The new bank in town, Money Kennel, that I was thinking about signing up with really wanted to make their potential customers feel like they were all just old chummy childhood friends. Their bright idea, surely birthed by a disgruntled college graduate working a year-long, unpaid internship, was to play Duck, Duck, Goose with them. My theory was that he or she was just taking the piss.
Normally, I'm quite the reserved type. I like my body, and certainly the top of my head, to be considered private. Not public domain, that any yahoo can touch on a whim. However, I take my banking very seriously, and aside from this, they seem like they might be the best choice for me, but I'm cautious. I know better than to be spontaneous.
I'm especially weary of the elderly lady, who's sitting directly across the circle from me. She keeps making googly eyes in my general direction, which makes me feel like she certainly wants to goose me. Would it really be a good idea to have my money sitting next to her money in a sealed vault where it would be making it feel uncomfortable the whole time by staring at it?
I'm so engrossed in this idea of her money making my money out of sorts that I hadn't noticed that the bank manager is the first to be the fox and had already started the game until he's looming behind me for a time that's far more than I'm comfortable with. I'm afraid that he's going to tap my head. I can almost feel the static electricity from his fingertips, created by his Scandinavian flagged wool socks, pulling the hair on the top of my head up into his spidery fingers. I'm not sure why I find him so menacing. It's summer. Summer and wool socks equals menacing. But he doesn't make physical contact. I let out a sigh of relief as he moves on to torment the next head, a balding, middle-aged man who appears to be sweating his soul out in watery increments. He skips him as well, and he too, lets out a sigh.
My memory is a bit foggy, but I don't remember this game taking so long when I was a kid. It seemed like it went a lot faster. Every “duck” said was the equivalence of tick on a clock. Probably even faster. It takes the wooly-socked bank manager, what feels like fifteen minutes, to round half the circle while he rambles on about the pros of banking with them. This has given me enough time to reconsider my options, because I'm not actually listening to him. Perhaps I should have gone across the street. There the interest rate is lower, but they don't play Duck, Duck, Goose. Instead they give you an ornamental miniature pig that looks like a piggy bank, with the name of the bank on the side. You can't actually use the pig since there's no hole to put the money into so it's really only useful as a paperweight, or perhaps a weapon, depending that is on what it's actually made of.
The wooly-socked bank manager is now hovering his hand above the head of the elderly woman with the googly eyes. I think she's staring right at me, sizing me up for that goosing. He drops his hand on the top of her head which, strangely, creates a hollow thud sound. She jumps up faster than seems humanly possible, and starts racing around the circle. But the wooly manager is almost twice her size and gets back to the empty chair long before she does. She doesn't skip a beat though, and even starts to speed up. She's waving her hand frantically above everyone's heads as she passes, yelling “duck, duck, duck,” louder than is necessary for the size of the room, and the actual distance we are from each other. Before I can even breath one breath, she's circumscribed us already.
When she gets back around to me, she whacks me so hard on the top of my head that I bite my tongue and fall forward out of my chair. Before she sets off around the circle again, she slams her squared, old-lady heel, as hard as possible, right down onto my left ankle. I yelp out in pain, and struggle to stand, but the fever has gotten me. I'm up and limping around the circle after her.
She, inevitably, makes it back first, so I'm left to circle the lot. I'm yelling as loud as the old lady did, “duck, duck, duck.” I can't control myself. I feel like a kid again. When I make it around once I pull my arm as far up as I can before I slam it down onto the top of the sweaty balding guy who was sitting next to me, because I just know that I can beat him round. Now it's his turn to yelp out before he high-tails it after me, but he can't actually high-tail it and is panting about a third of the way slowing down to an almost halt.
As soon as I sit down, the elderly lady pats me on the thigh and gives me a thumbs up. The balding guy goes straight into the most pathetic uttering of “duck, duck, duck” ever heard by humankind. He can barely even manage getting past two chairs where he pauses and slugs a short, very pregnant lady with a brunette bob against the side of her head right in the ear. She wails, then begins to swiftly waddle around us, but after a few feet her water breaks which makes her stop, letting the balding guy make it back to the chair first.
When she appears to have ceased leaking she starts going around again. “Duck, duck, duck,” she yells louder than anyone has yelled yet between her ear-shattering contraction induced moans. Her eyes dart from face to face around the circle looking for her victim. She settles her gaze on a twenty-something-year-old jock-like looking fellow with a severely squared jaw. It wouldn't have been my first choice, since he can clearly out run her, but I'm nonetheless optimistic for her suspecting she has a plan.
When she gets behind him, she does this maneuver where she spins around like a ninja and jumps directly in front of him, which is something very impressive to see a pregnant lady do. Then she pulls her arms back as far as possible and punches him right smack in the middle of his nose. A loud crack reverberates through the room, and some people gasp. He, himself, hollers bloody murder, as a fountain of red starts gushing out of his face in all directions. He jumps up, but the shock has given him a disadvantage. She's already wobbled herself half way around the circle. She beats him by a long shot back to the chair, and I give out a rambunctious cheer.
The wooly-socked bank manager seems to be getting nervous, and not necessarily approving of the mayhem that has ensued. “Alright, alright, we can stop now,” he says, but the jock-like fellow ain't having it. He's duck-duck-ducking like nobodies business, as the blood still gushes out of his nose. We're all splattered by the time he's encircled us once. The bank manager stands and tries to tell us to stop again, but we're almost drowning him out, since we've all started chanting “duck, duck, duck, duck.” The old googly-eyed lady grabs my hand and we raise our locked appendages high into the air.
The wooly manager goes to block the jock-like fellow from going any further by standing in his path. The jock-like fellow lets out this war cry of “GOOOOOOOOSE,” which rattles the glass of the bank's front windows. Then he pushes the wooly manager so hard that he goes flying three feet up into the air, and six feet back, at least by my best guestimations. The elderly lady and I have to duck quickly as he flies over us and slams into the queue of folks waiting to see a teller, and a bunch of them topple over like bowling pins.
We all let out a cheer in unison, and applauded wildly, and unilaterally all decide that it's time to stop the game and start collecting our things to leave. A few people stick behind to help the pregnant woman give birth.
As I'm leaving I hold the door open for the elderly lady. She looks at me kindly and asks, “You won't be banking with them?”
I shake my head. “I wasn't very impressed with their online banking services to be honest,” I say as I hold up the brochure to her.
She smiles the sweetest knowing smile, just like my grandmother always used to do, “Me neither.” Then she thanks me for holding the door open for her, and I limp across the street to see if I can get a faux piggy bank without actually having to open an account there. If I can, I'm going to a drill a hole in it and keep all my money at home.
AMBIKA THOMPSON lives in Berlin where she is a parent, writer, and musician. She has contributed short stories to NPR Berlin, Fanzine, and The Missing Slate, where she was recently Author of the Month. She is also one half of the cello riot grrl band Razor Cunts, and the fiction editor of the online literary journal Leopardskin & Limes. Website ambikathompson.com, Twitter: @ambikathompson.