All Noon at the Bank D’Amemzionne

Mister Pope stood in line at the Bank D’Amemzionne, where he’d come to make his regular cash withdrawal to cover the upcoming week’s expenses. Getting politely in line behind a tall man already being served by the teller, he unconsciously assumed the non-threatening casually I-got-all-day-take-your-time position he always did in the bank line—since he knew he’d be on his way in a mere five or ten minutes, he waited, turning himself into an invisibly non-threatening super-mild shell of an average calm man, as he pretended to read a large poster up on the wall to the right, telling him to come here for this or that kind of a loan or account or whatever, yes—ended with, We Understand, shouted ‘n hot script scrolled ‘cross the sign’s bottom. He scanned it slowly, from top to bottom, as he did every time he was in line here for service. He took great comfort in the mild soft-pastel printed sign; he savored the smiling faces arranged so perfectly all the way down, where it ended so satisfyingly with a gracefully scripted final line—We Understand. 

We Understand. 

We understand, we understand. 

We under’, but. He flicked up his watch; wait. Wait; no—God, this is taking much too long—much more than acceptable—so hotly this unexpectedly excessive passage of time and the possibility of not getting his money in time to get back to his office, moved him to call toward a circumstantially passing daytime floor manager he’d seen before, but had never accosted.

Sir! called mister Pope—hold it—one question, please. 

The manager stopped short, snapping sharply, What? Make it short!

Mister Pope bristled lightly, but let that go by, saying calmly, Could you please check with the teller how much longer she will be with that customer?


Mister Pope stumbled back into himself an instant, but, came back smooth, with, Because it looks like all they’ve done is stare at each other the whole time I’ve been here. I got to get back to work on time. I have to walk back to work—and it’s pretty far. Could you ask her to hurry?

Sorry, pal, said the manager—just wait your turn. Or leave, and come back another time.

With that, he stepped out past, but—his perceived rudeness stung mister Pope hard enough that he called loudly after the manager, saying, Sir! Hold it! This is a big problem! 

The manager turned, shook out the sheaf of work he held in his hands, stepped toward Mister Pope, and said, Why? 

Because they are taking forever, and I got to get back to work on time, but—I told you all that already! Why’d you just snap at me and walk away? That’s rude! 

What? Telling you to wait in line like everybody else is rude? 

Yes! The way you said it is—yes, it’s rude!

No! It’s not! It’s how good customers are expected to behave!


What I said! Is that acceptable, or not? 

Circumstantially, behind him, the happy faces on the We Understand wall poster by chance came at Mister Pope, circling slow, constellating around the wide grim face of the manager, wreathing it ‘round like the savior’s cruel crown of thorns, and; if down from the neck of the manager all was gone, the words We Understand would run directly below this entire faux-portrait, scrolled out as by some old master, painted up randomly before this dazed Pope-man, modulated to crystal clarity for one bright instant—so fast, he could not see it, but, inside the back of his face, his inner crew saw it, and yanked a lever causing the manager to mysteriously reply to what seemed to Mister Pope to be only silence, but must at least have been an involuntary grin, because the manager barked, What? Was that funny?

Mister Pope faded a bit but recovered with, I—uh—no, it’s not funny! Why?

Because you smiled. You know you smiled. You find me funny, eh?

Heat filled Mister Pope’s cheeks—making him exhale, quite uncomfortably, signaling, eh; calm down; guess what; if you don’t deal this right, you will not get your cash, and that simply can’t happen. So, swallow this. Back off. Calm down—yes, yes, approach slow, with, Okay, hey. Listen. I didn’t want to make trouble. It’s just that my business today is urgent.

Just as no doubt the man in line’s is to him also! Yes?

Bite lip but—not too mu’ ah, yes—Mister Pope; bob, weave, go, no—back left, front right, say slow ‘n nicely, Yes, of course, I’m sure that’s true, but, come on. Just between us. He’s been at square one with the teller too long. Can we agree on that? 

Mister Pope needs his money—and the clock says he must be back at his job in one hair or three under ten or less minutes—we understand, we, under? Do we under? Do we—stand?

Look, said the manager, slowly and quiet—here’s what’s what. That man is a regular. He has medical issues. He needs more time than others. And, he is a customer too, just like you. We have to care for every single one of you with the same respect for your needs.

Oh? Like that poster says there?

What poster?

On the wall, behind you. The one that says everyone here understands. 

Ah, ah, yes—hey, funny—that’s been up there so many years, I flat out never even see it any more. Okay. Yah. Like that poster says. We do understand. As I hope you also understand. Perhaps you can come back later? We’ll take you first, if you come back then. We’re open until three. Okay?

No went off silent inside Mister Pope—he hung on, what to say, what—no, not, no, flight deck, his deck his flight deck, see attack take off red again hot, hot; see red—take off, he spoke.

No! That’s not okay. I need to be at work way past three. I can’t possibly get away. Are you deliberately trying to cause me problems? 

Clash, backoff, back up—I don’t want to cause problems for you, or for anybody, said the manager, his tone darker than before, his lip trembling—that man before you needs longer than most. I told you that. And he is a customer. Just like you. We have to accommodate everyone. Not just you.

So you won’t help me?

Doesn’t look that way.

Mister Pope turned around, finding that still, after a full twenty minutes, the stock-silent tall man still stood facing the teller-post, within which’s plexiglass arch hung the round blank face of the actual teller, seeming to not have moved a muscle; a frozen scene. Frozen, scene. Frozen, and frozen, and—do they not understand? There’s a lie on the wall, they are all lies, as a matter of fact, frozen fast to their lies; so, grab, grip, pull rip all’s frozen tight down torn away hot; hot, and bloody; they must be made to bleed, good God almighty, it has happened; the worst’s happened; Mister Pope’s watch said, you are totally out of time, so, all’s left is to punish; no money; scorched earth; no money; no time; punish; rip, tear, bloody, bleed—go!

All right! shouted Pope—thanks a lot for screwing me today—it’s nice to know that I don’t matter. I thought this was a nice place where people matter, but—no way, now. 

That man over there matters too, sir. He has issues that require patience, like every one’s.

Mister Pope’s blood in his eye!

Damn his issues! Maybe if his damned issues make him get in everybody else’s way, maybe his simple butt should just be locked up in a home someplace! This is outrageous!

The manager stepped back, calmly, but wide-eyed. He knew now, for sure, who was right, and who was wrong. A slight smile crossed his face; gently, he pulled his sheaf of paperwork to his chest, as he said, I hope you never have his kind of problem, sir. If you do, after what you’ve said today, God will no doubt remember and make sure you have it five times worse than that poor man—to teach you what a real problem is. So; now; get the hell out of my bank. And don’t come back. 

Wh’-what? No, n’—Mister Pope knew something must—be said—be done, but, but; could not find, could not—he felt as on a beach, finally arrived at exhausted, after swimming for his life miles and miles—only to find a vertical cliff now thrust up before him—impossible for any human creature, living or dead, to ever climb. Give up. No. Space misted around him. All weight disappeared. Yes. The end had come. Give—up. He felt himself leaving, somehow without having started to, but; still, the end had come. The exit came at him and opened out silently.

Once through, though, it hit him; how could be have completely forgotten how impossibly hot this time of year always was, outside.

Jim Meirose

Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous venues. His novels include "Sunday Dinner with Father Dwyer"(Optional Books), "Understanding Franklin Thompson"(JEF), "Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection"(Mannequin Haus), and "No and Maybe - Maybe and No"(Pski's Porch). Info: @jwmeiros.

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