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Can't Be Late

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Now. He pauses. Again his chance is dashed. Now. The bright lights glow as he paces, waiting for the red to turn. Turning: the act of reversing position, according to Webster’s. He checks his gilded watch, the time ticking steadily, the second hand smirking at him as it reaches its pinnacle, and falls once again. It’s seven-fifteen, not a minute more, and he will be late. Now. The cars roar out to him, their pounding tires slicing the curb as if they’re racecar drivers. He pauses. The sky looks like it will rain today. It’s the kind of sky that’s filled with funeral dirges, which accompanies long days of work and moments when people pronounce your name incorrectly (multiple times). And times when you are late.

He brushes a hand over his softly-balding head, and frowns. It’s important for him to look exactly right. The sun peeks its rosy head over the horizon, and echoes the plaintive sadness of the early-morning traffic, cars whirring by desperately. Now. The light flashes for a moment, and hesitantly turns green. The man stops his pacing, and glances at his reflection in a nearby store-window. Yes, yes, his suit is correct, and his glasses are perfectly perched on his nose. His eyes are the type of green that leaves no room for emeralds or evergreens; no, they are the smudged, hazel kind of green, the kind that seem to warrant freckles. He can’t fail. His heart rate escalates, and he is breathing faster now, pumped with exhilaration. He mustn’t be late. He can’t. He gazes at his watch. Seven-twenty-three, not a moment less. He walk to the edge of the curb, and slowly begins to cross. The light turns yellow as cars barrel toward him. The light screams warnings, five, four, three, two, one! But he can’t run, for then he would surely be late. He can’t be late.

He darts between cars as tired men yell obscenities, their mouths cocked into sneers. He pays them no heed; he has other things on his mind. He looks like a penguin, strutting as much as his suit will allow him, with an unhurried gaze. His demeanor is calm, although his palms are starting to sweat. He nears the location. His hands begin to quiver with excitement. He’s finally here. He can’t be late, not now.

He walks through the swinging doors, into the bank. He breathes a sigh of relief. He is here. He walks up to the bank counter, and snarls at the woman seated across from him.

His voice drops a notch, and he takes on his true personality. “Gimme the money. Now. I’ve got a gun, and it’s loaded. If I were you, I’d do as you say.” The woman stood, her brown eyes blazing with confusion and fury. He is no longer the middle-aged business-man commuter, late for work. He has taken on his duty. A whistle comes from a door in the beige-encrusted hallway. It is shrill and lilting, seeming to signify danger. The man’s hand closes fast around the inside of his pockets. They’re empty, but she doesn’t have to know that. He heard the scream pierce the air, and the whistling continued.

A man steps from behind the hallway door, a man who seems as if he would look comfortable in tweed, a man not cut out for this job. A crude moustache is plastered against his upper lip, and he forces a grim smile. He is young for the job, but he has a mind of tempered steel.

“F-Franco?”

“Good job on the girl,” he rasps. He smiles again, and reaches behind his back. The man is breathing heavier now, and his forehead is dewy with panicked sweat. He watches, as if in slow motion, the barrel slide from behind the other’s back, and point at him, vast, dark, incriminating. His heartbeat hammers as he stutters an excuse.

“I—I didn’t mean t--”
The gun accepts no excuses. It stares at him, mimicking. The man’s voice rises. He is pleading now, merely begging.
“Please, just one more chance, Franco? I have a family, and kids to feed--” He knew his excuses were futile. He knew it, Franco Giovanni knew it, and the gun knew it most of all.

Franco rebukes him with a merciless laugh. “You were late.”



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