THERE GOES ANOTHER ONE

By JOE NAPOLITANO

An interesting account

     Nowadays, going down to the bank can be hazardous to your health. Take the case of Paul Trotter.

     It was hot and early in the morning. The bank’s parking lot was empty and he was alone. Paul walked to the ATM built into the side of the bank building and put his card into the slot. The machine started its routine. Paul punched some buttons but halfway through the transaction something went haywire and the machine froze up.

     Frustrated, he started to tap the machine with his knuckles, but that was a mistake. The machine just wouldn’t budge. So Paul canceled the transaction and waited for the card to come out, but it didn’t.

     “What the heck?”

     His blood pressure was starting to go up. He couldn’t even get his card back. “Come on, you…”

     But no amount of name-calling would make the cantankerous machine work. Paul pounded on the CRT screen. At first nothing happened. But then a slight ominous hissing sound could be heard, as if the gizmo was gearing up for something wicked.

     The next thing Paul heard was a recorded message. “Tampering with an ATM machine is a Federal offense!” The voice sounded weird and not even machine-like, let alone human-like. But Paul paid no attention. He just wanted his card back now. When it wasn’t forthcoming he really got mad and pounded on the machine. That did it.

     “Attention! Attention! In order to prevent bank robberies and protect the public money, destruct sequence has been initiated! You will have fifteen seconds to leave the area at the end of this message. Otherwise you will be destroyed! Have a nice day.” The recording came to an end.

     Paul was so angry he didn’t grasp the meaning of the message at first. Destruct sequence? Say what? Then he finally realized what was about to happen and ran, but he quickly and luckily realized that he couldn’t get far enough away in the time remaining. He dived to the ground behind a tree nearby the machine. BOOM! The machine destroyed itself, sending metal parts and pieces of paper money flying all around into the air. Shaken but unhurt, he got up slowly and dusted himself off. What in the world was going on? He looked around and saw that his car was still in one piece and that none of the windows had been broken. That was a relief. He just wanted to get out of there, and fast. But as he started to run toward his car a voice ordered him to stop. “HALT!”

     Paul was disoriented. He looked around, saw a police squad car pulling into the parking lot, and started to walk toward it.

     “Halt!” the angry voice said again, but Paul disregarded it. He wasn’t sure where it was coming from until he saw the squad car stop. A big uniformed man got out with a gun pointed at him. Paul put his hands up quick. The cop had him in handcuffs a few seconds later and drove off.

     For a few seconds the disease-strewn parking lot was silent. Then slowly two strange-looking creatures moved out from behind the billboard next to the ruined bank building. One of them held a funny-looking machine resembling a cell phone in its claw. “It is just as we thought,” the alien said into the communication device. “Humans can’t handle something as simple as a bank, especially when they get frustrated. They resort to irrational behavior. Therefore no contact between our two species is advisable at this time. Perhaps in another fifty thousand  years the humans  will be mature enough to handle simple things like banks.” The message was sent to the grand interstellar economic council. A few minutes later the invisible alien spacecraft took off as people began to gather in the parking lot. The people thought the explosion was because of a customer who pressed the wrong button down at the bank.

     That seemed like the right explanation. After all, these days banks blew themselves up on a regular basis for some unknown reason nobody could figure out, so why not this one? They picked through the debris looking for whatever was left of the money, hurrying to get it before more cops showed up to stop them.

     Somehow that made perfect sense, because, after all, it was really their money in the first place.

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