This story is by Victoria Price and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Adam crouched closer to the little fire that burned in the trash can, trying to keep warm. His cap did little to warm his frozen ears. His toes peeped out of his worn out boots. He pulled his thin coat tighter and wrapped his arms around himself as he gazed deep into the flames.
Lost in thought and dazed with hunger he didn’t realize he had company
“Here you can have these gloves.”
He looked up and saw another figure crouching next to the fire. The boy seemed to be about his own age. He was extending a pair of leather gloves.
“They are too small for me” The boy explained when he hesitated.
Adam took the gloves and pulled them with difficulty over his numb fingers. They fit like they were made for him. His eyes tried to focus on the embroidered monogram as they blurred with tears. He brushed a gloved hand over his them and sniffed.
“Yo! It ain’t that bad man! Look! You hungry? I got some food here. We can share.”
The other boy extended the plastic container from a near by restaurant.
Adam’s eyes teared further and he shook his head and turned away.
“I’m Derric. What’s your name man?”
He thought about not responding. He hoped the boy would go away.
“Adam” he said when he couldn’t take the boy’s curious gaze boring into him any longer.
“Look man I don’t know what your deal is, but I ‘m only trying to help.”
“No one can help me.” His voice was no more than a whisper but harsh nevertheless,
“Dude. I never seen my Ma or Pa and I never had no brothers or sisters neither. I grew up in a foster home with a drunk who beat me if I asked for food until I ran away on my eighteenth birthday. I found work at a catering gig, bussing tables for the rich folks. I was making an honest living and saving up for community college. I wrote songs. I was happy. Then a rich dude said I stole from him, though I was innocent. I spent two years in prison. Got out last month. Those gloves belonged to him. So whatever it is that’s buggin’ you, you can’t top that.”
Adam reflected on Derric’s story for a few minutes.
“I hate him.” He finally said.
“This boy I knew once. He … he took everything from me and left me in this state. To rot”
Derric inched closer. “How’d he do that?”
“Rich, spoiled, entitled … he took what he wanted without caring who he hurt. He thought most people beneath him. He thought only of himself. His parent’s indulged his every whim. Private schools, designer clothes, chauffeurs, yacht, private jet… he had it all.”
“People actually got all the things? I thought that was just stories.”
“No, this was all real, he had it all.”
“Then what ‘appended?”
“He indulged in all manner of vices. Alcohol, drugs, sex nothing was denied him. No one stopped him though he was only a teen.”
“Where his folks at when he was doing all that?”
“His mother left his father and him when he was ten. His father was too busy making money and left him to the stepmother. His stepmother spent all her time in a spa.”
“Did he have no one then?”
“The servants hated him. He was surrounded by people who wanted to party with him and have a good time. He was never alone but was always lonely.”
“Sounds bad, worse than what I had. So go on what did he do?”
“He killed someone.”
Deric’s mouth hung open as he tried to ingest that information.
“He was drunk and he drove back from one his parties and crashed into a tree. He should have gone to prison by rights, but his father got him expensive lawyers and they talked the judge into giving him probation and a stint in an expensive health spa to cure his addiction.”
“What happened to him?”
“His father cut his allowance and admitted him into the rehab facility. His friends stopped calling. He was lonelier than ever. Until one day he could take it no more and he ran away. He was eighteen and the cops had a warrant out for breaking the terms of his sentence. His father denied him. He couldn’t go home.”
“That was the end of the rich spoiled kid. He disappeared and no one heard from him again.”
The flames crackled merrily in the cold silence after Adam’s voice trailed away and he gazed into the fire again.
“When did you meet him?” Derric’s voice cut into his reverie.
“You said he ruined your life. When did you meet him?”
“A long time ago. I was too stupid to see what he was until it was too late. He took me down with him.”
“If you hung out with rich folks what you doing in the streets in the middle of winter?”
“I have no place to go. “
“What happened to your folks?”
“Ha! Folks, they don’t care about me, only about themselves. Pretending I don’t exist is easier than admitting that they failed with me. I am dead to them.”
“Come. Let’s go.”
Adam stared at Derric bewildered.
“I got a place we can go. It’s not much but at least it’s warm.”
Adam didn’t move.
“Come on. What you waiting for. My hands are gone numb already.”
“I can’t go with you.”
Derric stared at him baffled.
“I can’t accept help from you?” Adam’s voice was flat.
“I don’t understand. You don’t trust me… is that it?”
“No. No. I don’t deserve your help.”
“You ain’t making much sense.’
“You said you were arrested for stealing from a rich man … that rich man was me. These gloves that you gave me are mine. I sent you to prison. Don’t you get it? The rich boy in the story was me. He died and I am left a shell of what I was until I die too.”
Derric stood up slowly until he towered over Adam. His eyes glowed in the dark with some unknown emotion.
“You stupid fucking idiot! It’s because of you that I have a record and can’t get no decent job! You screwed up my life as if it wasn’t already screwed up.” He spat.
Adam stared into the fire.
Derric reached down and dragged him to his feet. Adam chocked in his strong grip
“Answer me! What did I ever do to you? You and your high priced lawyers thought it funny to throw me in prison for a crime I didn’t commit did you? You planted those gloves on me and framed me. Why? He shook Adam as if he were a rag doll until his teeth chattered, before he let go and spat again.
Adam fell on all fours and scrambled slowly to his feet.
He looked up at his assailant.
“I did it because I was jealous of you.”
“What? You didn’t know me.”
“No. but she did. Sara. My girlfriend. “
“Sara, I remember her. I bussed tables at her birthday party. She was kind. She asked about my music”
“She kept talking about you until I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought I would get rid of you. So I hired you for my party and …”
“You framed me. You planted that watch and your gloves in my jacket”
Derric glowered. “You ruined my life because you were jealous?”
“I told you I was a rotten human being. Go on! Hit me! I know you want to. Kill me! I wish I were dead I just don’t have the guts to take my own life.”
“Well I’m not doing’ you no favors.” Derric backed away. “Tell me one thing…what happened to Sara?”
“She died in the accident. I killed her.”
The night rang with Derric’s laughter as he turned and walked away.
Adam watched as his tall form melted into the dark street corner
All that was left of the encounter were the bruises on his knees and the gloves his hands. The ‘A’ embroidered in silver glowed in the dark.
The premise and structure of the tale, I think, are the best aspects of the piece.
However, glaring gaps in character and unrealistic details made the overall experience a miss, for this reader.
Example, Derric was working for and around rich people. This could have even included catered, private parties. Given the familiarity between Derric and Adam (and Sara), Derric’s reaction in one line of dialogue contradicts his character:
“People actually got all the things? I thought that was just stories.” Derric shouldn’t be surprised at what rich people have, especially considering he worked closely enough with them to make a boyfriend jealous and get framed for a crime.
Also, Derric’s no fool, yet he suddenly says really dumb things like that, and then, his mouth hangs open as Adam admits to killing someone. Derric has lived a hard-knock life, someone to whom even a story of murder wouldn’t elicit a jaw-drop; more likely is a quiet reserve, perhaps with a knowing look in his eyes.
By the way, small theft such as the one depicted doesn’t typically result in a two-year Prison sentence! Prison is for Felonies such as fraud, murder, etc. At most, the kid would have done 30 days in county jail. A far different experience of being behind bars, I can tell you!
As well, Derric speaks of having a “record” and can’t get a job because of this one theft incident… something says the writer doesn’t realize how common “records” are in the workforce of our great nation. More important, one theft does not ruin a person’s record. It would be difficult to get a job, but would likely not prevent being hired as a busboy nearly anywhere. To sum, the lack of a comprehensible character in Derric fails the potential for this story.
It’s a good idea, showing good imagination and moral intention from the writer; better craft is needed to make it a refined product. Some grammatical errors throughout also take away from a smooth reading experience.