Sometimes all we have is our ability to communicate
|Mr. Beale's Last Day
Lester Beale sat at his desk waiting for his decaf to finish brewing. His eyes were on Martha, his wife of thirty-seven years, whose picture sat before him on prominent display. Mrs. Beale returned her husband’s gaze with stern, no nonsense affection.
Next to Martha’s picture, a tall stack of computer printouts awaited his attention. On Friday there had been four additional stacks neatly arranged to the side of this one. Now, on Monday morning, only one stack remained. Mr. Beale congratulated himself for working through the weekend. It was not yet nine am, and the day promised to be another productive one.
The coffee maker hissed and sputtered from the far corner, and Mr. Beale rose stiffly to make his way without hurry across the floor. He reached for his personal mug, a gift from the entire office four years ago. On the mug was written, To Mr. B. The World’s Greatest Boss. He promised himself he would remember to bring the mug home with him tonight.
Returning to his private glassed-in office, he sat back in his leather chair and took a moment to contemplate this rather sad and special last day of employment. He let his eyes follow the lines of the magnificent architecture of the bank’s interior. Corinthian columns rose to frame the vibrant mural on the ceiling thirty feet overhead. The elegant marble balustrades aligning the grand staircase brought back a time before elevators and gadgetry. Mr. Beale inhaled the wondrous scent of bygone top hats, old money, and polished mahogany. He was going to miss this place.
He had no sooner taken his first sip of coffee when the shadowy figures of six men appeared inside the bank from the employee break-room on the other side of the room. He watched them through his inner office window as they spread out, pulling down window shades, disconnecting phone lines, kicking over chairs, and climbing up on desks to spray-paint security cameras.
The men seemed unaware of his presence, and now Mr. Beale wished he had not completed so much paperwork over the weekend. Had the additional four stacks of printouts still been on his desk, perhaps he could hide by ducking below them.
This was not the case. In moments, the six men were standing in front of his desk. They each had what appeared to be pantyhose pulled over their faces, which made them look immensely scary and evil and hugely out of place. Two of the men began shouting at him simultaneously, both using hard edged street-lingo filled with one colorful f-bomb after another quite common to a class of people with whom Mr. Beale rarely, if ever, had dealings.
Mr. Beale. wasn’t sure he caught it all, but the basics of what he believed he was being told was to not fucking move, or utter a motherfucking peep, or touch a goddamn alarm. Mr. Beale assured them he would follow their directions to his utmost ability. In actuality, his only response had been to nod his head repeatedly, but the huge orbs behind his glasses told these six men all they needed to know about the little bow-tied bank manager's willingness to fully cooperate.
Mr. Beale, sitting there before them and feeling tiny in comparison, made a brave effort to project a veneer of confidence. Only the yellow blur of the wagging pencil in his right hand betrayed any hint of fear on his part. It dawned on him that he was soon going to be obligated to explain to these people that the bank had gone out of business last week, and somehow convey all this in such a manner as to not make them angry, nor, in any way feel foolish.
One of the hopeful, yet soon to be greatly disappointed bank robbers casually lifted the picture of Martha off the desk and glared at it. “This yo bitch?”
Mr. Beale did not immediately grasp the question.
The man then leaned in close to Mr. Beale’s face and asked, “This yo mo-fo fuckin bitch, yes or no, old man?” Mr. Beale caught the overpowering scent of garlic on the man’s breath, which in and of itself seemed rather odd considering the early hour. This distraction, plus the man’s uncanny vernacular, seemed to put Mr. Beale’s brain on hold. He didn’t know what to say because he was still not sure what the question had been. Nonetheless, he took a shot, and though he had never, and would never refer to Mrs. Beale in such manner, he let it be known, that yes, yes, yes, she was indeed his mo-fo bitch!
“You want to see her again, right?”
Mr. Beale nodded emphatically, oh yes, yes, yes!
“Then get yo old wrinkly ass up off the chair and open the mother fuckin’ safe, or we gonna blow yo balls up yo fagot-ass ass!”
Mr. Beale took a deep breath, knowing the moment he’d been dreading had arrived. Using the eraser end of his pencil, he pointed with a quivering hand in the general direction of the bank’s main entrance. He said, “Perhaps you gentlemen didn't see it outside, but our business hours sign says 'Closed—’” He hadn’t finished speaking when the slap came across his face. His glasses went flying, landing somewhere across the room. The expressions on the six faces above him strongly suggested that if he was attempting to interject humor into this situation, it was a horribly bad idea.
“You think we care about yo banker’s hours? This bank’s open for us now, mother fucker. We be special customers!”
A different would be bank robber now stuck a good portion of a large handgun into Mr. Beale’s mouth. First, he asked Mr. Beale if he thought of himself as some kind of Jerry Lewis funny man. He then went into a long diatribe questioning Mr. Beale’s ancestry, sexual orientation, IQ, and willingness to remain alive. All the hovering faces seemed to press down on Mr. Beale like in one of those ghastly Halloween movies, what with the stockings and the lopsided noses and especially the angry, bulging eyes.
He was handed his glasses back and took them without saying thank you, which he would surely have said, but for the gun barrel in his mouth. After another deep breath, he was ready to try again.
“I om so sauwy,” he said, and waited for the gun to be removed. “I am afraid you misunderstand me. . . ” He paused, desperate now to formulate the words needed to communicate his message clearly and in a parlance these men could understand. “My fault entirely,” he continued. “I don't mean to say we aren't open for business at the moment. What I mean is, sadly, and I do apologize, we are absolutely out of business for fuckin’ mo-fo fagot-ass ever!”
He held his breath as they all looked at him in silent contemplation. Then they looked at each other, and finally, they looked around at the bank’s bare walls with obvious spots where pictures had once hung. They looked at the dangling electrical wires coming out of open light fixtures, and at the painter’s ladder and tarp laying on a hallway floor. Immediately an argument erupted as to which of them was most at fault for this rather gargantuan over-sight. Fingers were pointed back and forth with some minor pushing and shoving, which resulted in Mr. Beale's neatly stacked printouts to be strewn about the carpeted floor. The whole sorry state of the American monetary system was the last and final point discussed before the six of them departed abruptly, using, no doubt, the same method for egress as they had to gain entry. It seemed even bank robbers were suffering from the economic downturn now plaguing corporate America.
Lester Beale sat back in his chair and exhaled a well-deserved sigh. Recounting his performance in the midst of this terrifying ordeal, it dawned on him that he had behaved in a most admirable fashion. The more he thought about it, the more pleased with himself he became. All his worry about finding future employment flew by the wayside. He realized with abundant clarity that he was one of those rare men who could communicate with anyone anywhere! A new found confidence bathed him in a warm inner glow and he decided that what he wanted now, more than anything, was to tell someone about what he'd just been through. The obvious first choice came to mind, and he took his cellphone out of his inside coat pocket and pressed speed-dial. “Bitch is gonna fuckin wig!” he said to himself as he waited for Martha to pick up.