Emmylou, Patron Saint of Dirt-Poor Folks
The bank sits a half mile out, as if it doesn’t want anything to do with the rock-bottom town it serves. Emmylou is the only customer.
‘I am robbing this bank,’ she says. She is pointing a gun to prove it.
The bank teller sheeshes. ‘First railroads, now women raiders.’
‘I am progress, old timer. Quit yammering, get filling.’ She throws him a bag.
‘The swing of a rope don’t scare ya, miss?’
‘Hunger scares me.’
The teller grins, showing baccy-blackened teeth. ‘You know you’re goin’ to hell?’
Memories flash: her ma working till sick; brothers and sisters dead; the small hands she held as the owners started their celestial journeys. The teller is right, she is going the other way.
She nods to the window. ‘Is that town of goddamn dullness as desperate as it looks?’
The teller cackles. ‘Sure is.’
It’s true. The minster on the other side of town is praying that progress will come – he doesn’t use words like goddamn though. He wipes his neck, the air warm like the breath of a grizzly bear, and studies the funeral party before him, wondering again how he ended up among these woeful folks.
A sudden wind shakes the church.
Emmylou and the teller glance up at the bank’s rafters shaken by that very same gust, before Emmylou grabs the half-filled bag and bolts. The teller waits till she crosses the threshold and lifts his gun from under the counter. The bullet gets her in the leg.
Emmylou’s mouth spits curses. She hears the teller rip-skitter toward her and twists round, pistol up. One shot zips out. She doesn’t know who is hit till she crumples to the ground. Her other leg. Groaning, she drops the bag. It splits open like a crooked grin.
‘I ain’t going to hell yet,’ she wheezes.
‘Good,’ cackles the teller, ‘cos, I can’t get frisky with a dead woman, can I?’
He pauses to ponder the notion that perhaps he can – a dearth of affection makes a man hee-haw crazy. Pondering over, he steps toward Emmylou just as the wind whorls up dollar notes in front of his face. A playful wind. He intends to be playful too.
He undoes his britches, then stops. Indignation dents his face. A crimson circle spreads on his chest. Smoke wisps from Emmylou’s gun. His lips part.
The congregation leaves church: hearts heavy, stomachs light.
A flit. A flap. A burring of wings.
Folks look up, wide-eyed, at the flock of green-tinged angels swooping above.
The minister knows they have flown from the bank and if he hadn’t been taught not to question he would wonder how. Instead, he blesses the soul responsible. A saint, surely.
Two souls, a half mile out, are caught on the wind. One is sucked down, way down. The other is buffeted upwards, as if tugged along by small hands.
About the author: Sharon has had short stories and flash pieces published on-line and in magazines, including Writers’ Forum, The Moth and Sentinel Literary, and won first prizes in the HISSAC short story award and the Exeter’s Writers comps.