I keep thinking about those other two while I look at her. Famous lovers. Tired and on the road a long time. Heard they killed twelve or thirteen people. Maybe more.
Cops shot up their Ford. Over fifty bullets on a dirt road down in Louisiana.
It was a hot spring day. A goddam shame.
Papers say Clyde got hit first. A bullet through the back of his eye like a globe of fire.
I guess maybe that was good. He didn’t have to hear her go as their guns tore up the car.
At least they died together.
Skinny told me their parents wouldn’t let them even be buried next to each other. Can you believe that?
I never had the pleasure of meeting them. But we sent flowers and cards to their funerals anyway.
Nobody’s supposed to die in pure sunlight.
I wonder what it’ll be like when my life’s getting torn from my mind—the ghost ripped right out of me.
I hope I go to a place where I get to see something like what I’m looking at right now. The way she is. Forever. Billie. Hair as dark as an Indian’s. Lying here all twisted up in sheets. The way drops of dawn keep falling on her while she sleeps. A fragile black bird. The song we danced to the first night we met at The Riprocks in Chicago.
I was married once, you know. Back when I was just a kid, right after I dropped out of school. I thought it would do something to my heart. But it just kept beating on the same way.
A few more jobs and then I’m out. I know I ain’t got that much luck left. They’ll find me taking a piss with my back turned. Melvin Purvis and his boy scouts chasing me in the name of God and America. All over money that ain’t even theirs. You’ve seen it out there, no one’s got nothing these days. He wants me in the ground so he can be a hero. Pure and simple.
Purvis would kill me twice if he could.
God might not be smiling down on me, but I know he’s not pointing a finger at me either.
I just got to keep a couple steps ahead of them.
Billie will be up in a couple of hours. She’ll roll up a cigarette. She’ll want to make love. I should start getting ready for tomorrow.
We’ve only got six minutes in here. Not a minute more. Any longer than that and someone will end up dead. Especially with Jimmy with us on this one.
The women huddled up under the counter are looking at him. They’re scared. Real scared. They know who he is. He’s laughing and waving his gun around, yelling, sweat pouring down the side of his cheek. They know he’s Babyface.
We don’t call him that, though. Only they do. It’s no name for a grown man.
Quit staring at him, you dumb broads. You’re gonna make him nervous and then he’ll do something stupid. Get yourselves killed. Get me killed.
Get me killed.
There are only a few rules I live by. One of them is not to take a man’s life. Don’t steal it from him. I have mostly stuck to that rule.
The bank manager is clutching at his nose on the floor. Blood trickling down his chin like a faucet.
You do this long enough you get to know who the manager is real quick. He’s always the snooty looking one who doesn’t know whether to run or fight. Give him a quick butt to the head with the Thompson. He’ll know you’re not fooling around and he’ll give up the key real quick. You just got to keep a hard eye on the tellers when you do it. Some of ‘em get real jumpy after they watch their boss crumple like a sack of potatoes. They’ll want to go for the red button to trigger the alarm.
This one gave me a hard time.
Three minutes left. Homer’s almost done in the vault. He’s got four duffel bags tossed out on the floor so far. A couple more to go.
The marble looks cold as ice. Pretty, though. Maybe after all of this get a house with marble floors somewhere. And those big white pillars out in front. Maybe somewhere in the Mediterranean. France. Billie said she got family there. Said she’s always wanted to go back.
Timepiece says there’s less than a minute left. Okay, Johnny, let’s get it together. Stay sharp. Sharp like a stab of lightning. Charlie’s ready in the car. Wait!…there’s sirens.
My ear has been humming these past few days. It’s like…like I can’t hear the details.
Chicago is getting smaller and smaller.
I’m meeting Anna and Polly at the Biograph tonight. We’re seeing Manhattan Melodrama with Gable and Myrna Loy. I’ve already seen it three times but I need to get out. Been cooped up way too long in this hotel room.
I wish Billie was here. I’d be going with her instead.
But she got herself nabbed a few months back in Minnesota. It should’ve been me. Red held me back as I watched her get shoved in the cop car. He said there was nothing I could do.
I feel like I can’t think straight without her.
When I spring Billie out we’re getting the hell out of here. The other side of the world.
Got to get going in a few minutes. It’s almost eight o’clock. Go meet them down at the corner, right across from the Cadillac Lounge. To go see a movie I’ve already seen.
One time Billie and me were in the theater. We were watching It Happened One Night with Gable and Claudette Colbert. Right before it got to the end I smelled something burning. I looked up behind me and there was all of this smoke coming from the projector. They made everyone leave but we just sat there. Celluloid had caught on fire and was spinning around the spool like a burning snake.
You can dunk that stuff in a barrel of water and it’ll still keep on burning. Burn right on to the last scene.
Red would think I’m crazy being back in Chicago. He’d tell me to wait. He didn’t make it.
He died back in Aurora. Me rubbing lye on his face and hands so they wouldn’t ever find out who he was.
I hope those folks we left him with gave him a proper burial. They said they would.
He was my friend.
All that lye. The smell. The bubbling and the smoking.
The taste of death in the back of your mouth like a cracked filling.
It’s hot as hell out tonight. Shouldn’t have worn this linen coat. Just take it off here for a second.
There’s Anna and Polly. I’ll start heading up to them.
A street light just burnt out up there.
Anna’s wearing a red dress. Now why in the hell would she go and do something stupid like that.
Light dripping from speeding headlights.
My momma was wearing a red dress when she died.
I wonder if she’d ever be proud of me if she was still around.
I have about three hundred bucks in my pocket. A lot less than usual.
If I died tonight that’s all they’d get back.
They can scoop up my brains with a shovel. Take my eyeballs out and put them in Ball jars. Cleanse themselves in the blood spurting out from my heart. Where I go back to being born, in the hollow beneath a cage of bursting ribs where my mother is screaming. There is only darkness in her mouth.
Michael Fumai is a recent MFA grad from Sarah Lawrence College and New Englander. He writes and works in Providence, Rhode Island. His most recent work appears in The Fat City Review.
Lead image: “Bullets” (via Flickr user David Stillman)