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The Banker & The Teller

 

The Banker & The Teller

 

 

There in that cold dark the Banker stood, staring reflectively at the black expanse before him. He sat and watched the dawn’s crimson-blue break over the rift of the west Pecos riverbank.  After the creator’s handywork had commenced, he gave a prayer to be safeguarded from sin and death, and closed it with an audible, “Thank you Lord for this day”. As he thumbed through his key ring in front of the bank, he whistled a tune, clicked his heels and hacked up something stuck in his throat. Near the center of town, a bell sang its song to signal the hour. The Teller he’d hired yesterday was approaching the bank, just on time.

“Morning sir,” said the Teller timidly. The Banker gave no response, and they entered the building.

“Make sure you’ve wiped down them there table tops good before we open at seven.” This was the teller’s first day working the counter, and his demeanor reflected that.

 The bank was a hallmark of societal order, a checkpoint of fiscal passage for all the law-abiding citizens of Pecos. For that West-Texas town, it represented a promise of integrity, local prosperity, and the prospective freedom for a man to purchase a plot for husbandry or some other tangible means at a living. At the very least, a man could cash in his hard work and get the funds to buy a bottle of distilled liquor down the road. Any person will tell you that a town ain’t no town without a bank.

Some want to see the bank destroyed. The rarely spoken agreement between those within the law and those outside of it has an existential importance for people in West-Texas. The evil that exists out there in that Chihuahuan Desert, the Banker knows all too well. He knows that with the blessing of witnessing that dawn as it broke over the horizon comes a consequence that is inevitable for all men who trample the dust here in Pecos. That sun gives light to the earth, giving sight to a living thing around him. The environment breathes—he can follow the plumes of smoke rising into that arid wind from the tops of houses. He sees the rattle of a thin eyed serpent out back resting in that new-found light. Some mornings there’s a rancher moving a herd out in the reserve, only giving the distant observer a hint from the dust cloud kicked up from the range.

There’s also death here. The circling of buzzards or the bones of some steer torn by a coyote are a humbling reminder. This is what the Banker knows and what the Teller don’t—that the fire of day devours some and illuminates others. And nobody knows whose day it is either because the sun don’t discriminate who it ascends upon.

As the Teller was wiping down the counter, the Banker went back into his office and fired up the woodstove, heating up a kettle of three-day old coffee. The Banker spun the wheel of the big iron safe behind his desk, retrieving the coinage and paper. He got set diddling dollars and counting coins for the day’s arrival of loyal patrons.

“Sir, I cleaned them tops real good.” The Banker gave an “uh-um” as he continued to pilfer through the bills. The Teller placed his visor on his head and fully tucked his striped button-down into his britches.

“Thirty minutes till opening, I reckon,” said the Teller looking at his feet.

The Banker gave no reply to this proclamation, and so the Teller proceeded to pace around, pretending to be interested in this or that in the front room. He meandered behind the teller’s counter to the back office. The money the Banker was counting caught his eye, pulling him down into the chair across from The Banker’s wide oaken desk.

“Is there something you need?”

“Sorry sir, I just ain’t never seen that much money before.”

“Well, son, it's a bank aint it?” replied the Banker.

The Teller nodded and looked at his palms, rubbing his knuckles.

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“Why’d you hire me on such short notice? I can’t help but feel the need to ask you why.”

Without looking up from his counting the Banker replied, “Last week the previous teller took a load of buckshot to the face by a couple of banditos looking to rob the place.”

“Did—did he survive?”

“Hell! There wasn’t nothing left for him to survive with. How’s a man supposed to exist without his noggin?”

The Teller rubbed his neck to make sure he still had a head sitting on his shoulders. He swallowed clearing his throat, which did nothing to take away his current nausea.

“Did they get away with it?”

“Who?”

“Them robbers. Did they get caught by the sheriff? Was there ever a posse formed or a hanging or something?”

“Boy, them criminals took the money right out of my charitable hands without anyone ever blowin’ the whistle. That teller was damn foolish enough to threaten them crooks with callin’ the law and what not. He even told em’ that he’d remember their faces and a give a detailed composite to the sheriff. Next thing I heard was a ‘BOOM’ and his brains hit the back wall next to where you’s a standin.”

“Good lord.”

“Hey now, you listen. Don’t be taking the Lord’s name in jest, you hear? It ain’t very Christianly.”

“Sorry, I just didn’t know this kind of work resulted in—in no brain splatters is all.” The Teller adjusted his visor, trembling as he stared at the subtle stains on the wall to his left.

Silence pervaded the room, and the Banker broke out his pocket watch, “Fifteen minutes”. The Teller bit his lip and shook his head.

“Son, is there something wrong? You look rattled, like you’ve seen an apparition.”

The Teller thought about it. “How can a man created by God Almighty himself do such a thing to another?” The question left an expression of sheer confoundment on the Teller’s face, but the Banker had no such bearing of surprise. He’d evidently asked it numerous times before.

“Son, look out that there window at the horizon.” The Teller moved toward the left wall of the back office gazing out as the sun sat round and red on the line of day. A hawk, silhouetted by the light was scanning the dry expanse below. He saw the bird drop down sharp. Its pointed talons were flushed forward with instinctive perfection as it darted toward its prey. The Teller watched as the bird sunk its claws into a prairie dog, mangling it as it circumvented its body, thrusting its wings back into the air with a single, majestic movement.  

“That’s a new day you’re lookin’ at.”

The Teller continued his gaze. He saw what looked like a cloud of dust kicked up some fifteen miles out. The Teller sighed, still entranced by the sacred act of killing he’d just witnessed

 “A new day don’t change that boy’s death. A new day don’t mean a thing for that boy.”

The Banker contemplated with weightiness the Teller’s objection. “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: But if a man liveth many years, let him rejoiceth in em all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity. Thus, saith the Lord.” The Banker leaned back in his chair waiting for a rebuttal.

The room, compressed by the many minutes of depraved quietness, pervaded the atmosphere—bearing only the sound of the outside wind as it gently caressed the creaking walls.

The Teller broke the silence. “How much longer till opening?”

The Banker looked at his pocket watch. “About ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes?”

The Banker smiled, “Yes sir. Yes indeed.” The Teller moved to the front counter and prepared his station. The Banker finished counting the money, placing it back in the safe behind his desk. He took note of the day’s inventory in a leather-bound book. He continued over to the main room, looking out the window checking for any early birds who might have come to collect their banknotes. The town was still quiet as the morning sun was heating the cold away from the night before.

The Teller finished organizing his station, but time just couldn’t keep up. He asked the Banker for the time.

“Five minutes till.”

The Teller needed to step out back to breathe the desert air, clear his mind. As he opened the door he stood out and faced the horizon. The hot air cooled his clammy face, and he pulled out his handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his brow. He inhaled the dry air deeply into his lungs. Looking up he saw that same dust cloud rolling closer toward the town. The Teller saw something in the cloud that was dark, as it barreled on. The day was bringing something to Pecos. The Teller felt his instinct for preservation pushing him to run or hide—to escape from some intangible thing. The Banker stepped out smoking a cigar, commending the view before him.

“Ain't nothing like it, is there?”

“Sir,”

“Hm?”

“I reckon there may be something in that dust coming this way.”

The Banker nodded in agreement, “I reckon there may.”

“What do you think we ought to do, sir?”

Down the road near the center of town, a bell rang clamorously. The Banker finished his cigar crushing it under his boot-heel. He pulled a nickel from his vest pocket and flipped it up in the air catching it as it fell. He patted the Teller on the back as he turned toward the door.

“I think it’s time that we open for the day.”

 

      Scott Cravens

 

As an undergraduate student, Scott became enamored with the writings of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Cormac McCarthy, Albert Camus and various other greats while working on the completion of his degree in Social Science. Before he graduated from Harding University (central Arkansas) in 2018, he worked as an assistant editor for the University's journal publication Tenor of Our Times. While he's worked in that small capacity in the publishing industry, he has never been published. Writing short stories became a passion, by which he continually tries to write a short story once a month, for the sake of writing itself. Currently, he is invested in his job as a high school educator in Norman, Oklahoma where he teaches AP World Literature, AP Humanities, and American Literature. 

 


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1 Comments

  1. got an old style to it that i very much life. really enjoyed this.

    ReplyDelete