By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
It's a cool, sharp spring morning, early April, 11:45, a time when most people are swallowing the last gulp of their second cup of coffee or feeling the pangs of lunch hunger. Ciaran Redmond has just finished robbing his third bank of the day, and he isn't finished yet--can't be, because the Mission isn't over.
The first two went smoothly--surprisingly easily, if you must know. It's not a sophisticated plan, but then, robbing a bank isn't organic chemistry, so here's how it goes: You walk in with a cardboard box you find in a nearby dumpster and hand the manager a note you've written a few minutes earlier. The note says you're a member of "the militia"--who knows what that means, but it's been in the news recently, so maybe it'll throw the cops off the scent. The note says you're dead serious--the box contains a bomb, so don't try anything funny, and hand over the money.
And they do. You walk out, get back in the car, drive away. It's quick.
Naturally, the first one's the hardest, like jumping into a cold pool, but now at last you're swimming, the plan finally put into play. In fact, the thing has taken on a momentum of its own, and you're focused only on the Mission that has been churning in you for five years. Even now, looking back, you realize that you probably couldn't have stopped even if it had occurred to you, which it didn't, and so instead, everything moves forward to the next task, one small thing at a time, step by step, just like walking.
So from the first bank, you simply advance, thinking to yourself, "Okay, let's go on to the next one," not even looking at how much money you have, not even caring. Because the Mission is the thing.
The second one goes smoothly, too, although a teller later remarks to the police on your shaky hands. (She says you look unshaven and unkempt, too, not your style, but there's nothing to be done: You were released from jail only eighteen hours ago; those clothes weren't even yours.) She remembers the note, printed--not written--in black felt-tip markings on the steno pad with the red lines: "Relax be calm. We're from the militia. There's somebody standing outside and the bomb can be activated from outside. No tricks for 3 minutes or the bomb will go off. Fill the bag." In and out. Cake.
The third bank presents a problem, though. It's only a small glitch, a slight miscalculation that, truth be told, you don't give a second thought to at the time. But events build from the past, and there are moments in space when the future forks. If you go right, maybe you get away with the bank robberies and the Mission moves ahead; if you go left, things swerve off course and you get caught. But who recognizes these instants when they are flowing by so urgently?
The hitch is this: You hit the wrong bank. It sounds major, but really, you think at the time, is it? A bank is a bank--they all have money, and so what if you walk into a Commercial Federal instead of a Colorado National? Anyway, by now you're on a rail, and so you adapt, you do the drill all over again, only at a different bank than you planned.
Besides, you've made other changes along the way. By now the notes have gotten shorter. The militia thing really isn't adding anything, so you drop it and simply demand the money-or-else-you'll-blow-the-place-sky-high-don't-try-anything-funny. You still find a box for "the bomb," but now you've become less picky, and the result is, you later realize, kind of funny. This time the box is the size of a large television, and so a woman has to hold the door open for you and you are forced to turn sideways to get into the bank. But still you are on autopilot, the details of the Mission being subsumed by the whole of it.
Later, in retrospect, when you relive it, going over every single detail again and again, you realize that the whole thing seems surreal and slow. But do you want to know the strangest part? The whole time you're doing it--moving from one bank to the next, going through the bomb-in-the-box routine, stuffing the hundreds of thousands of dollars into the black duffel, stacking more and more years on to your next prison term (and whatever you are, you're not stupid--you know you'll be caught eventually, although the idea is for the Mission to be complete when that happens), heading now for the fourth bank in just two hours...Throughout it all, the only thing you can think about is your mother.
You think: She would have done the same for me, God rest her soul.
Have you ever stared at something so long and hard that the parts around it dissolve from view and all you can see is the thing, alone, separate from life and reason themselves? Have you ever inched up to the edge, considered...but then backed away, thankful that when the moment of no return arrived, you were in control?