Some of my best writing ideas come to me while I’m waiting in line. Like now, at the bank. I tried it out to hear how it sounded.
"Beware the girl with the red ribbon." I smiled. Not bad, I thought. That could go in all sorts of directions.
The woman I was standing behind gave me a rude stare.
"Sorry. I wasn't talking to you."
"Then why were you whispering in my ear?"
"I wasn't… Look, miss. I wasn't talking to you. I was speaking to…"
What should I say to that? I was speaking to myself? She’ll think I’m crazy. I have to say something.
"A… friend of mine," I stammered. My face rouged with embarrassment. I’m a terrible liar.
She looked around the bank lobby with a raised brow. There wasn't another person within twenty feet of us.
"A friend of yours? How, over a radio? What are you, some kind of spy?"
"No, I'm not a…!" I lowered my voice. "I'm not a spy."
I hated being misunderstood and this woman had clearly formed a bad opinion of me, and I hated that even more. I took her arm and moved us from the bank queue.
"What is your problem?" She jerked her arm from my hand.
I checked over my shoulder to see if anyone was listening, then looked back at her.
"Can I tell you something in confidence?"
"Probably not a good idea, since we're complete strangers. But sure, tell me anyway."
"Oh. I'm Shawn, by the way."
"Weird last name."
"No, that's not… Fine. It's Lassiter. My name is Shawn Lassiter. Happy?"
"Hey, I'm not here to judge you, mister confidence man."
"I'm not a confidence man." I sighed. I’d have to start from the beginning.
"Look, I'm a writer. Fiction, mostly. Sometimes, I listen in on the conversations going on in my head. I pick out lines that sound interesting to me and use them to write new stories. No big deal. Everybody does it."
"Okay, see, that's disturbing. I don't know anybody who does,” she twitched her hand in the air, “whatever it was you said. And I'm pretty sure you should see a psychiatrist about your problem."
"I don't have a problem, Marla. I'm perfectly normal."
"How the hell do you know my name? I didn't tell you my name!"
"Calm down. I noticed it on the bank slip in your hand."
"You noticed it? Did you see my last name?”
“Get the hell away from me, creep." She turned to go back in line.
"Yes, I noticed it. Like I noticed things about you that say you're an elementary teacher."
"How the…? You need to step away from me, mister con man. I carry Mace that will have you singing soprano and crying for your mama."
"Seriously? It's the chalk dust, alright? You have chalk dust on your skirt and little crayon fingerprints on your… backside. So, elementary teacher, or something."
"Why those little…" Marla twisted and smacked at the dust and fingerprints.
"Okay, yeah, I'm a Kindergarten teacher. You got me. But anybody could have noticed that."
"Exactly. That's what I was trying to tell you. I notice stuff."
"So why drag me out of line? You gonna tell my fortune, too?"
"Not… technically." I rubbed my eyes with my fingertips.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"This might sound crazy," I said.
"Well, it started out that way," she said.
Her lips twisted and she crossed her arms over her chest. I knew she wasn’t interested but this was important to me.
"Touché. Listen,” I whispered. “I think something is about to happen here."
I twitched my chin at a young woman seated in the loan department.
"See that girl waiting for a loan officer?"
"Yeah. The pretty Asian one? What about her?"
"She came in after I did and went straight for that chair. Didn't sign in. Didn't fill out any paperwork. Just sat down."
"And you noticed that she had a red ribbon in her hair and got spooked? Mr con-man, you are paranoid. Please see a doctor."
I ignored her.
"Then those two rough looking guys in black jeans and leather jackets came in after her. They went straight to the kiosk by the restrooms and have been there the whole time. She nodded to them as they passed her."
"I repeat," Marla said. "See a doctor."
"Six other people passed her but she didn't nod to them. She only nodded to those guys. Nobody else."
"Maybe they're her type. Did you ever think of that?"
"Have you ever read the stuff on that kiosk, Marla? You could finish it all in five minutes, tops. And it's very boring. That big guy has been reading the same page for fifteen minutes. Nobody’s that dense."
"I… yes. I have read it. And it is boring." Marla watched the two men idly perusing the stale info posters. They looked over their shoulders every few seconds and scanned the bank lobby.
"What, uh, what else did you notice about those two?" Marla asked, a nervous jitter in her voice.
"I noticed that it is eighty-five degrees in here, and their jackets are still zipped up. That's what I noticed. I think we should leave before something bad happens," I hissed.
Marla's eyes widened at the implication. Her lips thinned and she let out an angry breath through her nose. She turned to the seated woman who nodded at Marla.
The pretty asian girl with the red ribbon in her hair pulled a small machine gun from her large bag and filled the air with gun smoke and the ceiling with bullets. The two men in black unzipped their jackets and joined in. The air resounded with shouts and screams from the bank staff and patrons. I froze, shocked that I was right.
Marla turned cold eyes to me with a black revolver pointing at my chest.
"You have a bad habit of noticing too much, Mr. Lassiter. A habit I can't let you keep."
I noticed the tinkle tink of two bullet casings as they bounced off the tile floor. I noticed how everyone’s voices became muffled and the lights dimmed as I fell. I noticed how easy it was to drop to the floor despite not wanting to fall. And why did my chest hurt so bad?
So disappointed that I didn’t notice the twist until too late. I’d have to work on that later. But I was tired. So tired.