An adaption of ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The convenience store across the road got a delivery today. Big box of candy, Kit Kats, Hershey Bars, that kind of thing. I saw that little shit who works there too. Ignores me when I want his attention, snickers to himself when buying a jimmy, the one who asks if I need help across the road behind a veneer of smugness on his pimply face! I’ve been trying to take my mind off it, dangerous and reckless thoughts being what they are and all, but strolling over with that Gary Cooper walk I used to do on a job, taking some candy and swiping all the cash is, well, tempting to say the least. I could afford to buy that whole shop now, Hershey Bars and all. Yet eating them day and night while they lie in crates at my feet wouldn’t give me a fraction of the satisfaction I’d get from just taking one for absolutely nothing, using that universal currency of fear.
The bigger jobs of my youth, you know, bank jobs, businesses, armoured trucks, that kind of thing; well, they about dwarf that convenience store in every way. The onset and monotonous grind of domestic bliss does funny things to a guy’s head over thirty years, puts things into perspective I guess. I’m a firm believer in quitting while you’re ahead, so that’s what I did with the heists. Went into the game with good people who I knew had my back; loyal, competent, likeminded individuals who became close friends.
They were my Crew, I was their leader. We split scores down the middle, equal pay. We got shot at, we shot back, we ran, we fought, we suffered, we celebrated, we lost everything, and we got richer. Good and bad, we shared the burdens of our mistakes and the fruits of our labour. Those days were the best of my life; I’ve never felt so alive as when I was close to death.
But I wanted more you see. Not more jobs or more money; I had plenty of that. But more from life. Domestic bliss, family and friends. Tennis on Sunday, squash at nine, freshly squeezed OJ in my Beverly Hills Mansion with my Brazilian supermodel wife who barely speaks English. I wanted comfort and security above the noise and danger of my old life. I didn’t find a Brazilian supermodel; I married a girl called Penny, for love of all things! Who’d have guessed that? We had a kid, a baby boy who’s grown to an obedient and law-abiding man. He works as a chairman for the family business, fully legit. The kid is thrilled to be part of the thriving family business; he looks forward to taking it over from the old man one day. The kids are better at the legitimate business game than me; he looks more comfortable in a suit than he used to do in baby clothes.
My life is cushy: family that loves me, profitable business and nice house. I’ve got everything I wanted, and now here’s the important bit: that’s the damn problem.
What life is left when you’re wrapped up in a lie? What’s left of the fire when it runs out of fuel? I love my wife, I guess there’s that. But would I love her any less if I only saw her in visitation hours, or if I died tomorrow in a hail of gunfire? I’m proud of my son, he’s civil, respectable, an all-round well trained corporate lapdog. But he’s not my son, I mean, not really. He’s a product of the system; Uncle Sam was a better old man than I was. My wife has aged. Poorly, I mean. That Brazilian model flashes in my eyes whenever I look at Penelope. She knits and tuts and stares daggers through my skull. She thinks I should grow up, I think she should do the opposite.
It’s been thirty years, and the novelty of this life has long since worn off. I’m sick of the responsibility, the power, the hordes of consumers to which I dole out copious amounts of useless fodder. Am I living the life of another man? I want to run and rob and fight and fuck, to laugh, explore and discover. The world is a playground and my heart an unexplored country, a thousand potential voyages between the barren crags of my psyche! The Crew and I had something all those years ago, a means to be free that no one else could fathom. True freedom from the trappings of the state is the ultimate score.
I don’t want anarchy; the state has its place. That’s why my son is here, as a penance for the liberties I take. He does his job of bolstering the corporate machine, of feeding the pigs their packaged swill. And I do mine, taking from it. Clipping the waxen wings of capitalist hubris, being a symbol for an extinct facet of human nature, the pulsing heart of the sovereign man. A pioneer with no restraint or inhibition, a leader of men, a king of the road.
I know what I’ll say to them, to make the Crew follow me again: it’s not too late to burn off the corruption of age! We are old, we are frail, there’s not much life left in us. But that’s not the point I think. The point was to begin with that our mortality is irrelevant, that the inevitability of death is a punchline to the long joke of life. We may find El Dorado in the desert or the Promised Land in the sky, or we may very well die in gunfire on a job. People will think we are weak and deluded, that we are spent, burned up and dead. Quite frankly, I’d like to make sure some of those people go before me. I know the perfect place to start, little place across the street from me. I for one have a hell of a sweet tooth.