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Bank Manager – Pt. 2 (The Brunch Chronicles Ch. 12)

Sep 29, 2020

A Story Written by Kevin Gallagher

Mary Ryan, the head teller, came up to me while I was making the deposit the next day. 

“I’m sorry about sending those cheques back.” she apologized. “How’s Donna?”

“Donna’s fine. She’s pretty resilient, and don’t worry about the cheques,” I shrugged, “We can’t expect you to hold cheques when we go into overdraft.”

“Donna did rattle McPherson though.” She allowed herself a smirk. “He went into his office, closed the door and didn’t come out until four o’clock.” The young woman who was serving me was trying vainly to suppress a smile. Casting a glance towards the manager’s office Mary whispered, “Good for Donna.”

But I still felt disappointed. Through stronger restaurant sales and payment for a big catered event we had covered our debt to Revenue Canada and finally brought our bank balance up to zero. While we no longer had the line of credit and were generally able to keep a small balance in the account, we had become complacent enough to expect that if we went into overdraft, cheques would not be returned until we had had a chance to cover them.

Through the open door, I could see McPherson on the phone. He waved to me, indicating that I should wait. When he ended the call, he came out to the front counter where I was talking to Mary.

“I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to retrieve those cheques.”  he said, adding with a dry chuckle, “I didn’t send them back you know. This one did,” nodding towards Mary, “and she’s one of your lot. You might have expected a little more sympathy.”

She replied flatly, with a slight jut of her chin and a head shake, “You know I don’t have the authority to hold cheques.” 

Ignoring her, McPherson continued, “And you’ve been doing so well. Are you another backsliding Mick, like this one?” again nodding at Mary. She said nothing, looking at him obliquely and dropping her eyes to the papers in front of her.

“Well, that doesn’t sound like a compliment,” I forced a smile., “but I don’t believe I am. And don’t worry about those returned cheques, people are always willing to believe that bankers are mean.”

He laughed his dry laugh.

“Come into my office. I have a question for you.”

I often sat with him for a few minutes when I went to the bank, ostensibly to discuss our accounts, but the conversations were random and wide ranging. As a result, I had become more relaxed during the meetings that had become like friendly chats.

This morning, McPherson seemed slightly agitated though, rearranging items on his desk, giving papers a quick scan before restacking them to one side. I assumed that he would bring up the previous day’s  meeting with Donna and waited.  

Instead he asked, “How’s business then?”

“It’s good, always a struggle, as you know, but things are going well. But I believe you had a question for me.” I said.

“Yes. How would you like to have lunch with me on Friday?”

 Slightly taken aback, I hesitated before answering. As if he felt I was unsure, he added, “I have another customer who has a restaurant and has been at me to come in. I don’t go out much to eat.”

“Sure, I’d be happy to join you on Friday. What time?”

“Meet me here at one o’clock.”

I met him at the bank on Friday and we walked the few blocks to the restaurant together. It was a Spanish restaurant, tiny with perhaps twenty tables in heavy dark wood, each with brightly coloured cloths of red and gold. The decor was slightly dated, the walls decorated with posters of bullfighters and classic adverts for Tio Pepe, but the room was warm and welcoming. Daniel, the owner had obviously been expecting us,

“Mr. McPherson, we’re so glad to see you finally,” he said, showing us to a corner table.  “We have a lovely paella special today…”

“Would you have that?” McPherson asked me.

“Oh yes, for sure,” I answered, taking my seat.

“Nothing for me.” said McPherson.

I looked at Daniel. His mouth hung open too.

“Will you take a glass of wine then?”

“Not for me, I’ll just have a pot of tea,” and looking at me said, “but you will, won’t you?”

“Yes, I suppose” I answered, conscious of the fact that we occupied a prime table at a Friday lunch. “Are you not hungry?”

“I brought my lunch and besides, do you think they’re clean?”

Sipping my wine and looking at him pointedly, I said “Clean?”

Casting a glance at the brown faces through the pass, he said, “Well, you know – do you think they’re clean?”

“You know Daniel. You see his operation. Do you think he would allow anyone to work here who didn’t wash their hands?”

“I suppose not.” he said, looking doubtful.

I ate in silence for a few minutes and he sipped his tea.

“They’re closing the branch and I’m going to retire,” he said abruptly.

Taken aback, I forced a weak chuckle, “Not our fault I hope.”

Ignoring my comment, he said, “They’re consolidating branches.” and looking up, “I’m going to go back to Ireland.”

“Good for you. Will your wife go with you?”

He shook his head, “No, but I want to visit some of the old places while I can still get around. It’s been thirty years since I left.”

“You may see that a lot has changed,” I said. 

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