“Let’s rob a bank,” she said, and it made
perfect sense at the time.

Of course, things that make sense when you’re
hopeless and helpless and caught in a soul-sucking
vortex of self-loathing and credit card debt, when
every last ounce of your spirit is being wrung out of
you by the crushing grip of social conformity, when
you are desperate to impart some kind of meaning
to your life, to leave an indelible trace of your
existence, to scream to the heavens in a tiny,
feeble voice,
I was here…

Well, let’s just say that those same things don’t
necessarily make sense when you’re three steps
into the lobby with a shotgun in your hands.

The whole time it’s happening, I’m thinking,
It was
her idea.
No matter what else is going on, I can’t
seem to shake that thought.

Layla’s always been the one with ideas. Layla the
artist, who in her junior year painted a fantastic,
inspiring mural down the entire length of a high
school hallway. Layla the artist, who now has a
little studio in the back of the laundry room, where
she dabs listlessly at canvasses that she never
shows to anyone. Layla the teacher, who tries day
in and day out to breathe a little life into the
formulaic drivel she must pound into her students’
minds until the classroom is a box of human
bonbons, hard shells of cynical indifference coating
centers of soft, chewy mediocrity. Layla the
teacher, who paints hope onto her face and tries
very hard to forget about the mural lying under
three coats of eggshell-white interior as she walks
that very same hallway, day in and day out.

Me, I’m not much for ideas. I’m just Mack. I’m the
easygoing, good-natured guy without a last name
who delivers every package to your door with a
smile. I’m the guy who’s in it for the long run,
always chasing the ephemeral carrot of promotion
while ducking the ever-present sticks of
performance reviews and corporate downsizing. You
see dozens of guys like me every day; we only
exist for a few seconds while you sign a slip or
whatever, then you forget all about us until
tomorrow when we exist for another few seconds of
your life. I’m one of those forgettable guys. You’ve
probably already forgotten my name. It’s Mack, by
the way.

We’d talked about it before, Layla and I—not about
bank robbery specifically, but about doing
something to break up the pointless monotony of
our lives. We had hundreds of ideas, some mine,
mostly hers, none with even the slightest chance of
fulfillment. Let’s build a house. Let’s start a
revolution. Let’s go to Burning Man. Let’s paint the
kitchen. It was kind of how we passed the time,
thinking of ways to prove that we were still
individuals with depth and substance and free will,
not just anonymous faces drifting back and forth
through other people’s days. So when Layla put
down her Xbox controller one night and said, “Fuck
it, Mack, let’s rob a bank,” it made perfect sense.
Hell yeah! Let’s break some laws and fuck some
shit up! Let’s give a big middle finger to Corporate
America and make off into the sunset like Bonnie
and Clyde! Goddamn right, man!

Only here I am now, with a brown wool balaclava
pulled over my face and squeezing my neck like an
itchy noose, holding this big-ass gun and looking at
a whole room full of shit-scared people who are
looking back at me and
I don’t know what to do.
Goddamn right.

“Everybody down on the floor!” I yell.

“Everyone put up your hands!” Layla screams.

They give us a few seconds to realize what a
couple of dumb jackasses we are; then the guard
goes for his gun.

“Don’t you fucking move!” Layla screeches, dashing
up and waving her tiny pistol in his face. “Everyone
show us your hands!” A few hands go up
tentatively; more follow as I fail to issue any
conflicting demands. Layla pulls the guard’s gun
out of his holster and backs away from him. She
points both of her weapons around the room
randomly, people ducking and flinching as her aim
wanders. The tubby bank manager stands frozen in
his glass-walled office like an animal trapped in a
cage. The only person who seems to have his wits
about him is the assistant manager. He kind of
reminds me of myself, a tall, brown-haired,
forgettable type of guy. He’s got his hands up like
everyone else, but from the look on his face, you’d
think this is a day in the park. His nametag reads

I’m locked up, trying to remember the next part of
our plan, and though Layla’s face is obscured by
the nylon stocking pulled over her head, I can tell
she’s drawing a blank as well. That’s when I have
my bright idea: I’ll fire a shot into the ceiling, to
show them we’re serious, right? Totally bad-ass. I
pump a round into the chamber and pull the
trigger, holding the gun pointed straight up in front
of me. The recoil drives the barrel back into my
face, and the last thing I hear for a little while is
the crunch of my nose breaking. All I can see is a
burst of white light, which matches the explosive
pain that wraps around my skull like a web of
lightning. Fragments of ceiling tile rain down,
coating my eyeballs with a fine, abrasive powder.

Bleary-eyed and half deaf, I watch Hal stride up to
me and snatch the shotgun right out of my hands.
For some reason, it’s like he’s taken all of my angst
and desperation and futile rage away with it. For
just a moment, one perfect, effortless moment that
seems to go on forever, I’m totally at peace with
the world. As I watch in a blissful daze, Hal spins
around and blows his boss away.

Awestruck, I admire the fluid grace of his actions
as he pivots on the balls of his feet and raises the
weapon to his shoulder, falling easily into an
expert’s stance. When he fires, the tempered glass
wall of the manager’s office explodes cinematically.
The old dude’s chest erupts in gore, and he flies
backward, arms flailing, slumping gracelessly
across his desk. It’s a flawless ’80s action movie
death. I feel like applauding.

Hal turns around, a casual grin on his face. The
cool, confident glint in his eyes has morphed into
the unblinking, psychotic stare of the dangerously

“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to do
that,” he says.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?!” Layla shrieks,
pointing both pistols at him gangsta-style.

Hal goes from ecstatic to murderous in about half a
second. “Hey, back off, bitch! You two had your
turn, and since you’re both clearly incompetent, I’m
in charge now!” He advances on her, driving her
slowly across the lobby as she backs away. Her
guns are still pointed at his chest, but the barrels
are wavering uncertainly.

“Fuck you!
We’re robbing this bank!”

“So rob it, I don’t care! I really don’t! Do you know
how many times that fat prick passed me over for
Five fucking times. Five! I could be a
fucking branch manager by now if that selfish, lazy
asshole hadn’t kept me here to run the place for
him while he sat in there on his fat ass watching
Internet porn. So whatever problems you think you
have, lady, I really don’t care, okay?”

Layla’s eyes are just black slits behind her gauzy
mask. Spots of saliva are starting to soak through
the beige nylon stretched across her mouth. “You
goddamn maniac,” she shouts, “just get the hell
out of here!”

“No! I’ll do whatever the fuck I want! Shit, maybe
I’ll rob this fucking place after all. Maybe I’ll kill a
few more people, just for fun. I’m in fucking charge

“Aaaaahhg!” roars Layla, pulling her triggers wildly.
Hal fires at the same time, the shotgun’s blast
nearly drowning the pop-pop-pop of the
mismatched pistols. Terrified onlookers scatter as
the bullets fly. Layla goes down, and my world

So here I am now, trying to scoop my wife’s guts
up from the blood-slick tiles of a bank lobby floor
and put them back in her body, looking into her
tear-filled eyes and begging her to stay alive. I
press both of my hands across the huge hole in her
belly. Somewhere beyond a throbbing cloud of
white noise coming through my shattered
eardrums, I can hear her sobbing, telling me she
loves me. Hal is lurching around, trailing blood,
screaming, laughing, shooting people. Way off in
the distance, I catch a hint of police sirens, but at
this point I don’t care about the police, I don’t care
about Hal or the people he’s killing, I don’t care
about myself. All I care about is Layla, whose hot
blood is welling up around my fingers and spilling
out of her like an overflowing toilet, and the whole
time I’m thinking the same stupid thought over and
It was her idea.

It made so much sense at the time.

Anders Benson (above) lives in the mountains of western
Maine with his wife and a menagerie of pets. A wilderness
survival instructor, he has worked in welding/steel fabrication,
railroad mechanics and pet care. He spends his free time
hunting, whitewater canoeing, hiking and skiing. This is his first
published story.
by Anders Benson