“Cosmic Sunflower Girl Fights Back”
by Eric Suhem
She is a relic from bygone hippie days, wandering the streets in colorful psychedelic dresses, a septuagenarian acid casualty. She’d had her time in the sunshine, when she was known as Cosmic Sunflower Girl. Now, with her Day-Glo cane, she walks through strange corridors, trying to avoid the open manholes.
A cable news team, desperate for human interest stories, trolls the city in a van, looking for ‘offbeat characters’ to include on their broadcast, as part of their project to depict the town’s diverse human tapestry. The van pulls alongside as she is meandering along the sidewalk in a cloud of paisley mist. “Excuse me ma’am, are you a hippie still living in the Summer of Love?” an interviewer in the van asks, smiling from behind a microphone.
“Banana vapor mist cartoon carrots sit around on the puffy woven chairs, a Frisbee in every mouth, thrown from the television screen. Fetch! Fetch me a quid!” babbles Cosmic Sunflower Girl cryptically in response.
“This crazy old crone’s exactly what we’re looking for. Get her to spout some more of that drug-addled gibberish,” whispers the producer to the interviewer, believing he is out of Cosmic Sunflower Girl’s earshot.
“Wow that’s trippy, lay some more on us grandma,” smirks the interviewer, winking at the producer.
“I’m not in the mood to be a punch line for you patronizing, leeching parasites!” screams Cosmic Sunflower Girl suddenly at the interviewer in a moment of clarity, swinging her Day-Glo cane wildly, splintering it to pieces as she shatters the van’s windshield.
A busybody nearby films the entire incident on his smartphone, offering some helpful advice to Cosmic Sunflower Girl, while pointing at what is left of her Day-Glo cane: “Perhaps you should have obtained a steel cane at whatever cane dispensary you patronized. If you had done so, you would not find yourself in the predicament you’re now in,” says the busybody as Cosmic Sunflower Girl throws what is left of her cane at him, and then veers down the street unsteadily. The cable news van lurches forward and speeds away. “Vicious old bat!” yells the interviewer.
The incident is soon posted on the internet, and goes viral. Cosmic Sunflower Girl becomes a sort of celebrity hero to a group of bloggers who enthusiastically sing her praises: “SHE FIGHTS BACK AGAINST THE MEDIA!” “COSMIC SUNFLOWER GIRL BATTLES AGEISM!” “SHE SAYS ‘NO’ TO CALLOUS BUSYBODIES!” One of the bloggers buys her a new Day-Glo cane. A number of study groups are formed to examine and emulate her motives and actions. When interviewed, Cosmic Sunflower Girl stares out from behind kaleidoscope eyeglasses and murmurs, “Red twinkling coronaries fly through the air, propelled by Bartokian green wings, sprinkling shreds of goodness to hungry citizens below, sticking tongues out to capture the stardust flavor emanating from the sky.”
Soon there is talk of a Cosmic Sunflower Girl reality television show, and more people discuss what she will do next, what she thinks about various issues, what will be her next battle for individual rights and dignity. They search for nuggets of life-roadmap wisdom in her patchouli-soaked utterances.
After becoming a celebrity, Cosmic Sunflower Girl moves to an apartment inside a ramshackle electric-yellow Victorian house. In the apartment, she is perched at an electronic command post that fills the living room. Surrounding her are assorted world maps, graphs, and beeps/blips of radar screens. Minions run about busily as Cosmic Sunflower Girl issues directives, on-task, razor-sharp: “Get me a read on Sector G, I want preliminary data on their marketing demographics,” she orders, in the midst of developing what will become an empire of cosmic products. She thinks back to her past life as a fast-rising secretary at Acme MegaCorp, before she traded in her steno pad for love beads. Soon she will be able to buy Acme MegaCorp in a hostile takeover.
When asked about her plans as a celebrity, Cosmic Sunflower Girl’s response is, “Dark green eucalyptus cream trees crawling up the vines of your mind. There are purple branches feeling the goodness of sunshine. Pink bubbling moss flows through your soul in the blue aqua purifiers as you crawl into warm water inlets.”
Additional study groups are formed to analyze Cosmic Sunflower Girl’s statement, as her reality show goes into production.
“Mortimer Grimes: The World’s Second Oldest Bank Robber”
by Phedra Deonarine
Mortimer Grimes believed firmly in starting each day with breakfast at seven o’clock. For sixty-five years he never deviated from this routine. Every morning, Mrs. Plum, his housekeeper, set out a cup of tea (milk, no sugar), two pieces of buttered toast and a single hard-boiled egg for him. Once, he spread orange marmalade on the toast, but the slivers of bitter rind so distracted him that he told Mrs. Plum to ban it from the house. Mortimer didn’t like surprises. He’d lived a very orderly life until this particular morning.
Mortimer was reading The Sun, when he spotted a curious article. A seventy-nine year old man in America had tried to rob a bank. The apprehended thief wasn’t apologetic. The thief claimed that he’d successfully robbed several other banks and if given a chance he’d rob again. Mr. Grimes dabbed the corner of his mouth and carefully penned in his journal: “7:15am: read story about old robber. Pleasant-looking fellow, but his eyebrows need tweezing.”
Mortimer never felt the allure of fast money. His father had been skilled in making investments allowing their family to live comfortably. Mortimer himself found overt displays of wealth distasteful. Money was never his goal. His parents though, instilled a desire for recognition in the young Mortimer, often to the point of belligerence. His father wasn’t an easy man to please, and Mortimer learned early on that he would never gain his father’s respect. He was keen on adventure as a child. His bookshelves were filled with titles like Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and his personal favourite, Jules Verne’s Around The World in Eighty Days. He flirted briefly with theatrical ambitions in his youth, though that quickly ended when both his father’s admonishment for making a spectacle of himself and his own lack of talent became clear. The books however, remained in his library.
Mortimer wasn’t very accomplished. He saw the action of this pensioner as one which could lead him to fame. True, he wouldn’t be the world’s oldest bank robber, but second place was still noteworthy. Besides, he could be Canada’s oldest bank robber. He was already imagining the headlines when Mrs. Plum cleared the table. At sixty-five, with no children and no wife, he was about to live life as he’d always imagined; as a famous rogue adventurer.
Mr. Grimes was a meticulous planner. He quickly devised a means of carrying out a bank robbery. He wasn’t about to rob his bank as he liked the tellers and didn’t want to frighten them. The bank he chose would also need to be near a bus stop as Mr. Grimes planned to escape using public transport. The papers would be in raptures over this unexpected move. He was pleased with the simplicity of his genius.
Despite being caught up in the excitement of his plan, Mr. Grimes couldn’t shake his adherence to routine. After some consideration, he settled on stopping at a small bakery for a Cornish pasty and then robbing the bank. He figured that in the getaway frenzy he might miss lunch and he didn’t think that was wise.
He touched his bald head and snapped his fingers, proud of his sudden burst of inspiration. He let Mrs. Plum know that he was leaving and dashed off. He returned two hours later with three shopping bags. He’d bought a Nascar jacket, a pair of white sneakers, a roll of black tape, a roll of double-sided tape, a fake anchor tattoo from a candy packet, a pair of spectacles and a brown toupee. He was slightly out of breath. He trusted that adrenaline would compensate for his lack of endurance on the history-making day.
He looked at his purchases. While he did not want an accomplice, he did require a little assistance. He called in Mrs. Plum.
“Mrs. Plum, would you be so kind as to find me a large brown envelope?”
“Just a regular large envelope, sir?”
“Yes, yes.” Then, as if just remembering, “Oh, and Mrs. Plum? Would you mind styling this for me?” He handed her the scraggly brown toupee.
Mrs. Plum stared at it for a moment before tucking it under her arm. “Any style in particular?”
“Nothing special really, though something like Matt Damon would be fine.”
“Yes, that young man from Good Will Hunting.”
Mrs. Plum looked slightly incredulous. “Yes, sir. I’ll do my best. When do you need them by?”
“Tuesday night at the latest Mrs. Plum, absolutely no later.”
Mortimer was excited on Tuesday night. He checked and re-checked his toupee. Mrs. Plum styled it perfectly. He kept applying gel to ensure that it stayed well-coifed and practiced securing it to his scalp with the double-sided tape. He watched Good Will Hunting until he could mimic both Matt Damon’s posture and accent.
He followed his schedule the next morning, anxious to avoid suspicion. He left the house and had a leisurely lunch. It was an occasion, so he decided to splurge on an array of cakes and pastries. Quite stuffed after his over-indulgence, he dusted the crumbs from his upper-lip and waddled off to the bathroom.
He quickly put on the pair of glasses, and feeling daring, donned the pair of sneakers he’d covered with black tape. He ducked out of the store and went around the corner to the small bank located there. He affected a limp as he entered the bank, not surprised, though slightly anxious, to see a small line waiting for the tellers.
The elderly-looking security guard sleepily approached him. “I’m sorry, but would you like to see a banker, sir? It wouldn’t be a long wait.”
Mortimer shook his head. “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.” Mr. Grimes knew that tellers were trained to hand over money in the case of a robbery. He was unsure of how the bankers would react.
There were only two tellers working. One was an enthusiastic young man with a brightly colored tie. The other was a squat, middle-aged woman with bulging eyes. Mortimer hoped to be served by the earnest young man. He found the young man’s demeanour grating and was hoping to scare the man. Unfortunately, the woman croaked out that Mortimer was next.
Mr. Grimes limped towards the counter. He rolled up his sleeves, displaying the anchor tattoo on his fleshy wrist to the teller.
The lady looked up at Mortimer. “Hello, my name is Mrs. Stanton. How are you today?”
“Fine, thank you. I was hoping that you could help me with something.” Mr. Grimes put the large brown envelope on the counter. He’d scrawled the word “Loot” on it with red permanent marker.
Mrs. Stanton stared at the envelope quizzically. Mortimer then placed the note he’d fashioned out of old newspaper cut-outs on top of the envelope. It read:
This is a robbery. Kindly fill the envelope with pound notes. Do not signal the guard.
The Adventurous Rogue
Mrs. Stanton became very flustered. She smoothed her hair and fidgeted with her wedding ring. Mortimer tapped the note with an air of menace. She started and then quickly began to stuff the envelope with bills. She handed the package over to Mortimer once it was full. He was too busy sealing the envelope and walking away to notice that the note was missing.
Mr. Grimes hardly got to the door when Mrs. Stanton shrieked, “Stop that man, Leonard! He’s a bank robber! He’s just robbed us!”
There was instant pandemonium. The three other people in line dropped to the floor, peeking up. The earnest young man rushed to Mrs. Stanton’s aid. Encouraged by the attention, Mrs. Stanton collapsed in hysterics. Her younger co-worker shouted for help.
Leonard, the security guard, raced towards Mr. Grimes. While Mortimer knew escape wasn’t guaranteed, he thought it would be very humiliating if he couldn’t even make it outside the bank. Those were hardly the headlines he sought. He didn’t wish to be lambasted with printed proof of incompetence. In a burst of inspiration, Mortimer lashed out at Leonard with his umbrella. He struck the security guard squarely across his shoulders.
Leonard fell to the floor and shouted, “Call an ambulance! I’ve been hit!”
The young bank teller gasped, “Oh, my God! Does he have a gun?”
Leonard answered. “Yes! He hit me with it!”
Mr. Grimes took advantage of the disorder and quickly ran out the door. He heard Mrs. Stanton proclaim, “I’m keeping the note!” as the door closed behind him.
Mortimer pulled the Nascar jacket out of the shopping bag and tugged off his tweed jacket. He tossed his tweed jacket, the glasses and the shopping bag in a nearby bin. He dashed three streets over to catch the two o’clock two-decker bus full of tourists touring Downtown Vancouver. He peeled the tape off his white sneakers in the three minutes it took for the bus to arrive. He fixed the toupee on his head with a minute to spare.
Mortimer just managed to step onto the bus when he spotted the police tearing towards the bank. The anxiety of this observation made him loudly proclaim in his Matt Damon impersonation, “I am an American tourist!”
The bus driver looked at Mr. Grimes, taking in his Nascar jacket and toupee. “Sit down, please.”
Mortimer whirled around and looked at his watch. “You, sir, are not punctual.”
The bus driver stared at Mortimer. Mr. Grimes was suddenly aware of the attention he was drawing. He sat down and noticed that a piece of tape was still stuck to his shoe. He bent down to pull it off, upsetting his toupee in the process. He adjusted the toupee while looking out the window. This was an unlucky move as the bus was just passing the bank he just robbed. Mrs. Stanton was outside with the police officers.
She pointed at the bus shouting, “There he is!”
Mortimer ducked in his seat, straightening his hairpiece, wildly looking around him. He planned to get out at the next stop and race triumphantly into the crowd. But as he slunk towards the door, two police officers were outside. They rapped on the bus and ordered the driver to stop.
The bus jerked to a halt. Mortimer ran up the narrow stairwell to the second level on the bus. Passengers by the window seats rubbed their heads, smarting from the impact. Others were trying to quickly disembark, slowing both Mortimer’s and the officers’ movements.
Mortimer shoved a lady out of his way. “Make way, madam! You are standing in the way of history!”
The lady flattened herself against the side of the staircase, and huffed out, “Really! The rudeness of some people!”
Mortimer turned around with the intention of arguing with the woman, but he heard the policemen on the lower level and became anxious. He brandished his umbrella at the woman threateningly. He was certain that the move was imprinted in her memory, and ran down the aisle of the upper deck. He managed to get to the middle of the deck when he heard the policemen behind him.
“Not on your life!” Mortimer shouted, making sure that everyone on the street could see him.
“Drop your weapon, sir!”
Mortimer Grimes looked out at the street. The police were starting to clear the pedestrians off the sidewalk and block the road. Mrs. Stanton had completely fainted and the young teller was trying to revive her. Mr. Grimes didn’t want to lose his audience. He tossed his umbrella on the floor and raised his hands above his head. The policemen eyed each other.
“Where is your gun?”
Mortimer turned his back to the policemen and faced the street. He laced his fingers and placed his hands behind his head. He shouted so that the crowd behind the police barricade could hear. “There’s no gun on my person! I am unarmed!”
“Sir, we are going to need you to face us at all times!”
Mortimer started to turn around.
Once he faced them, an officer asked, “Where is the stolen money?”
“That is on my person!” Mortimer yelled, throwing his voice so that the people on the street could still hear him. “I was hoping to give it to these fine people!”
This caused a ripple of excited whispering among the crowd. One person in the back asked loudly, “What did he say?”
Another person answered, “He said he wants to give us the money!”
“He wants to give us the money!”
The crowd erupted in enthusiastic cheers. The police cut through the momentary euphoria, “He cannot do that! It would be illegal! He’s already robbed a bank!”
The crowd began to boo. The police seemed annoyed. An officer yelled out, “Don’t encourage him!”
The people booed again.
Mortimer yelled, “People, people! Let the policemen do their job! Don’t jeer them! I, Mortimer Grimes, beseech you!” He grinned and winked at the policemen, pleased with his grand unmasking. The policemen looked at each other incredulously.
Reporters had gathered, pleasing Mortimer who addressed the policemen. “I’m going to slide the money to you now, my good fellows.”
He sighed. “Please do. That would help speed this up.”
Mortimer raised his voice and continued, “It’s under my jacket. I’m reaching for it now. No sudden movements, right boys?” He grinned and raised the envelope for the crowd to see. The crowd cheered as he slid the packet to the policemen.
“Sir, please slowly walk over here.”
Mortimer complied solemnly. When he was directly in front of the officers, they handcuffed him and ordered him down the staircase. The reporters at the door pleased him immensely. The police were merely leading him out, but Mortimer engaged in a brief scuffle with himself. He tossed his head back for good measure in a perfect pantomime of anguish. He then leaned cavalierly against one of the policemen and grinned dashingly at another camera. He felt benevolent giving the journalists extremes to work with. He was proud of the range of emotion he displayed.
“Don’t fear for me, my dear public! No true rogue can ever be really captured! Too much personality slips through the bars!”
The policemen pushed him into the car. Mortimer smiled and looked out the window. One of the policemen said, “What a nutcase,” as the door closed.
Mortimer settled back into the seat. He smiled as he imagined the headlines. He re-played the events in his mind. He had captivated the audience. He was so excited that he didn’t even glance at the clock. It didn’t matter in the slightest that it was thirteen minutes past five. Mrs. Plum was putting his roast beef in the oven, curious as to what could have made Mortimer Grimes late for the first time in over fifty years.