Stealing from Mamet (Weekly Writing Challenge)

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Stealing from Mamet (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge was aping style.  And I’ve already tackled Roald Dahl, so I thought I’d take a crack at David Mamet.)

It’s only words… unless they’re true.” –David Mamet

“It was crap.”

“What?”

“Crap.”

“You said that.”

“I know.”

“You know?”

“I’m aware.”

“Why don’t you elucidate upon your point?”

“It’s the thing.”

“The thing.”

“The thing that was supposed to go down last week.”

“It was supposed to?  So it didn’t?”

“Well, it did.  But it was a mess.”

“A mess like a cat makes on the kitchen floor when it’s been neglected by some high school girl?”

“More like the splatter of goo when a watermelon is dropped from a falling airplane.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”

“That kind of mess.”

“Exactly.”

“What was the play?”

“Haven’t you heard it?”

“I might have.”

“Jackson couldn’t keep his mouth shut if it was stapled shut and then vacuumed up tight by those guys that freeze dry beef.  I thought he’d have spilled it all by now.”

“Not so much spilled as dribbled.”

“He would be a dribbler.  He drools all over himself.”

“But you trusted him.”

“Not really.”

“Enough to help with your scheme.”

“Only barely.  Mostly it was that I knew he couldn’t scheme a way to stab me in the back.”

“So what went wrong?”

“The escape.”

“The exit?”

“The getaway.”

“Jackson ruined it?”

“Like a batch of cookie dough left out for two days.”

“But what about the snatch itself?”

“The snatch worked.  Just only.”

“How so?  Who was your alarm guy?”

“Moron.”

“The alarm guy was a moron?

“The alarm guy’s name was moron, far as I was concerned.  He had moron brains and moron fingers.  Tells me he cut the wires.  Moron says that we’re all clear to go.  Somehow moron didn’t notice that the wires to the panel were wired with an alarm.”

“Dang.”

“Dang is right.  Dang is the sound the prison door makes as it slams shut and leaves us all looking at the vertical window dressings made of pure iron with drugged up failures for roommates.”

“That wasn’t what did you in?”

“This wasn’t my first time having a faulty screw on my sidecar.  I still had the controls, I just took over.  While moron was working to silence the alarms, I went to work.  I knew where the diamonds were.  I knew what I was after.  And lemme tell ya Saul, those diamonds loved me.  They shined, they glittered; they all jumped into my hands like little bugs looking for food.  The diamonds and I, we were all chummy.  I grabbed ‘em, they smiled, and I ran outta that room.”

“The alarm wasn’t going off the whole time?”

“Oh, it was.  I left moron there trying to figure it out while I ran out to Jackson’s escape car.”

“That’s where it took a wrong-turn?”

“That’s where it slammed into a blasted cement wall.  You know who Jackson’s girl is?”

“Not really.  He told me she works for the city.”

“Yeah she does.  As a cop.”

“No kidding?”

“Not even a little.  Jackson said she was sick of bringing home squat.  She’s gotta pay for her gun, her uniform, and take abuse from bums like Jackson.  Thing is, she likes the dangerous side.  Y’know, why spend your nights in a cramped apartment all by yourself when she can hang out with a certain crowd.  A crowd she knows where to find.  Jackson said this woman was all kinds of trouble and she liked to deal that way.”

“So she was in on it?”

“That’s how he told it.  Even arranged a nice getaway vehicle.”

“You mean?”

Pic from Wikipedia.

“You ever see police men stop a squad car when responding to a burglary?  You don’t, because they don’t.”

“That’s quite a set up.”

“It’s a real nice set up.  From the tax-funded gas in the tires to the detective-repellant flashing lights on top.  Plus being able to drive sixty in a twenty-five ain’t a bad speed for a getaway car.”

“So what’d she do, get lost?”

“Oh no, she knew exactly where she was going.  She had the route all memorized.”

“How’s that a bad thing?”

“When she’s driving a couple of cons in the back of a police car to her station, it’s a very bad thing.”

“Shoot.”

“Yeah.”

“She turned you guys in?  Went all two-faced?”

“Apparently she was only trouble for cops.  Her bosses told her put on one face.  When the heist was done, she should pull an about-face.  Jackson was just dumb enough to believe a guy like him could get a dame like her.”

“So she gave you guys a nice pair of handcuffs?”

“I wasn’t the one going out with her; I had no qualms escaping.  Let Jackson take care of his own relationship problems.  If he wants to give the gal a promotion as a parting gift, that’s his affair.  Me, I took off.”

“Outran her and those other cops?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.  They were there, those big fancy stairs leading to the station were there, and lots of guns were there, so I decided that there wasn’t a place I wanted to be.  I may be good at running a scam, but I run from bullets even better.”

“So you got nuthin?”

“I never have nuthin’.”

“How’d you make off with the jewels?”

“Shoved ‘em in a little travel belt I carry with me.  If it’s good enough when abroad, it’s good enough to fool a broad.”

“The cop didn’t know you made off with the loot?”

“Nope.  She saw me toss a bag in the backseat and figured that was it.”

“What was in the bag?”

“Moron’s dinner.”

“How’s that?”

“The moron likes to snack while he works.  I took it from him because his fingers were gettin’ all slippery and he couldn’t hold his moron tools or manage the wires.  Morons don’t get to eat if they ain’t gonna do the job first.”

“Did the moron get picked up too?”

“Haven’t checked, haven’t heard.”

“But Jackson got arrested.  That’s how he tells it.”

“Yeah.  I’m pretty sure he’s not enjoying the girlfriend’s handcuff skills.  Probably thought it’d be fun when he first hooked up with her.”

“Maybe he’ll find a new girlfriend in there.”

“Nah, he’s too ugly.”

“You’re sittin’ pretty though.  Got all that swag, and no one to split the profits with.”

“This is true.”

“Quite the thing.”

“A close thing.  Still a thing I can live with.”

Climbing Up the Corporate Skyscraper

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Climbing Up the Corporate Skyscraper

Therein lies the defect of revenge: it’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it.” -Mark Twain

Harvey was a details person.  He thought that was why the stock brokerage had employed him in the first place.  Now, as he gathered the things that had accumulated in his area for the last three years, he realized that he should have spent less time looking at the numbers and portfolios of other businesses and more time checking on his own company’s financial standing. 

Harvey wasn’t the only one that was being “let go”.  Twenty-seven of his fellow floor-walkers were being shown the door and wished the best in their future endeavors.  Harvey tuned out the complaints of his former coworkers as he walked down the hallway.  He didn’t think about the lack of separation benefits as he rode the elevator down the thirty-four flights.  Harvey was focused solely on Stan Lipsin’s desk.

Harvey had worked for the company about two months when he got a surprise.  He had been looking at his desk, trying to arrange a client’s account, when he hung up the phone and glanced up.  There, waiting like some sort of cigar store statue, was Stan Lipsin.  The boss himself was lurking right in front of his cubicle. 

Harvey had heard that the boss was prone to engage in that sort of behavior.  Every once in a while, apparently as the whim struck him, Stan Lipsin would find an employee and give him some one on one time.  That day had been Harvey’s day.

Stan Lipsin had jerked his head towards the main hallway and Harvey had followed silently.  Stan Lipsin was a legend.  The man himself was never referred to as “Stan”, “Mister”, or even “Sir”.  It was always, and forever would be, “Stan Lipsin” that they said.  The odd thing about the powerful man was how quiet he was.  His massive frame gave off the impression of a fresh-shaven Santa Claus.  He even had that mischievous twinkle in his eye and the ruddy complexion that made a man want to chuckle.  But there was no chuckling around Stan Lipsin.  Stan Lipsin had been in charge of the company for forty-one years.  Stan Lipsin was infallible.  When Stan Lipsin wanted you to leave your desk and take a walk with him, you took latched onto opportunity and you followed him wherever he went.

In Harvey’s case, Stan Lipsin had led him into the elevator and down several floors to the manager’s office.  Harvey had always thought it strange that Stan Lipsin’s work area was eleven floors underneath the rest of his employees.  The doors had slid open and the two men had walked across the lift’s threshold.  There before them had been Stan Lipsin’s office.  It had been a sight to see.  The pool table, the dartboard, the stained wood paneling; Harvey had stared at all the luxuries with a slack jaw.  Stan Lipsin’s office hadn’t taken up the entire floor, but it had been close.  Stan Lipsin had explained that in simpler times the entire company had fit in this one room, but they had eventually needed more space.  When the decision was made to take up three more floors and wire them with the newest technological capabilities, Stan Lipsin had decided to keep this area for himself. 

Stan Lipsin’s desk had clearly been made to intimidate.  The oak behemoth could have housed four people for dinner.  The desk retained its tree-like status, with massive and thick slabs of wood that wouldn’t have been broken by anything human-powered.  Stan Lipsin had stepped behind the ancient piece of furniture and had gestured to his top right drawer.

“In here, is the secret of my success”, Stan Lipsin had said.  “I like you Harvey.  You seem like a good worker.  I think you’re a find addition to our team.  You don’t talk too much, you don’t complain, you burn the midnight oil.  I appreciate that.”  Harvey could still vividly picture Stan Lipsin when he gestured to an item on his desk.

“Do you see this, Harvey?  This is a clock”, Stan Lipsin stated.  He was clearly more interested in his prepared speech than any response Harvey might offer.  “This clock was designed by Nikola Tesla.  It is one of a kind.  It doesn’t lose time and it doesn’t break.  It cost me a small fortune to acquire, but it only drives home that old cliché that we have clung to since man stopped using back hair and clubs to attract mates.  Time is money.  We’ve spent time developing you Harvey, and we hope that you’ll reward the company financially.”

Harvey’s response had been brief.  “I’ll do my best, Sir.”

Harvey still shuddered at the uncomfortable air that had been created by his misspeaking. 

“Stan.  Stan, Sir.  Mr. Lipsin.”  Harvey had stopped and tried to control the sweat that had been beading towards the surface.  He had done what he often did when he was climbing rocks and came across a cliff that seemed impassible.  Harvey took a breath, adjusted his stance, and tried a new approach.  “I will do my utmost to reward your faith in me, Stan Lipsin.”

Stan Lispin had nodded and turned his attention back to the desk. 

“In here is the key, Harvey.  You stick with me, you do right by me, and I’ll show you the contents of this treasure chest.  What’s in here is all you need to know to make it big.”  Harvey’s last memory of that room was the way Stan Lipsin’s face had lit up at the prospect of untold riches.

None of that was going to happen though.  Three years later, Harvey had never been in that office again.  His years of glancing at the button, “23”, in the elevator had left him with a sense of longing.  He hadn’t betrayed the company but they had dismissed him.  He had made Stan Lipsin a sizeable mountain of cash.  Stan Lipsin hadn’t kept his promise.  Stan Lipsin had returned Harvey’s gift of millions of green pieces of paper with a single pink one.  Stan Lipsin had thought it was over.  Harvey intended to prove Stan Lipsin wrong.

What Stan Lipsin didn’t know, what nobody had been told, was that Harvey was an excellent climber.  Ever since college, Harvey had spent every free weekend climbing mountains.  He had his axe, his chalk, his ropes; the man was prepared.  He wasn’t the greatest in his climbing community, but he was in the upper echelons.  The tips of his fingers were strong and he could grip the slightest ledge for long enough to find that better perch.  Harvey was trained, he was prepared, and he gave himself a year to put his plan into action. 

The first thing he did was go to work at an oil change company.  He needed a job that would give him benefits but wouldn’t try to send him home with piles of paperwork.  There was no way for Harvey to take his vehicle maintenance tasks home with him, and that was just how he wanted it.  He earned benefits and he had two days off every week.  Most times he used one day off for climbing, but the other was reserved for errands.

For one thing, Harvey needed a deceleration line.  The rope that he used allowed for very little give.  It had a set length and would not give.  Harvey wanted a rope with a bit of spring to it.  He didn’t think that he would have to leap twenty stories, but if he did, he wanted a line that wasn’t going to dislocate his shoulders from the force of the rope jerking.  At the same time, Harvey didn’t want to draw attention to his rather unique purchase.

Harvey was allowed to purchase oil change gift cards at a discount.   Outside of Father’s Day, employees buying them were the only times the plastic rectangles sold.  Harvey bought several, traded them to his friends for cash, and then used that substantial sum to buy another gift card; this one for an online mega-retailer.

At the same time, Harvey kept his eye on the vintage clothing stores.  He was looking for a certain shirt.  After a few months, he found one.  For the price of four dollars, Harvey was the proud owner of a staff polo shirt for the Flickamax movie chain. 

Harvey went online with his retailer card and bought the deceleration line through a small vendor.  Then he had the gear sent to the Flickamax in the mall.  A day later, he checked the anonymous e-mail account he had created and got the expected arrival date for the package.  Harvey then requested a four day weekend from his job.  He had been working for the oil change company for a year and had never requested a day off so that he would be sure to have this span of time available.  He asked for a break from two days before the parcel should arrive to one day after.

His plan was entering its final stage.  Harvey was still in peak condition, perhaps even more than when had had been fired.  His intensity of training had focused him.  However to anyone watching, he was simply another individual in a purple polo shirt.

Harvey sat in the park across from the Flickamax and listened to his books on tape.  He had staked out the theater before and had a general idea of when the delivery trucks would come and go.  He was only interested in the shipping company that carried his parcel.  Every day he would see the brown truck drive up to the theater and every day he would hang out by the loading dock.  On the third day he was met with success.

To the outside observer, it was a rather routine non-event.  A delivery man took a cart of boxes out of his truck and pushed it to the loading dock.  There, a young man in a purple polo-shirt and headphones, waved politely to the delivery man.  A few pleasantries about weather and work were exchanged.  Then the deliveryman went back to his route.  Five boxes were left unattended on the loading dock.  The young man in the purple polo shirt was only interested in the box that was mailed to Paul Lipsinloser.

The final part of Harvey’s plan was completed when a friend of a coworker e-mailed the same anonymous address to say that the device was complete.  Harvey met him downtown, paid him in cash, and took home his custom-made gadget.  He tested out the powerful suction cups, pleased with their strength.  Harvey’s time had come.

The downtown business area was rather dead that early Saturday morning.  Harvey was counting on there being no one around at one a.m.  The few clubs and bars in the area were a good four blocks away.  Even the dedicated workers had gone home for the night and the well-to-do city dwellers that lived in their condos and high-rises hadn’t yet gotten up for their early jog or dog-walk.  The streets were his. 

Harvey parked his car several blocks away, avoiding traffic and security cameras the entire time.  He pulled the backpack from his trunk and slipped it on.  He took the ski-mask that he hadn’t used for years and felt it hug his facial features.  His ears felt pinned to his face, but his nose and mouth could breathe.  As long as that was true and his identity was concealed, Harvey didn’t care about the comfort level. 

He jogged the few blocks to the skyscraper he had worked in not so long ago and pulled the four large suction-cups out of his pack.  Then he took his climbing axe and hung it from a loop on his black cargo pants.  The two suction cups with no buttons went on Harvey’s knees.  He held the two with controls on them in his hands.  The handle was just big enough that Harvey could slip his hands in them and use with his fingers freely when he wasn’t near a glass surface.  Thus began Harvey’s twenty-three floor ascent.

The suction cups worked well, but Harvey was glad that he had taken the month to practice with them.  He had memorized the controls like a favorite videogame so that he instinctively released the suction on his knee just as he lifted his leg away from the glass panes.  Despite his lack of a safety rope, Harvey found climbing this building by fingertip to be much more natural.  However the large panoramic panes were designed to showcase the cityscape, not Harvey’s preferences.  He felt his muscles growing weary, but he only had five more stories to go.

Arm by arm, knee by knee, Harvey inched up the building.  The fear of getting caught had decreased as he rose above the street lights.  Once he passed the tenth floor, he assured himself that he blended into the building.  He also told himself that no one looks up nowadays, certainly not this early in the morning. 

Four floors were left, then two, and then one.  Harvey looked at the windows of the building, double checking his count.  He looked in the glass before him and saw a familiar pool table lit up with a green glass light above it.  Harvey had reached his destination.

Harvey checked on his suction cups, and then reached for his axe as the other three discs held his weight.  With practiced ease, he swung the axe with his right hand and watched the expensive glass crack.  The building’s windows were made to resist tantrums and drunken employees, but not a finely sharpened metal blade.  Rocks chipped and ice parted for Harvey’s axe; the window didn’t stand a chance.  Three thrusts later, and the glass to the right of Harvey shattered into the room.  He thanked Stan Lipsin’s ego for taking up a room so big one piece of glass wouldn’t cover it all.  If Stan Lipsin had contented himself with a peaceful and modest office; one with only a single window to look out of, Harvey could never have gained entry.

Telling himself that the windows were probably alarmed, Harvey moved quickly.  The first thing he did was to secure his deceleration line around the leg of Stan Lipsin’s desk.  Again, if Stan Lipsin had a small IKEA desk, Harvey would have found it worthless. However the tribute to pompousness was more than heavy enough to support Harvey’s weight and he merrily double-checked the line’s position as he muttered, “Santa Claus is coming, to towwwwwwn.”

The moment had come.  His preparation had all been for this.  Gripping the axe tightly in his right hand, a grin of deep satisfaction took over Harvey’s face.  Even with the glove acting as a buffer, he could feel his muscles tense and tighten around the axe handle.  He jammed the sharp edge into the top right drawer and watched as it seated itself into the small gap.  With two quick jerks, the axe fulfilled its role as a crowbar and the drawer’s lock snapped.  Splinters flew through the air and Harvey cried aloud in delight.  His three years of working for Stan Lipsin and his year plotting were about to pay off.  As he riffled through the desk, Harvey’s gloves found only one article to cling to.  There was nothing except a white piece of paper folded three times.

Harvey felt his brow furrow under his tight mask and he grabbed the sheet. Not wanting to turn on any lights, he ran over to the pool table.  There, under the glowing bulb and just above the 7-ball, Harvey read the single line inscribed on the sacred parchment.

“Buy low, sell high.”

Harvey cursed and threw the innocent pool ball across the room.  He steamed.  He raged.  Then he came to his senses.  Any alarms would have been noticed by now.  Security or even the police were on their way.  No matter how upset Harvey was, he refused to let all his efforts end with a prison sentence. 

He ran to the line and pulled a harness from his pack.  He secured the rigging around his torso, put his axe and suction cups back in his pack, threw it all on his back, and then fastened the cord to him.  Harvey glared at the desk hatefully one last time.  Then the idea struck him.  He grabbed the Tesla clock off the desk and placed it in his backpack, giving it as much cushioning as he could.  

At that moment, the security guards burst through the office door.  As they ran across the large room, screaming for Harvey to stop, the bandit did the opposite.  Harvey felt the excited smile grow over his face as he ran for the window.  He grabbed the rope and half jumped, half slid down the building’s exterior.  The cool night air rushed to meet him.

Harvey had been smart enough to firmly grab a section of slack with his gloves before he had exited.  When the line reached the end of its length, it pulled, sprang back, and yanked much less the second time.  Harvey’s arms protested at the recoil, but at least they were still attached to his shoulders.  He dangled a good four stories above the ground.  Cautiously releasing the slack rope that he held in his hands, he slowly lowered himself down.  He chanced a look up and could see the security guards peek their heads out the shattered window.  Harvey was in the homestretch.

At the end of the rope, the burglar was still a good fifteen feet from the ground.  Harvey shrugged, scolded himself for not having his measurements accurate to the last inch, and released the locking carabineer.  He dropped to the ground, his knees and feet absorbing the fall.  

Even though he hadn’t gotten caught, Harvey still didn’t feel like he had scored a victory.  He had wanted to steal a grand secret from Stan Lipsin, and all he had gotten were trivial words that even a novice like him could have figured out.  Harvey’s thoughts switched to the clock in his pack as he ran for his car.  He may not have gotten the victory he wanted, but he felt a little better about evening the scales.  The dunderheaded employer had cost Harvey a year of planning. It seemed only right that Harvey steal some time back from the mighty Stan Lipsin.

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