Monday, September 26, 2016

How To Rob An Armored Car by Iain Levison (Soho Press 2009)


“I can’t believe it was that easy. Dude, we ought to do this full time.”

Doug shrugged. “Do you want to? I mean, do this instead of robbing the armored car?”

Mitch started his car, mulling the idea over. Today had certainly been easy money but he knew that every day wouldn’t be that easy. They had just gotten lucky. And besides, Doug had all the skill, knowledge, and bargaining ability. Mitch really didn’t bring much to the table.

“Nah,” he said. “I mean, it was impressive and all, but you did everything. All I really did was give you a ride.”

“I could do this full time,” Doug said. “Maybe we should do this instead of robbing the armored car.”

“Are you having doubts?”

“I don’t know. I’m getting kind of scared about the whole thing,” Doug said. “I mean, I just need a little bit to live off. I don’t need to be rich and shit. I don’t need millions of dollars. Money doesn’t buy happiness.”

“Sure it does,” said Mitch cheerfully.

“Look at Kurt Cobain.”

Despite the giddiness of the moment, Mitch felt anger welling up. He hated this logic on which so many people operated, the quaint, pat little platitudes they used to comfort themselves, the bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets that supposedly summed up all their struggles. Money doesn’t buy happiness. God has a plan. It will all work out in the end. It was brainwashing, calculated and perfect, the final bitch-slapping to top off a lifetime of stocking shelves or filing papers or answering phones. If he was going to spend his life making money for someone else, Mitch thought, that was fine. It was inevitable. But don’t insult my intelligence by trying to convince me money is worthless, just so you can keep the whole fucking pile to yourself.

He knew that Doug was a man of simple needs and that he really would be happy with very little. So, for that matter, would Mitch. But it wasn’t all about the money. It was about Accu-mart, about the army, about Doug’s car getting impounded. It was about everything that had ever made him feel small, that had given him the message that he owed someone something, that he had to do more, that his behavior wasn’t good enough.

“Kurt Cobain was a drug addict,” Mitch snapped. “All the people who killed themselves when they got rich were drug addicts. Janis Joplin, Hendrix, Jim Morrison. Money doesn’t buy happiness for drug addicts because they can buy so many drugs all of a sudden that they just freak out.

Then rich people look at that and they say, ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness, fuckers. See what happened to Kurt Cobain? So stop asking for more money, ’cause it ain’t gonna help.’ They just use that bullshit as an excuse to not give us raises. Then they take the money and laugh on the beach in Bermuda. Dude, fuck that. If money doesn’t buy happiness, why do guys guard it with guns?”

He drew a deep breath, then continued his rant while Doug sat in the passenger seat staring at him. “They expect us to eat that shit up. They expect us to say, ‘Wow, money doesn’t buy happiness. Boy, I’m sure glad I don’t have any money. Otherwise, I’d just overdose on all the drugs I could buy. Yessiree, it’s much better if the rich people keep all the money, ’cause if I had any of it I’d just spend all day jamming heroin into my arm.’”

“Wow, dude,” Doug said, taken aback by Mitch’s sudden ferocity.

“Money buys happiness for everyone else. You fucking bet it does. It gives you mental peace, man. You know why? Because if you got money, you stop worrying. And not worrying all the time is happy enough for me.”

“You worry?” Doug asked. He sounded innocent, like a little boy, and Mitch felt a twinge of regret that he had cut short their celebration of the successful drug deal with an outburst of bitterness. But he hated seeing his friend act . . . brainwashed.

“Of course,” Mitch said. “Don’t you?”

“No,” Doug said softly. “I just figure everything will work out in the end.”

Mitch gritted his teeth. “I worry all the fucking time,” he said. “I worry about bills, about the rent, about not being able to ever afford anything. I can’t go anywhere or do anything. Shit, even any of that stuff you see people doing during the commercials in football games: mountain-biking, traveling, going to the beach, concerts, vacations. It’s like there’s this great big fucking world out there full of all this great shit, and man, we’re never gonna be a part of it. We can’t even have a little taste, you know? So, yes, I worry.”

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

I know it's a long excerpt - apologies to Soho Press . . . but I'm bigging your guy up here - but when was the last time I reread the same book twice in one year? If it ever happened before it was a long, long time ago. Levison's work is golden and for the life of me I don't know why he isn't better known . . . and embraced. Apparently the French love him to bits, with his last couple of novels being published in France but not in the US. And one of his US published novels, 'Since The Layoffs', has even been adapted into a French film but I just get blank stares when I mention him over here.