The Art Cafe 1900, an oil painting by the artist Theo Michael

The Art Cafe 1900

The Art Cafe, a fictional short story accompanying the original painting by Theo Michael

I’ve idled a lot of time away at this cafe, a popular place, full of artists and writers, some up and coming and some on their way out. No, I am not an artist; it’s the heady scent of fresh coffee and cigarettes that attracts me  to this place.
Some of the customers eye me up curiously, wondering what my talent is, the only art I dabble in is the art of the con.

Directly opposite is a small bank. It has been my only focus of interest for the last few weeks. I’ve become an expert of this building and its inhabitants. I know that the security guards collect twice a week, always at two in the afternoon. Creatures of habit are always a con artist’s favourite.

Through the windows you can see the cashiers with the cash draws open by their sides, only a low counter separating them from the customers. I also know the alarm system was installed more than 10 years ago and hasn’t worked properly for the last few months. Fools, they deserve to be robbed. And that is what I am about to do.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I’m all psyched up, today is the day. I’ve just lit my last cigarette. On cue, I hear the getaway driver pulling up in our car. She is gorgeous. She is my babe, my life, and her name is Lisa. She looks across and gives me a brief nod. She is good to go and so am I.

I glance back at her over my shoulder. I know this is the last time I will ever see her. No goodbyes, no warm embrace, no last kiss. Farewell my lovely.

I turn away and stride briskly towards the bank. I take a long drag on my cigarette and fling it to the floor, it bounces as it hits the ground. It’s finished.

I push the doors open and jump on the counter screaming.
 ‘Everyone down on the floor and no one gets hurt.’ I see fear in their eyes and feel a pang of guilt, but there is no time for that. I grab the first cashier, still shouting, ‘give me your money.’

She is trembling but carrying out my instructions. Out of the corner of my eye I observe the manager press the alarm button. The office door opens and I catch sight of the security guard, running, gun ready, aiming at me. I am scared, but I have no choice. I reach into my coat pocket. A gun fires. A sharp pain rips into my shoulder and I am fighting to stay conscious. A second shot and I feel a searing pain in my back. The world starts to fade as I see the floor coming up to meet me, my head smacking onto the counter as I collapse to the ground. I am drifting, these are my last few moments on this planet, but I’ve made my peace. Blood is oozing out of my mouth. I’m sure I’m not a pretty sight. A wry grin appears on my face and I know Lisa will be okay.

As I lie there I could still hear all the commotion, the cashier shouting out.

 ‘You didn’t have to shoot him. He’s not a killer. He doesn’t carry a gun. He even banks here.’

‘What was I to do!’ The security officer barks back.  ‘He reached into his pocket. You know it’s policy.’

It all started about eight weeks ago. I was diagnosed with lung cancer, with a few months to live.
My babe doesn’t know, I couldn’t tell her.
As a long term smoker dying from lung cancer wasn’t an option, the insurance wouldn’t pay a cent. Only the doctor knew, but he’s bound by his oath, he can’t reveal a thing. This had to look clean. Before the first shot I had reached into my pocket, the copy of the life insurance policy was still there.
Lisa darling, I’ve been pretty frigging useless to you alive, a bum. As a matter of fact, I am better off dead. The insurance payoff will take care of you.

Goodnight my Lisa, please forgive me, I love you babe.

Story written by Theo Michael and Neil Smith


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