Think of Them Fondly
Part I: Spare a Thought for Him
By Talyn Gray
*Note* This is a revised version of my old, deleted story, "Tipping Andrew."
Andrew Krista was not a force to be reckoned with. He glowered at all who passed his line of vision, from doctors, to nurses, to the pale, worried looking patient visitors.
Valley Medical stunk. The faint odor of toilet bowl cleaner, urine, and vomit lingered in the air, with some pathetic floral scent trying to hide it all. It was all a pretentious show of faux pleasantry, the flowered wallpaper was yellow and the couches reeked of old farts.
Muttering darkly to himself, Andrew strode over to the front desk with fake flowers and impatiently brushed his greasy hair back with his fingers. It was bloody ten o'clock in the morning and he was usually still sleeping on Saturdays like this. At the time of his sentencing, he'd thought community service in a hospital was better than juvie, but looking at the conditions around him, he now thought juvie might have been the better alternative.
"May I help you…sir?" the woman questioned, the last word an indecisive slur due to his ruffled and unclean appearance. Her purple contacts met his naturally blue eyes and she took in the sight of his worn clothing with a disgusted twitch in her lips. Andrew didn't care much. She was pretty ugly herself with drawn in eyebrows, fake eyelashes, and hair so blonde it was falling off of her head.
"I'm Andrew Krista," he stated. How he hated saying his last name. Krista. Like a girl. Andrew Krista was not a girl. The lady quirked her line of an eyebrow before tapping on the ancient keyboard in front of her.
"Are you a guest here at Valley Medical?" she asked stupidly, not looking up from the monitor. He rolled his eyes.
"I'm here for community service; tell me blondy, do I look like I'm dying to you?" he countered.
"Not all patients here look sick," she replied snippily with narrowed eyes. "We've been expecting you Mr. Krista," she said. "And you'll discuss what you'll be doing with Abigail." Blondy gave his clothing and dirtied appearance another once over and said, "Probably janitorial work."
"She's currently in office 403 on the fourth floor. Go see her and talk about what you'll do," Blondy finished shortly, tossing her faux blonde tresses behind her shoulder as he walked to the elevator.
"I can't do anything with a son stupid as mine," his father said.
The judge frowned and leaned her head into her palm with a puzzled expression. She then turned her gaze to Andrew.
"Mr. Krista, this is your third offense."
"Yeah," he agreed, sighed, then crossed his legs on the table and leaned back in the chair. Already knowing what was coming, Andrew didn't see any need for manners. The judge didn't seem to care, either.
"You don't seem very remorseful."
"Why the hell should I be?" he asked. "I need to fuckin' eat, don't I?"
She frowned, otherwise unfazed, and looked down at the report in front of her. Slipping on a pair of reading glasses that hung on her neck, her eyes skimmed the paper.
"Mr. Krista, you stole three very expensive watches to pawn and now you're being charged more severely than if you had just stolen the food from a store for petty theft."
"Huh, well that's why you're a smart judge and I'm a stupid kid. Like my Dad said, I'm dumb."
"What were you going to use the money for, Mr. Krista?" she questioned, now peering over her glasses and making Andrew think of elementary school. Her short curly hair reminded him of one of his old teachers.
"You already think I was gonna buy drugs, so I'll just confirm it for you. I was going to buy drugs. There. Can I leave now? Is it juvie now?"
The judge stared at him, but it felt more like glaring.
"Luckily for you, the store owner doesn't wish to take this to the fullest extent of the law."
Andrew sat up, almost falling over in the chair.
"1500 hours of community service, which is about six months, at Valley Medical Hospital. The logistics will be sorted out later, but Mr. Krista, if I find you in my courtroom again, you can almost be certain you will land in juvenile hall. Or, if you're 18 by then, jail."
Valley Medical was a large hospital. A large dirty one. Abigail Gomez was a stout woman dressed in an ill fitting suit and was the fourth floor director of everything. She wasn't in her office, and it took Andrew a half hour to find her (not that he really tried), and when he did find her, she lectured him another fifteen minutes for being late (not that he'd really been listening).
"Janitorial work," she said after she looked him up and down. "Depending on your behavior and your…cleanliness, maybe you can graduate to something else. You know the conditions while you're here?"
"Mondays through Fridays from 3:30 to 8, weekends from 10 to 9," he muttered.
Abigail nodded, took the walkie talkie from her waist and said, "Mick, your help is here."
The walkie talkie went to static and then, "Gotcha. I'm in room 433. Send him over."
Andrew stood there for a moment before Abigail turned back to him and glowered. "You heard him, go to room 433!"
"Bitch…" he muttered as he turned around and walked away.
He would have liked to turn around and walk out a window, never having to deal with adults with authority complexes. Instead, he found Mick in room 433, sweeping the floor with spindly fingers around an unconscious patient in bed with a heart monitor. When he was done, he stood taller than Andrew would have thought, with wrinkly skin and white hair, glowering down at him.
"Your name, boy, what's your name," it was a command, not a question.
"Andrew," he replied in a grunt.
"Well, I'm just about finished cleaning here," Mick said in a rusty voice, gesturing towards the spotless white room. Like the others, he gave Andrew a once over and a frown of distaste. "We gotta get you a jumpsuit and a cleaning kit from the office. Then you get to work on rooms 450 to 499. You clean them everyday. When you're done, you call me on the radio, and you can get to work on something else. Got it?"
He wasn't prepared for the slap upside of the head.
"Ow! What the fuck old man?!"
"You will call me sir. And when you talk to me, you will say, 'Yes, sir.' You got that, kid?"
Andrew was sorely tempted to deck the old man, but thought he didn't want to have a murder charge on his record. He glared at "sir" and said nothing.
"You got that, kid?" he said more forcefully, sounding like some army commander.
"Yes, sir," Andrew ground out in a low mumble. When the old man turned his back, he muttered, "Bastard."
"I heard that, you little shit."
Thirty rooms of the same damn sanitizer, thirty rooms of poop, pee, vomit, and all other bodily fluids he didn't even know people could produce; thirty rooms of HELL.
As Andrew approached room 481, he desperately wanted to walk out and never come back. So far, there had been rooms with and without people. Most of the people would lay in stony silence, others babbled non stop about how they got in the fricken place called "Valley Medical." He'd tried to make it clear to one of the first patients that he didn't care they had leukemia, and he just wanted them to shut up, but then Mick lectured him, in a voice so loud it was impossible to ignore.
Goddamn hospitals and their stupid sick people.
Sighing in dismay he walked through the open door of room 481 and took out the broom to begin sweeping, paying no heed to the person lying on the bed.
"Who are you?" came a curious voice from the bed. It was a girl, but he didn't look at her. Instead he stared at the floor which already seemed to be clean.
"Cleaning dude," Andrew replied shortly and took out his broom to sweep. She giggled softly and that caused him to finally look at her. Within the thirty rooms he had been in, not once had he heard or saw any hint or trace of a smile and he'd been happy about it. Anyone feeling happy while he was in such a state of anger was a travesty. "What're you laughing at?" he questioned, annoyed.
"I haven't heard the word 'dude' in awhile," she explained, smiling brightly and not at all affected by his tone of voice. Her skin was fair, like she'd spent too much time indoors. This was only amplified by the fact that her hair was black. She was kind of pretty, but not at all his type. There was a headphone in one of her ears. Deciding he didn't want to look at her anymore, he went back to sweeping. "What's your name? I haven't seen you around before."
"I knew someone named Andrew once," she said. "He was really nice." He raised an eyebrow at the needless tidbit of information and finally found a piece of lint settled on the floor to sweep up. "What's your last name?" the girl asked inquisitively.
"None of your business," he replied, his tone harsher.
"I'm Mallory," she said as if he'd questioned her. It took him off guard for a moment.
"What's your last name?" he found himself asking, resuming his sweeping.
"Good question," Mallory responded, the corners of her peach colored lips upturning. "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."
"I could live without knowing," Andrew told her, taking his bucket to the bathroom and putting the broom on the cart. She said something but he couldn't hear it as he filled the bucket to the brim with hot water. Mick had said to use cold, but hot water was his small way of rebelling against to hospital for making him do their unjust dirty work. He turned off the tap and brought the bucket back into her room; it sloshed and gulped, threatening to fall over the lip.
There was silence, and like a few other patients before her, Mallory watched him as he mopped before breaking the silence again.
"So how did you get this job? Usually Mick does it. It's rare someone around my age cleans," she said. Mallory seemed to have changed her position on the bed. Her head was now where her feet had been, elbows on the covers and her small head propped up by the balls of her palms.
"I shoplifted," he replied absently and slapped the sodden mop on the floor.
"Really?" she asked doubtfully. "So I'm in the presence of a criminal?"
"Criminal is a strong word," Andrew pointed out, raking a hand through his hair and trying to focus on cleaning.
"Wow," Mallory breathed, seeming to believe him. "What's it feel like to do something like that?"
He was perplexed by her question and it more than a little baffled him. "What's it feel like…?" he echoed.
"Yeah, like… does it make your heart pound in your chest and all you can think about is not getting caught? Is it exhilarating? Is it scary? I've never done anything that's gotten me in trouble before." She rolled over on her back so she was looking at him upside down and her head hung from the side of the bed.
"You've never done it?" Andrew asked her. He distantly wondered why he was asking her such a question. He wondered why he was talking or responding to her at all.
Probably because I'm starved for someone normal. She seems normal.
"No. I…hmm…" Mallory contemplated, blowing a piece of stray hair away from her face. "I probably would," she admitted. "But then give it back to them within the next five minutes and apologize."
"Why would you do something stupid like that?" he questioned incredulously, pausing. She laughed at his tone of voice.
"Because I think about all the things that had to happen for the item to be there. Like… let's say I stole… I dunno, cigarettes or something—"
"You can't steal those, they're behind a case," Andrew informed matter-of-factly.
"Still, let's say I stole it, I'd think about things like… the people who had to pick the tobacco, the people who had to wrap them. Or if a machine did it, I'd think about the people who made the machine and all the sweat and labor made into a small pack of cigarettes…. I'm rambling, aren't I? Sorry." Mallory flushed pink and smiled sheepishly.
"Cigarettes, huh? You like to smoke?"
"I've never tried it," she replied with a slight frown. "I want to, though."
"How old are you?"
"Mmm…How old do you think?"
"Liar! I look older than twelve…I think."
Andrew snorted, but said, "Seventeen."
"No, idiot, you are."
"Oh… actually I'm eighteen. How old are you?"
"I'm eighteen, too." He'd turned eighteen three days before his community service started, which had officially saved his ass from a more severe punishment.
The conversation stopped again and he continued mopping the corners of the room as she continued to stare at him. It was starting to annoy him.
"You know, I'm kind of glad you shoplifted," she said, breaking the silence.
"Because I got to talk to you," she replied.
"You hardly know me," he replied unkindly. Mallory just smiled.
"Still," she began. "It's nice to have someone to talk to who's my own age." She glanced at the clock behind him before saying, "Aren't you supposed to go on to the next room now? Mick only spends twenty minutes in here." Startled, Andrew looked up at the clock and realized he had spent forty minutes sweeping and mopping, and he had been mopping the same spot for the past ten minutes.
The faint scent of rotting fish reached Andrew's nostrils as he strolled down the old alley. Red brick had turned brown from tobacco and mildew. He spied three familiar figures hunched over against the wall. It was nighttime, ten o'clock precisely, and he had been released from the hospital just an hour before.
Cleaning all day had been taxing, and the patients had grated on his nerves like no other.
"Andrew!" one of the figures said. "Where the hell have you been?!"
He smiled easily, slipping into his usual façade. "Cleaning bed pans!" His small group of friends howled with laughter as he finally got in vicinity to talk without yelling.
"You want a smoke?" Sam asked, holding out a box and a zippo lighter his brother had probably lifted for him.
"Nah," Andrew replied. "Seeing all those sick people doesn't get me in the mood."
"Suit yourself," he said shrugging and lighting another drag for himself. Andrew had met Sam a few years back in their History class. Mr. Biggs had paired them up for an assignment neither had been intent on doing. He was a sandy blonde with brown eyes, and a large scar on the back of his head from being hit with a bat when he was fourteen.
"So how'd it go?" Adam questioned with a teasing smirk. There was a cigarette fitted between his middle and index finger, a slender tendril of smoke ascending into the cool night air.
Adam was the most extreme in their throng; the classic bad boy that had a history of armed robbery and never getting caught. He was dark, hard, and by any girls' standards, blindingly hot. He was known for having a new girlfriend every other hour; enough time to get what he wanted and run. He had dark tanned skin, dark hair, dark eyes, and a scar running down the side of his left cheek from when his mother had gone crazy and ran after him with a cleaver. She'd later been sent to an institution. Rumor had it his father had thrown Adam out because he'd 'fallen asleep' with his stepmother.
"Anything exciting happen?" Shane queried, closing his eyes and taking in the cancer stick in his hand.
He was the brain of the group and masterminded anything Adam did. Shane was the closest thing to a best friend Andrew'd ever known. With a short stature, reddish brown hair and dark green eyes, he was hardly intimidating. His mother had been addicted to drugs when she'd conceived him, and the addiction hadn't ceased. Weed, heroine, crystal-meth, ecstasy, cocaine, you name it, Shane had it. Sometimes Andrew wondered why Shane wasn't more jacked up than he was.
"Not really," he replied, leaning against the dirty brick wall next to him.
"Any chicks?" Adam asked, only sounding half interested. Mallory immediately came to mind, but he didn't bring her up, it didn't seem right; instead he just shrugged.
And finally, there was him; Andrew Krista with the girly last name. He didn't have deep dark past unless you counted his mother beating him before she overdosed before he turned ten. From then he'd been sent to his father, who never gave a shit about anything.
The night continued on with raucous laughter and lewd remarks he didn't find funny but laughed anyway. Sometime around midnight a slender figure slinked down, spotted Adam and smiled coyly; she apparently knew him. They'd walked off together to the Motel on 6th Avenue and left Shane, Andrew, and Sam to themselves.
The three talked for hours; talked about things guys found funny and girls found stupid. And at last, at four o'clock in the morning, they dispersed to their shelters, and at ten o'clock in the morning, Andrew found himself back at the hospital with bags underneath his eyes, and temper sour.
A/N: Upon realizing how the first part was quite LONG (5 thousand words), I decided to break it up a little bit more.
So this is the revised version of the story, "Tipping Andrew," I wrote a long time ago, uploaded, then accidentally deleted. I was a little annoyed with myself that I deleted it, but it was probably better that way because now I have a chance to revise it! It's been retitled, and I will be uploading new chapters rather quickly since this story is a short story and already mostly planned out in my head.
Anyway, for those who read and remember the original: This story is now much more fleshed out. It used to be in three parts, but now it's going to be 5-7 parts. I hope you all enjoy the changes.