Short Fiction: Finance and Dentistry

    Danny Belcher had worked at St Blaise Bank’s Fairfield Shopping Centre branch for eight years. He had been a loyal employee, followed the rules, worked hard, and worn a constant smile—even while enduring abuse from frustrated customers. He had denied loans, offered credit card limit increases, requested the immediate payment of overdrawn account fees, and explained that checks take three business days to clear. And he never asked questions about the branch manager’s teeth.

    One Wednesday mid-morning, when the bank was free of customers, Danny and one of his colleagues, Sylvia, took a coffee break at the same time. “How is your morning going, Sylvia?” asked Danny.

 “I got to tell a single father he didn’t qualify for a car loan,” answered Sylvia as she poured her coffee. “I thought he was going to start crying in my office. He didn’t, thank God. I never know what to do when they cry. Honestly, when they start crying, I just want to get up and walk out, you know? It’s like, ‘Sure, stay there and cry if you need to, but I don’t want to see it.’ I cannot deal with a grown human being in tears.” She sat down near Danny. “How about you, how’s your morning?”

 “Nothing exciting to report,” he said.

 The two sipped their coffees in silence for the next few minutes, until Sylvia remarked, “Mr Zanotti was late again today.” (Mr Zanotti was the branch manager.)

 “Was he?” said Danny.

 Sylvia smirked. “I know you saw him come in late. He tries to be sneaky, but I see him. I know you do too.” She leaned in and whispered, “He goes to the dentist.”

 Danny looked at her with interest, but then turned back to his coffee.

 “You ever see him eat solid food?” Sylvia asked quietly.

 Danny thought a moment, then shook his head.

 Sylvia raised an eyebrow and nodded. “Think about it.” She stood up, rinsed her coffee mug and left it on the sink, then went back to work.

    Danny Belcher had worked at St Blaise Bank’s Fairfield Shopping Centre branch for eight years. Those eight years had chiselled away at his vigour and optimism like a master sculptor working patiently on a stone block, 8:00am-4:30pm, Monday to Friday.

    “Danny, can I see you in my office?” said Mr Zanotti that afternoon.

 Danny entered the office and sat down. He looked around. On the wall was a framed print of a man wearing religious robes. Next to that hung a poster of somebody standing on a mountain summit at sunrise, with a motivational quote printed beneath. Mr Zanotti’s desk was wide and neatly arranged. Computer monitor, keyboard, mousepad, pen, name plate, coffee mug, and a plate with leftover lunch. Danny studied the plate. There were wedges of an orange that looked like they had been sucked on but not chewed, and two empty squeeze pouches of baby food—apple and pear, and chocolate custard. After retrieving some papers from a small filing cabinet, Mr Zanotti sat at his desk. Danny glanced at the papers as Mr Zanotti laid them next to the plate of leftovers. He couldn’t quite make out the heading on the top paper. Something about management. Mr Zanotti folded his hands on the desk. “Danny, you’ve been with us now, what, eight years?”

 “That’s right.”

 “Hmm. Yes. You’re a valuable part of the team, and you have a natural rapport with the customers. I see potential in you.”

 “Thank you, sir.”

    Danny Belcher had worked at St Blaise Bank’s Fairfield Shopping Centre branch for eight years. He had put a lot of eggs in that basket. His stomach churned. Had Mr Zanotti brought him into his office to anoint him? Was he being selected for management training? It was about time. Time to make some decent money. But good grief, could he endure another eight years working here? He was an empty shell as it was. Imagine what a management role would do to him. What else was he going to do? Quit and start at the bottom somewhere else? And for what—to end up back in this position in a few years’ time? He would get a BMW, that’s for sure. If he was going to go all in for this company, then he was going to reward himself.

    For a minute, Mr Zanotti said nothing. He stared down at his desk and nodded. Finally he looked up at Danny. Danny shifted in his seat. Mr Zanotti cleared his throat and looked over at the framed picture on the wall. “Do you know who that is in the picture?”

 Danny turned and looked. “Uh, no, I don’t.”

 “That’s St Blaise,” said Mr Zanotti. “The very saint after which this bank is named.”

 “Really?” said Danny. “You know, I didn’t realise the bank was named after an actual saint.”

 Mr Zanotti’s brow furrowed, and he grumbled.

 “But uh, that’s certainly interesting,” said Danny.

 Mr Zanotti sighed. “Do you believe in…” He shrugged and scratched his cheek. “You know, saints, and prayers, and that sort of thing?”

 “Uh, sure,” said Danny. (He did not.)

 Mr Zanotti smiled. A weight of worry revealed itself in his eyes. He looked as if he would speak, but he said nothing.

 “How about you, sir?” said Danny, breaking the silence. “Are you religious?”

 “Religious?” said Mr Zanotti. “I suppose I hadn’t thought of it that way.” He looked up at the picture. “St Blaise is the patron saint of throat ailments.”

 “What?”

 “It’s what attracted me to this company.”

 Danny did not know what to say.

 Mr Zanotti ran his finger across his lips, gently touching his bottom front teeth. “You think… You think that would include teeth as well?”

 “Teeth?”

 “I just wondered,” said Mr Zanotti, “if, since he healed people with bad throats, maybe he could heal people with teeth problems. What do you think?”

 Danny stared at Mr Zanotti, whose pleading gaze fixed upon the picture on the wall. “Um… well, it’s not really my area of expertise…”

 Mr Zanotti turned to Danny, with tears welling.

 “But,” nodded Danny thoughtfully, “I think if he could heal throats then he would probably be able to do teeth as well. Yeah, definitely.”

 Mr Zanotti put a trembling hand over his mouth and sobbed loudly. There was a knock at the door, and Sylvia barged in. “Mr Zanotti, I have those reports you—” she took one look at the tears rolling down his cheeks, then turned and walked back out the door.

    Danny sat in awkward silence for the next two minutes as Mr Zanotti let his joy and relief burst forth in streams of tears, and laughter and grateful heavenward gazes. After his emotions calmed, he dried his eyes and looked at Danny with a wide smile. Danny nodded and smiled back. Mr Zanotti nodded. Danny looked around the room. He adjusted his cuffs. He looked back at Mr Zanotti’s beaming face. He cleared his throat. “So, was there… was there anything else you needed to see me about?”

 Mr Zanotti sighed contentedly and shook his head. Danny stood up, waited a moment, then left Mr Zanotti’s office.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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