A response to Chuck Wendig’s May 22 Flash Fiction Challenge.
Photo of inspiration here.
A woman. An ATM at 11:30 pm. At the other ATM, a man.
“I’ve seen you before,” he says.
“Sure. What’s your name?”
“Fuck you,” she says. But she smiles.
She enters her code. Tap-tap-tap-tap. Languid, long-fingered movements that brush over the keypad, pointing, almost, rather than pressing. Her right hand is her PIN hand. Her left is for hiding her code. Quietly, without forethought, she raises her left hand and rests it on the side of the machine, between her four numbers and the man’s line of vision.
Looking at her instead of the keypad, he punches in his own code. Fast and forceful, like a boxer pummeling a heavy bag. Boom-boom-boom-boom. 1043, she guesses. Or maybe 2978. Yes. He looks like he could be a 2978.
“You live around here?” he says.
“Okay, then.” He grins, not unpleasantly. The glow of the lamp over the ATM shows his teeth. White, precise. Almost perfect.
Withdrawal, says her right index finger, pointing. Checking. $20.
Insufficient funds. Unable to complete transaction. Sorry, says the machine, in large white letters that don’t look sorry at all.
The man grabs his bills as the machine spits them out. Folds them in half, flips through them with quick jerking motions of his thumb. $200, she guesses. It sounds like $200.
“Going home?” he says.
“Maybe. We’ll see.”
He grins again. His teeth look even whiter.
She takes her card back with the same quiet, languid movements, pretending that she isn’t walking away with nothing. That instead of filling up her tank once a week she doesn’t go to the station every night and put in $10, $5, $3, enough for her to get to work and back, and maybe the dollar store some days. That today, every day, she isn’t running on empty, with nothing to keep her going but the thought, the hope, the foolish wish that one day someone will fill the emptiness inside her, not all the way, but just a little bit, enough for her to feel something, and know that she can still feel something, and that not everybody takes without giving back a little.
“You going to give me your number?” says the man.
She smiles back at him. “My number?”
“What else do you want? My address? DMV records? Social security?”
“All right, all right. Never mind the number. What about a name?”
“A name.” She lifts the flap of her bag, tucks her ATM card into the secret pocket, lowers the flap again, her left hand over her right the whole time.
“Sure, why not,” says the man. “It’s just a name.”
She opens her mouth then and laughs, long and quiet, the sound of it rushing out through the spaces between her faded teeth. She steps off the curb and into her car and drives away, glancing at the fuel gauge that tells her she has 5 miles left, maybe less, and when she pulls onto the street behind the house where she should no longer be living, instead of the parking lot behind the place where she should be working, she is still laughing.
© J. Grace, 2015