“Hold on Cherry. It won’t be much longer now.”
Nan gripped her six year old daughter’s hand. The weather had been unusually warm today. Nan was glad that she and Cherry had a moment to soak up the intense air conditioning in the West Pavillion Sanctuary Bank.
“I’m hungry mommy.” Cherry looked up at Nan with huge eyes and a sad mouth.
They were both hungry.
They had not eaten anything in almost 36 hours. Nan had called every friend or family member that would still talk to her, and begged them again for even twenty dollars. She spoke to nine of them. That meant the odds were that two of them may have sent the twenty dollars she asked for.
Nan squeezed Cherry’s little hand.
She was saying a silent prayer. They could get a dollar meal at the fast food joint on the corner and some canned goods at the dollar mart. Then if they could just get ten dollars gas in the old VW, they could maybe make it to the other end of Pavillion town. Nan thought the odds were better out there to find a Stop and Shop or Diner that may have a ‘Help Wanted’ Sign out front.
“Just a little longer Che…” Someone bumped into Nan.
That’s when it all started.
Two men in black ski masks appeared out of nowhere. One of them had a gun and the other a large sharp knife. It was Tuesday. The Bank wasn’t huge but it was full. People scattered about.
“This is a hold up! Everybody down on the ground and shut up, NOW!”
There were flustered and scared cries but everyone complied or tried to; Except for that one guy.
“Are you stupid or what?” It was the second robber speaking. He had the knife.
“It’s a stick up. Get on the ground he said!”
“He…he….sai…said it wa…was a hold up, not sti..sti…stick up. You…you…can’t do this!” He was young, but it was clear he may not have thought this out.
The robber huffed. If the situation wasn’t so serious Nan thought it might have been funny. He was close to two hundred pounds and he wheezed with every other word he said. When he walked it was as though he had a ‘Shrek’ bob to his step.
Nan pulled Cherry into her lab. They sat on the ground in clusters of people.
“Should I gink him Franky? He’s bad mouthing me here.” Robber number two asked his partner.
“Jerry, you ain’t supposed to say my name out loud. What are ya doin?”
“Franky you just said my name out loud.”
Nan looked from Robber number one to number two. Maybe they were related to her husband Bernie. Bernie was a klutz and clueless about anything that really mattered. He opened up a Tropical Island store in the middle of the desert and tried to sell rubber palms. Before that he collected rocks from the outskirts of town, spray painted them, and tried to sell them as topaz rocks from Jabim. He deserted her and Cherry two years ago after cleaning out their meager savings. In the end Nan concluded that she was the fool for marrying him in the first place.
“Shut up and sit down ya jerk!” Robber number one shouted out.
Robber number two sat down promptly. “Not you ya idiot! I mean that guy.”
“Yeah, I knew that. I …I was showin him how to do it!” Robber number two tried to get up as quickly as he could. He fumbled.
The 'would-be' hero guy had lost his nerve and was now sitting on the floor with the others.
“You keep an eye on them. I’ll get the cash.” Franky said to Jerry. Jerry nodded and swished his large sharp knife threateningly at the crowd. There were some gasps.
Jerry moved around jabbing the air with his blade until he came near Nan and Cherry.
Cherry looked up at him. There was no expression to her face. She was thirsty, hungry and unaware of what was going on. Jerry’s eyes landed on her.
“What’s wrong with the kid?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Nan said hurriedly. Not wanting the attention on her daughter. She tried to cover Cherry up in her arms.
“Hey Jerry keep an eye on em. I gotta put the first load in the car.” Franky shouted at Jerry.
“Yeah, I got it. The car’s already out back.” Jerry shouted back. His gaze was still on Cherry.
“Franky are you planning on telling everyone our plan?”
“I ain’t tell em about …” Jerry started to say.
“And you better not! Shut it would ya!” Jerry scowled at the cashiers who had just filled a large black garbage bag with loads of hundred dollar bills. He grabbed the bag and headed out the back exit of the Bank.
“Is she hungry? She looks hungry. I get that look when am hungry too.” Jerry said pointing his knife at Nan. He didn’t mean to point the knife…but it’s what he happened to have in hand.
“I said she’s fine. Thanks.” Nan said hoping he would just move on.
“Fill it up again girls.” It was Franky. He was back at the cashier window with another black bag. He shoved the gun in their faces and they went to work.
“Mama I need to wee.” Cherry looked out from under Nan’s protective arms.
“Hush honey. We have to wait a bit.” Nan said rocking her gently. She wondered when was this going to be over. Were they going to leave anything with the cashiers? Could she get back to the front of the line or would there now be a delay.
Her stomach grumbled. She had forgotten about that.
“Mamma, I really gotta go.” Cherry said too.
“Hey, what kinda parent are ya? Your kid says she has to go. And you aint even feedin her. There’s a place for folks who don’t care for their kids you know.”
Nan rocked Cherry harder. Why wouldn’t this goon just leave them alone she wondered? What would he know about parenting?
Cherry started to cry.
“That’s it! Get up!”
“Get up I said. There’s gotta be a bathroom around here somewhere. Take her now.” Jerry said.
“I said we’re ok.” Nan said rocking harder.
“Then I’ll take her myself!” Jerry reached down to grab Cherry with his knife-less hand.
Nan jumped up and lifted Cherry in her hands.
“I’ll take her. I’ll take her.” Nan said.
“Some maternal instinct finally kickin in huh?” Jerry said smugly.
Nan had no idea why this thug was showing so much interest in them but there was no way he was going to lay a hand on Cherry.
Nan looked around for a bathroom sign. There was none.
“Gotta be one in the back offices go check there. I gotta job to do here.” Jerry said waving Nan away with his knife.
“Nan walked shakily stepping over legs and knees. Everyone was still seated on the floor. Some people watched them. Others were too busy watching Jerry with his shiny blade.
Franky was so engrossed with the cashiers at the counter, eyeballing every wad of bills that was placed in the bag. He did not notice Nan with Cherry in her arms, walking past to the back of the bank.
“There must be an employee bathroom in the back here honey. Let’s see.” Nan whispered to Cherry who was still in her arms.
As Nan moved into the back area of the bank she couldn’t help but notice the back door. It was open. She paused.
‘What are you doing Nan?’ Nan asked herself.
‘What do you mean what am I doing? It’s an open door’ Nan responded herself.
‘Momma’ Cherry said.
“Shhhh” Nan said
Nan took two steps toward the door. There was something else there. It was the getaway car.
Nan peered back behind her into the bank. No one was coming.
‘What the hell are you thinking Nan?’
Nan squeezed Cherry in her hand. She bolted with her and ran out the back door of the bank and into the front seat of the getaway car.
The key was in the ignition. She didn’t think. She just did it. Nan turned the ignition on, slammed the door and with Cherry still clutched in her arms she sped out of the lot.
She could hear the sound of shouting as Franky and Jerry came charging out the back door but it was much too late.
There was another sound too. It was a siren. It was coming from the opposite direction and still faint.
Nan pressed down the gas pedal of the old gray Volkswagen. Who uses a grandma mobile for a getaway car anyway Nan marveled.
“Momma did we get a new car?” Cherry asked.
Nan laughed. “We sure did honey.” Cherry didn’t seem to remember she needed to use the bathroom and Nan was not about to remind her; at least not for another hour or so.
They cruised on down the interstate.