“Witnessing a Bank Robbery with Nate Grafton”

(a mostly true story)

Picture this! The dead of Friday night before the tail-end of last Thursday, Nate and I were on my front stoop talking about various herbal remedies and holistic cures. We were preparing ourselves, mentally, to watch an award-winning series of animated short films, and as we were on the subject of discipline, I revealed that I had none.

To pause time in the past, Nate is giant of a man at 5’11” (a head shorter than me, just sayin’), thickly bearded with brown doe-skin. His muscles are cleverly hidden away under baggy clothes and baggy skin, and he’s practically a Lady at age 23. He’s also some kind of Taekwondo master. Well, he’s too humble for “master,” but maybe “superhuman prodigy too lazy to commit.” Either way, with hundreds of years of kicking butt in style under his soon-to-be black belt, he thought he was the man to teach me discipline.

I agreed, but quickly changed the subject to snack foods, my own area of not-quite-so humble mastery. Since there was a little while yet before show time, we braved the cool night air and jogged down to the grocery store, which is a trip that takes five minutes on foot (and three by car [and two by sea!]!). To my surprise, Nate showed some artist’s sensitivity to color and light in a surreal hallway torn between dimly lit neons and blindingly flashy street lights.* Shadows cast by these conditions cannot be trusted. It’s a lesson for someone’s future; everyone write it down just in case.
* – Unsurprisingly, the revelations revealed were not all that great or worth repeating. Which is untrue, I just didn’t listen, since I was bowled over that Nate knew how to talk.

Upon our entry into the store, Nate’s first lesson was that any place can be a dojo and started smackin’ me around right there in the candy aisle. Fixed on my mission of movie-snack-treats and curbing cravings, I bought some lovely black licorice and some spicy wasabi peas, the perfect combination for a pregnant gentleman.

Once I had my food in hand, I was more ready to learn to defend myself. The first lesson after the first lesson was how to breathe, which I guess I just haven’t been doing all these years. You’re supposed to exhale apparently. So, I tried out my new breathing on the self-check-out machines at the grocery store. Out of practice, I choked on the first breath and exhaled too quickly on the second, sending machines, customers, employees, and bits of brick and such all flying to become part of the night sky.

Somehow, I was unable to use my breathing to do extensive grocery store repair (which they also do not teach in Taekwondo class, by the way), some might say that I did even more damage… But, there was no one left around except Nate (who’d hold me accountable), so I did the cliched “leave money behind” on the pile of rubble for my treats. (Also a fake name and my sister’s insurance company.)

We were able to leave the store quickly, since we were already outside after that, back in that crazy hallway, which grew eerily longer on the return trip. But, that’s the universe’s weird way of making sure things happen – the hallway continued to continue until we finally realized that there was some activity inside the small bank at the end of the complex.

We could see it through the windows, shadows moving about. Picking up things, putting them back, opening drawers and cabinets. Creepy stuff.

As you can guess, as a starving martial artist, Nate’s a man of action. He lept forward and pointed towards the villains in the bank in some kind of heroic pose. I can’t describe it too well, because I was distracted by eating my candy. I mean, that hallway lasted forever and I was bored.

Not paying attention and thinking about empty rice bowls and poetry (the kind of thoughts that go through masters’ minds), I stumbled into Nate, who deflected me out of reflex,  and I fell into the glass doors that were keeping the criminals locked inside.

Well, the doors weren’t locked, really, but they didn’t open when I fell into them, so they shattered like some kind of glass (of some kind) =). Needless to say, the bad guys knew we were there.

As you can guess, it was the worst of foes, too – a pair of older, grey-haired women armed with giant handbags and Sunday slippers.

And so expect the action-packed part of the story to begin now! I was already on the ground, sleepy from the candy, but Nate’s dainty paws pulled me to my feet and he gave me some eighty minute “Warrior’s Speech” that I should have paid attention to. I couldn’t hear him well because I was chewing licorice, taking all my concentration. I remembered the important part, though – “Don’t die!” but I couldn’t make any promises. I mean, I stumble over my own words, for the love of cryin’ out loud.

Since the speech was so long and loud I couldn’t focus on it, the old women bandits had several days to prepare to fight us. I think they went to the gym, which is what we should have done.

Either way, when we turned to fight to save the bank’s honor, the old ladies were ready for us. Nate knew I would need motivation, so he picked me up and threw me, my snacks and all, at them. Since I know a little science, while I was flying through the air with such great forward momentum, I had the brainy idea to throw my licorice at the old ladies, who sneered in slow-motion. They also brandished tortoise-shell combs and bobbins stuck with bobby-pins.

My licorice sailed through the air, smelling sweetly of sulphur-free molassses and anise. It gained speed and energy as I smashed into the teller’s quarters because Nate’s aim is bad.

My own aim is also terrible (Nate is my mentor, after all), so the licorice flew harmlessly by the bandits and divoted the wall. They had the gall to say to me, “Silly boy! No one likes black licorice!”

And even though they’re right, and I knew it because I thought it should be cheaper for that reason, I was still defeated. I sank to my knees and lost consciousness, the sheer violent truth of the statement too much for me.

I heard Nate use my name as a curse, as I had been defeated without even being punched. As the story goes, I remember nothing, and I expected to wake up in the hospital like all heroes.

Ah, but I didn’t. I woke up in a jail cell, because Nate had also lost. The power of his kung-food was no match for the aging robbers’; I don’t know why he didn’t use Taekwondo, the art he studied. =/

Since we were arrested together, Nate was there when I woke up, looking relatively unharmed and sheepish, since his brown beard had turned white. He made the excuse that he lost the match because he was protecting my corpse from the dynamite that our enemies were lobbing from their cavernous handbags. (< which also double as shields)

But that wasn’t the case. I learned pretty quickly after that we had accosted the world-famous “Tech-Saavy Lulus,” a Betty-Lou and Scary Lou-Retton who robbed banks and digitally altered the security footage to frame some of the employees. Or in Nate’s and my case, us.

The strange thing is, there’s video footage of the ladies changing the security footage, but that doesn’t count as evidence. Turns out “the Lulus” also donate a lot of cans to the food drive in November. Very clever. So Nate and I are going away for a long time, ninety-seven counts of felonious napping during the trial and one count of grand theft pennies. Who’dve guessed it would’ve ended this way?

Worse yet, Nate saw that I lacked the discipline to learn discipline and bowed out as my mentor. Cartoons taught me that a rat and turtles can teach me karate, so I’m hoping to learn to breathe again after I learn to outrun the turtles.

Wish us luck, it’s going to be a grueling forty seconds to life.

-j.

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