I just started a writing class. The first assignment was to write a short story that has a person in a room with a plant. This is what I turned in.
“We should rob a bank.”
For those in the lower-middle class the idea of robbing a bank is a kind of fantasy; a way to make a lump sum of untaxed cash. The overwhelming nature of living paycheck to paycheck pushes this ambiguous fantasy to its precipice at times. With only one small barrier called risk preventing these ideas of coming to fruition. Some people go over the barrier. This was one of those times.
When Benjamin posed this question to his best friend, Vincent, he said it half jokingly. The surprise came when Vincent replied,
“Let’s do it” in a declarative tone.
“Just like that? you don’t want any details? You aren’t worried about getting caught?” asked Benjamin.
“Look B, I work full time at McDonalds. I don’t think prison would be much worse.” replied Vincent.
They sat there for a few moments mulling over a game of FIFA and a large bag of hot cheetos. A diaphanous cloud of dust and haze floated across the living room with the light that entered through the window. The sun created a spot on the carpet. When they would walk across the room they would step in that spot and it would be warmer than the rest of the carpet. The carpet was thick and tan and very wooly. It absorbed dust in such a way that when someone walked it would release a small cloud. Eventually the dust would re-deposit in the carpet awaiting the next foot fall. They could hear small children riding their bikes on the sidewalks outside but they seemed to be miles away.
Benjamin felt that his life didn’t have much purpose either. He didn’t have a wife or kids. His favorite hobby was playing FIFA and eating hot cheetos. He worked in janitorial services at a nearby convalescent home. The job description wasn’t fulfilling in a metaphysical sense. He would do things to help patients intrinsically. Things that he wasn’t supposed to, the actions were supplementary to his necessary tasks. He would put pictures of patients loved ones in a position where they could see them better or leave the blinds open and the lights on or fill the rooms with colorful plants. Benjamin wasn’t permitted to talk to the patients but he would lend a listening ear or a word of advice if need be. Most of these gestures went unnoticed but it brought him a karmic return. He did it because if his mother was in a similar home then he would want her treated the same way. Unfortunately compassion isn’t a measure of the social hierarchy.
“I have a pretty good plan” stated Benjamin.
“Haha you’re still on that huh? Alright let’s hear it” replied Vincent.
“Every Wednesday I go to my safety deposit box. The past few times I’ve gone there has been this big Ficus in the safe deposit room.”
“Ok first of all, what does a Ficus have to do with us robbing a bank? Secondly, why do you go to your safe box every Wednesday?”
“Check this out, I’m going to go next time and I’ll stash a gun in the soil of the plant. Then you go in under the pretense of opening a box yourself. Once they let you into the room you grab the gun. You’re already behind the teller line so they will be forced to comply with your demands.”
“You’re fucking crazy you know that.”
“So you mean you want me to rob the bank while you just watch?”
“Well, no I’ll be parked on the side street, I’ll be your get away ride.”
“Haha,so let’s say everything goes as planned and I grab the gun. What then?” Vincent asked
“Don’t go for the safe, go straight for the cash drawers and you will be out in under two minutes.” replied Benjamin.
“All of a sudden you’re a modern day Butch Cassidy.”
The TV hummed emitting the music of a paused FIFA game while the cheetos got stale.
“So they’re just going to let me into the safe area, behind the teller line where all the cash is?” asked Vincent.
Benjamin looked at Vincent with a blank stare.
“No, you’re going to walk in with a bag with some fake jewelry and a fake ID. You’re going to ask them to open up a safety deposit box.” replied Benjamin.
“Mmmmhmmm.” mumbled Vincent.
“Once they let you back to fill your box you just grab the gun. We don’t even have to go the same day I plant the gun. No one is going to check that fucking Ficus.”
“But what if I lose my job at McDonalds? asked Vincent.
They both looked at each other. Laughing Vincent says.
“Fuck it bro, I’m in. But you never did tell me why you go to your safety deposit box every Wednesday.”
Wednesday was such a ritualistic day for Benjamin that he had forgot about the gun tucked into his pants until he had got up to see the teller.
“Good morning Ben, let me guess, safety deposit box?” asked the teller.
“You got it.” replied Benjamin.
The teller grabbed his ID and gave Benjamin the sign in sheet. Benjamin followed the teller into the long corridor lined with small steel doors each containing two key holes. The carpet was reminiscent of a hotel with a 1970’s motif and contained a stale smell. Benjamin and the teller each inserted their respective keys into a steel door marked 517. The door clicked and swung open. Out slid a 3”x5”x12” metal mahogany box that reflected the fluorescent lights overhead. Benjamin followed the teller into the safe deposit box room. He immediately looked over and saw the Ficus standing there in the corner. The teller set the box down on the desk.
“Thank you I will be right out” stated Benjamin.
The teller left and shut the door behind him. The room was a cube. It had a ceiling with fluorescent light, four walls, a door and a floor with the same shitty old carpet. There was a desktop on which the mahogany box sat. Although the ficus didn’t appeal to the utilitarian aesthetic of the room it was still a nice place to stash a gun. It sat in a large white clay pot and the wood of the main stem writhed all they way up to the sphere of bushy leaves.
Benjamin unlatched the box and pulled out a photograph of him and his mother. They were sitting at a bench at some park. Behind them was a pond where they would feed the ducks bread. The spray from the fountain would blow in their faces. Both of them smiled in the picture. It was taken when Benjamin had just started to develop the same individualistic features as his mother. Their radiant smiles made Benjamin look like a small clone of his mother rather than her son. He had come to the safety deposit box every Wednesday for two years since his mother was killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting. When she was alive, Wednesdays were the day they would meet for dinner or even just to talk and catch up. They promised each other to never miss a meeting no matter what. Benjamin kept that promise even after she had passed. The picture meant so much to him that he felt the only safe place to keep it was the safety deposit box. The box which he now stood over. He stared at the picture of his mother and him, with a gun tucked into his pants. The tall green Ficus stood in the corner of the room gawking at him as if it was asking.
“So what are you going to do?”