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“Times Are Tough” by Todd Martin | Narrated by Jordan Antle

“Times Are Tough” by Todd Martin | Narrated by Jordan Antle

Sometimes the very real circumstances of life are more horrifying and unsettling than the monsters we dream up, or the things that might be hiding under our beds.  Circumstances such as being homeless, or starving, or losing everything in spite of your talents.  In this tale, a good man named Seth finds himself in this exact position, out of work and with no way to support himself.  Like you might expect, he does the best he can…for a while.  But he eventually resorts to diving in dumpsters for food.  His only hope?  An ambitious plan the city’s mayor has in place, which promises to end the suffering of all of the town’s homeless and downtrodden.

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If you enjoy the story by author Todd Martin, please visit his Short N Scary Stories page for more of it, and be sure to tell him you heard his story on Chilling Tales For Dark Nights!

Times Are Tough
Author: Todd Martin
Narrator: Jordan Antle

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Seth hadn’t always been homeless. As a matter of fact, at one point in time he made a pretty decent living as a human resource manager and lived in a nice house in a nice, safe neighborhood. He had nice furniture, a brand new Ford Mustang that he loved, and pretty much anything that he wanted (within reason). He was always careful with his money so his bank account was never empty (he made sure to have at least $1,000 in it at all times). Of course, all of that changed when the online bill pay company that he worked for went bottom up and he lost his job.

Initially he wasn’t too worried about being unemployed and didn’t think that he would have much trouble finding a new job fairly quickly. He had a Masters in human resources as well as a ton of general clerical experience so he was certain that there were countless companies out there who would hire him in a heartbeat. What he didn’t realize though, was that due to the horrible state of the economy that jobs in his field were few and far between, especially in the area where he lived, where you pretty much had to know someone in upper management in order to get hired on.

He sent out a slew of sparkling resumes and cover letters that bragged about his experience and accomplishments to all the businesses in town that he could think of, but he never heard anything back from a single one of them. He scoured want ads and Internet job sites obsessively, and while he landed a few interviews, he never once got a call back from anyone offering him a position. After several months of trying to get by on his meager unemployment checks he got desperate and started applying for everything and anything as long as it meant that he would have some additional money coming in.  After all, he had a mortgage, car payment and all of his other monthly expenses to consider.

He started getting more interviews, mostly for jobs that only paid minimum wage or a few dollars more, but no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t seem to get hired on for any of them. The main reason seemed to be that the people responsible for hiring others at these companies thought that he was overqualified due to his education and past work experience (which made no sense to him since he had always been told that someone with a college degree had a better chance of finding a job than those who didn’t). He knew that he’d pretty much hit rock bottom when he couldn’t even get hired as a dishwasher at a local Italian restaurant (he couldn’t help but wonder how someone could be overqualified to wash dishes) – and someone who used to work under him at the bill pay company was selected for the position instead.

Once his unemployment benefits eventually ran out and he was still without steady employment, he had to rely on his credit cards in order to survive. It wasn’t long before he maxed each and every one of them out paying bills and buying necessary items such as food, and before he knew it he found himself $26,000 in credit card debt. Up until the phone company disconnected his landline because he could no longer pay his bill, he was bombarded day and night with collection calls from angry creditors wanting their money and making random threats against him. The only good thing about losing his house a few weeks later was the fact that he didn’t have to dread the sight of the mail carrier walking up his sidewalk each and every day to deliver several pounds of overdue bills, shut off notices and letters from various creditors threatening to sue him due.

Being homeless was terrible, of course, and Seth thought about killing himself every day. He spent his days digging through dumpsters looking for half-eaten slices of pizza and cheeseburgers left behind by others. When he wasn’t doing that, he passed the time by begging for spare change from the people who walked past him on their way to work, who always gave him a look of disdain and pity.  Some of them even told him to go get a job, which never failed to make him laugh. To him, a good day consisted of finding a fish sandwich someone had thrown away that hadn’t gone bad or wasn’t covered with flies or other insects. A great day was coming across an unopened can of beans just a few days past its expiration date (though it was difficult to open since he didn’t have a can opener and had to improvise by using a rock or slamming it on the ground as hard as he could).

One cold December morning right before Christmas Seth discovered that his favorite dumpster, which had once stood behind a pretty decent little Mom and Pop’s diner, had been removed. In its place was a nice new one that featured a picture of the town’s mayor on it with the slogan “No One Goes Hungry on My Watch!” under it. He’d heard somewhere that the mayor was doing his best to help the homeless people in town and had many plans in the works, including opening a couple of new homeless shelters and soup kitchens, to make sure that the unfortunate souls who lived on the streets were taken care of until they got back on their feet.

In addition to feeding them and giving them a place to stay so they wouldn’t starve or freeze to death at the end of some dark alley, he was also in the process of creating a job placement center that would provide job training and actual jobs to those down on their luck, free-of-charge. His overall goal was to get rid of all homeless people by the spring, and while it was admirable that he thought he could pull it off by then, he had many naysayers in the community who felt otherwise; Seth was one of them.

Just then Seth’s stomach started growling, so he approached the dumpster in hopes of finding a discarded country fried steak or a couple of picked over baked chicken breasts that had been on the buffet a little too long and were no longer appealing to the paying customers. Without warning, the dumpster popped open when he got closer to it and a pair of steel cables shot out of it, wrapping around his legs. He screamed for help as the tentacle-like cables retracted, pulling him toward the dumpster, but either no one heard him or, more likely, didn’t want to help him because he was just some bum who didn’t mean anything to anyone. He tried to grab onto something as the cables continued to drag him, but he only succeeded in breaking most of his fingernails as he clawed desperately at the asphalt.

It wasn’t until he was inches away from the dumpster that he saw the spinning gears inside of it waiting for him. Just before his legs were pulled inside and painfully crushed by the gears, he realized what the mayor really meant when he said that he was going to get rid of all the homeless people by spring. As the gears mauled his chest and head, he couldn’t help but smile despite the agony, because he knew that all of his problems were finally over – and deep down, he appreciated the mayor’s method of ensuring no one would be homeless and hungry in town during his time in office.

The lid of the dumpster slammed shut and the gears inside continued spinning until there was nothing left of Seth but a couple of pounds of mangled meat and bones. Several hours later the old man that ran the diner sent his mentally handicapped son out to collect the remains from the dumpster. He returned to the kitchen with what was left of Seth in a garbage bag, and his mother seasoned and cooked the remains into a meatloaf that she served to the diner’s hungry patrons later that night.

The mayor’s new dumpsters were placed behind every restaurant, diner and store in town, and before long there weren’t any homeless people to be found anywhere. They mayor was praised for reaching his goal months in advance and as a result he received a special award at a dinner ceremony. During his speech, in which he thanked the community for his award, the townspeople couldn’t help but notice how good the “fresh roast beef” they had been served at the event tasted.

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One comment

  1. This reminds me of that movie Soylent Green.

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