by Brandon Madden

I pulled my car into the driveway of a bird blue bungalow. The screen door opened slowly, and a tiny, hunched woman walked out. Simply dressed in black pants and a gray sweater, with a totebag on her arm, Mrs. Barrow had been my next door neighbor since the time I moved in seven years ago. She and her husband had been the first to welcome me to the neighborhood with baked goods and a smile. I put the car in park, opened the door, and walked towards her to assist her down the stairs.

Fresh snow crunched under our feet as she grabbed my arm and we cautiously walked down the concrete steps.

“Would you like me to take your bag?”

Keeping the bag close to her, she gave off a small smile, deepening the wrinkles around her mouth. “Thank you, dear, but I can carry it; after all, I am seventy-five years young.”

She opened the back door of the car and took a seat, nestling the bag on the ground in front of her.

“You can sit in the front if you’d like.”
“That’s alright dear,” she said. “I get vertigo if I sit in the front.”

I opened my door, pulled out of the driveway, and drove off.

“Thank you again for taking me to the bank,” she said. “My husband said that he was going to run some errands this morning and will meet us there for our appointment.”

“It’s no problem,” I said. “I wasn’t doing anything today anyway.”

“That’s nice.”

“So, is it a special occasion today?”

“Oh yes,” she said as her eyes lit up. “Today is our anniversary of when we first met.”

“Congratulations,” I said, looking in the rearview mirror. “When did you two meet?”

“I met him at a friend’s house in January of 1930,” she said with a smile. “I just knew when I saw him walk through the doorway that I would be with him for the rest of my life.”

I smiled. “You know, Mrs. Barrow, people don’t talk like that anymore. Which is a shame, if you ask me.”

“Are you dating anyone, William?”

“Oh,” I said, stopping the car as the light ahead turned yellow. “Well, no. Work is busy and I just don’t think I have enough time to do that.”

“Nonsense,” she said. “Mr. Barrow and I grew up during the Depression. We made plenty of time for each other.”

“Maybe you’re right.” I said as the car hummed. “But wasn’t it hard during back then? How did you manage to survive?”

“Well, William,” she said as the light turned green. “Mr. Barrow came to me one day and said that if we left home we could go from town to town and find whatever money we could. He said that there was no money to be had here, but there would be more if we travelled far enough.”

The car continued to roll down the slick road. Ice had accumulated in large patches, forcing all the cars to go slower than usual.

“But most importantly,” Mrs. Barrow continued, “he said that if we did this that we’d always be together. My mother and father wouldn’t have been pleased if I told them I was running out of town with him, so I told him we would have to leave at night. And that very same night, he came with his car and we drove off and stayed together, just like he’d promised.”

“Did you ever speak to your parents again?”

“No,” she said as she looked out the window. “They were probably too disgraced and shocked at my gallivanting around with him.”

“What did you and Mr. Barrow do for money?”

“We robbed banks.”
I laughed. “Oh, Mrs. Barrow, I surely can’t see you doing that.” I looked back in the rearview mirror. Mrs. Barrow was applying red lipstick using her faint reflection off of the window.

“Okay dear,” she said, puckering her lips to smooth out the lipstick.

“Did you and Mr. Barrow move a lot?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Why, I can’t remember the last time we were stationary, until we moved here.”

“Got tired of robbing banks?” I asked.

“We wanted a quieter life.”

“I’m sure a life on the road must have been stressful.”

“Of course, dear, even more so when you have the police chasing you.”

I laughed. “You’re far too funny, Mrs. Barrow.”

We turned the corner onto Main Street where the bank was. Standing outside, on the side of the road, was Mr. Barrow. I slowed the car, and he approached. He was wearing blue jeans, a black sweater, and around his arm was a plastic bag. Hunched over from old age, he used a cane to walk cautiously over to the car. I rolled down the window.

“I have your bride in the back, sir, safe and sound.”

“Thank you William,” he said. He opened the door to the back of the car.

“Did you bring our favorites?” he asked Mrs. Barrow as he climbed into the back.

“Of course,” she said.

Out of the totebag, Mrs. Barrow drew two pistols. My eyes widened, and my lips parted.

“I got the bullets for cheap. Buy two boxes, get one free,” he said as he loaded the bullets into the revolvers. Both of their heads were down and staring through the rearview mirror. All I could see were shades of light and dark, and gunmetal gray.

“That’s a great deal,” Mrs. Barrow said. “Dear, you should pay William for driving me here. He took time out of his day off to do this.”

Mr. Barrow reached into his pocket and took out a fifty dollar bill.

“Thank you, William,” he said.

I froze, trying to make sound come out of my mouth, but failing to produce anything audible. Mr. and Mrs. Barrow got out of the car. Both hunched over slightly, they began to walk towards the bank.

“Happy Anniversary,” said Mr. Barrow

“Happy Anniversary,” replied Mrs. Barrow.

Brandon T. Madden is a recent graduate from Michigan State University. He has recently published short stories through The Red Cedar Review, The Offbeat, Outrageous Fortunes, and S/tick. In 2011, he published his first novel V.S.A.