way down. He gathered himself and re-entered the kitchen, this time with brown stains decorating his beloved zebra robe, courtesy of the spilled whiskey. An awkward silence ensued as he made a fresh drink and left the kitchen once more. The boys knew better than to mention anything about his embarrassing attempt at making a smooth exit. He painstakingly hiked up the treacherous staircase in his fancy zebra slippers and disappeared into his bedroom.
“I gotta go, I have a job to get to. ” Joseph stated, breaking the silence.
“You’ve never had a job in your life. ” Ted acknowledged.
“True, and I’ve never lost one either.” He joked. “I’ll see ya later man.” He left the Dunn residence leaving Ted alone in the kitchen.
Joseph intrigued Ted. He never quite understood what Joseph did in his free time or how he made money. He just knew that Joseph always seemed to have enough money to do what he wanted and the freedom made Ted somewhat envious. Ted’s admiration for Joseph’s carefree lifestyle quickly turned to frustration as he realized that his half friend had left a mess in his kitchen that now smelled like weed smoke. He painfully gazed into the sink full of dishes and let out a hopeless sigh.
The front door opened.
“Woo!” His mother exclaimed, exhausted from work. “What is that smell? Have you been smoking in my house again?” His mother interrogated, clearly irritated. She had just gotten off from her overnight shift at the hospital and the stress of the job showed in the bags under her eyes. Ted didn’t want to know what the dark stains were on her sky blue scrubs.
“Of course not, mom.” Ted answered truthfully. “How was work?”
“Another day, another dollar.” She answered plainly, dropping her purse on the kitchen table then hanging her jacket in the hall closet. She walked over to her son, looked lovingly into his eyes and added, “Clean up this kitchen. You’ve been home all day, there’s no reason for it to be such a mess. They should’ve been done last night. You’re 22 years old Theodore, I shouldn’t have to keep telling you this.”
Ted felt it was pointless to explain that half of the dishes were used by Joseph, that pot smoking back stabber. He wondered why they were even friends.
“Good luck on your job interview.” She offered. “Try not to steal anything.” It was adorable how she could go from encouraging in one moment to patronizing the next.
She headed upstairs to have loud, disgustingly passionate morning sex with her husband. Now grossed out and demoralized, Ted realized that he hated his life.
He proceeded to clean the dishes that weren’t his, showered, then dressed in his cheap, dark brown, oversized department store suit before heading out to his interview.
Ted was less than excited about the opportunity to work at the Clintville Bank.
Welcome to Clintville Bank
Ted parked his handed down 1993 Mazda Protege in the somewhat crowded bank parking lot. He took a few minutes to himself in order to go over a few possible interview questions in his head. After a couple attempts at explaining to himself why he thought he would be a good candidate, he figured he was as ready as he would ever be.
Ted’s anxiety increased little by little with every step he took toward the bank entrance. The small voice in the back of his head told him it wasn’t too late to turn back. His higher conscience told him to suck it up. He pushed open the double doors and suffered a wave of nervousness. Maybe the little voice was right after all.
There were several people in line waiting to see the next available bank teller. The construction worker at the back of the line kept glancing at his watch, frantically bouncing on the balls of his feet. He was obviously in a rush. There was an elderly lady struggling to fill out what may have been a deposit slip. Someone should have helped her. A cute girl of maybe 21 wearing a red hoodie and yoga pants near the front had turned to meet Ted’s eye when he came in. He immediately looked away, ashamed to be seen in his baggy poop suit. He would’ve been better off just borrowing one of his father’s. In the midst of his self shaming, Ted was greeted by an approaching bank employee.
“Good morning! What brings you in today?” The clean shaven gentleman in the better fitting suit questioned excitedly.
“Umm..I have an interview at 12 with a Mr. Biddleman?” Ted answered unconfidently.
“Mr. Biddleman is finishing up an interview now, but he should be out shortly. If you’ve already filled out the sign in sheet, you can have a seat in the lobby until he’s ready for you.” The employee directed robotically.
“Thanks.” Ted slumped into a seat and decided to read over his resume while he waited. Several long minutes passed. He was trying to come up with the best answer for why he left his previous job when a balding, pudgy man in red suspenders approached him.
“Theodore Dunn?” The man asked.
“That’s me.” Ted replied standing, fumbling with his resume.
“I’m Mr. Biddleman, you can follow me to my office.” He reached out his plump hand and shook Ted’s limp sweaty palm. The fat man in suspenders let out a barely noticeable dissatisfied “Hmph,” before leading Ted to the office. Ted was not off to a fantastic start.
The office was an open cubicle. It was secluded enough for a touch of privacy, but just accessible and open enough to keep an eye on the bank lobby.
Ted immediately noticed the family pictures that decorated Biddleman’s cubicle. He thought that Biddleman’s life seemed blatantly cliche. He was unamused by the stereotypically dull middle class life that Biddleman showcased. Biddleman had the nice big house, big family dog, two beautiful little girls and a drop dead gorgeous wife. Ted couldn’t wrap his head around how such a beautiful woman could be with such a bland blob of a man. He promised himself that he’d never end up so boring.
“May I take a look at that?” The blob asked, referencing Ted’s resume.
“Sure, of course.” He handed over the document and nervously sat back in his chair. Ted let out a low sigh of exasperation. He understood that for the next 5-10 minutes he would have to put on a fake, upbeat personality. He was already prepared for the trite job interview questions that were soon to come.
“I see you worked at Poe’s! I love their pizza!” Blob mentioned excitedly, reading Ted’s resume.
Of course you do, Ted thought.
“What made you decide to leave?” Blob inquired.
“I just wanted to seek better opportunities.” Ted lied, hoping Biddleman would buy it.
“So you quit before finding another job?” Biddleman asked suspiciously. He probably didn’t buy it.
“Well, I had a bit of money saved up. And the pressure of having to find immediate work forced me to make something happen fast. I work pretty well under pressure.” Ted wondered if he was going to have to lie his way into getting the job. Was that last part too much? Did he oversell himself with that last tidbit?
Mr. Biddleman glanced back and forth between Ted and the resume. He let out another displeased “Hmph.”
Ted’s confidence was shrinking. He was aware that he was about a fourth into his interview and he was sure it wasn’t going well. He would have a lot of making up to do if he was going to get the job.
His mind wandered off. Ted was now pondering the sad reality of never moving out of his parents’ house. He’d be doomed to suffer the ruckus of their obnoxious love making shenanigans for the rest of his pitiful, underachieving life. He dry heaved at the thought and returned his attention back to the task at hand.
“So why Clintville Bank? What do you think you can contribute here?” Biddleman asked routinely. Monotonous.
Ted started to spill out his rehearsed monologue detailing his customer service skills and growth oriented attitude but he was immediately cut off.
A terrifying scream pierced the air.
The screaming voice belonged to the elderly woman who was now lying face down on the bank lobby floor along with all of the other customers. The three men still standing were draped in black, ski masks covering their faces and bulletproof vests protecting their torsos. Two of them were waving M16’s at the helpless victims, ensuring they didn’t move a muscle. The third one, apparently the leader, spoke out.
“All right. Let’s make this nice and easy. Hands up where I can see them!” He ordered the three bank tellers while aiming his weapon. It was a pump action 500 Flex Mossberg shotgun, quite persuasive. He directed two of them to come from behind the counter to join the lobby hostages while the third remained standing.
He turned to one of his accomplices, addressing him as “Crow”, and ordered him to clear the rest of the bank. Meanwhile, the leader hopped over the counter to join the remaining bank employee. Jamming the gun between the scared woman’s shoulder blades, he calmly told her,
“I’d like to make a withdrawal. Could you kindly direct me to the vault?”
The trembling bank worker was a young dark haired woman dressed in a vivid turquoise pantsuit. She immediately regretted not calling in this morning. Her hangover from the previous night of drinking and partying was intensified by having her back massaged with a shotgun. She quietly led the leader to the back of the bank and into the bank vault.
Just then, Crow returned to the lobby escorting three additional hostages. Ted and Biddleman made up two, the other was a janitor who was finishing his last walkthrough before clocking out for the day. He would have been off in only a few more minutes.
“Nice suit, jackass. Get down there!” He demanded. Ted unhesitatingly followed orders and put his nose on the floor.
“Please don’t do this, I have a family!” Biddleman pleaded.
“Please don’t do this,” Crow mocked. “Shut it, fatass. Do as we say and you’ll get to go home.”
The bank manager couldn’t get down to the ground as gracefully as Ted. Crow chuckled aloud as Biddleman clumsily plopped down beside Ted.
Ted was now convinced that the little voice from earlier had been right. He didn’t even really want this job and now he was caught up in a heist.
“How much longer do we have, Jag?” Crow asked his remaining accomplice.
Looking down at his watch, Jag replied “3 minutes.” He started aggressively scratching at his neck area.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Crow asked
“My skin is itching like crazy!” Jag replied.
“Suck it up, you look like an addict.” Crow ordered.
“I can’t, my skin is burning! Where’d you get these ski masks?” Jag asked, tearing at his own flesh.
“Manazon. They were 3 for $30.” Crow bragged.
“That’s a pretty good deal.” Jag admitted. “These aren’t made of polyester are they?” He inquired.
“How the hell am I supposed to know?” Crow defended.
“You know I’m allergic to polyester!” Jag yelled at his accomplice. The two seemed to forget about the hostages and were now carelessly waving their assault weapons around during their argument.
“Watch where you’re waving that thing!” The security guard-turned-hostage said, recapturing their attention.
“Oh, this thing?” Crow asked now aiming the weapon in his face.
“Seriously man, I gotta take this mask off! My skin is burning!” Jag complained.
“If you wanna take off your mask so everyone here can recognize your face then be my guest.” Crow said sarcastically.
“Fuuuck!!” Jag cried out, clearly in an uncomfortable predicament. “What am I supposed to do?”
“You’re going to have to pee on it.” Offered one of the bank employees.
“That’s for jellyfish bites, you moron.” Corrected another.
“That’s not right.” Biddleman chimed in.
“So you don’t pee on it?” The first bank employee asked, now confused.
“No, idiot. Jellyfish don’t bite, they sting!” Biddleman bantered.
“Wait, so do we have to pee on it or not?” Questioned the second bank employee.
A shot rang out.
“What the hell is going on here?” The leader had returned and was displeased to say the least. The shotgun blast to the ceiling silenced everyone. The old lady fainted, but no one could tell since she was already lying down.
“I leave for two minutes and I come back to this shit show? What am I paying you for?” He asked, clearly disappointed with his team’s incompetency.
“Well actually you’re not paying us? That’s kinda why we’re here robbing this bank.” Crow answered matter-of-factly.
“Right.” The leader acknowledged, Crow had a point.
“I got what we came for. Let’s get outta here.” He was holding a small locked box, contents unknown. “Jag, stop scratching like that, you’ll tear a hole in the mask.”
“I can’t help it! Crow bought polyester masks again!” Jag defended.
“Crow, you idiot, we specifically noted Jag’s polyester allergy in the bank heist memo! How much time do we have, Jag?”
“A minute and a half.” Jag responded.
“Great, we’re making good time. Wrap ’em up and let’s make a move.” The leader ordered.
Crow grabbed a handful of black cloth rags from his vest pocket and proceeded to blindfold each of the helpless, undoubtedly uncomfortable, bank hostages. He even blindfolded the limp old lady. Jag watched on, aiming his M16 at the victims with one hand and intensely ripping at his skin with the other.
“Which one should I grab?” Crow asked.
The leader scanned over the group of bodies on the floor before making a quick decision.
“Grab the kid in the shit suit and let’s go.” He commanded.
Crow scraped Ted up off the floor, and the kid couldn’t help but thinking that this was probably the worst job interview of all time.
Crow waited in the bank lobby while Jag went to pull the getaway car around. Crow handed Ted off to the heist leader and the two left the bank.
Ted felt the hard poke in his back and he knew that it wasn’t because his captor was excited to see him.
“Take off your blindfold and lead me to your car, kid.” The leader instructed. “And don’t try anything funny.” He added poking him once more with his weapon.
Jag’s getaway car swiftly pulled into the parking lot, a metallic Chodge Dodger. It was a beautiful specimen of a muscle car, making an escape would be easy work. Crow let out several rounds into the ceiling of the bank which led to a symphony of terrified screams from the hostages. He warned them not to remove the blindfolds and ran from bank, hopped into Jag’s vehicle and the two fled the scene.
At the same time, Ted was leading the crew leader into his less-than-admirable Mazda. The captor looked disgustingly at the car then back at Ted. He seriously considered going back in to grab a different hostage instead. With a disappointed sigh, he entered Ted’s car while Ted got into the driver’s seat and turned the engine over.
The masked assailant pulled out a cell phone and pressed three buttons. Seconds later he exclaimed,
“There’s been a robbery at the Clintville bank! Yes, there were 4 guys with masks and weapons!” He exclaimed.
Wow, this guy is good, Ted thought.
“Yes, I saw what they were driving.” The masked man answered. Looking at Ted, he said “They were driving a white Bronco,” he lied. Before the police on the other end could ask any more questions, he ended the call and tossed the phone out of the window.
“Drive, kid. Drive fast, but not too crazy.” He directed.
Ted did as he was told, exiting the bank lot maze and entering the neighboring street. Curious, Ted asked,
“Why’d you tell them there were 4 suspects?”
“Because if me and my guys get caught, they’ll be on a wild goose chase for someone who doesn’t exist. And since you’re with me, if you get caught then you will automatically be assumed to be working with us. So, like I said before, don’t try anything funny.” He answered coldly.
Ted was impressed with the answer he had gotten. Despite the lack of professionalism from his two subordinates, it seemed that this guy actually knew what he was doing. He drove as fast as his beat up sedan would take him but there was a small problem.
“Where am I driving to?” Ted asked understandably. Police sirens could be heard in the distance.
“The abandoned toy factory on Dangerfield Way.” He ordered. “I’m assuming you know the place.”
“I do.” Ted answered. He remembered how sad he had been when the factory shut down when he was just a preteen. Apparently some workers were killed in a freak accident and the place had to be shut down.
Ted drove on and he drove fast. The man in the mask was surprised at Ted’s driving dexterity.
“Where’d you learn to drive like this, kid?” He asked, his threatening tone softening into one of intrigue.
“My dad taught me. He was a street racer when he was young, but he left that life behind when he met my mom. He taught me to drive when I was 12. He’s a writer now.” Ted explained.
“From a driver to a writer.” The masked man thought aloud. “Funny how life works. A good woman changes a man.” He declared thoughtfully.
“You may have heard of him,” Ted added. “Theodore Dunn Sr?”
“The porn writer?” Ted’s passenger asked incredulously.
“It’s called erotic fiction.” Ted defended. He chuckled to himself as he recounted all of the times his father had corrected those who criticized his work. “You wouldn’t understand.” Ted was drifting and swerving expertly through the Clintville streets. His passenger was enjoying the thrill of the ride.
“I understand that my girlfriend loves those books. I can’t stand them. She’s always wanting me to be more romantic and mysterious like those gay vampires in those stupid little books he’s writing.” The man in the mask admitted.
“They’re not gay if they’re sleeping with women.” Ted blurted out, suddenly aware that he was defending some fictional mythical creatures in his dad’s made up world of literature.
“Vampires are gay, period.” Ted’s captor stated plainly. “So, if he’s your dad, why are you driving this shitty car in that shitty suit? Surely, he can provide more for you?”
“My father is an old school, self made kind of guy. He believes every man should work for everything on his own.” Ted explained.
“And how’s that working out for you?” Ted was asked.
Ted was quiet.
“I was told the same thing when I was young. My mom didn’t have shit, and my dad left before I could walk. I used to work hard for years, but that got me nowhere. Now, I take what I feel I deserve. I like it better that way.” The man with the shotgun proudly detailed.
“What made you start robbing banks?” Ted inquired. Not attempting to hide his interest.
“I wasn’t always robbing banks. I started stealing from mom-and pop shops, graduated to robbing people at gunpoint, then picked up bank heists not too long ago. I kinda fell into it. I get better every time.” Was he bragging?
“Don’t you worry about getting caught?” Ted asked.
“It crosses my mind but I never worry about it. If I worry too much about it, it’s bound to end up happening. ” The robber explained.
Ted thought for a second. As twisted as this guy’s sense of justice was, he had to admit that there was a touch of courage and utmost self confidence in his philosophy.
“Perception is reality kid, if you focus on what you don’t want that’s exactly what you’re going to get.” Mask added.
The abandoned factory was now in sight. A sleek muscle car was just pulling into the lot. Jag and Crow stepped out. Ted drove the car into the lot and parked the car next to Jag’s.
“Get out of the car kid.” The man with the shotgun said.
The Path You Choose
On the other side of town, an old man was pulled over. The officers were embarrassed to find that they had gotten the wrong guy. There was no way in hell that a frail old man could hold up a bank by himself. He probably should have driven his Trius instead of his treasured white Bronco. They let him go and knew that they had been duped.
Meanwhile, there were 3 guys in black and a young twenty something in a brown suit meeting up in the parking lot of an abandoned toy factory.
“Welcome back, Cap!” Crow greeted the leader. Jag had removed his mask. His neck was crimson from the intense scratching and blotted with red bumps. His cheeks were deep pink and puffy.
“How’d you guys get here so fast? I was sure we left way ahead of you!” Jag wondered.
“Turn’s out this kid is a better driver than you two combined.” Cap praised.
“You get what we came for?” Crow asked.
“Got it right here.” Cap reassured, hoisting up the locked metal box he had retrieved from the bank.
“What are we gonna do with him?” Crow inquired, nodding towards young Theodore. He was hoping that his boss would give him permission to make him disappear. Crow was always itching to kill something.
“I haven’t quite decide yet.” Cap started. “There’s more than meets the eye with this one.”
“Well while you two decide, I’m going inside. Hopefully I can find some running water somewhere in here to cool my skin.” Jag declared. He turned and disappeared into the dark building.
Cap handed the box to his number two in charge and told him to go on in. He would meet them inside. Crow grabbed the box and did as he was told, following Jag inside. Cap tucked his weapon into it’s designated slot in the back of his vest. He looked like a ninja with his shotgun secured to his back. He approached Theodore.
“Listen, kid. You did a great job today,” Cap started. “We don’t often meet people with–” he paused, “marketable qualities.”
Ted was flattered.
“I know you had no idea your day would turn out like it did. But it did, and now you’re here. With your skills, you could help make things run a lot smoother for this team I’ve developed. You’ve got a lot to learn, but I pride myself on my patience. You can choose to return to the life you know or choose a different path, but your path must be chosen. If you don’t choose for yourself, it will be chosen for you.” He lectured.
Ted was thinking to himself. This morning, he had hoped to land an entry level job at his local bank but now he was being offered a fourth spot on a heist squad. Life comes at you fast, he thought.
“Just remember kid, whether you decide to join us or not the cops are looking for four people.” Cap reminded him. He turned and trailed the path of his subordinates into the toy factory, leaving Ted alone in the parking lot.
Ted stood there for what felt like an eternity. His life had taken a most unexpected turn. He looked at the beautiful vehicle driven by Jag then looked at the hunk of trash on four wheels that he owned. He looked again at Jag’s car then back to his.
The Clintville police never found those four bank robbers. Within a short time, banks were being robbed all throughout the neighboring towns, each heist bigger than the one it preceded.
These heists would never have been able to be pulled off successfully without the help of a young and capable getaway driver, an essential piece to the now four-man team.