The Nugget Perspective | Teen Ink

The Nugget Perspective

July 21, 2018
By H-J-ONeill BRONZE, Oakland, California
H-J-ONeill BRONZE, Oakland, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“Hello, Cameron are you still there?” the voice on the phone asked. “Cameron?”

I hung up. I stuffed my laptop and notebook into my satchel and walked out of my cubicle, past the posters on the wall that headlined the useless stories of the publisher I worked for, Juicy Gossip: All the News You Need! I stormed outside and started yelling, passersby skittishly edging to the sides of the sidewalk and looking back over their shoulders. After my spontaneous session of primal scream therapy, I got a grip on myself and, seeking the only comfort available to me, I sulked my way over to the “Nugget Shack,” the only place in the city that sold organic, farm raised, antibiotic, RBST and arsenic free, humanely treated and killed, plant-, seed-, and worm-fed chickens. I had been an editor at Juicy Gossip for a year. I transformed garbage stories into legible garbage stories. Today, I’d edited a story about some celebrity newly married to some other celebrity, and she didn’t wear her wedding ring one day. I couldn’t care less. But, because it was my job, I edited the damn thing anyway, and now my name will be printed on a story on a gossip website. Exactly the reputation I was hoping to achieve when I dreamed of winning a Pulitzer back in grad school.

For the past few months, after my shift at work had ended, I’d been working on my own, writing an Op-Ed about the positive effect of urban gardening on food insecure neighborhoods. After going back and forth with the chief editor of a major paper, I finally sent in the final draft. Today, I was abruptly told my article was not right for their paper, and they couldn't print it. “Sorry,” they said. That article was my ticket out of this job. My ticket to real papers and real journalism about subjects that actually matter. So, lost in doubt and self pity, I stepped out onto the street with nuggets in hand, closed my eyes and bit into one. It crunched as juicy flavor flooded my mouth, and I sighed with relief. At least there were some constants in this crazy world.

“Hey, you, hand ‘em over!” I opened my eyes to find a gun in my face.

“What!?” I asked, through a mouthful of chicken nugget.

“You heard me, give me the nuggets!” The man edged from side to side and quickly glanced down the street. He tilted the gun to the side and took a step closer.

“You want my nuggets?” I asked mystified. He wants my nuggets.

No. Not today. You picked the wrong day to mess with me.

My hands shook, and my breathing and heartbeat sped up with the adrenaline rush. Anger surged through me. In a blur, the gun dropped through the air as I disarmed the man, still holding the chicken nugget bag in my right hand. The gun hit the ground and shattered. It was a gun-shaped cigarette lighter.

For a second we both just looked at it, shocked. I looked up at the man. Without warning, a laugh. I couldn’t stop laughing, the adrenaline adding a tone of hysteria to my voice. I laughed so hard, I doubled over.

“Why didn’t you ask for my satchel?” I said. “Or my phone? Chicken nuggets?”

“I’m so sorry; I’m so sorry,” he said, tears welling, his voice trailing off to a hoarse whisper. “So sorry. Look man, I just wanted some food. Times been rough, lost my job last month. I just really need some food. I didn’t want to take all your stuff, man.”

The man sat down on the curb and covered his face. His beard stuck out in tufts beneath his hands.

For a moment I wasn't sure how to respond. “What's your name?” I asked. I eased myself down beside him.

For a moment the man didn’t respond. Then he cleared his throat and said “Darrell. The name’s Darrell.”

“C’mon Darrell, let me buy you some nuggets,” I said, standing up.

“What?” he quietly asked, looking up with a furrowed brow. He chuckled, and cautiously got up from the curb. “Thank you, man.”

We walked back to the Nugget Shack. Darrel glanced at me as we waited at the window. “What’s going on with you? You disarmed me over chicken nuggets? What if that was a real gun? That could have cost you your life.”

“It’s been a rough day.”

We sat in a booth facing each other. Darrell closed his eyes as he bit into a nugget drenched in barbecue sauce. He nodded his head in agreement with the nugget. “These are really good!”

I nodded, my mouth too full to reply.  I told him about the Op-Ed, and my primal scream therapy.

He chuckled and slapped his thigh, “I'm sorry man, that’s just funny.” He laughed again until he wheezed. He told me about getting laid off from the machine shop and losing his apartment. He said he was living in the Boulevard Way tent city, a place I pass every day on my way to work.  Then we talked about music and learned that we both liked 70’s rock, and were both in cover bands when we were in school. I learned that he played the drums.

    I checked my watch. “Sorry, man, I have to get back to work.” I rose, slinging my satchel onto my shoulder. “I don’t know if you’d be interested, but here’s a card for this urban garden. They’ll give you food in exchange for work.”

Darrell took the card and looked it over. “Yeah, man. That’d be great!” He stood up, his chair scraping against the concrete.  “Hey, maybe sometime you could come and write about where I live. I’d be happy to introduce you to my neighbors.” He chuckled slightly.

I smiled. “That would be great. Let’s do that for sure.”

    We exchanged phone numbers. I told him I would call him after work.

We shook hands and I walked back to my cubicle. I had a lousy job, but at least I had a job. I had an apartment, and food when I wanted it. I would be fine. If I couldn’t find a publisher for the Urban Gardening Op-Ed, there would always be more stories. Meeting Darrell had reminded me that a journalist doesn’t have to look far to find an important one.

The author's comments:

I was inspired to write this piece because of the homelessness and housing problems in Oakland and in Berkeley. I hope this piece will help people empathise with the homeless and have a more humanitarian view towards them, and will also encourage readers to take action and seek ways to help people in their communities.

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This article has 4 comments.

on Oct. 1 2018 at 2:02 pm
Dani_Higareda PLATINUM, Hanahan, South Carolina
23 articles 0 photos 108 comments

Favorite Quote:
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
- Winnie the Pooh

I love all the action in the story. The characters' dialogue is very well-written. Awesome job!

on Sep. 28 2018 at 11:12 am
Layne_Elizabeth, Indianapolis, Indiana
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
“When someone says no, it doesn’t mean ‘convince me’.” - Grandma

I saw the word ‘nugget’ and clicked on this story right away. Yay for chicken.

annak21 SILVER said...
on Sep. 3 2018 at 5:09 pm
annak21 SILVER, Issaquah, Washington
6 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light" –Dylan Thomas

Your style of writing is very nice to read, and I like the characters you were able to establish. The topic was also very timely and needed to be heard; good job!

helboing said...
on Aug. 28 2018 at 11:13 am
helboing, Oakland, California
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Interesting and timely topic Harry. Nice attention to details that make the story visceral and come to life for the reader. Your use of language is engaging and descriptive. All the right ingredients to hold your audience's attention. Thank you for this.

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