It's Cold Out Here

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Skill Flea

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« on: 03:51:51 PM 02/06/17 »
Imagine having no job and desperately needing the money just to support yourself. What would you do for minimum wage?

Now try to imagine having a job where the work makes you incredibly queasy but you still had to work there anyway. I have no issues when it comes to handing customers their shitty food when it’s in a smiling box or a greasy paper bag. Seeing it and touching it however, makes me want to quit McDonalds more than I already do.   

To make matters worse my job is for the night shift. I like having the evenings open but it was the only position they had for someone like me. That she-bitch of a manger initially promised that I wouldn’t have to handle the food preparations. I was needed for other menial tasks along with my normal cashier and drive thru duties. Clean bathrooms, take out the garbage, sweep/vacuum the floors, and all the usual tasks associated with being an insignificant lackey. They have me working from six at night to three in the morning. The restaurant floor closes at midnight but they keep the drive thru open till three. After midnight, I’m expected to work the drive thru and help clean the place during any downtime. 

Now my experience here has gone from mildly frustrating to downright appalling. Lately, I’ve been coughing up a wonderful mixture of green, orange, and black phlegm. I can’t exactly see a doctor anyway and need all the work I can get. My job isn’t that hard to replace. Also, the fucker they hired to help me clean the joint just disappeared sometime last week and didn’t bother to tell anyone about it. For some reason my superiors were not making it a priority to hire someone else and simply told me to quote on quote “Deal with it.” So for the last week or so I’ve been here on my own. I’ve always hated that lazy piece of shit but hate scrubbing this place by myself even more.     

Then there was the time that group of assholes decided to key my car a few nights ago. Last week, I went outside for a quick smoke break during my shift and saw three punks keying slur words on my fucking doors! Chasing them was a losing effort and only made me hack up even more of my lung. I would’ve ran the fuckers over if I hadn’t stupidly forgotten my keys in the break room. Unfortunately, as of late I’ve been seeing traces of those punks hanging out around the shopping center. I usually see their bikes somewhere around the parking lot area, tossed in a pile like they own the place. For the time being I’ve elected to park behind the adjacent Stop N’ Shop since it’s in the same shopping center. I always park under the broken pole light just to keep the car as safe as possible. Fun fact: peeing on a bicycle seat really ruins the integrity of the stitching.

So last night I reached my limit. The kid once again decided to not show up to work and left me to take care of everything like usual. It was 1 am on a rainy Wednesday morning and I hadn’t seen anyone within the last half hour.  I was coughing, sneezing, and hacking up all sorts of colorful shit and decided to retrieve the smokes from my car. I purposefully leave them there to help resist the temptation but whenever I get stressed I tend to cough more and smoking is about the only activity that helps me relax. For all you know-it-alls out there, yes it doesn’t take a doctor to tell you that smoking is bad for your health and I don’t like being told what I already know.

After turning off the lights in the store, I began walking towards my car. We have security cameras watching the place but unless I report something the she-bitch doesn’t check the tapes. Now the joint is the only establishment not connected to the rest of the shopping center. The building is literally in the middle of the parking lot facing the Stop N’ Shop. We are the only place still open at this time of night, so walking to my car always makes me feel how empty the large parking lot really is. Accompanied by the pitter patter of raindrops, I headed towards the back parking lot to get to my car. It began to get really nippy outside and soon my eyelids began to feel heavy. After all, it’s really difficult to change your sleep routine and get used to sleeping in the middle of the day. So I just sat in my car to stay warm, smoked out the window, and rested my eyes. I fought against myself to stay awake but it was a losing proposition. 

After waking up and realizing my incredible blunder, I immediately checked the glowing green display on my dashboard that now read 3:37. With no time to lose I drove the car back towards McDonalds. I could hear the faint sound of crackling beneath my tires as I began to move. It didn’t really matter to me in the moment as I sped through the empty backlot. I turned the corner, saw the golden arches, and was dumbfounded by the scene in front of me.

Everything was completely normal. I had passed out for more than two hours and somehow by some divine intervention, there was the joint in the state I had left it. No one was there to complain and nothing was out of the ordinary. All quiet on the greasy front.

I marveled at my luck. I mean it was a Tuesday night and I was the only living thing here for miles. Even if someone did show up for a late night snack, they probably would’ve fucked off the second they saw the darkness in the building. Still, I was more amazed at my ability to actually get away with doing what I just did. I smiled and turned to my car towards the shopping center exit to leave. Then the store keys that I had left on the passenger’s seat tumbled out and fell all the way to the floor mat with an obnoxious jingle. I hadn’t locked the store.

I had intended to come back to the joint after retrieving my pack but it still wasn’t the smartest move on my part. It would be very unfortunate if someone were to find the doors unlocked in the morning. I drove back up the small incline towards the joint and parked next to its right entrance. Upon closer inspection, nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary but I definitely had not locked those doors and was not about to get in trouble for a great shift where I was able to catch some z’s.

The weather outside had gotten significantly more chilly, nothing out of the ordinary and it had stopped raining. It was just way colder than it was before. The car door had actually slightly frozen over and it was pretty difficult getting out at first. I approached the cold brick building, the condensation had created a cloudy veneer over the frozen windows. I needed to go inside to lock everything up, so naturally I took my keys and opened the door.     

The smell hit me like a truck. It was spicy, almost like some off-brand tabasco sauce, but it was overpowering and permutated throughout the dining area. I was a bit startled by this odor but far more annoyed. All I could think about was how this could cost me my job. I walked around the dining area for at least a few minutes, searching hectically through the almost empty garbage cans under the soft drink machines but I couldn’t find the source of this stench. To make matters worse, it was beginning to get really warm in here as if someone had turned up the heat.

I remember turning in the direction of the thermostat to check on it and immediately having my attention drawn towards a wheel poking out from behind register. Attached to that wheel was a bike parked right behind the register and next to it laid two more. I knew who the owners were immediately and I was enraged.  Of course they had to pick the one night where I left the doors unlocked. As I came into the kitchen area, the odd spicy aroma began to fade. However, now I was smelling something that was definitely more recognizable. Pot. Soon the faint sound of giggling was also heard, confirming my suspicions that I was not the only one in the building.

Now I couldn’t exactly close the joint with a bunch of teenagers inside. By around four in the morning, I had figured out exactly where they were. If the pot smell wasn’t obvious enough, I found a trail of hamburger wrappers on the floor. Starting from the heat cabinet where we keep the food warm and following it all the way to the break room door. Those assholes were probably having the time of their lives in there.

I really did not want to deal with calling the cops on these punks. Even if I did, those fuckers would probably receive nothing but a slap on the wrist. They are most likely in high school or something and I’ve always suspected those pretty boys were from wealthy families. There’s at least four country clubs in my community and you can learn a lot about a person based on the variety of footwear and clothing they have. Even that smug sense of superiority they all blatantly show off is an attitude that’s all too familiar for some lackey like me. Hell, it’s not like they were the only ones that were not supposed to be here at four in the mourning and I still didn’t want anyone to look at those security tapes.

I’ll admit that grabbing a large kitchen knife and scaring the shit out of them out really did cross my mind. It was an incredibly stupid thought but one that gave me a fleeting moment of joy. However, after a few minutes of brainstorming, I decided that I just had to confront them and yell at them to leave. I reasoned with myself and came to the conclusion that they were probably too high and stupid to really put up much of a fight anyway. Plus, they would have the same incentives as me to not get caught and would not tell anyone about this. I still had no intention of calling anyone but they didn’t know that. So I approached the closed break room door and tried to act as diplomatic as possible. 

“You motherfuckers have exactly 30 seconds to get out of here or else I’m calling the fucking cops!”

After saying the word ‘cops’, I could hear the sound of giggling again. I couldn’t believe what was dealing with and how far this whole thing had escalated.   
“I’m serious! You assholes better leave right now or you’ll all be in serious trouble!”

Now they were really getting under my skin, the giggling wouldn’t stop and they were clearly not taking me seriously. Soon the store keys were out of my coat pocket and I was looking for the correct one that would let me inside. Another violent coughing fit hindered this process as I fumbled around with the keys. The giggling escalated into a chorus of hushed laughter as I continued to hack up a colorful phlegm-filled rainbow. I found the right one and worked the keyhole until I could hear the faint clicking sound. In that moment the sound of laughter ceased and all was quiet except for my labored breathing.
 
This wasn’t the first time this had happened, I’ve had coughing fits in the past that have affected my breathing but never like this. My hand was clutching the doorknob in a desperate attempt to hold the rest of my body up. I was out of it for at least a solid minute. The dizziness was overwhelming and I nearly puked whenever I looked down at the ground. When I finally came around, I remember screaming in pain as I practically had to peel my hand off the freezing metal. My lightheadedness was so bad that I failed to realize how frozen my hand was. Somehow, the door was colder than ice.

I’ll spare you from the more gruesome details but anyone who has frozen pulled pork before could probably come up with an accurate description of what the palm of my hand looked like. After running over to grab the heat lamp, the door opened behind me. They say that sometimes your actions are not your own and other times you can complete a task without even thinking about it. Like blinking and breathing or for that night, hauling ass. All I can remember is hearing a voice in the back of my head begging me to find warmth and like a wounded animal I blindly took off. I must’ve looked like shit as I blindly ran into counters, tripped on a cord, and then bashed my face into the hard paneled flooring.

The fading sound of roaring laughter inspired me to quickly get up and flee further away from the break room door. The temperature had only continued to drop and the parking lot outside was covered in a black ice minefield. The car had frozen over and it took a while for it to get started. I slammed down on the acceleration and my left tires went over a large bump. Nothing else mattered in that moment as I recklessly sped away from the restaurant. I must’ve ran at least two red lights before finally calming down. I kept driving forward with no destination in mind, I was just sort of on autopilot at this point. Eventually the sun came up and I pulled over to the side of the road. It didn’t take long for me to pass out.



It was around 11 am on a beautiful Wednesday morning when I came to.  My cellphone blew up and I have some snazzy new messages from my boss. I needed a hot shower and a meal so I decided to go home. Pretty soon afterwards I found myself packing a bag. I think I’m going to go on the road for a little bit. I’ve always been a nobody in this town and maybe that’s finally going to pay off. Hell, what’s the worst that can happen? Finding a new town and new start will be great for me. Perhaps I can find a new job and eventually find a way to buff out the message keyed on the driver’s side of my car.

So, what would you do for minimum wage?   
« Last Edit: 04:26:37 PM 02/06/17 by Skill Flea »
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Skill Flea

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« Reply #1 on: 04:04:01 PM 02/06/17 »
Feel free to give feedback btw.  ;)
 
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Abysmii

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« Reply #2 on: 01:15:10 AM 02/07/17 »
Cons: The pay off is a little weak and the stakes could have been higher.

Pros: Holy shit this was well written.  The setting, the characterization of the narrator, the tension, all of it was great.  I've only worked in food retail for a bit and not in this bad of a situation, but the manager and punks were immediately recognizable.  I'm really impressed just by how well this was put together.  It was so easy to imagine myself in the freezing cold, shitty car, and dank sidewalk where the narrator is hacking up a lung (btw, nice using your experiences for a character ailment).

Good work dude.  One of your best to date.

Skill Flea

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« Reply #3 on: 03:17:06 PM 02/07/17 »
Cons: The pay off is a little weak and the stakes could have been higher.

Pros: Holy shit this was well written.  The setting, the characterization of the narrator, the tension, all of it was great.  I've only worked in food retail for a bit and not in this bad of a situation, but the manager and punks were immediately recognizable.  I'm really impressed just by how well this was put together.  It was so easy to imagine myself in the freezing cold, shitty car, and dank sidewalk where the narrator is hacking up a lung (btw, nice using your experiences for a character ailment).

Good work dude.  One of your best to date.

Hey dude, thanks for the incredibly kind words.  Thank you for also noticing how I threw my own recent ailments onto this protagonist. I feel like finally getting this story posted got a lot off my chest and will allow me to move forward.
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lavecki

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« Reply #4 on: 07:38:28 AM 02/08/17 »
Great story Flea, Only a couple of nitpicky things that i can see. Your fifth paragraph is a bit confusing as it jumps around a bit. Starts with a few nights ago then jumps to last week. i would suggest just getting rid of the first sentence in that paragraph. its a little frontloady and it isnt necessary.

The only other issue i have is the payoff. As Abysmii said it is a bit weak, but beyond that it is really hard to figure out what is going on. Leaving something ambiguous is fine, but it a bit hard to come up with something as it is now.

Overall great story. Loved the visuals. Keep writing.

Skill Flea

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« Reply #5 on: 04:41:19 PM 02/08/17 »
Thank you Lav, I'm still getting the hang off creating payoffs. Thank you for taking the time to give me your feedback.
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LionOhDay

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« Reply #6 on: 07:59:47 PM 02/08/17 »
I feel the last two paragraphs could be merged into one, " Now it's Wednesday after I sped away from that hell hole." or something of the sort.

Other than that I liked the story.

CrackedMack

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« Reply #7 on: 03:44:37 PM 02/11/17 »
Great voice, good detail, fairly believable in its setup. Our narrator's voice really sells me on how much of a nightmare working at McDonald's during the graveyard shift is, and his frustrations.


I do like the sense of ambiguity in whatever was happening in the restaurant at the end as well. If the thing with him coughing up bile was meant to foreshadow something, it didn't have to be. It's a gross detail that I liked and serves well in a key moment. As for who/what is in the breakroom making everything cold... again, good ambiguity.

Only real criticism is maybe expanding the very end a bit. For as detailed as our narrator's voice has been, the fact that he doesn't impart those messages from his boss leaves a little to be desired. While it doesn't have to be explicit, there's room there for more detail or even an additional little punch of horror, which might further spur our protag to skip town. One or two ideas come to mind, but I am not going to tell you how to write your story; if anything, this is a solid piece of Ashcan horror.
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