And here’s my first entry into the 2009 Creative Writing Championship short story contest. Each group of writers was given a genre, a location that must be integral, an item that must be featured, 1,000 words to do it in, and 48 hours to write it. My group received “Suspense / indoor swimming pool / piggy bank.” Fair enough…
Put Not Your Trust in Banks
by C. A. Bridges
He heard the terrible crashing sound, and the screams, and the rapidly approaching clatter.
Nestled deep in the darkness, the old stagecoach breathed a deep sigh and waited for the inevitable, which arrived moments later in a sudden slice of harsh white light.
“C-coach?” came the voice, sweet, high and shaking.
The pig pushed her way into the closet and past the luggage to find him. “Coach! You have to help us!” She spun around to look behind her, making a noise like… there is no noise quite like a full piggy bank. She sloshed, metallically.
“It’s Christmas time, this is what happens,” he grumbled, and began to roll backwards to hide behind the shoes. “I’d advise closing your eyes. It’ll be over faster.”
“They killed Bugs! They… they broke him open and then they… they laughed, and…”
“Well, what the hell did you expect,” he asked scornfully. “I been their daddy’s bank all his life, and his daddy’s before him, and it’s always the same. They fill you up, little by little, and then one day they want something more than they want you, and—“ The pig stepped aside. Behind her was a baby piglet, barely big enough to hold a dollar in change, visibly shivering with terror.
The first pig said, quietly, “And yet you’re still here. Well, I want to be an old bank, too, even if I have to be a mean bastard like you. Show me how. We’re not leaving until you do.”
The stagecoach closed his eyes. He counted to ten. He opened his eyes. The pigs stood silently, tears rolling down both their faces.
“Fine. Go away. Far from here, where they won’t find you, or can’t reach you. When their parents get home they’ll get the money out of you without breaking anything. All you have to do is hold out for a few hours.”
The problem became apparent immediately. The larger pig simply couldn’t move quietly. Every tread clinked, every movement rattled. The smaller one could move across the floor in careful silence but the larger one’s daintiest step still sounded like someone throwing handfuls of coins into a coffee cup.
The stagecoach thought about the children opening his closet door to find the three of them, brimming with cash. And he thought about the hammers.
“Dammit,” he said. “Get on.”
Inside their room the younger children were still digging through drawers and looking under beds, hunting for their missing piggy banks with understandable confusion while the older child mocked them and counted his newly reacquired coins. The stagecoach eased silently past with the larger pig balanced on top. She was holding herself as still as possible, which helped when they rolled past the older boy’s open door and saw the broken Bugs.
He was still recognizable as a rabbit, but only barely. His body was shattered beyond repair. A massive crack split his face, which, horribly, still grinned. Porcelain clinked loudly as the pig began to shake.
“Stop it,” the stagecoach hissed. Behind them the smaller pig bravely trundled along, only glancing once at the shards.
Finally they reached the pool enclosure, where moonlight on the water threw dancing shadows on the walls. “They won’t think to come out here,” the stagecoach said, panting. “And the water’ll cover any more noises you make.”
He rolled carefully over the threshold, mindful of the rubber stopper in his belly, and immediately ducked against the wall. The pig eased herself to the ground with a loud clink. They both froze.
The sounds of child mayhem continued.
They both breathed a weary sigh.
And then the smaller pig tripped on the threshold and rolled past them, clattering across the deck. Its legs waved uselessly in the air.
“Petunia!” the pig screamed, and took off in an ear-splitting charge. The echoes of the violently jingling coins inside her bounced off the tile and reverberated, over and over, a clarion call for the greedy and murderous.
“No, dammit, they’ll—“ the stagecoach yelled, and stopped dead.
The children were at the sliding glass door.
They were looking at the piggy banks, the piglet on its side and the larger one next to it, helpless.
And they had hammers.
“How’d they get out here,” the small girl asked. She turned to the older boy. “You hid them out here, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” said the smaller boy. “Were you gonna steal our money?”
The older boy protested. There was a brief scuffle and then, honor restored, the children advanced on the piggy banks, swinging the deadly hammers in practice arcs. From where he was hiding, the old bank could plainly see the terrified looks on the pigs’ painted faces, and he saw the older boy looking around for more. It was only a matter of time before all three banks were open, permanently.
Quickly he rolled back over the threshold and felt the edge catch the rubber. And then he pushed.
The smaller girl was holding the smaller pig down, hammer raised, when the young boy gasped and pointed. There was a porcelain stagecoach skittering across the floor, spilling a river of gleaming silver dollars, far more than the contents of the other two banks combined.
The children screamed happily and ran to gather all the merrily spinning coins. The older boy picked up the stagecoach, shook it a few times to get the last few dollars out, and then set it down by the pigs.
“This is how you become an old bank,” the stagecoach told them, sadly.
The pigs beamed at him, their eyes shining. “By sacrificing yourself for others?” the larger pig asked.
And then the hammers came down, and their smiles shattered into a million painted pieces as the children reached in to take that money as well.
“No,” he said to himself. “By being a mean but easily opened bastard like me.” And he rolled back, unnoticed, to his dark and quiet closet.
There’s a bit of history here. My dad had such a stagecoach bank, although his was metal, heavy, and had actual rolling wheels. I used to sneak into his closet, dig it out and play with it. Later on I learned how to get it open (metal hatch on the bottom, key in his sock drawer) and start snitching silver dollars one by one, which got me comics and Slurpees for months. When he finally discovered his nearly empty bank he… let’s say that story wouldn’t be “suspense.” Possibly “horror.” And certainly “cautionary tale.”