- Noah Milligan
- June 1, 2018
- Short Stories | 192pp
- Trade Paper 978-1-77168-139-1 $14.95
- Ebook 978-1-77168-140-7 $5.99
Five Hundred Poor
From acclaimed author, Noah Milligan, comes a short story collection, Five Hundred Poor. The title comes from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions.”
These are ten stories of those five hundred poor, the jaded, the disillusioned, and the disenfranchised.
There was blood everywhere . It had splattered onto the yellow curtains and the new Berber carpet and dried into the little fibers so that he had to scrub with a wire brush. Skull fragments were lodged into the wall. He had to pry them out with pliers. Later he would have to smooth the wall out with plaster and paint over the cavities. He found bits of skull underneath the bed. He found brain tissue, the texture of beef jerky. These would be collected and then incinerated in a large furnace back at the office. Being the new guy, Max figured this would be his responsibility.
A middle-aged man, director of the local food bank and father of two, had shot himself with a recently purchased 9mm semiautomatic Beretta. He’d left a note. Officially, the cops weren’t allowed to share that sort of information with Apex BioClean, Max’s new employer, a crime-scene/suicide cleaning agency, though his co-workers said they almost always did. This one, it was rumored, had simply said, “I’m sorry—I can’t provide for you any longer. Please contact Michael Thomas, our insurance agent, about collecting life insurance money. If they refuse to pay, hire a lawyer. There’s a two-year exclusion on suicide. Afterwards, they have to pay. I checked.”
He couldn’t imagine finding such a note, then finding his spouse with half her face missing. It made Max not feel so bad about his own circumstances. Such trauma made your problems all of a sudden feel trivial and unimportant. To remind him of this, he pocketed a piece of molar. It was just a shard really, only distinguishable from other bone fragments because of the tiny bit of silver filling that remained.
“Excuse me,” a voice said behind him. “I didn’t realize anyone would still be here.” He looked up. The voice belonged to a teenage girl, probably fifteen or sixteen. She wore glasses much too large for her face and stood behind the half-opened door. He must’ve looked a bit frightening. He wore a hazmat suit, made of nitrile rubber and an aluminized shell.
“I’m sorry.” He really didn’t know what else to say. He was on all fours, brushing commercial-grade disinfectant soap into the stains her father had made.
“No. Don’t be. I’ll get out of your way.”