by Than Pence
Amy's name has bugged her all her life. But today, she finds the courage to embrace it.
|Rice Amy Coleridge parked her car and went into the bank. She was late so she was walking quickly, her feet already sore from her attractive yet torturous shoes.
Stepping through the employee’s entrance, she saw Mr. Bomkit. He was standing there with his arms crossed as if waiting for just this moment; a smug look decorated his features and made his tiny mustache look alive. Amy immediately began with “I know I’m late, Mr. Bomkit, but I got pulled over for running a red light. Which is a total lie because the light was yellow when I went under it.”
But Mr. Bomkit just stared for a few seconds as if he was contemplating the validity of her statement. It was the truth, she knew, but she hated having to dole out an excuse. Amy always felt it made her look bad, like she was blaming her problems on the world.
Mr. Bomkit didn’t say anything more. He simply raised his eyebrows and walked to his tiny office. Amy breathed a sigh of relief and went to her teller station next to Wendy Peppermill. “Rice, where ya been?”
Amy hated that, being called “Rice”. It was her legal first name but she simply hated it. Every time someone said it, she was immediately brought back to the childhood playground taunts that a name like hers could inspire. “Rice-a-Roni”, “Minute Rice”, and the ever popular “White on Rice” that had blended her with Corey White in a way that young children find to be hysterical rather than smutty. At that memory, she’d smile and say to herself We were so naive.
“I got pulled over, Windy.” As a form of retaliation, Amy would always reply to Wendy as “Windy” despite the fact that the distinction wasn’t ever registered. Each time, she conceded it to be a personal triumph due to the cleverness and sneakiness of her name-calling.
“Pulled over? You were speeding?”
“Ran a red light. Bomkit looked mad but he didn’t say anything.”
“He was saying stuff before you showed up.”
Amy looked at Wendy. “What do you mean?”
“He was saying things like ‘Should’ve never hired that Coleridge miss’ and ‘Let this be a lesson to all of you’.” Amy almost started snickering at Wendy’s furrowed face that imitated Mr. Bomkit’s so well.
Amy looked over at the door to the tiny office. “Well, he didn’t say anything to me.”
Wendy shrugged and went back to prepping her workstation for the customers that would be in the bank any second now, as soon as Mr. Bomkit opened the front door and turned on the drive thru lighting.
Like clockwork, he opened his office and headed towards the front, but not without casting a quick glance at Amy. He was obviously checking to see that her station was prepped with the bills straight and the computer booted up. Her login screen came up just as he unlocked the door, but no one was desperately waiting outside to get in.
Still, Amy was ready and the feeling of being rushed was leaving her senses. She looked at the other side of the counter and recalled that, in the past, banks used to use glass to keep the teller away from the customer with only a circle of mesh to vocally connect the two. Now, the tellers were exposed and Amy always wondered Who’s gonna try to rob me today? It was a grim thought, she knew, but she wasn’t allowed to share it with others like Wendy: they believed it was the worst kind of luck to joke about such a thing.
Mr. Bomkit stood by the door a moment to give the bank one more look. He seemed pleased that no customers had arrived and had been allowed this chance to correct any minor mistakes.
The door chimed behind him and Mr. Bomkit looked surprised. Amy smiled at that and awaited the customer to come to her station since she was the first teller.
But the customer, an elderly woman with a purple, wool cap, shuffled by and stopped at Wendy’s. Amy felt a little miffed but it was Mr. Bomkit that showed her the error of her ways. He slowly walked up to the counter and, leaning forward so he wouldn’t have to speak loudly, said, “It helps, Ms. Coleridge, if the customer knows that you’re available.”
Amy frowned and wondered what not having a boyfriend had to do with anything in the bank… when she realized that Mr. Bomkit was gently rapping his palm against her nameplate. It was triangle shaped and, staring at her in an upside-down manner was her name – her full name. She groaned a little because the side facing Mr. Bomkit was the side that read “Next Teller Please”.
Slowly, reluctantly, she rolled the triangle forward so that her name could be displayed and Barry Rhode was facing her, upside-down. He sometimes worked this station too, when Amy was off, and she wished that he was here instead of her.
Amy looked up into Mr. Bomkit’s dark brown eyes and forced a pert smile about the mistake. His graying mustache seemed to quiver. “Perhaps we wouldn’t make these mistakes if we arrived on time, would we?”
“Were you late too?” she found herself saying quickly. She saw Wendy in her peripheral stop counting back the elderly woman’s money and stare.
Mr. Bomkit’s face colored only slightly. “Let’s make this a good day.” He looked down at her nameplate. “Rice.”
She tightened her smile but she couldn’t help but feel like she had lost this little battle because, no matter what happened, she always had that name to be tormented with.
Often, she would ask her mother why she had chosen such a ridiculous name but she would just flippantly say “Oh, you know what the times were like, Rice dear.”
Amy shook the memories away as quickly as she could because a pair of older teens was approaching her station. “Welcome to Pairmont Security. What can I do for you?”
Neither boy looked at Amy but, instead, her nameplate. One then swatted at the other’s shoulder and started smiling. He then whispered into his friend’s ear and they both started giggling loudly. Amy rolled her eyes but kept her smile up. “What can I do for you, sirs?”
She hated having to say “sirs” to such young-minded people, but it was a policy that she had been admonished for in the past. “Uh, I need to get some money out of my account.”
“Ghetto Thug 3 is out and we gotta go pick it up.”
Like I really care.
“Okay, what’s your account number?”
He gave up the information with ease, whispered something inaudible to his friend, and they both started giggling again. Amy felt her smile fade. “How much would you like to take out?”
The boy, Grayson van Tock, if the computer was right, said the amount he needed and started giggling again, his wide smile showing off yellowed, crooked teeth. Amy finally stopped typing, put her hands together, and leaned forward. “My name is Rice, yes, but I go by Amy. Rice is a ridiculous name to give to a person but its mine so get over it, Grayson.”
The boys stopped smiling, looked at each other, and started laughing a little more. Wendy looked at the situation and said, “Uh, you need some—”
“I got this, Windy.”
“Look, lady, we weren’t laughing because your name is Rice. We’re laughing ‘cause, well, your initials spell RAC. R.A.C.. And you’ve got a nice…” He trailed off while motioning towards Amy’s chest and they both started smiling again.
Amy felt her face flush with heat and she turned to Wendy and said, “You know what? I do need some help.” Then she left the counter and went into the break room, leaving Grayson and his buddy to finagle their money from Wendy and her slower counting abilities.
Her shoes clacked in the tiled break room as she headed for the coffee machine. In running late, she hadn’t even had time to stop at a Starbucks, having passed four of them during the short drive to work. Amy poured a generous cup of cold coffee when Mr. Bomkit walked in. “What’re you doing?”
“Getting coffee. And waiting for those boys to leave.”
“No, Ms. Coleridge. You need to be putting your coffee down and going back to your station. You’re lunch break will be a good time for you to consume your coffee.”
“Mr. Bomkit, they were rude to me. They said I—”
“I don’t care what they said. Get out there and deal with it.”
Amy knew her face was blotched red by now but she was beyond the point of caring what she looked like. She stormed past Mr. Bomkit and headed back to the teller’s counter where the two teens had just thanked Windy Wendy and were headed towards the exit. She was relieved not to have to deal with them and she sat down calmly at her workstation.
An old man was standing there, having obviously put faith in the nameplate that told him a person named Rice Amy Coleridge would eventually be there to give him the greatest Pairmont Security service available.
He looked surprised. “You’re a woman.”
She sucked in a deep breath and looked down at her own body, slightly raising her arms. “So I am,” was all she could muster.
“Your name’s Rice.”
“I go by Amy.”
“I knew a Rice in the war. Vietnam. Saved his bunkmate from a mortar blast. Pulled me out of the river with two broken legs. My legs were broken, not his. Quite a hero.”
Amy didn’t know what to think so she just handled his transaction as she normally would, injecting an extra sense of kindness as he had made her feel better about so many different things, like her name, her identity, and the fact that she, too, could be just as courageous.
As the old man limped out, Amy shucked off her painful shoes and let the cool bank’s air breeze through her toes. Wendy asked what Amy was smiling about and she just said, “Nothing.”
A loud click was heard as Mr. Bomkit opened his door and said, “Ms. Coleridge? Can I see you in here, please?”
Amy silently groaned and turned her nameplate back so she could see her own upside-down name once more. She walked into the tiny office and was stunned to discover that the carpeting inside was much softer than what rested on the floors of the bank’s main areas.
She then realized she had forgotten her shoes.
Standing as Mr. Bomkit closed the door, Amy recognized she was no longer as tall as him. He’d be looking down on her if they spoke in this manner, so she immediately sat down. He squeezed around the side of the desk and sat in his chair. “Ms. Coleridge, I’m sure you know why you’re in here.”
Amy said nothing but gave his desk a quick glance, her eyes stopping on Mr. Bomkit’s own nameplate. She felt like smiling but held it back and found eye contact with the man once more.
“Last month, you came off of your probationary period regarding your inability to refer to our customers as ‘sirs’ and ‘ma’ams’.” She nodded as this was a fact. “I’m going to be placing you on a sixty-day probationary period once more because of your actions with the two youths this morning.”
Mr. Bomkit stopped. “What?”
“They were two sirs. Sir.”
He blinked rapidly and Amy couldn’t believe she had mustered up the gall to talk back to the man as much as she had already. She suddenly realized that she didn’t care that much either. Mr. Bomkit was always going to be a mean little man and Amy was always going to be the focus of his meager attempts at showing everyone that he was in charge.
“Just sign this,” he said while sliding a piece of paper across the desk.
Amy reached forward and did just that without a word. Mr. Bomkit looked at her signature and smirked. “Your full name… Rice.”
She didn’t even blush but simply wrote the tiny word in front of her name. It looked scrunched and was barely legible.
Amy stood and knew that she was carrying an air of indifference at this point. “That all?”
Mr. Bomkit just stared, nodded, and looked back down at his desk. Amy then looked at his nameplate again and started sliding her finger on the top of the triangle. “What’s in a name, Mr. Bomkit?”
“I mean, we all have a name. But some are more distinctive than others. I found out today that there was a great war hero named Rice. Back in Vietnam.”
Mr. Bomkit sighed. “What’s your point, Ms. Coleridge.”
“No, please. I feel we’ve reached a first name basis. Dick.”
He huffed. “My name is Richard.”
Amy smiled and leaned forward a little more. “And mine is Rice Amy Coleridge.”
With that, she let her point drop, left the office, and went back to her workstation. Wendy didn’t say anything as Amy turned her nameplate back over and awaited the next customer.
Word Count: 2213