Friday, March 5, 2021

Issue #73 -- March 2021

THE LEGEND OF FOUNDER'S DAY
By Copper Smith


Even after Kendall walked into the room and took a seat facing everybody, they just kept talking. Like a class of junior high girls before the teacher got there. Like they didn’t see that six-foot-seven Indian step inside and address them.

Kendall didn’t care. He just sipped his coffee and waited for everybody to shut up. When they didn’t, he said fuck it, and started talking anyway. “I knew a guy who stole a canoe once,” his voice deep and loud but not screaming. That was just his voice. “In broad daylight.”

A few guys looked at him, but kept on gabbing, not paying attention or anything, more like who is he talking to?

The Indian went on. “This was at this sporting goods store in Ottawa. It’s not there anymore. I think there’s now a place there that sells ceramics. But I’m not sure.”

A few guys shut up, sent him his gaze.

“How did he do it? How did he steal a goddamn canoe in broad daylight? With the store open?”

He was getting their attention now.

“He just walked in and took it. Walked over to the place where the boats were, lifted it off the rack, walked out with it.”

Quiet enough to hear a mouse pissing on cotton now.

“The salesman, the girl who works the registers, the other girl who works at the other register. The customers. They all figured it must be his. He must have bought it, right? Told them he’d come back, pick it up later after he could get his truck, something like that. Who’d be crazy enough to just walk in a take a canoe?”

Eyes were narrowing now, every face motionless.

The Indian repeated, “Who’d be crazy enough to just walk in a take a canoe?”

“What that got to do with the job we here for?” Dupree asked.

Kendall took another sip. “That’s how we’re going to do this job. The bank.”

“We gon’ walk in, take the money, and leave?”

“No. We’re gonna be like my friend with the canoe. We’re gonna act like everything is just like it’s supposed to be. And everybody’s going to see us acting that way and think everything is just like it’s supposed to be. Here’s how we do that: we walk in armed, everybody with a gun. We give a note to the teller, take the money, then leave.”

Everybody sat in confused silence, glances exchanged. “How we gonna do that?” Tommy asked.

Another sip. “It’s gonna be Founder’s Day. I’m a Indian. You guys are cowboys. We have guns because I’m a Indian and you guys are cowboys. Also we have masks.”

A few titters from the guys, but that didn’t bother Kendall. He just waited for them to think about it. When things quieted down and he saw all four of their heads nodding, he knew they had thought about it.

Dupree asked, “What if the security guard gets antsy, wants to make sure the guns ain’t real?”

Kendall shrugged. “He probably won’t.”

“But what if he do?”

“You do what needs to be done. You’ve done this kind of thing before. You can improvise. Long as we can get in with no questions asked, we’re fine.”

“You know that shit’s on security cam, right?” Tweek asked.

“We’re wearing masks. Because it’s Founder’s Day.”

Murmuring, more nodded heads. This was what Kendall expected because the shit sounded too good to be true. But they had run out of questions. So he went on. “Get here at ten. No lateness. Do you understand that?”

Reluctant nods.

“I’ll give you all your costumes and masks and guns. From then on, you listen to me and only me.”

Kendall stood. He probably didn’t have to, but this seemed like a good time to remind the guys that he was a big motherfucker and not scared of anybody.

Not Dupree, the tall skinny one with the scar on his nose that everybody knew was from falling off a ladder but it looked badass anyway.

Not Tommy, crazy Irish fuck with a history of punching dudes in the throat if he thought they didn’t deserve their girlfriends.

Not Tweek, crack addict who was alright when he got what he needed, but otherwise, watch out because he’d figure out a way to stab you when you weren’t looking.

Not Ray Ray, Dupree’s son, quiet and barely nineteen, but he’d just helped plan and pull off a complicated home invasion that ended with him taking out three guys and a Doberman.

“Anybody got any questions?” the Indian asked.

“How much of a take are we looking at?” Tweek asked.

“Should be about eleven thousand. I take the money, I count it, I divide it. We all go home and tell our wives we got the money from, you know, bingo or something. I don’t know, make up your own shit. But don’t all say ‘bingo’ because if the wives start asking around they’ll be like, ‘wait, they couldn’t all win that much at bingo.’”

With everything quiet, it was time to take off. Lurlene was at the door, all ninety pounds of her, pointing to her watch to let Kendall know she needed the office back. “Okay, see you all at ten tomorrow.”

The guys took their time strolling out of the office, not even pretending not to look at Lurlene’s ass as they passed by. Once they were alone, she closed the door and folded her arms. “You gonna tell me what was going on in here?”

***

Founder’s Day was a local holiday that commemorated the founding of Fort Linwood, Arkansas. According to lore, the occasion was established on the day of the first white man’s arrival and the subsequent kinship that took place between them and members of the Choctaw Tribe or some such bullshit, but mostly it was just people dressed up as cowboys and Indians and going to parades and holding sales.

The parade routes clogged the streets on the way to the bank just like they knew it would. All those cap gun cowboys, towheaded Indians, concession stands selling synthetic headdresses and plastic spears, Mexican cowboys selling Freedom burritos, cowgirls with star spangled lip gloss and red, white, and blue fishnets.

Kendall had talked Lurlene into driving the van, because much as she complained about his “lifestyle,” she was kind of intrigued by it and wanted to be involved.

There wasn’t much talking on the way there because there wasn’t much to talk about. Just guys making sure their masks were on and their guns were properly loaded.

They’d already been through the plan, the little plan there was. Basically, it was keep quiet, take the money, and Lurlene will pull up at the front door in the van. If all went well, they just had to stand there and be prepared for if things stopped going well.

Tommy, Ray Ray, and Dupree sat on one side. Tweek next to Kendall, twirling his gun around a finger until he could see Kendall didn’t like it, so he stopped.

“Got damn,” Tweek said. “Just like some Clint Eastwood shit. What was my man’s name in High Plains Drifter? What was his name?”

“He didn’t have no name,” Dupree answered. “He didn’t never have no names. That’s my man, Clint Eastwood. No names. He come and go, don’t know who the fuck he is.”

“Harry Callahan was a name,” Tommy said, not looking up from his gun.

“What?” Dupree asked.

“That was his name in the Dirty Harry movies. Harry Callahan. You said he never has a name.”

“That shit don’t count,” Dupree said. “I’m talking about westerns. You see that motherfucker in a western, he ain’t got shit to say and ain’t got no name. And if he do have a name, don’t nobody know it. That’s my man.”

Ray Ray leaned back, eyes busy like he was studying everybody.

Dupree pulled his revolver out, tapped open the chamber, sent the bullets to his lap. “Check it out,” he said to his son.

Ray Ray sent his eyes to the weapon, but otherwise didn’t move.

“This shit here’s a single-action. Old school. That means you can’t just fire and keep firing like you can with a double-action or a pistol. You got to pull that hammer back each time.” He demonstrated.

The Indian watched their faces, going back and forth. The way they talked, the way their words wove together. It was kind of like music. He wondered if this was a thing with all fathers and sons or just Dupree and Ray Ray.

“Wait, we all have single-action revolvers?” Tommy asked the Indian. “Why’d you get that kind?”

“Realistic,” Kendall said. “Cowboys had single-action revolvers, so that’s what you have.”

Tweek started twirling the gun again. “Cowboys was some bad motherfuckers. Boys had some heart. Out in the old west, sun beating down, Indians on they asses. That took some heart.”

“No,” Kendall said.

“No?” Tweek asked. “What was wrong with them?”

“They were not brave. Not strong.”

“Uh-huh, you done started some shit,” Dupree chuckled, hands raised in surrender. “You fucking with his peeps now. I’m gon’ step back from that one.” Laughter all around, even Ray Ray cracked the first smile anybody had seen.

But not Kendall. “Let’s focus on the job. No more joking.”

***

The Indian walked in first, followed by the cowboys. They brought smiles to every face—assuring smiles. They nodded with familiarity, like somebody stepping into a comfortable pair of slippers. Nothing new, nothing unusual. Just another Founder’s Day. So far, so good.

They got in line, more smiles and nods. The only gawker was a ten-year-old firing finger gun shots at the Indian as his mama gave his hand a yank. “Will you come on before we miss the parade!” she urged.

The line of seven people soon became five. Kendall let Dupree step in front of him, then Tommy and Tweek. The plan demanded he be in the rear to keep an eye on things. But a grin from the security guard in back suggested he’d soon regret that.

The guard could have been nineteen or thirty, hard to tell. He smiled with too many teeth and laughed at everything. Curly blonde hair, freckles. He leaned in, eyed Kendall, then pulled back and aimed a shout behind the teller’s counter. “This one’s looking pretty real, Wade!”

The Indian said nothing and did nothing but watched everything, hands clasped at his waist.

He saw Wade glance up from behind the counter, balding, men’s dress shirt and vest like he wanted to remind people he was important. He said, “He might be real. You ask him?”

The guard turned. “You a real Indian?”

Kendall shook his head. Saying yes would mean the police would be looking for an actual Indian.

“I didn’t think so. Those ain’t even authentic feathers.”

Kendall smiled, but only on the inside. He had thought of everything. Even the fake headdress when he could have easily gotten his hands on a real one.

Everybody moved up in line, but the guard wasn’t done with him yet. “The gun looks real though.”

Kendall nodded.

“Let me see it.”

Tweek panicked, turned to them, eyes alert.

Kendall said, “Sorry, can’t do that. They don’t let me. These replicas are expensive.”

“Aw, come on! You can bend the rules this once.”

“Maybe next year.” Everybody moved up in line again.

“Tell you what,” the guard said, tugging his gun from the holster and offering it butt first. “You can hold my real one while I hold yours.”

Dupree looked back. Tommy too. Everybody moved up in line.

The Indian eyed the guard’s gun. A Sig Sauer P365, which held a ten-round flush fit magazine. Not like his single-action revolver with five rounds. He reached into his holster, pulled out the revolver and made the exchange.

The security guard weighed the revolver in his hand, mouth puckered, eyebrows up. “Good night, Gladys! Does this thing ever look as real as real can look!” He twirled it over his head, calling to behind the counter again. “Hey, Wade! Check me out! I’m a cowboy eeeeee-hawwww!”

The guard looked behind the counter, waiting for a reaction.

But Wade’s attention seemed pulled away. Dupree had reached the front of the line and slid the note across the counter.

Wade stood next to the teller, a lady with stacked auburn hair and too much lipstick. Her eyes got big after reading the note, but Wade just nodded slowly to Dupree.

“Wade?” The guard called.

The lady handed over a thick envelope. Wade kept nodding.

“Wade!” The guard called again, impatient now. “Check out how authentic this thing is!”

Kendall was watching Dupree so closely as he took the money and tucked it away, he barely noticed the hammer of his revolver getting pulled back.

He turned to the guard too late.

“Hands up, Tonto!” The guard giggled, barrel at the Indian’s temple, finger on the trigger. “Watch this, Wade!” In a bad John Wayne, he said, “I’m gonna shoot me a redskin!”

Kendall tried to reach into his holster and fish out the guard’s Sig Sauer, but he couldn’t get there before the shot clapped out. Luckily, it was Dupree’s shot.

It stung at everybody’s ears, loud, sharp, angry. With it came jolted bodies, screams, hands covering faces.

All eyes went to the guard’s quaking body, slamming against the wall, geyser of blood painting his chest, legs flailing, torso buckling, curled fingers clawing at his neck as he pushed out choppy sandpaper breaths on his way to the carpet.

An alarm rang—a long, deep wail—but the screams smothered it to a whimper.

Kendall turned to the counter, found Dupree holding his pose, admiring his bullseye like a painter leaning back from the canvas. He also spotted Wade ducking behind the counter, then popping up seconds later, rifle in hand. “Look out!” he shouted, then ducked behind a desk.

Voices threaded into one long screech, eyes now aimed everywhere, bedlam, scrambling bodies crashing in the chaos, racing for the door.

Kendall and Dupree fired three shots in Wade’s direction, but he had ducked again, then risen to the window two tellers down and taken another shot.

“Shit!” Tommy called, taking one to the chest, knees pounding the floor as he fired again, but missed.

Wade shot again and clipped Tommy’s shoulder, sending him down for good.

Dupree and Tweek found shelter behind a wooden stand, but Ray Ray found nothing. Wade nicked him on the knee as he sprinted for the stand, bringing him to the carpet, all groans and useless flopping.

His dad reached out and dragged his drained body behind the stand as two more shots from Wade missed.

The frenzied screamers had raced free, leaving the center clear of obstacles and the lobby eerily quiet. A short calm interrupted, the only sounds were mumbled prayers behind the counter and the alarm’s nagging drone.

Positions were fixed now: Kendall behind the desk, the guard’s Sig Sauer in one hand, plus he’d scooped up his own revolver.

Dupree, Tweek, and Ray Ray behind the stand, guns out, but nothing from the younger man but more groans, knees pulled to his chest as his face became all teeth and widened eyes.

Behind the teller’s counter, it was Whac-A-Mole now, with Wade firing from a window, then ducking down and popping up, firing from a different window, face fixed in a crazed grimace.

The Indian surveyed things, saw the other three closer to the door, Lurlene safely outside in the van as Dupree clutched the envelope. He could see them whisper between them, planning a trip out.

Tweek rose up, tried to get to Wade, but his timing was bad and he caught one that snapped his head back, putting a crimson fountain where his jaw used to be. He tried to hold himself up on the stand, but that only slowed his body’s drop to the carpet, limp and lifeless before he got there.

When Wade came up again, firing a few more times, Kendall followed, shot back. The guys behind the stand made a break for the door.

Wade ducked down again, popped up at a window closer to the door, taking aim at the escapees. He clipped the kid again, getting him in the ankle.

Kendall shot back, sent Wade ducking for cover as Ray Ray’s groans washed everything out. The alarm, the screams, the sirens in the distance. It echoed through the bank like a bad trumpet player punishing his upstairs neighbors.

Ray Ray stretched his arms out, his dad reaching back for him, eyes gigantic as his head swiveled from the counter to his kid, then back again.

Wade popped up, rifle aimed at Ray Ray, so Kendall had no choice. He stood, guns out, charged the counter, firing away. This brought the rifleman’s scope to a new target, giving Dupree the time he needed to pull his son to freedom, dragging him to the van outside.

Everything ended in a blur for the Indian, too much pain until he felt nothing, black filled his vision as he tumbled away from it all.

***

Years later, people still talk about the Founder’s Day shooting. They talk about the day a crazed Indian stormed into the bank and took hostages along with some helpers who got away. According to lore, the Indian didn’t get away. He tried to attack the bank manager—Wade Macalister (later the town’s mayor). The Indian, it seemed, needed one more scalp to be recognized as tribal leader. But Wade was determined not to let him get that scalp, so he charged the Indian, rifle blazing, and shot him down against all odds.

Ray Ray tells the story a little differently.


Copper Smith creates fictional mayhem in Minneapolis, mostly in the form of gritty post-apocalyptic noir. He enjoys playing guitar in bands that deserve better and describing himself in the third person. He does a twitter thing. @CopperNoir. 

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