A Trip to the Bank
Daisy Clarendon pulled up to the bank, feeling what could only be described as exhausted rage. She was sick to death of this goddamn bank, tired of their statements and their fees and their goddamn “protections”—with every passing year The First Bank of Douchebags reminded Daisy more and more of the mob.
Daisy looked into the rear view mirror at her three year old daughter. Caylin was engrossed in some quiet game with a bald baby doll and a hunk of lint. She looked up at her mother and said, “Getting out now?” Caylin hated being confined. Teaching her to stay calm while buckled in had been horrible, more horrible than for most parents, Daisy was sure.
“Getting out now,” Daisy agreed. She dragged herself out of the driver’s seat and gathered her righteous anger. The problem was, she was too damn tired of all this to get good and pissed.
The branch manager shook her hand and introduced himself as Rick. “What can I do for you, Ms. Clarendon?” he asked, glancing at Caylin only briefly. Which suited Daisy just fine. Caylin didn’t care for strangers who got too close.
“You can explain why an unauthorized payment was made from my checking account, which put me three hundred dollars in the negative,” Daisy said. “I don’t have overdraft protection; that amount should never have been approved.”
Rick’s customer-service smile faltered. “Payments are cleared at the bank’s discretion, ma’am,” he said.
Now she was ma’am, not Ms. Clarendon. Now they were getting somewhere. He led her to his desk and indicated that she sit. Caylin found a laundry basket of blocks and armless action figures under Rick’s desk and dumped it out.
“I discussed the possibility of overdraft protection with a rep just a few weeks ago. She explained that I’d be allowed to go to negative four hundred dollars without penalty. I decided I didn’t want it. When Vista pushed through that three hundred dollar payment—a payment I did not authorize, I remind you—it should have bounced. Why wasn’t it bounced?”
“As I said, it’s at the bank’s discretion. It’s assumed that a payment in this amount is an important one, so that’s probably why it was cleared. They thought it would be better for your account to go into the red for a little while than to miss that payment.”
Daisy sighed and leaned back in her chair. “It was a goddamn credit card payment. Of course it wasn’t important enough to overdraw my account by three hundred.” Rick shrugged. She hated him.
Caylin found a candy wrapper among the blocks. “Mommy, candy,” she said, waving it at her.
“Yucky candy,” Daisy said. “Be a good girl and we’ll have candy when we get in the car.”
“Candy in the car,” Caylin agreed. She returned to the blocks, which were becoming a road of some sort, stretching under Rick’s desk.
“She’s well-behaved,” Rick said.
“Up to a point,” Daisy agreed. She thought about their last trip to the grocery store, which had ended with tantrums and disaster. She shuddered.
“Anyway, there was no wrongdoing on the bank’s part,” Rick said. “We really can’t do anything about this.”
Daisy felt sick to her stomach. Her account was overdrawn to the tune of three hundred dollars, and her rent was due in two days. She’d get paid tomorrow, the royalty check was in the mail, but that would barely cover the overdraft. Stephen King she wasn’t. The nauseous feeling was hardening and rising to her throat. “A forty-dollar bounced check fee would have been easier to handle,” she said, rubbing her flushed face. “Explain again why this transaction was allowed?”
Caylin paused in her play. Her eyes flicked from Daisy to Rick, following not their words, but the play of their emotions. Daisy steeled herself and assumed a poker face. She did not want her daughter upset.
“Like I said, it was probably assumed that the three hundred dollar payment was an important one that needed to clear, but I wasn’t the one who approved it, so I can’t say.”
“Of course you can’t.”
“Have you contacted your credit company?”
“Of course I have.” Daisy glared at him, forgetting the poker face. Fourteen business days to process the claim, then another ten to get the refund. Meanwhile, Daisy and Caylin would be out on their asses, living in a hotel or—God help us—living with Daisy’s mother. Daisy thought she might cry at the thought.
Their little apartment was in a nice neighborhood, with a playground half a block away. Her credit as a whole sucked pondwater, and if she lost this place she wouldn’t find another one in a hurry.
Daisy’s eyes brimmed. Goddamn her period. Everything either pissed her off or made her cry. Today it was both. She should be able to handle this prick a little better than crying all over him.
“I’m very sorry,” Rick said. “I can freeze your account so nothing else goes through, but that’s about it.”
“Mama’s sad,” Caylin said, looking up from her elaborate construction of colored blocks. She stared at Rick hard. “You meanie Mama?”
Oh crap. Daisy sat up suddenly and reached for her daughter, but it was too late. Caylin’s face was bright red, and her eyes were beginning to water as though she were taking a massive dump in her training pants.
And Rick’s desk burst into flames. “Holy fuck!” he screamed.
Daisy grabbed Caylin and ran for the front door. It was the grocery store all over again. That sweet-faced old biddy, who had smiled at Caylin and then—still smiling—had given Daisy a pleasant little speech about the eternal punishment for women who behaved like whores. Daisy had shouted at the bitch, frightening Caylin into tears. Tears, and flames.
At least she’s not colicky anymore, Daisy thought without irony. There were still extra fire extinguishers in every room, and the apartment had been repainted four times in the first year of Michelle’s life. Thankfully the landlady was very hands-off and didn’t care what Daisy did as long as there were no dogs or loud stereos involved. She’d been lucky; the very first fire had been a small one, easily smothered. And after that she had been careful, the sort of hovering parent she’d always despised before she knew what it was like. Even now she didn’t put Caylin down for a nap without putting a fire extinguisher next to her bed, in case she had a bad dream.
Daisy lingered outside the bank as others came pouring out. She wanted to leave, take Caylin and go home, but she knew the police would want to talk to her, since she’d been in the office with Rick when the fire started. It had been months since the grocery store, and that had happened in another town, so hopefully nobody would connect her to both fires. There would be no sign of foul play—no sign of anything, and how that would drive them nuts!—but she still didn’t want any suspicion cast on her or her daughter.
“What am I going to do with you?” Daisy asked, looking into Caylin’s enormous blue eyes. She couldn’t afford a sitter every time she went out, and that was no good for the child anyway. But what was preschool going to be like? Public school? Daisy’s sister was a pediatrician and did all of Caylin’s exams and vaccinations herself for next to nothing—while Daisy hovered with the fire extinguisher ready. But there was always the future, waiting just out of sight.
“No,” Daisy said. “Not sad. Just tired.”
“Yeah. Sleepy. Fuck it, let’s go home and take a nap.”
“Candy in the car?”
“I don’t know, sprout,” Daisy said, carrying her temperamental daughter to the car. “I’m not sure you earned a piece of candy this time.”
Reality Is Thin
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