At the Bank

I’m looking for a short cut today…….

Here is a short story I wrote a little while ago in response to an exercise to write something using a regional voice.  It was inspired by the noise I used to hear in the background when I talked to my sister who worked in a bank in Glasgow in the 1980s.

Apologies to those who need some vocabulary hints….

‘Giro’ was a type of cheque sent to claimants of unemployment benefit

‘The Brew’ was the Department of Social Security or ‘Bureau’ that dealt with the unemployed

‘The Bar L’ is short for Barlinnie the prison in Glasgow, but also a popular if ironic name for a pub.

‘We’un’ and ‘bairn’ – small child

‘The messages’ – grocery shopping

‘Bunnet’ – a hat of any kind

At the Bank

It all kicked off that day at the bank; or mebbe it had started when the Brew had stopped sending the Giros and they’d made him open a bank account he’d no wanted.  Or mebbe it was when they bastards at the yard had sacked him.  Anyhows it had ended bad, and Morag’s eyes never lost that red look with her mouth tight like a miser’s purse strings.

But that day at the bank had been the worst.  He’d needed his money.  No question.  It had been a bad week what with the people getting so heavy about the payments on the three piece suite.  But his session with the lads on Thursday night was sacrosanct.

And he had no cash in his pocket.  He hated the bank.  He had to get cash out o one o they hole in the walls, and he’d always hated machines.  All they wee green letters danced about too much for him to be able to read them, and he ran out of time and all the people in the line behind him started having a go.

But he’d seen them right just now.  ‘No money’  ‘No withdrawal authorised’.  And he needed it but.  The boys would be waiting for him at the Bar L.

The bright lights inside the bank hurt his eyes and the noise frae the screamin bairns cut through his head like a dentists drill.  The place was full so he had nae choice but tae join the line.

‘Mornin’ Pal,’ he nodded at a wee man with a big dog on a lead.  The wee man grunted back at him pulling on the lead so the dog yelped.

‘Ma dug’s feart o they we’uns.  Shouldn’t be allowed tae brung we’uns tae a bank,’ he muttered.

The woman in front of the dog tried to shush the squalling bairn in the pushchair.

‘Could ye no have left yer dog outside?’

The wee man stared at the woman.  ‘No hen, ma dug stays wi’ me.’  He pulled it closer again.  Slaver from the dog’s open mouth spattered Billy’s trousers.  As he wiped them over he noticed the bottoms were no as clean as they should have been.  Morag would of told him if she’d been speaking to him.

‘Who’s next please?’ the teller called above the din, and everyone shuffled forward.

Billy kept his eyes on the floor.  He was too mad to talk to anyone.  Mad angry with the people stopping him getting his money.  It was his.  When he was working he’s paid his stamps regular.  He had rights.  He shuffled forward keeping a distance frae the dog.  Finally it was his turn.

‘I want my money, hen,’ he said to the young blond assistant lassie behind the counter.

‘Do you have an account with the bank, sur?’ she asked.

‘Aye hen I dae.  I’d no be asking else.  But that machine outside will ne give me ma cash.’  Billy felt his hand itch to slap her glaikit face.

‘If you give me yer card I’ll check yer account, sur,’ she said.  ‘Please enter yer PIN on that key pad there.’

He made a huge effort to control the shaking of his hand.  His fingers were too fat to for the wee buttons but he held his breath, concentrating, and slowly entered the four digits, Morag’s birthday.  He’d never forgotten it yet.  The lassie studied the screen in front of her.

‘Thanks Mr McGregor, but your account is empty.  There was a big withdrawal yesterday.’

‘What do ye mean?  A withdrawal?’

‘There was an ATM transaction last night at 10:30 which took all the money out a your account.’

‘Well it was nae me.  Give me ma money.’  Billy’s face was burning like a furnace.

‘I cannae dae that, sur.  There’s no funds in yer account.’

‘See you, the Brew telt me the money’d be there and now it’s no.’

‘Sur, there’s no need tae shout, sur, I’m no hard of hearin’’

‘But yer no listenin.’

‘I am tho but, sur.’

‘Now look hen, just give me ma money or away and fetch someone who will.’

‘You’ll need tae speak to Mr Jamison then, sur.  But I think he’s with a customer just now.’

‘I’m no gone talk tae that jumped up wee boy in a suit.  He’s no better than the rest of us.’

‘Mebbe not sur.  But he is the manager.’

‘What’s he gone dae anyways?’  Billy knew he had tae keep her talking or lose his place in the queue and be forgotten, as he was replaced by another supplicant.  So long as he stood there they’d have to do something for him.

‘Well sur he can look at the CCTV footage from last night and see who used the cash machine at 10:30.’

‘Are you accusing me of something?’

‘No sur.  But we can see if mebbe someone you know used the card without telling you.’

‘Can you no look at the TV thing without him?’

‘No sur.  Look there’s a great long queue behind you.  Can you wait for Mr Jamison, he’ll no be long?’  There’s a seat over there.’  She pointed with one hand, the finger nails bright with blue varnish chipped on her pointing finger.  That’s no a flattering look. Billy could imagine Morag’s voice, assessing the girl.  Morag was like that, sly putting down someone that was trying to humiliate him.  There’d been a lot of them lately.  But Morag wasnae there and Billy had to hold it thegether on his own.  He leant forward, but saw the lassie’s other hand was hovering at the edge of the desk near the panic button.  Billy didn’t want her to press that.  He’d seen what happened when they pressed that; the siren ripped at yer ears, everyone started shouting, they booted you out into the street and the polis came.  He leant back.

Aye, ok, aye.  I’ll wait.  Get someone tae tell yon wee guy I’m waiting.’

Billy sat nursing his resentments for an hour waiting for the manager, thinking on how he was going tae tell him just exactly how naebody messed with Billy McGregor, especially no baldy banky boy.  Finally the manager came out of his office and the teller lassie talked to him, pointing at Billy through the glass partition.

‘Morning Mr McGregor, Alison tells me there has been an unauthorised withdrawal from your account.’

‘I don’t know anything about that.  I just want my money.’

‘If you give me a few minutes I can take a look at the CCTV footage from last night.’

The boy disappeared but came back a few minutes later.

‘Would you like to come with me, sur?’  He led Billy into a small brown office.

‘This is the film of the ATM from 10:25 to 10:35 last night.’  Billy looked at a black and white wishy washy screen.  He saw himself, weaving towards the machine his arm stretched out trying a couple of times to get the card in the wee slot, and finally managing it.

‘That’s no me,’ he said.

‘Do you not think it looks a bit like you?’ the boy asked.

‘No.  That bastard’s wearin a bunnet.  I never wear a bunnet.’  Billy felt a rush of hot liquid memory.

‘Well, sur, I think it looks like you.  So I’m afraid I can’t take this any further.’

Billy sat down.  ‘It’s no me,’ he said, wondering what he would tell Morag when she asked for money for the messages.

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1 Comment

  1. margaret nickels

     /  April 1, 2011

    Wonderful! very evocative.


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