Fillip 6 — Summer 2007

The Penalty for Perfidy
Maria Fusco

This is the story of a bored, smug boy who thought that it would be a good idea to simulate a bank robbery.

Conveniently, it just so happened he already owned a replica revolver that he could bring along to use. The boy also owned a real one. But remembering that the point of the hold-up was that it was fake, he decided it would be a better idea to leave that particular weapon at home that day. His pursuit of stimulation afforded him the luxury of this sort of spontaneous decision-making: an ability of which he was normally bereft.

The boy boarded a red bus that was heading into the town centre. Really, it was a very short journey, easily walked, but he thought that his view from the bus window would be a much more dramatic and fitting frame to his adventure.

He got off at the High Street, opposite the third bank he had seen from the right hand window, ignoring two building societies, as they didn’t quite fit into the concept of a bank robbery, however simulated.

Whilst crossing the street towards his target, the boy considered how he would phrase his demand for the money. Possibly, he could have even been lightly mouthing it, but as no one was watching him to notice whether he was or not, we can’t be sure.

The boy entered the front doors of the bank, which was not too empty and not too full—just right, in fact—and proceeded to pretend to hold it up. Knowing just about as much about bank security as we do (from programs on television and films in the cinema), he pointed his gun at the cashiers, told them to stand back from the counters, and asked the bank manager to collect all the bills from the tills.

Now at this point in the story—just as the cash was being drawn together—the boy experienced an oddly pleasant surprise, for everyone seemed to believe his heist simulation as they were actually participating in it. He was just smirking at this thought, when at the very same moment, a ruddy-faced bank customer really fell back, really rattled his last breath, and really died of a heart attack. Naturally, the boy was incredulous at first, if somewhat perturbed by the blue lips; they were the first he had ever seen for real. The rest of the customers wanted to go and help the man, for they didn’t know for certain that he was already dead, even though he wasn’t moving. But not one of them did since they were all afraid of moving because of the black gun in the boy’s right hand.

As the boy was looking down at the dead man’s mouth, the bank manager took the opportunity to press the silent alarm button under the counter. He then finished packing the last roll of notes into a pink cotton cash bag. The tills were fairly empty, so all the cash fit in one bag.

The manager was glad that it wasn’t his own heart that had given way and gladder still that he had made a positive effort to try to ensure the capture of this menace to society.

Although the boy found it hard to believe that the bank manager was actually handing him a bag of bills over the counter, he decided to take them anyway, so as not to disappoint the bank employees and customers, who thought that they really were being robbed. This, combined with his slowly growing satisfaction in having been so accurate in the actions and outcome of the fake robbery, made him overlook the fact that a customer had just died.

He pushed open one of the double glass doors, and walked out onto the street. Everyone in the bank felt very relieved that he was finally gone and that it was someone else who had had a heart attack and not them. The boy looked down at his fawn suede shoes in the flat sunshine outside, wondering whether to catch the bus home, or walk instead. It was quite a short distance on foot, but he thought that the bag would probably become heavy on the way back, pulling one of his shoulders forward with the weight, making him look hunched over and ungainly. He decided to catch the bus, and thought that that would make a more satisfying end to his story.

The boy turned left up High Street, heading for the nearest bus stop. It is at this point that he looks up to see a real policeman who really shoots on sight and does.


About the Author

Maria Fusco is a Belfast-born writer and academic based in London. She recently edited Put About: A Critical Anthology on Independent Publishing produced out of a conference at Tate Modern that she organized. She is currently developing a new journal The Happy Hypocrite for and about experimental writing within visual arts.

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