The Bank Job – a short story for English reading comprehension

This is a slightly humorous story about three bank robbers. And one of the bank robbers having a change of heart.

Is it a story about crime? Or the deep innermost feelings of a man trying to do right? Or a love story? You can discuss this in class after reading.

As always, I have attached the story along with many questions for reading comprehension and discussion.

This can be used as part of an English reading class or any other ESL/EFL class.

Let me know in the comments below!



The Bank Job


And we all charged in as one.

We had done this a hundred times before, we were well practised at it.

Colin raised his shotgun and made sure all the people in the bank could see it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a bank robbery. Everyone get on the floor and you will not get hurt. All the staff — out front now.”

He spoke calmly and quietly.

Jason, always good with technology, had disarmed all the alarms and cameras. And me, I stood at the door, keeping nosy people out and the customers and staff in.

This was a piece of cake.

“You,” said Colin, and pointed to a middle-aged man by a desk. “Give me the keys to the vault.”

The man faltered and tried to speak but Colin approached him and waved the shotgun in his face.

“This is no time for heroics, my friend,” he said.

The man produced a set of keys and Colin took them from him.

From behind me, Jason let out a laugh. “Sweet,” he said.

We had done all our homework on the bank. We knew exactly how much they had in the vaults. We would be raking it in.

I looked around at the people. They were all lying down on their fronts. Some peeked up at me and Jason.

We must have looked pretty intimidating with our masks on — I was Donald Duck. Jason was Goofy. And Colin was Mickey Mouse because he was in charge.

And then something came over me. I don’t know what it was, but I looked down on all these people lying on the floor of the bank — a man in a suit, a middle-aged woman, her hands trembling, and a security guard. And they were all ordinary people going about their lives. Just normal people trying to get on with life.

And here we were, robbing the bank and making everyone’s life really difficult.

I looked at the gun in my hand. It was loaded. Would I use it if I had to? I don’t know. But it now looked so evil, so bad.

I turned to the side and placed the gun on a counter where people fill in forms.

Then I removed my mask.

The security guard looked up at me in amazement. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Jason stared ahead at all the cashiers’ windows. He turned his head and saw me with my mask off.

“What — what are you doing?” he said. He stepped forward. “Put your mask on. Where’s your gun? What the hell are you doing?”

I shook my head at him.

“This is wrong,” I said. “This is all wrong. We shouldn’t be doing this.”

Jason called out to Colin. He didn’t say his name of course. But he shouted out to him.

Colin rushed out from the door leading to the back of the bank. He saw me and stopped moving.

In a stage whisper, he spoke to me. “What’s wrong with you? Why have you taken your mask off?”

“I’m sorry, guys,” I said. “But this is all wrong. We should not be doing this to these poor people. Look at them. They’re decent, hard-working people.”

Colin came towards me in three large steps. He put his face close to mine. His Mickey Mouse grinning back at me.

“I don’t know what you think you’re playing at,” he said. “But if you don’t put that mask back on, one of these people will recognise you. And they will tell the cops.”

I shook my head.

“I will accept any punishment that is brought to me.”

It just seemed right that I should be punished.

Colin grabbed me by the arm and yanked me towards Jason.

“This is madness,” he said. “This is completely insane.”

He turned back to all the people lying on the ground.

“Everyone stay calm —”

Then by the counter, we saw her.

One of the cashiers, a young woman, she had my gun in her hand. She must have moved so fast.

She was pointing the gun at Colin.

“Don’t move,” she said.

The security guard groaned. “Don’t be stupid,” he said.

The middle-aged woman started to cry.

“Listen, young lady,” said Colin. “You don’t know how to use that gun in your hands. So why don’t you put it down and get back on the ground?”

She shook her head. “I know how to use the gun,” she said. And she moved her hands two centimetres to the right and pulled the trigger.

A loud bang filled the cavernous interior of the bank. People screamed and yelled out.

I watched in absolute amazement at this woman. This was an act of sheer bravery.

She looked at me and smiled.

“I think you’re so brave,” she said, and she smiled again. It was the most genuine smile I had ever seen.

There was something about this young woman, something pure and kind about her. Something that seemed so right.

“My name is Joe,” I said.

“Hi, my name is Karen,” she said. “Nice to meet you.”

Colin called out to the room. “Everyone calm down,” he screamed. “You.” He nodded his head to the woman. “Give me the gun.”

She shook her head. “No. I am not giving you anything.” She looked at me. “Joe. Get over here. Stand behind me.”

At that moment, I would have done anything she asked me to do. She looked so wonderful.

Behind me, Jason was freaking out. “Colin, what’s going on?” he wailed.

“Don’t use my name,” yelled Colin. He waved his shotgun at the people in the bank. But I could see he was losing his cool.

Then in the distance, the sound of police car sirens.

I stood behind Karen. It seemed like the safest place in the world to me.



Reading Comprehension Questions


What is happening at the beginning of the story?

Who are the three men? Who is in charge? What are the other men’s roles?

Why are the three men wearing masks? What are their masks?

Describe what happens to Joe as he is staring at the people lying on the ground. What is happening to him do you think?

What does Joe do with his gun? What about his mask?

What does the security guard think about this?

How does Jason react?

What does Colin do?

What does Joe say to Jason and Colin? What are his reasons for stopping the bank robbery?

What warning does Colin give Joe?

What does Karen do next?

How does the security guard react? How about the middle-aged woman?

What does Colin tell Karen? How does she respond?

How does Joe react to Karen?

What is happening between Joe and Karen?

What does Karen tell Joe to do? Why does she do this do you think?

What is the sound in the distance?




Go through all the story and find any new or difficult words and phrases.

Look these words and phrases up in your dictionary and make a note of them in your vocabulary notebook.

Write down the meaning of all the words and phrases.

Now try to use these words and phrases in sentences of your own.



Discussion Questions


What kind of story is this? A crime story? Or a love story?

Describe Jason’s feeling at the beginning of the story. How about at the end?

How long do you think all the three men have known each other? What other kinds of crimes do you think they have committed?

Do you think they could have gotten away with all the money if Joe had stuck to the plan?

What would they do with the money?

Describe the feeling of the security guard and the middle-aged woman. Why are they feeling this way?

What happens to Joe as they are robbing the bank? Why does he change his mind about robbing the bank?

Describe Joe’s feelings at this point. Why is he feeling this way at this moment?

When Joe takes his mask off, what does the security guard think?

How does Jason react? How does Colin react?

How does Karen get to the gun so quickly?

What is Karen doing? Is this wise do you think?

How does the security guard react? The middle-aged woman? What could happen next at this point?

Do you think Karen really knows how to use a gun? Or is she just bluffing?

What is happening between Joe and Karen? Are they falling in love? Is this the right place to do this? Why/why not?

What happens after the end of the story? In class, say some possible outcomes.

What will happen to Joe and Karen after? Say some possible outcomes for their future.



What did you think? Was this short story useful in your class? Let me know in the comments!


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2 thoughts on “The Bank Job – a short story for English reading comprehension”

  1. I like this story. It is certainly interesting and has deeper connotations than what happens in the story itself. That would be good for class discussion. However, for political and cultural reasons, I believe it would be better for native speakers. Some countries are loathe to receive ‘Western Influence’ where something like a bank robbery would be unheard of. Perhaps that is because it would be a highly charged issue in countries where I’ve taught EFL.

    1. Yes I think that definitely could be an issue to deal with. But I also hope that this is only seen as a story and is totally fictional. You do raise a very important point, and that is that in EFL the foreign teacher has to be very sensitive to the politics and culture of the country they are working in. Thanks for the great comment, Leona! Much appreciated!

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