52 Week Short Story Challenge #4 – Short Term Plans


This week’s writing prompt comes from @TheWriteList, who put forth the headline from this Guardian news article as a prompt:

“Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken.”

Not one of my best pieces of fiction, which is why it’s so short, but I did it. Sorry that it’s a little depressing.


Short Term Plans

People kept patting Lucy Bale on the back and offering her fist bumps or high-fives as she walked through the station toward the interrogation room and she forced a smile on her face as she returned them. She hated the Boys Club feel of it all and wanted more than anything to just get her confession and go home to help her son with his history fair project.

“Nice one, Luce,” a beefy detective with red hair said, nodding for her to follow him. Lucy did so with relief, grateful for the way he walked close to the side that faced the desks and acted as a buffer for her. “You off soon?”

“Yes, thank god. If I had to spend the night here I’d probably lose my mind.” They went down the stairs to the ground flo or where there were two interrogation rooms behind doors with tiny reinforced windows. Jenny, Texas – population 5500 – didn’t have the money for two-way glass or covered parking but in a state that loved guns and knew how to hide them, no one wanted to take the chance that a window could be shot out.

“They’re just trying to be supportive,” Hank Connor said. “It’s the only way they know how to do it. It’s still a little weird having a woman in the house.”

“Thanks,” Lucy said. “I’m sure it also doesn’t help that I’m a city slicker.” This made Hank laugh, and he shook his head.

“Talking like that makes you sound like one for sure. Don’t worry, they’ll get used to you. Catching this one is gonna win you a lot of brownie points with the Captain.” They had reached the interrogation rooms and Hank looked at Lucy. “You want me to sit in on this one?”

“No thanks. This is pretty open and shut. All I have to do is get her to sign her confession, type it up, and put it on the boss’ desk. Then I can go home and pretend to care about the 1930s.” She smiled at Hank, a genuine one this time. “You up for burgers at Duke’s tomorrow?”

“Hell yeah,” Hank said, his face lighting up. “And since you made the collar of the year, it’ll be my treat. Whatever you want.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.” She opened the door to the interrogation room and went inside, leaving Hank in the hallway alone. Lucy looked at the young woman in the hooded sweatshirt and jeans sitting at the table in the center of the room and smiled. “Hello, Patty. I’m Detective Bale.”

“Whatever.” The girl, who couldn’t have possibly been more than nineteen or twenty years old, folded her arms across her chest. The sullen set of her jaw told Lucy that this was either going to be very easy or extremely difficult.

“You were caught stealing several DVD players and cameras from the electronics department at Wal-Mart over the last two months. I don’t know how you managed to do it with all their security but we’ve been keeping an eye out for you.” She shook her head. “Needless to say, you’ve been fired from Wal-Mart and Dan Davenport is pressing charges.” Patty was silent and Lucy sat down across from her, trying to seem a little friendlier. “Why don’t you tell me why you did it.”

“I took them so I could sell them,” Patty said. “I needed money for food and no one wanted to let me borrow any, so I stole the stuff.”

“Six times?” Lucy looked in the folder she had brought along with her. “This says that when you were arrested you had a Kate Spade bag and an iPhone in addition to the DVD players in your backseat. And if I’m not mistaken,” she said looking under the table, “aren’t those Uggs?”

“Yeah,” Patty said defiantly. “It’s cold outside.”

“If you have the money to buy a Kate Spade bag and limited edition Uggs, you shouldn’t have to shoplift to put food on the table. Didn’t anyone teach you how to manage money?”

“Oh please,” Patty said, her eyes darting away from Lucy’s. “Poor people don’t plan long term. We’ll just get our hearts broken.”

“Would you care to explain that?”

“Look, you get a regular paycheck right? You know about how much you get.” Still looking away from Lucy, she picked at the edge of her hoodie’s sleeve. “You pay your bills and you maybe get to save something. Go on a vacation. Buy a house. I don’t get to do any of that.”

“Plenty of people make it on minimum wage,” Lucy said. “Especially in Jenny. Maybe not in Dallas, but it’s different here. You don’t need a lot to get by, and you definitely don’t need an expensive bag to impress anyone.”

“Maybe not but it makes me feel better to have a couple of nice things. And I’d save my money to go live in Dallas if I could afford it but not on what Wal-Mart’s paying me. I’m stuck here in this miserable, shitty town and I’m gonna be stuck here ‘til I die using every last dime from my paycheck to pay my bills with nothing left over for food. What’s wrong with spending my babysitting money on something for me?” She sounded on the verge of tears and Lucy suddenly felt sorry for her.

“Patty, listen to me,” she said, her voice turning from stern to kind, “I can help you. Write down your confession here, then write a letter to Mr. Davenport apologizing for what you did. You’ll probably get off with some community service and I can help you figure something out. Maybe get you on food stamps until you can get a better job.” She slid the legal pad across the table to Patty.

“Food stamps,” Patty said, staring at the legal pad. She picked up the pen and pulled the pad over to her. Lucy stood up and went over to the door, then leaned out into the hall. It was empty and she decided she could just take Patty to the holding cell by herself. She could sense she’d made a connection with the girl and the more time she could spend with her the better it would be. She wasn’t about to let this girl fall through the cracks again.

Behind her, she heard the pen slap down on the paper and Lucy turned with a smile. Patty’s arms were folded tightly across her chest and she pulled the pad across the desk toward her. When she saw the two words written on it, her smile disappeared.


“Fine,” Lucy said. She stormed out into the hall and slammed the interrogation room door. That’s the last time I bother trying to help anyone, she thought as she went back up to her desk. She picked up her bag and threw it over her shoulder, then went to the front desk where a couple of uniformed officers were having coffee and chatting. “Take the idiot in the interrogation room back to the holding cell. Let her spend the night there.”

“Yes, ma’am. What do you want us to do with her in the morning?”

“I don’t care,” Lucy said, taking out her car keys. “And I don’t think she does either, to be honest. I’ve got to go home, I’ve got a bunch of posterboard to buy.” She went out into the evening, Patty’s words still on her mind. All of a sudden she wanted to hug her son. Tightly.

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