A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

The Old Lady and the Bank Robber
by Harriet Morgan (Sep 2013)


Grace and Fred Robbins walked into their neighborhood bank a few seconds before the bank robber arrived.

“Where do you want to go eat this afternoon, Miss Grace?” The old man beamed down at his wife’s glowing face.

“Oh, I don’t know. Surprise me. I love going out to eat. It’s such an adventure!” Had she only known the true adventure she was soon to have, Grace might have rephrased her answer.

“Look, there’s Linda,” Fred said.

“Hi, Linda.”

Grace paused with a puzzled look on her face. Then asked, “Gracious, we aren’t that frightening are we?” Turning, Grace saw what was causing the panicky look on the young teller’s face.

A personage slightly taller and much thinner than her Fred had entered the bank lobby waving a hand gun. He was totally covered in black clothing, including a black ski mask. “Everyone down on the floor! Now!”

“Except you!”, he yelled as he rushed toward Linda.

“And you!”, turning the gun toward the second teller, an older man named Floyd.

“Both of you, empty your cash drawers. Put all the money in this bag.” He handed them a black backpack. As he spoke, the robber waved the gun around the room. When a toddler began to whimper, he spun toward his young mother. “Shut that kid up or I will!”

At this, Grace, her blue eyes flashing spoke from the floor. “My goodness, young man. You should know she can’t make a baby hush on command. You shouldn’t point that thing at her either.”

With a grimace, the young man directed the gun at Grace. “Okay, Grandma, how about if I shoot YOU?”

Fred whispered, “Dear, don’t say anything more.”

“That’s right, Gramps. Tell her to shut up, too!”

Changing directions again, “Are you two about through loading that loot in my bag?” Two heads nodded. “Now, both of you come out from behind that counter and join these other folks on the floor. Everybody stay DOWN!”, he yelled.

He grabbed the backpack as Floyd and Linda got down on the floor, took a deep breath and said, “Hey, Susie Q, where’s the back door?” Linda pointed. The robber yanked Grace up by her arm, “Me and the old lady are leaving together. If anyone tries to stop us, I’ll shoot her!”

Stepping out the door into the alley behind the bank, the robber dragged Grace as he hurried to a parked car on the quiet street around the corner from the alley. “I knew where the back door was. That’s why I parked here”, he muttered as he pushed her on the floorboard on the passenger side of the front seat. “Stay there.” Then, throwing his backpack, ski mask and black shirt in the backseat and getting quickly behind the wheel, he revealed short, brown, neatly trimmed hair, brown eyes and a clean, white, button down shirt. Looking like a young office worker on his way home from work, he pulled out of the parking space, drove to the stop sign on the corner, and entered traffic on the main street. He drove the same speed as the other cars, not calling attention to himself and blending in with the after work crowd.

After driving for a few minutes, the robber said, “You can sit up now, old lady.”

Grace sat up; tried to repair her curly white hair with her hands; smoothed her shirt over the top of her slacks, and said, “I know that I am an old lady, but my name is Grace Robbins. I would prefer that you call me Grace or Mrs. Robbins, if you don’t mind.”

“Huh? What? Oh.”

“What shall I call you?”

He paused, a little confused by the way Grace was starting a conversation. “Mark.”

“That’s a nice name. Mark is one of the books in the Bible, you know.”


“He was a companion to Paul and Peter.”

“Who? What are you talking about?”

“Mark. The man who wrote the book of Mark in the New Testament.”


They drove a few minutes in silence before Grace spoke again. “Where are we going, Mark?”

“Old lady…

Grace gave him a look that could kill.

Speaking slowly and distinctly, he replied, “Grace. I. don’t. want. to. talk.”

“Alright, Mark. A quiet drive is always nice.”

He shrugged and rolled his eyes.

“I know that look. My son, Tommy, gave me that look for several years. In fact, you remind me of Tommy a little bit.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, you talk too much. That reminds me of my ma.”

“Well, that’s a nice thing to say, Mark.”

“Believe me, it ain’t no compliment.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you and your mother have differences?”

“Yeah. You could say that. I ain’t seen her in five or six years now and that’s just fine with me.”

“That’s sad Mark. I couldn’t stand to not see any of my children or grandchildren for that long. In fact, after a month, I would be on the phone asking them to come to dinner, or something.”

Mark laughed, “I don’t think Ma could cook a whole dinner and the two of us sitting down together would be a nightmare. Yeah, a nightmare. That’s what my life with my ma was like.

“Anyway, like I said, you talk too much.”

Once again they rode in silence for a few minutes.

Mark spoke next, “What about your son, Tommy? Does he come to dinner?”

“Oh, of course. Tommy has finally settled down. He has a nice wife and a little boy, with a second baby due in about six months. Yes, Tommy’s doing fine now. But he spent his late teens and early twenty’s trying to figure things out, as people say.”

“Did he run away?”

“No, but he threatened to several times.”

“Was he ever in jail?”

“Yes, once.”

“What happened?”

“He got in a fight with another boy at school.”

“Did you whip him when he got home?”

“Whip him? No. His father and I just talked to him.”

“Talked. What a crock. Did that do any good?”

“Oh, not really.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“Did your parents whip you when you disobeyed, Mark?”

“My parents? My dad, whoever he was, was never around, but my ma made up for that by whipping me for everything. When she got tired of beating up on me, whichever “uncle” was living with us at the time would pick up where she left off.”

About that time, Mark pulled in a driveway and drove into the one car garage to the side of a modest white house in a neighborhood of modest houses.

“Well, we’re here.”

Grabbing his things from the backseat, and pointing his gun at Grace, he said, “Get out.” Mark covered the gun with his sweatshirt and other things he was carrying, closed the garage door, and motioned to the back door, which they entered quickly.

“Is this your home, Mark?”


“It’s nice.”

“It’s okay. I just rent it and since I lost my job, I haven’t been able to pay my rent. Until today.” He laughed.

Mark led her into his tiny living room. She sat on the couch and Mark sprawled in his recliner.

“What kind of job do you do Mark?”

“I don’t want to talk, lady.” He closed his eyes for a second then began to answer her question. “I was a roustabout in the oil field. Then I got hurt and lost my job.”

“Did you like your job?”

“Not really.”

“What do you like to do?”

“I don’t know. I’ve had odd jobs since I was fifteen. I started out mowing lawns and worked as a paper boy for awhile. Then I worked at a pizza place. That’s when I bought my car and fixed it up. Then I could get a real job. I just fell into oil field work by meeting some guys from the oil fields at a bar one night. The money was good. But the thing I liked best was working on my car.”

“Did you ever think of applying for a job at a garage or body shop?”

“No. I don’t have no training.”

“I’ll bet you could find a job with one who would train you.”

“Yeah, well, now that I’m a bank robber I don’t think that’s gonna happen!”, he smirked. “Anyway, just shut up. I have to think.”

The two sat without talking for some time. The young man appeared to be troubled about something. He closed his eyes from time to time and frowned. Grace decided he needed quiet, so she just watched him.

As the sun started down and the living room began to darken, Grace noticed that Mark had fallen asleep. She studied his face which didn’t look so ferocious when he was sleeping. That took her back to her own children, who could look like angels when they were asleep, even when they had been so ornery during the day. She smiled to herself. “Yes, Mark, you remind me of Tommy when he was younger”, she whispered as her maternal instincts took over.

After a few minutes, Mark jerked awake, looking for Grace. There she sat on the couch watching him. “Thinking about getting away?”, he asked.

“Oh, no, just thinking. Did you happen to notice that my husband looks like Santa Claus?”

“Now that you mention it, yeah, and you look like Mrs. Claus. So what?”

“During the holidays, Fred, that’s my husband, works at the mall as Santa. I usually go with him as Mrs. Claus.

“We both love Christmas - the lights and other decorations; the food and family times; the children counting the days until Santa comes. You remember being little and waiting for Santa to come don’t you?”

“Naw. Maybe when I was really little, but not after awhile. There never was any presents, and we didn’t have decorations or special food. In fact, I didn’t really like Christmas. The other kids would come back to school with new clothes and new toys and I was still in my old rags that was always too short. I never had any real toys, just made do with junk I found around.”

He interrupted his own reflections, “Why didn’t you try to get away, old, er, Grace? You know I’m going to have to kill you don’t you?”

“Oh, I don’t think so, Mark. Your eyes are too kind - maybe sad and tired, but not mean. You don’t plan to kill me.”

“Whatever choice do I have? You’ve seen me. You know my name. You know where I live. You can identify me.”

“That’s all true, Mark, but I believe you are going to give the money back, pay the penalty, and let me go.”

“Ha.” Reaching for the TV remote, Mark turned his small television on. “Be quiet. I want to listen to the news.”

They both sat quietly watching the evening news. The bank robbery was the big news. The report just gave the bare facts. It seemed that the authorities had little to go on. A look of relief crossed the young man’s face. He turned the TV off.

The sound of Grace’s voice startled Mark. “I want you to know that Fred and I will be in court with you and I’ll testify that you didn’t hurt me. When you get out of prison, I want you to come and stay with us until you get on your feet. We can find a good mechanic or body guy who will train you and give you a job.”

Mark just stared at the kind old woman. He wondered if she was out of her mind. And he said so. “Are you crazy? Why do you think I’ll give the money back? Why would you want to help me? And why would you want me in your house?”

“I told you, Mark, I see the good in you. You know that’s what finally brought our Tommy around, when he realized that we loved him no matter what, and we could see the potential he had.”

“Grace, I am NOT your Tommy. I’ll bet I don’t even look like him.”

“Oh, of course not. Tommy has blond curly hair and blue eyes, but he was the same kind of sad kid, just like you, who couldn’t see that love for a long time.”

“Yeah, well nobody ever loved me.”

“I don‘t believe that, Mark. Besides, I love you.”

“Come on, Grace. Don’t give me that.”

“Mark, didn’t anyone ever treat you kindly or give you any kind of love?”

For quite some time Mark sat with his head down. Grace didn’t intrude on his thoughts. Then he murmured, “I remember my Grandma. My ma’s ma. We lived with her for a couple of years, but she couldn’t afford to keep us and Ma wouldn’t work when we lived with Grandma. Grandma wasn’t as old as you are. Her hair was still mostly dark, with just a few strands of gray. She used to sing to me and hug me and tuck me in at night. I was really little. We moved away about the same time I stopped believing in Santa Claus.”

“Was there anyone else, Mark?”

After another lengthy pause, “My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Kindle. She was good to me. She tried to get the state people to help me, but when Ma learned about it, we moved. Again.”

“Were those the only ones?”

“When I was twelve, thirteen years old, the neighborhood we lived in had a basketball court. A young guy, some kind of preacher, would come out weekday evenings and Saturdays and play basketball with a bunch of us. He was pretty cool. Of course, he tried to get us to come out to church, but I didn’t ever go. I didn’t have anything nice enough to wear.

“It don’t matter anyway. A few nice people don’t make no difference.”

Grace sat with her hands in her lap and looked at the young man with the sad brown eyes. Then Mark spoke again, “There was a girl once. She had the most beautiful red hair and big brown eyes. She was nice to me at the pizza parlor.” He smiled at this fond memory, and continued, “Then some of the cool kids from school came in and one of the football jocks started flirting with her. She didn’t come in no more. I guess she stopped eating pizza.”

“Doesn’t it help to know that there are people out there who care, Mark? Wouldn’t you like to get a fresh start? I promise, Fred and I will do everything we can to help you.”

Mark looked into her eyes as tears welled up in his own. Then he began to sob. He cried for several minutes. Grace sat quietly waiting for him to get his emotions under control. Then she said, “Shall I call 9-1-1 or do you want to?”

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