Appropriate Reactions to Receiving Multiple Overdraft Notifications
Stefanie Freele

First, we don’t cry. Not even one dripping tear. Not one heave, not one shudder, not one pitying sniff.

Instead, we scheme, we plan, we understand our power as consumers.

We stop by the food bank, pick up a wedge of cheddar and, after hours, wash – with the dedication of a twenty-five year employee – the bank windows with cheese.

Each day for a week, we deposit one dollar soaked in elk urine (purchased along with a camouflage vest at the hunting supply store) through the ATM machine.

On Thursday – the day all the casino employees get paid and the lines are longest – we borrow our friend’s foamy hot dog costume and spend the afternoon “resting” in one of the bank’s comfortable red chairs, questioning each patron in line, Is overstuffed the correct adjective to describe these chairs?

Often, at 8:55am we wait outside the door, breathing on the polished glass, pointing to the sleepy tellers and at 9am, rush in to request a free cashier’s check made out for fifty cents to ourselves. When the answer is no, we ask to talk to the manager, but we don’t wait while they fetch him from the windowless lunch room, instead, we do a triangle pose on each side, groaning triumphantly and leave. On the way out we sing loud a deep-throated warble and make a solemn vow: always sing on our way out of the bank.

On a Monday we are first in line, but accidentally drop an open twenty-pound bag of bird seed inside the front door which spills throughout the entryway like a good old-country welcome mat.

From our back porch, we resurrect that old broken fridge. At midnight that fridge, filled with bricks and taped shut, is suddenly parked in front of the ATM machine. How did it get there? A guy in a gray gas station shirt with a patch that says “Mitch” tries to make a withdrawal but cannot get past the piece of equipment. We casually drop the name of the district manager and say shhhh the appliance is for the surprise staff appreciation party.

After many calls where we practice our varied accents, our overdraft charges are not dropped. We make an appointment with the bank supervisor to complain that none of the tellers speak Ukrainian and that all of them wear offensive perfume reminiscent of a recently deceased elderly neighbor.

Wearing our vest, we first ask if it is possible if we can store vanilla cupcakes in our safe deposit box. Homemade. Fresh. Buttermilk frosting. We retrieve a crumpled cupcake from the inside of a soiled coat pocket and insist that the supervisor try one. He doesn’t, of course, and we take our time eating it in his presence with our eyes closed – mmmmm – wiping the over-stuffed frosting from our mouths on a sleeve.

We ask to borrow the supervisor’s pen and suck on both ends, then hand it back and say despite his staunch inability to waive fees for the loyalest customer, we love to say the words financial institution. We say it many times as if the words financial institution are delicious, even more delicious than the cupcake. We elongate the vowel u in institution. Like this: instituuuuuution. We ask him to say it, please we beg in a humble whispered tone, say institution. On tiptoes we watch his nimble lips flutter, searching for a suitable response.

Stefanie Freele is the author of two short story collections, Feeding Strays, with Lost Horse Press and Surrounded by Water, with Press 53, which includes the winning story of the Glimmer Train Fiction Award. Stefanie’s published and forthcoming work can be found in Witness, Mid-American Review, Western Humanities Review, and Chattahoochee Review. She maintains a website here.