A Piece of Short Fiction
hearing the voices on the day he graduated from college. They
were haunting voices of people he thought he once knew, calling
for him to come home and return from the darkness. But that was
many years ago and the voices had long since disappeared.
gotten his diploma along with all of his classmates, striding
up onto the dais in his robe for the ceremonial handshake with
the dean. It was the only clear memory he had from his four years
In an instant
Chuck was back in his hometown in Missouri where he started work
as a teller at the local bank. It was a good, solid job that took
up most of his time and energy. Chuck was very good at his work
and he quickly became the favorite of the bank manager, Mr. Crowley.
At the end of every day Mr. Crowley would pull him aside to dispense
praise and tidbits of wisdom about the industry that Chuck eagerly
accepted and filed away.
For two years
Chuck lived inside the walls of Missouri First National, serving
his usual stream of customers. There was Mrs. Handon; a widow
who came in every Friday at noon to deposit her Social Security
check. She would wait patiently in line until Chuck was free,
and spend more time than necessary telling him about the latest
doings of her five cats. Mr. Jones was another of Chuck’s
favorites; a retired auto worker with big thick glasses and an
even bigger belly who came in daily to verify the status of his
savings account. Chuck enjoyed the routine - relied upon it really
- as the days came and went.
At the end
of each day Chuck would empty his till, organizing the bills in
to neat little stacks and begin counting them. The coins he would
set aside until the end, for they were his favorite. With the
utmost care Chuck would funnel the coins into the counting machine
and when each penny, nickel, dime and quarter had finished plunking
its way down to the bottom, he would wrap them into tidy little
rolls and lay them side by side in his tray until it was full.
when every cent had been accounted for, Chuck would record the
total in his nightly register and carefully transport his deposit
to the main vault. Though he tried, Chuck could never resist the
urge to stand in the vault for an extra minute or two, close his
eyes and fill his lungs with air scented of money, and dream about
what he would do if he could take it all for himself. It was a
silly thought, of course, and Chuck never indulged the fantasy
for long because he really didn’t need it. The life he lived
was the life he had chosen, and he was truly happy here.
turned into five more. Then one day, after Chuck had been feeling
extremely lonely and sad, she came through the door. Chuck saw
her standing in line and made sure he finished with his customer
just in time for his window to come free. Maribel McEwen was her
name. She was new in town and needed to open an account, though
from the moment Chuck looked into her salty green eyes he knew
she was there for him.
Chuck married one year to the day they met. The ceremony was small
and private, with only Mr. Crowley, Mrs. Handon, and Mr. Jones
attending. It was held in Chuck’s favorite place of all,
the bank vault, and their vows echoed off the thick steel walls.
A tear fell from Chucks’ eye as Maribel slid the solid silver
band on his finger. He swept a lock of her strawberry hair aside
and kissed her gently on the forehead before they turned and left
the vault as silently as they had entered.
born the following year. She was more precious than any money
Chuck had ever handled. Late at night, Chuck would pace the floor
with Sara held tightly to his chest and let her little breath
tickle his neck. Sometimes in the morning Chuck would place the
little angel between he and Maribel and study her features for
hours while she slept. In his daughter’s sleeping face Chuck
found a happiness he had never known or imagined was possible.
On the day
Sara spoke her first word Chuck heard the voices again. Late that
night standing alone in the vault they came to him in a rush,
sounding more sorrowful than he ever remembered. The voices whispered
to him that they were so very sorry, that they were there to ease
his pain and horrible suffering. Startled, Chuck spun around to
leave. But there, at the entrance to the vault, Maribel stood
holding Sara. They were both crying. Sara buried her face in Maribel’s
shoulder. Maribel raised a hand and through the tender tears racing
down her cheeks over her lips, blew her husband a kiss. Chuck’s
money tray crashed to the floor and the rolls of coins, that for
so many years always remained neatly packed, burst forth and skidded
across the floor of the vault.
face up on the floor of the vault, Chuck felt his body rise toward
the ceiling. Instead of slamming into the steel his body passed
through it, racing faster and faster from the darkness of the
vault toward the light of the clouds.
now, tumbling forward head over heels, Chuck finally came to rest
again on his back in a room that felt very much like the vault
he had just left. He did not open his eyes or utter a sound, but
he could hear the voices clearly now, sounding as real as Maribel’s
or Mr. Crowley’s ever had.
turned off the respirator. It shouldn’t be long now,”
a somber voice declared. “You folks made the right decision.
Your son will be much happier where he is going.”
so hard to let go after all these years hoping and praying for
him to wake up. To watch him suffer in this bed with machines
keeping him alive.”
behind the noise of the machine pronouncing him dead, Chuck heard
a baby in the hall cry like Sara.
This Article to a Friend