Countdown to Midnight #3: Newbies

Posted by TERESA

Special thanks for this third story (of four) needs to go to LINDSAY.  I wrote NEWBIES during the weekend of Alana and Rob’s wedding in Chicago, after having discussed my assignment (Location – A factory.  Genre – Open.  Object: A stick of butter.) with her.  She started riffing on a story idea after I told her my original idea (which was inspired by Last Tango in Paris. Yeah, you heard me.).  I kept her general idea, but updated the setting (she would have set it during The Great Depression) and the characters (she thought of hobos, I went with semi-hipsters), and made the object less of a focal point than she would have.  Still, her riffing allowed me to riff a lot more than my original idea did.  So, thanks Lindsay!  Also, I suppose I also owe a special thank you to a certain threesome who had a…well…threesome.  Had I not been so annoyed by being in the same hotel suite as three people who chose to make me an unwilling auditory participant in their sexcapades, I would not have gone down to the hotel lobby to check my email, I would have missed my assignment entirely, and I wouldn’t have decided to stay in the hotel lobby until 5AM to work on it.  So, thanks to them, too, I suppose.  However, the fact remains: not everyone wants to listen to you have sex.  Especially if they’re not invited to participate.  That’s just rude.

Anywho, here’s the story:

homeless hipster


“Let’s duck in here!” he said as the rain began to pour.

He was able to pull the metal door of the factory open just wide enough for them to squeeze inside despite the lock and chain holding it closed.  In that part of Long Island City, everything was a little slipshod, including security.

She followed the way she always did, not by choice, but because he never left room for discussion.  He spoke, then acted, dissenting opinions be damned.  This annoyed her.

“This place creeps me out” she said as she squeezed through the door.  She stood by it as he felt around for a light switch.  When he found it, she wished he hadn’t.

Textile factories aren’t particularly inviting during business hours, let alone at night.  They were in what looked like the main factory floor, and the room had a sickly green tint.  She wasn’t sure if the lighting caused it, or the paint on the walls, though the paint was so grimy she wasn’t sure it was even a color at all.  Rows of silent machines sat with fabric still in their jaws, and the fluorescent lights hummed eerily.  She didn’t like this, but they couldn’t afford better.  Friends and roommates, they’d both been dealt a blow by hard economic times.  He was a writer who, after being laid off from his day job hadn’t had luck finding even temp work for over five months.  His “novel” did nothing but take up folders and space on his laptop.

She, well, she didn’t know what she wanted to be.  The fact that she’d only completed two years of college before she couldn’t afford to attend anymore didn’t help.  Her parents had passed away years ago, and her savings had run out.  His parents were still alive in Wisconsin, but he was too proud and stubborn to ask them for help.  Eviction from their apartment forced them onto the street.  They were the Newly Homeless, and they didn’t know what to do.

He threw his duffel bags down, triumphant in the middle of the floor as if this were the World’s Best Plan.

“See?” he said.  “I told you we’d be able to get into one of them.”

She hated him when he was smug, which was often.

“I’m hungry” she said.  “What are we gonna do about food? I have, like, ten dollars in my bank account which I can’t get out until tomorrow ’cause I need to get it out at a fucking teller window.”

“What about your debit card?”

“I left it in the apartment. It was on my dresser…”

“You left it on your dresser?!”

“When someone’s hurrying to pack everything they own into a wheelie suitcase because they were fucking kicked out of their fucking apartment, they might not be thinking too clearly, OK?!”

“Hey, hey.  I’m sorry, all right?”  He approached her, eased her duffel bag from off her shoulder, and put his arm around her.  “It’s just that my bank account was closed because of that last overdraft fee, and…well, we’ll think of something. We’re gonna be OK, OK?”

She wasn’t sure about that, but she appreciated his effort.

“Sure” she said.

They found the least dirty portion of the floor and began setting up a makeshift camp, laying out towels and clothing on which to lie down.  Her stomach was in knots from hunger – they hadn’t eaten that day – when an idea struck her.

“Hey!  There might be a kitchen!”

“This is a factory” he replied.  “Why would there be a kitchen?”

“For the workers” she said, jumping to her feet.  “For their lunch breaks or whatever.  Every workplace usually has some kind of kitchen area.  There might be a fridge with food!  I’ll go check it out!”

She summoned her courage and went down the one available corridor and into the darkness. As her eyes adjusted, she noticed a large room on her right from which emanated a greenish glow.  She followed it and was relieved when she saw that it was the clock display on a microwave. She squealed with delight and found a lightswitch.

Sure enough, there was a mini-fridge. She rushed over to it, but was immediately disappointed. In it was nothing but a lone stick of butter.

It was then that she noticed the sign on the cabinet above the fridge:


It was Friday.

She trudged back to the factory floor, where he was waiting with a snack size bag of potato chips.

“I found this in my bag. Snagged it from that picnic we passed in Astoria Park. Want some?”

She took a handful, but after eating them only felt more hungry. The chips just warmed up her appetite for something that wasn’t coming. She felt miserable, and it was raining outside, and cold in the factory, and she couldn’t think of any friends who had room for them to crash or money to spare. She had never felt so low in her life.

“Don’t worry!  Tomorrow, we’ll take out your ten dollars, go to a supermarket, and get whatever groceries we can.  We’ll have breakfast, and figure out what to do about sleeping. It’ll be an adventure!”

Anger surged through her.  Her ten dollars? Was that his Master Plan?  He let his account be overdrawn and now he was claiming a right to her ten dollars?

“An adventure?” Her voice was ice.  “Is this fun for you? You’re volunteering my last ten dollars in the whole fucking world when you’re not even willing to ask your comfortable fucking parents in the Midwest for help?”

“Hey. I’m not running home to Mommy and Daddy…”


She only meant to shove him.  Knock some sense into him.  She didn’t think she would be able to knock into him that hard. She didn’t think he’d stumble back that far.  She certainly didn’t plan on him hitting his head on the edge of a machine.

She heard his head crack twice; once on the metal, and then again on the concrete floor. Blood began to seep from his skull in twin rivers.

“Omigodomigodomigodomigod” she began muttering as her heart began to pound. As tears began coming.

For a moment, she forgot she was hungry.

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 12:47 AM  Leave a Comment  
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