Manco (Formerly titled Mary)

When she was about 10, she would ride her bike down the driveway from the house on Muriel toward the park a few blocks away. She’d drop the bike and lie down in the grass between two trees and look up at the blue sky for contrails, the white wispy wakes in the blue sky made by airplanes. She’d squint and sometimes the sun would glint off the plane making it look like she was high above a lake looking down at a speedboat.

She dreamt of being on a plane, any plane going anywhere as long as it was far away from home. When she finally flew, she always sat at the window, making a point to look down and squint and the girls she thought might be looking up at her, as she sped along the edge of the sky.

Now she was on the run with a man she hardly knew.

They’d been driving for days. State after state went by. Sometimes they’d argue. But they tried to stay on mission, on course. They kept their own secrets to themselves. All they had in common was their cause if it could be called that. That was enough.

Yesterday, they’d stopped at a lake somewhere along the South Dakota and Minnesota border. He had wanted to visit his mom in Wisconsin, so they headed east on I-90. He said she had cancer. She understood. She thought it was sweet. Still, she didn’t trust him. Something told her he was weak.

They rented a paddleboat. She was a good swimmer, so good she stopped taking lessons at the local pool when she was a kid. Still, she hated swimming in water if she couldn’t see the bottom. This water was milky green. She felt safe though, and the vodka helped. She jumped in.

The water was warm. She didn’t think about much, but she remembered some things all at once, like the camping trips at the lake with the neighbor boy. She loved that neighbor boy. They’d lie together in their underwear and laugh till they cried. How old was she then? It had to be 12.

“We need to be out of sight and out of mind for a while,” he said. “And we need to put some money together.”

“We’ll do whatever we need to,” she said. “You know I’m down for whatever.”

She’d learned how to protest and organize from her mother. And she’d learned about politics and literature from her father. None of that seemed to do enough for her or the world. Besides, when it came to her parents everything seemed to be about them, not her. She just wanted to be treated like a regular kid, not an adult, or like a younger sister.

“You’re question isn’t indiscreet, but the answer could be.”

“Really?” he asked. “Sometimes I wonder about you, whether you believe this shit or what.”

“I could say the same about you,” she replied. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s just teen angst, if anarchy and sabotage are about mom and dad.”

He lit a joint and looked at her over the fire.

“Well, that’s fucked up I guess,” he said. “What’s that mean?”

She realized it was a stupid thing to say.

“When we started fucking things up,” she said, pausing to take a hit. “I decided I’d just start to own all this and be honest. Like really honest.”

“I get it,” he said. “And now you’re X’ed out of their world.”

They laughed at the reference.

“Yeah,” she said. “Fuckin’ X’ed out.”

“Sure,” he continued. “Aren’t we all mad at mommy and daddy?”

“I’m not mad at mine,” she said. “I’m jealous. But that’s not why I’m out here with you and that’s not why I did what I did.”

The fire crackled. He looked at her sternly.

“There’s no room for falling in love,” he said.

She laughed a little too hard at that. She knew it had sort of hurt him, her laughing at that. Somehow as a man, it was important that she would be in love with him. She wasn’t.

“This isn’t about love,” she said. “This is about what I want to do. What needs to be done. That’s all.”

After they stopped at the lake they crossed into Minnesota. She’d never been there. They were on the lookout for a small town with an easy target. The ideal would be something small, no fancy security, maybe just an old guy guarding the place.

When they got to Hutchison she found what she was looking for.

“Hey, dude, wake up,” she said pulling up to a curb. “There it is.”

“You think so?” he asked.

 “You’re gonna hit this bank,” she said.

He had the backpack on his lap. She’d packed it with first aid things and it had the gun she’d acquired. After checking the backpack’s contents and poking around in it, he opened the door, stepped out, and walked toward the bank on the other side of the street.

While she waited, she grabbed the pipe. She took a long draw and held it. She exhaled and thought, “I’m taking off.” He was dead weight. She had gotten a feeling, a bad feeling about him. He was no Lee Van Cleef. She thought about Manco and the Colonel. Then she thought about her dad and what he’d say about her choice of partners. Then she thought about her mom, she’d not be impressed. Then she thought about her son. It made all sorts of sense to just take off.

“I can’t leave him behind,” she thought.

But then it was too late. He came running up to the car, his long pin wheeling legs surely drawing attention on the sleepy street of the small town. He looked completely out of place. He played it all wrong.

“Drive!” he said.

“You made a scene,” she said as she drove the speed limit. “You’ve watched me do this twice, I never run. You never run when you rob a bank.”

She made two turns and aimed for the edge of town.

“You’ve gotta go faster,” he said.

“You’ve gotta shut up,” she said calmly. “Panic is not going to help.”

They had company. A black car was following them close. She knew it was a police car. She’d seen enough police cars in her mirror to know.

“C’mon, you gotta go!” he demanded.

She put her foot down. The black car kept pace, finally turning on its lights.

She signaled a turn and then hit the gas hard. The black car, now flashing, fell back.

“Why are you signaling your turns?” he asked.

“I’m just following the law,” she said.

Another signal and another turn. A truck was in their path and she swerved to pass. But there was another truck coming the opposite way, but she swerved onto the shoulder then back into the right lane. Now they were in cornfields, with high growing stalks all around now. She passed another car. She signaled her turn, the tick-tock of the turn signal punctuating the roar of the engine.

Up ahead, she saw someone throwing something into the road.

“Stop sticks!” he yelled.

“I see them,” she said.

 She swerved around them, wildly crossing into the opposite lane.

The black police car that had been closest to their back bumper, almost touching it, ran over the stop sticks. Robbers 1, cops 0. But their lead wouldn’t last.

Accelerating, she signaled another turn. She floored it. Now there were more cars and trucks with flashing lights. There were so many.

On a long straight strip of road all the cars and trucks seemed to disappear. She relaxed for a minute and so she missed them; another set of stop sticks.

The front tires exploded, then the rear. She was stopped. The sound was an explosion of air and metal and the smell of burnt rubber filled the car. It was the first time she heard the sirens. They were loud.

He opened the door, stepped out, and looked at her. She’d always remember that face and that moment.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Then he ran into a cornfield with the backpack.

A voice behind her said, “Hands in the air!”

There were a lot of voices and noise as he melted away into the field.