The gunman is useless.
I know it.
He knows it.
The whole bank knows it.
Even my best mate, Marvin, knows it, and he's more useless than the
The worst part about the whole thing is that Marv's car is standing
outside in a fifteen-minute parking zone. We're all facedown on the
floor, and the car's only got a few minutes left on it.
"I wish this bloke'd hurry up," I mention.
"I know," Marv whispers back. "This is outrageous."
His voice rises from the depths of the floor. "I'll be getting a
fine because of this useless bastard. I can't afford another fine,
"The car's not even worth it."
Marv looks over at me now. I can sense he's getting uptight. Offended.
If there's one thing Marv doesn't tolerate, it's someone putting shit on
his car. He repeats the question.
"What did you say, Ed?"
"I said," I whisper, "it isn't even worth the fine,
"Look," he says, "I'll take a lot of things, Ed, but . .
I tune out of what he's saying because, quite frankly, once Marv gets
going about his car, it's downright pain-in-the-arse material. He goes
on and on, like a kid, and he's just turned twenty, for Jesus' sake.
He goes on for another minute or so, until I have to cut him off.
"Marv," I point out, "the car's an embarrassment, okay?
It doesn't even have a hand brake-it's sitting out there with two bricks
behind the back wheels." I'm trying to keep my voice as quiet as
possible. "Half the time you don't even bother locking it. You're
probably hoping someone'll flog it so you can collect the
"It isn't insured."
"NRMA said it wasn't worth it."
That's when the gunman turns around and shouts, "Who's talkin' back
Marv doesn't care. He's worked up about the car.
"You don't complain when I give you a lift to work, Ed, you
"Upstart? What the hell's an upstart?"
"I said shut up back there!" the gunman shouts again.
"Hurry up then!" Marv roars back at him. He's in no mood now.
No mood at all.
He's facedown on the floor of the bank.
The bank's being robbed.
It's abnormally hot for spring.
The air-conditioning's broken down.
His car's just been insulted.
Old Marv's at the end of his tether, or his wit's end. Whatever you want
to call it-he's got the shits something terrible.
We remain flattened on the worn-out, dusty blue carpet of the bank, and
Marv and I are looking at each other with eyes that argue. Our mate
Ritchie's over at the Lego table, half under it, lying among all the
pieces that scattered when the gunman came in yelling, screaming, and
shaking. Audrey's just behind me. Her foot's on my leg, making it go
The gunman's gun is pointed at the nose of some poor girl behind the
counter. Her name tag says Misha. Poor Misha. She's shivering nearly as
bad as the gunman as she waits for some zitty twenty-nine-year-old fella
with a tie and sweat patches under his arms to fill the bag with money.
"I wish this bloke'd hurry up," Marv speaks.
"I said that already," I tell him.
"So what? I can't make a comment of my own?"
"Get your foot off me," I tell Audrey.
"What?" she responds.
"I said get your foot off me-my leg's going numb."
She moves it. Reluctantly.
The gunman turns around and shouts his question for the last time.
"Who's the bastard talking?"
The thing to note with Marv is that he's problematic at the best of
times. Argumentative. Less than amiable. He's the type of friend you
find yourself constantly arguing with-especially when it comes to his
shitbox Falcon. He's also a completely immature arsehole when he's in
He calls out in a jocular manner, "It's Ed Kennedy, sir. It's Ed
"Thanks a lot!" I say.
(My full name's Ed Kennedy. I'm nineteen. I'm an underage cabdriver. I'm
typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the
city-not a whole lot of prospects or possibility. That aside, I read
more books than I should, and I'm decidedly crap at sex and doing my
taxes. Nice to meet you.)
"Well, shut up, Ed!" the gunman screams. Marv smirks. "Or
I'll come over there and shoot the arse off you!"
It's like being in school again and your sadistic math teacher's barking
orders at you from the front of the room, even though he couldn't care
less and he's waiting for the bell so he can go home and drink beer and
get fat in front of the telly. I look at Marv. I want to kill him.
"You're twenty years old, for Christ's sake. Are you trying to get
"Shut up, Ed!" The gunman's voice is louder this time.
I whisper even quieter. "If I get shot, I'm blaming you. You know
that, don't you?"
"I said shut up, Ed!"
"Everything's just a big joke, isn't it, Marv?"
"Right, that's it." The gunman forgets about the woman behind
the counter and marches over to us, fed up as all buggery. When he
arrives we all look up at him. Marv.
And all the other hopeless articles like us sprawled out on the floor.
The end of the gun touches the bridge of my nose. It makes it itchy. I
don't scratch it.
The gunman looks back and forth between Marv and me. Through the
stocking on his face I can see his ginger whiskers and acne scars. His
eyes are small and he has big ears. He's most likely robbing the bank as
a payback on the world for winning the ugliness prize at his local fete
three years running.
"So which one of you's Ed?"
"Him," I answer, pointing to Marv.
"Oh no you don't," Marv counters, and I can tell by the look
on his face that he isn't as afraid as he should be. He knows we'd both
be dead by now if this gunman was the real thing. He looks up at the
stocking-faced man and says, "Hang on a sec. . . ." He
scratches his jawline. "You look familiar."
"Okay," I admit, "I'm Ed." But the gunman's too busy
listening to what Marv has to say for himself.
"Marv," I whisper loudly, "shut up."
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from "I Am the Messenger" by Markus Zusak. Copyright © 2006 by Markus Zusak. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.