Thursday, September 08, 2005


The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

Job #10: Teller at the Trust III

I spent the whole rest of that summer waiting for the bank robber Bart Lovering to visit the Andover branch that he had held up 15 years earlier. At least one day a week I worked down in Andover, at once hoping the man would show up and, of course, hoping he wouldn't.

Because, honestly, what would I do? We had no weapons, not even so much as an exploding dye pack in the cash drawers. All we had was the silent alarm, which had been installed 14 years before and never used. Eventually I decided that if he came into the bank, I'd see him before he entered, and would have enough time to pick up the phone and dial the main office, where I could say, "Mr. Kidder's out sick today," the secret code sentence that meant one of us tellers was in trouble.

Problem was, I had no idea what Bart Lovering looked like. Doreen described him as a young man in his 20s, with a shaggy mop of brown hair and long sideburns. But that had been 15 years ago. For all I knew he could have come into the bank a dozen times over and I never would have noticed (although in this event, I rather hoped Doreen might tip me off, perhaps with a casual shriek of terror).

And so the summer passed and Bart grew large in my imagination. Eventually, as I am wont to do, I wore out all useful expectations of the situation coming to anything and settled into my routine of working for the bank by day and digging septic tank ditches for my uncle by night.

I didn't mention anything about Bart Lovering to my parents, but my brother knew all about it. He was working security at a local college by then and he had friends at the county police department who were well-versed on the area's one and only armed robbery. Brad evidently grew large in my brother's imagination, too, because he began doing his banking at the Andover branch, miles out of his way to work or home.

The first couple times he showed up, I didn't think much of it. But on his third visit, while Doreen stepped out to have a cigarette, I eyed my brother.

"Please don't tell me you're carrying one of your guns. Please."

My brother looked sheepish, then annoyed. "I've got a license. I'm legal!" He glanced casually down his leg and I saw a bulge in his pantleg, by his ankle. "It's just the .38. Just in case."

My brother wasn't even allowed to carry firearms on his security job, but here he was coming into a bank with a gun.

"You have got to get out of here with that. If Doreen sees you have a gun, she'll freak out!"

"No one's gonna see it, ass-wipe!" he said.

"Oh please!" I said, pointing to where the gun obviously was hidden. "What are people gonna think? You got a tiny dog humping your leg down there?"

"Fine!" he growled. "I'll use my concealed belt holster next time." My brother was referring to his infamous butt holster, which would get him in quite a pickle in a few years' time.

"No!" I said. "Because you're getting out of here. You think you're gonna be in some shoot-out with Bart Lovering. God help us if you were! He probably isn't even around here."

I heard Doreen coughing in the back, announcing her return.

"Just go!" I said.

"Fine!" my brother growled again. "I'm just looking out for you is all. But if you want to get your brains blown out by some whack-job seeking revenge, you go right ahead!"

I swear, my brother should be the writer, not me.

My brother stopped coming by the branch office and the summer dwindled to its last weeks. To everyone's surprise--not least of which my own--I had excelled as a teller, successfully balancing my cash drawer for two consecutive months. Marilyn began trusting me to with bigger responsibilities, such as delivering extra cash to the branch offices on Fridays (when most folks cashed their paychecks) and emptying and loading the one ATM the bank owned.

So it was one Friday morning that I was delivering cash to the branch over in Newbury, just a couple towns over from the Andover branch where Doreen worked. One of the newer tellers, a young mother named Jane, was working the small, enclosed desk in the Newbury general store that day. I shouldered in behind her and counted out the cash while she waited on customers.

As I was counting, I was in such close quarters with Jane that I couldn't help but overhear her conversations as she cashed checks.

And when I heard her say, "How would you like that money, Mr. Lovering?" all the hairs stood up on my neck.

I tried to turn slowly, but I'm sure I failed. Standing across the desk from Jane was a middle-aged guy with a slight paunch and a shiny bald head. No bushy hair. No sideburns. But I pretended to reach around Jane for a pen and saw the name on the money order: Barton Lovering.

Oh my God, oh my holy God, what's he doing here not in Andover he--

My thoughts were interrupted as Bart Lovering cracked an smile full of yellow teeth and told Jane how he wanted his money. While she counted it out, he said, in the slightly warbling voice of someone who doesn't talk much, "So, tell me, does ol' Doreen still work for the bank?"

I turned back to my stack of cash and saw the phone sitting next to the pile. Call someone!

I picked it up and dialed the main office. Eva answered on the first ring.

"Hi Eva, it's me," I said, my voice hitting that high note that is all too often my personal signal of impending panic. "I'm at the Newbury branch, just checking in."

There was a confused pause, then Eva said, "Ja. So?"

I pretended I was having a conversation with her. "Oh, what's that? Mr. Kidder's out sick today? Oh, that's too bad."

I could almost hear Eva's Germanic scowl on the other end. "Mr. Kidder iss not zick. He is right here. I am looking at him. What are you--"

"Okay," I said a trifle desperately. "I'll let Jane know. Mr. Kidder's. Out. Sick. Today."

Eva sighed. "Ve are very busy, today. No time for prank calls. You know how Fridays are. Goot bye." And then, to my open-mouthed horror, Eva hung up on me.

Oh for Christ's--

And that's when I noticed Jane and Bart Lovering were staring at me.

Jane spoke in the manner of someone repeating herself. "Well, I've just started here, but MM, you've been working over in Andover, haven't you? Does Doreen still work over there?"

My innards turned to ice water and trickled down into my shoes as I stared Bart Lovering in the face. I tried to see if he had anything shotgun-like in his hands, but the enclosed office we were in only permitted me to see his head and shoulders.

"Uh...uh...well, Doreen did work there. I mean does. But she's, she went, she's on vacation for the rest of the summer."

Bart stared at me with what I thought were cold, disbelieving eyes. "Really?" he said. "I thought she'd still be there. Used to live thereabouts. Thought I might swing by, say hello."

"Oh, well..." I said, and gave a noncommittal shrug that pretty much degenerated into a kind of nervous twitching.

Then Bart Lovering did something I didn't like at all. He turned and gazed around at the empty general store where this small branch office was situated.

Except for the store's proprietor, who was down at the till, we were completely alone.

He's casing the joint, I thought.

Bart turned back to me and the oblivious Jane. Then he reached down, into his pocket, I assumed. "Well, then, I guess I just need one more thing..."

There was a flash of silvery metal and his hand fell heavily upon the counter.

He was holding something cylindrical.

I was certain that his next words were, "I've come for the money at last."

But in fact, what he said was, "Can you break this roll of quarters for me?" For that was what he was holding in his hands.

I exhaled like Doreen when she smoked and started laughing giddily. "Sure! Sure! Of course!" I said, as Jane gave me a look, then proceeded to crack the roll and count out the quarters.

Just then, the phone rang behind me, making me jump.

It was Marilyn, the head teller. "Hi there, MM," she said in a fluttery voice that utterly failed to disguise her nerves. In the background I could hear the panicked jabber of Eva, shouting in a mixture of German and English. Marilyn shushed her then tittered nervously into the phone. "Eva just realized what you said on the phone earlier and she's a little wigged out. Did you tell her, um, Mr. Kidder's out sick today?"

I turned, just in time to hear the slap of a screen door and watch Bart Lovering leave the store. Jane was now staring at me like I was crazy.

In a single breath, I told Marilyn who had just been in. She yelped when I said Bart Lovering's name and promptly hung up on me to call over to Andover. Doreen, of course, was not on vacation, but was sitting in the branch office with another summer employee, smoking a cigarette. According to the other teller, Doreen answered the phone, listened for a moment, then dropped the receiver like a hot rock and bolted through the back door without so much as a word of warning or a kiss-my-ass to her coworker. She left skidmarks in the parking lot that were almost an inch deep, and never returned to the Andover branch.

Guess who got to do her shifts for the rest of the summer?

And how's this for anticlimax: Bart Lovering never did show up at the Andover branch. It may have been because we got our very own state trooper patrolling the town and regularly poking his head into the bank after that. Or it may have been that Bart had nothing to go back to in Andover and was simply trying to make a fresh start. Kind of like Doreen did when she unceremoniously quit that afternoon.

The summer ended for me a short time later, and the tellers threw a little going-away party for me. I was leaving for London in a week and it was a big deal. Not many people in my neck of the woods ever left the state, let alone the country (unless, of course, they were going to federal prison, like Bart).

"Well, you sure had one exciting summer," said Marilyn, on my last day. "You'll have to come back over the holidays and work for us again."

"All right," I said. "But only if I don't have to work in Andover. Too many oddball characters over that way."

She smiled. "You come back and I'll let you work over in the Cornish office with me. We have plenty of oddball characters there too. But I bet there's at least one you wouldn't mind meeting."

"Promise?" I said.

"Oh yes," she replied. "You can take that to the bank."

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Hey MM, good ending to your story. That's the trouble with code phrases, nobody seems to recognize them when you use them...since they're used so rarely.
Were we off today? Just wondering due to the time you put the post up. Perhaps people in the periodical business don't have to work till 5. Great conclusion. I was actually scared for a second. You paint a vivid picture of ol' Bart. Happy Anniversary by the way!
Alas, I was at work today as we had a photo shoot at 5 (that's 5 AM). But I did go home early to sleep and inhale drugs (that pesky pneumonia, ya know).

Y'know, for such a cute little box, you sounded scarily like my mom there, for a second. ;-)

Will try to participate in your thingy tomorrow (it's still tomorrow, right?) if the next shoot doesn't go too long...
Heh, good story, MM. That's a lot of excitement for one sleepy summer New England town.
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