I Want To Be A Gentleman Bandit


I am poor. I am a freelance writer — which, as I’ve mentioned before, is the perfect career for someone who wants to avoid the absurdly inflated salary-levels of, say, being a pizza delivery boy. Sallie Mae calls me all the time about my student loans. I dodge her phone calls like I would dodge the phone calls of a bipolar ex-girlfriend.

I have no job skills. In college, I majored in Classical Languages, perhaps because I expected that a lot of job interviews would include the question: “Hey, what is the Genitive plural of puella, again?” (“…Puellarum,” I would say, confidently. “Congratulations!” they would say. “Welcome to Burger King!”)

So, being poor and having no job skills, I have decided to embark upon my new career as a gentleman bandit.

…I’ve talked with some friends about this and put a lot of thought into my plan. First of all, I will need to dress nicely: a three-piece suit of some kind; I’m thinking gray, maybe with a tan scarf to accent it. This is the “gentlemen” aspect. Secondly, I won’t use a gun. Well; I will use a gun, but it’ll be unloaded, so as to not cause harm to anyone. This is the “bandit” aspect.

And then I will begin my crime spree. I will rob, but to charm my victims, I will leave a single perfect rose at every crime scene, perhaps also with a scrap of poetry that I have dashed off. (“Until now, I have measured out my life in coffee spoons”; that sounds profound.) I will speak off-the-cuff in French, which I will have to learn. (“Désolé, Mesdames et Messieurs!“)

“What a gentleman!” my victims will say. “So charming! So polite. And he had such a sad glint in his eyes… almost as if he didn’t want to rob at all. No; we wouldn’t think of pressing charges! Such a pleasant young man.”

Along the way I will fall in love with a beautiful young bank-teller, who I will steal away from her quotidian life of drudgery. She will accompany me on all my adventures. “…But, how can you live like this?” she will say. “It is the only life available to me now,” I will reply, widening my eyes sadly, with a toss of my sandy brown hair.

Eventually, of course, things will go wrong. My fame as the Gentleman Bandit will start to go to my head. Newspapers will write fawning stories about me. “El Miller,” they’ll call me, or, “The Rose-Colored Robber.” The bank-teller and I will have to part, as the myths of my own legend have began to enrapture me, tearing me away from her. “No,” she will say to me, as we part, “just let me take the scarf with me. That alone will be enough to remember you until the end of time.”

I’ll keep robbing, for I will know no other life by then. “Why are you still doing this,” one store owner will say to me. “Surely you no longer need the money.” …In response, I will sigh. “I do it…” I will say, “I do it merely to be able to feel something, in the void of vast nothingness that surrounds us all.” “…That’s deep,” the store owner will say. I will start to leave increasingly convoluted messages on the bank-teller’s voicemail, but she will not reply.

The notes that I leave at my crime scenes will become longer and more convoluted as well:

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me the world is a prison. …O, but I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have… bad dreams. But then, a dream itself is but a shadow…

…And so on.

Eventually, of course, I will be caught, and thrown in jail. “Yer certainly a unique character, kid,” the police chief will say to me, while chewing on a toothpick. “…Yeah,” I’ll say. “You think they’ll take that into account?” I’ll be tried and sentenced to death by a judge and a court that can only express regret that the foolish, unheeding laws of man have forced them to this unpoetic result. “…Well, gentlemen,” I will say, as I sit in the electric chair, “it’s been real. Non, je ne regrette rien.” Then I’ll be electrocuted. Everyone in the room will weep. “Why,” they’ll say. “Why.”

…At my gravestone, a single female mourner, clad entirely in black, will be seen to leave a single perfect rose on my grave, every night, at the edge of twilight. No one will know who she is. …Could it be the bank-teller? …Could it? …But this mystery will go unsolved.

SO! …That is my plan for weathering out this economic recession. Or maybe I’ll go to a temp agency instead. …Either way. They’re both good plans.

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image – J. Herrera