He’s outfitted for combat.
Ankle boots; black dungarees; Sam Brown belt with cuffs and mace and other tools of the craft; bulletproof vest; sunglasses; implacable stare.
And a gun, holstered at the moment.
The nametag says whatever you want it to say.
He’s standing in the parking lot, guarding the bank, where inside there must be more money than he will earn in his lifetime.
Sometimes he imagines with a sense of wonderment the origin of all that he protects: Where did it come from? And, then this is the part he always returns to, like a reliable reading spot: What did all those people streaming through the doors that he oversees and protects, how did they get it?
What did they do? What was their trick?
Besides being born here?
He is paid very much more than what he would have been in the place where he came from.
Here he is paid somewhat more than the governmentally decreed mandatory minimum. Which is only right. Guarding other people’s money is dangerous work. Putting your life on the line every day for a Bank, a biggie, an important one that, from what he hears, was somehow responsible for the Recession. Well, that could get you killed.
So, $15.75 per hour (or whatever amount you wish to represent as a fair and decent wage) on most days seems about right. But a thought occurred to the Bank Guard: What would happen?
When he’s on duty, he’s responsible. No deputies. No backup.
When he has to go to pee, like everyone has to eventually, what would happen? Usually, he positions himself behind the hatchback of his car, parked butt side against a low wall demarcating the Bank’s property, over which he is the lone armed protector. He wedges himself between the car and wall and opens the trunk and retrieves a worn paper cup, grande size, a Bank customer once mentioned, and looking, scanning his dominion, still doing his job, the one that pays him the amount that you think is correct, given the known circumstances, he relieves himself into the cup, his hands and gun belt demurely obscured, swivelhead and badge still visible. Still protecting all the money.
When his bladder’s empty, he dumps the warm urine, vivid Mountain Dew color this day from dehydration, over the wall, onto the grass.
Then, he returns the cup to its waiting place. He cannot return to work. Because he never left. And, there’s pride to be taken or found in that somewhere we can all agree.
But what would happen, the bank guard muses, his penis between thumb and fingers, aimed down like an udder, What would happen if something happened?
What would happen if trouble arrived while he was in mid-stream? An incident. Protesters. Robbers. Intruders upon the turf he is paid to defend.
What would happen if he failed to shoot them with his gun?
What if he watched serenely, the foam rising and his cup hand warming, fully awake now and seeing clearly? What if instead of harming, he surveyed the property, zipped himself properly, withstood the dark comedy, behaved unheroically, maybe undemocratically and certainly disreputably
What if he turned away and walked home? Home to his wife’s pillowy embrace, to make love with her all afternoon and into the evening.
MK Punky, the author of many books, serves as Poet Laureate of Vista Street Community Library in Los Angeles.