Sam glanced through the door toward her boyfriend. He was watching television, which was all that he seemed to do anymore. He had been laid off from his job back in June—"Over a month ago now," she realized—and had been on her couch since. She hadn't seen the news in a week because he was so engrossed in his inane cartoons and sports recaps from the past three decades. His harsh laughter grated her ears, and she set her teeth. A pile of bills, pay stubs and receipts was laid out in front of her, and she grasped a calculator in her left hand. She nibbled the tip of her pen and went back to work, tuning him out only with the greatest of difficulty.

She's had a little trouble making ends meet before she started dating him, but then things had gotten better. She had gotten a promotion, and he'd had good wages—long, late hours, but good wages. They'd been able to make things work.

Now he was like so much dead weight. He even drank the last of her vodka, closing the door on that final and desperate rout of escape. He wouldn't listen when she asked him to get a job—except to make empty promises, and even then only when he wanted to fuck. Sam didn't know what he would do when the cable got cut.

More important than her deadbeat boyfriend, however, were the numbers. They would not work. She could find no way to pay the bills, even if they went without food and electricity for a month. After futilely tapping in figures for another half an hour she gave up and hurled her pen across the room—through the living room door.

"Hey!" the oaf yelled, starting up from the couch. "What're you doing! You could have put my eye out you dumb bitch!" He stormed into the kitchen as he spoke, glaring sullenly at her.

"'S the last thing we need," she replied, rolling her eyes as she turned to gather the stack of papers. "We can't pay the fucking bills as it is. If you don't get off your dub ass for once and get a fucking job—"

She didn't have time to flinch away as he launched himself at her, raising a fist. He slammed her against the door, holding her fast to the screen with a hand to her neck, until the flimsy door broke beneath their weight. Both crashed down onto the porch, and Sam flailed against him, desperately trying to catch her breath as she clawed out from underneath him. She flipped over onto her butt and, ignoring the splinters ripping into her skin, began to scramble back into the house. Before she could make it her boyfriend jumped to his feet and grabber her by the hair and yanked her to her own feet. She howled as her scalp tore, but her protest shifted to deep, pathetic moans as he began to pummel her. Finally, just as she ripped her hair from his grasp, he socked her on the jaw—and sent her crashing down the stairs.

The last thing she heard before her mind shut down completely was his rough, jeering guffaw.