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Short Story: Downstate

Basic Storyline: A spree of bank robberies in flyover country goes awry. This story first appeared in The Mississippi Review literary magazine in 2009.


Yummy, Jerry, and Braces met in jail.

Jerry went down on an extortion rap, which seemed much more impressive than it actually was. He wasn’t made or anything. He extorted old women he met carrying their groceries home from the Jewel. The charge would have been something more modest if he hadn’t been so good at it. He never asked for too much, and he was particularly good at finding (and scaring) old ladies without anyone else in the world. A lot of them warmed up with him, though. Jerry would always insist – and part of Yummy believed him – that some of them got more out of the deal than he did.

Yummy did straight Armed Robbery. Six years on two counts, one of which was somebody else. Right after the conviction, the fat cop that busted him came right up and was shaking his hand before Yummy even realized it was him.

The cop said, “Congratulations, Harold, ya fucking shithead. You’re finally in jail. You shoulda been born in jail.”

As if Yummy was a born crook.

Braces went down on a GTA, Conspiracy to Distribute, Possession of an Unlicensed Firearm, and Assaulting a Police Officer. He was pulled over with 50 pounds of meth amphetamine in the trunk of his car. Then, with the state patrolman at his door, Braces waved around a gun he’d been too afraid to even touch five minutes before.

“It was like he won the anti-lottery,” Jerry once said.

Braces should have been born in jail, Yummy thought. He didn’t make sense anywhere else.

They worked out their plans during their last few months together downstate. Jerry had always wanted to rob banks. He convinced Yummy and Braces that they’d be back inside no matter what they did on the outside, so they might as well try a big score.

“Are you two a couple a rockheads? You want to come back here because you boosted a fucking VCR? People do this. People rob banks. You ever seen a bank robber come through here?”

Then he read them an article from the Wall Street Journal about a series of unsolved bank robberies in the Southwest over the past decade. He’d printed it off the library computer. Then he lit it on fire.

Yummy watched him. He knew he didn’t have a lot of other options. Now that King was dead, these were the only people he had in the world.

Yummy thought about robbing banks a minute, then said, “I’d like to go straight.”

Jerry dropped the burning sheet in the sand and stepped it out. He waved away a guard.

“Yeah, well,” Jerry answered. “Braces and I will come find you. See how you’re enjoying your straight life packing groceries with a bunch of morons.”

Yummy never packed groceries. He cleaned up the food court in a has-been mall. The letter he sent Braces made it easy for them to find him when they got out.


Download my entire short story, Downstate, here.