Writing Exercise

Christine over at ABenchPress recently posted a writing exercise. This one is going to be a few parts with the goal of having a short story at the end. Entries are to be 200-400 words long. This first part is to introduce the main character and establish sympathy for him/her. Check out the site for additional criteria. Here is my entry. The nice thing about this one is that I’ll actually finish the story.  Let me know what you think so far.  This one was a lot of fun.
Part 1

Jim was having a crummy day. It was only the Tenth, but his bank account was already empty, his gas tank was empty, and his refrigerator was empty. Lucky for him, the couch cushions weren’t quite empty. Equally lucky for him, it was Friday night and also Nickel Draught Night at Stinky’s, the local pub.

Leaving his apartment, Jim checked to make sure the lights were on (he never left without making sure the lights were on), locked the door, and walked down the dank, poorly lit staircase onto the cold, lonely streets of the city. He started on the block and a half journey to the bar, the change in his pocket playing the poor man’s chorus as he walked. He wasn’t sure what he would do when those spare coins were gone, he had only one couch after all, but he would think of something. He always did.

Jim passed a dark alley, not a block from his building, and noticed an old woman warming her hands at a small trash fire. Lacking a date for the night, Jim doubled back to the woman, hoping to offer the woman a few of his nickels and take her with him. At least that way she would be out of the cold for a few hours and be able to forget her problems for a spell.

“Hi there,” said Jim as he approached. “Care to join me for a nip?”

The woman looked up from the fire and smiled. She had the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen and not a tooth in her mouth. “I am unable to move from this spot, I’m afraid. I’m only here to observe.”

“Really?” said Jim. “I’m headed to Stinky’s, just down the street there. It’s not that far. Why don’t you get out of the cold for awhile? It’s supposed to get below zero tonight.”

The old woman cocked her head to the side and then leaned in close to Jim. She smelled nothing at all like someone who lived on the streets. “Keep your neck about you tonight Jim,” she said. “Things are gonna get ugly.”