Friday Fiction: Neon Trainers
“You are a customer lying face down on the floor during a bank robbery. Describe it from your vantage point.”
A pair of offensively bright running shoes stop inches away from me. I can just make out the motivating slogan sewn into the tongue before my face is squashed into the bank’s musty carpet. For a criminal, his touch is remarkably gentle. No damage done, just enough force to persuade me not to look up again.
“Get your eyes down old man!”
The voice is angrier than the movement suggests. It’s gruff and with an accent so comically thick that you’d never have to ask him what part of London he’s from. You might not know the boroughs, but you’d know that it’s not a place you’d want to walk home alone in. Not without keys lodged firmly between a tight fist.
A toddler whimpers next to me as her mother, arched over the top of her like a safety net, attempts to make soothing noises. I would like to reach over to offer a squeeze of the hand, but I too am playing the role of the protector. My green leather briefcase is flat against my belly, my arms pinned to my side to disguise the shape. I would feel nobler if I had something more important to protect than money (a substantial amount, mind) and some company documents, but in the absence of my own flesh and blood it’s all that I have. Besides, even if David was with me he would probably rather run up to the thieves and demand they take him hostage than allow me to blanket him. There are apparently many things that aren’t permissible between a father and his teenage son, with physical displays of affection being high up on the list.
As sickening as it sounds and as much as I wouldn’t dare admit it to Fiona; this would be the perfect opportunity to improve David’s estimation of me. Whilst the other customers were paralysed with fear, I would be reassuring, a source of calm in a terrifying situation. As my son and I lay compliantly, I would wait for the opportune moment and then snatch the gun away from one of the thugs. The others, panicked now as David hits the alarm, would disband into the waiting police’s arms, leaving the bank’s scared customers to begin applauding our selfless acts of heroism. David and I would look across from each other and share a relieved smile, one that I would take to mean, ‘we did it Dad, I’m so proud of you’.
Instead, I keep cowardly still, listening as the whimpers of the little girl next to me escalate into joined-up sobs. The angry voices bark orders for her to be shut up, which only makes the screams louder. I tilt my head slightly to watch as the mother, pleading uselessly, is wrenched off her daughter and thrown to the ground.
Exposed, the child pauses as she looks up at the two men in ski masks standing over her, sucks in a breath and then emits a wail so desperate that it seems to pierce the whole room. The taller of the two men takes a step towards her and is held back by his neon-trainer-wearing friend.
“Just leave ‘er,” Neon Trainers says, standing in front of the girl. “We said no-one gets hurt!”
Tall Man pushes past him and back towards the counter. “If you can’t shut her up then I will.”
As Neon Trainers bends down to pick the girl up, I foolishly crane my neck to get a better look. Despite the ski mask I make out his brown eyes and child-like eyelashes, far too long for a seventeen-year-old’s. He glares at me, trying hard to appear tough and unruffled, but the quiver of his lip catches him out, just as it always used to.
My son – a child clutched in one hand, a weapon in the other – motions to the ground with his gun until I obediently press my face back into the carpet.