“Class Warfare” by Donald McCarthy
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Donald McCarthy takes us to Long Beach, California, where a hidden world lurks beneath the breezy surface.
by Donald McCarthy
Long Beach, California
I left Los Angeles and moved to Long Beach, California, because I thought it’d be less cold—I don’t mean the temperature, I mean the atmosphere, the lack of caring, the judgment, the sheer disdain for those who haven’t made it. I escaped LA, but not the hell that it is to be a homeless woman.
I work. It’s a shitty low-wage fast-food job, but I do work, forty hours a week every week. The place I work for doesn’t know I’m homeless, which is good because I’d be out on my ass if my little secret got out—I guess the drive-through joint doesn’t want some homeless white trash girl ruining their five-star catering vibe.
I used to sleep down at the beach and then shower at one of the shelters in the morning—I had to stay clean to work—but now I sleep at the shelter too. Two cops roughed me up after they told me to get off the beach at three a.m. one night, and I guess it didn’t help matters when I told them to go fuck themselves.
The shelter is shit despite the good intentions. People steal what you have and are ready to fight you at a moment’s notice. Sleeping there is difficult because you’re on edge, ready to defend yourself. The anger in the shelter when the lights go out is palpable. It makes a certain twisted sense. When you’re homeless, when you have nothing, when you know nobody cares, when you know there’s no relief, when you know your life will be humiliation as people snort in disgust at you, why wouldn’t you lash out?
Long Beach is a strange place, one made of two separate universes that touch yet rarely overlap. You come into Long Beach and you see the palm trees, you see the Queen Mary in the distance, a hotel now, if you can believe it. You feel the warm relaxing air hit you—not the smoggy air from LA, which makes you feel like you’re suffocating. Then there’s the beach, of course. The joggers, the bikers, the kids flying kites, and the tourists strolling down the boardwalk without a care in the world yet still looking vaguely pissed.
Then there’s us. You have to look closely to find us—not because we’re hidden, but because you’re so conditioned to look the other way. But we’re there, moving around, trying to exist, trying to ignore that we’re deemed failures. We’re on the sidewalks at night, curled up; we’re in alleys during the day, trying to put together lunch out of scraps.
That’s why I had to beat the rich man, the one who just came out of the club, the one with the smile on his face. It’d been building up inside of me for so long. I couldn’t live knowing people existed here yet were able to deny half of reality.
I did not have a specific target. I just stood across the street from a high-class bar and saw a man who became my target: he came out alone, grinning, too satisfied, too oblivious to the world he lived in.
So I struck. As he walked down the street, I ran across it, not bothering to look at traffic. A few cars braked and honked, but the man never turned to look at the commotion. I don’t think he heard my footsteps—probably had a few too many in the club.
I threw my all of my body into him and he fell onto the pavement, me on top of him, hitting him, my knuckles stinging as they impacted his face, wet with blood. If he shouted out, I didn’t hear him. His eyes looked like glass thanks to whatever he’d drunk or taken. His mouth opened and closed a few times, not able to scream or shout.
My assault probably lasted all of thirty seconds, until the man seemed unconscious. Amazing how I could cause so much harm in such a short time period.
I ran again, reaching the beach, still alive at this time of night with joggers, teens, and a few couples walking hand in hand.
I curled up on a bench. I didn’t feel better. I slept for a bit, until I felt a harsh tap on my shoulder. I looked up and saw a police officer. It’s over, I knew.
But all he said was, “Get the fuck off the beach.”
DONALD McCARTHY is a writer and teacher. He has published works in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. He can be reached at www.donaldmccarthy.com.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: May 16, 2016
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