Olivia is 12, Vivienne is 11. Jasper is 3. Walt Jones is 35
Soundtrack: Cool Kids by Echosmith
narrated by Olivia
I was at home when I heard the gentle tapping at the door. Dad was at work, a rare opportunity to tell jokes at the comedy club had came available. When I looked outside, there wasn't anyone there. I cracked the door open, which was stupid. We could have been killed. One does not open the door at night on the side of town that we live in.
It was empty except for a piece of paper taped to the door. I could read, but in that moment, I wished that I couldn't. It was an eviction notice. I shut the door and collaspe on the floor. I leave the note there so that dad wouldn't know that I know.
Things had been hard lately. Dad had lost his job at the grocery store and with the economy going down, no one was visiting the comedy club. Instead saving simoleans for practical things like food. Something that we had to do without a few times. He lies about those days and says that we can pretend that we're camping and that all we have is peanut butter and rice in the wilderness. Jasper and Vivienne love this game, but I know it's not a game.
He lies. He lies to Vivienne and I about not being hungry when he watches us eat deli meat sandwiches, but I'm not blind. He says that he eats at work and that he's full. He lies about work too. He tells them that he works as a spy and each day is a different task. I know that he isn't working. I saw him, or better yet, I didn't see him. I skipped school and went to the grocery store where he worked, but he wasn't there. They said that he didn't work there anymore. But I nod and pretend, because they don't need to know. And sometimes, sometimes I think that the lies help dad more than they help us.
Aunt Susie and Uncle Anthony helped us pack up the few things we hadn't pawned or tried to sell. We were going to stay with them for a while. Dad told us that we were moving to a better house but our house wasn't ready for us, so we needed to stay with our aunt and uncle for a while. I smile and cheer along with Vivienne, but I know the truth.
We managed to squeeze our rusty bunk bed, Jasper's broken crib and dad's bed into one of the bedrooms. It was late so Vivenne and Jasper were asleep, but I couldn't sleep.
I crept downstairs and could hear them talking in the kitchen. Dad looked so tired and so helpless. Almost how Jasper looks when he's been crying for a long time.
He said that he had visited the government building in the metro
and met with the financial director for help.
She listened to him and gave him some advice,
but she mostly made phone calls and set up appointments for dad.
He had to visit the career center and meet with a counselor to try and find another job.
There wasn't a lot of jobs, especially not many that would support three kids.
They told him to try again in another week, but of course bills don't wait.
Neither do hungry bellies.
He had to wait in a long line to apply for government aid.
Apparently we were approved, but the aid wouldn't start until the next cycle
which was three simweeks away.
They said that there might be some help at the local church or food bank.
Dad didn't seem to think that we would get much help fast.
I'm too young to get a job, but I have one.
I was hanging out at the local florist shop and the hood council president walked in. I couldn't help but stare. She looked like one of the cool kids at school. The ones that always fit in and walk right pass me. They don't notice me or know that I snuck in the school early so that I could wash up in the bathroom because we don't have water at home. They don't know that my only meal is the school lunch and that I sometimes keep an apple to take home for Jasper when he gets hungry at night.
But she wasn't like the cool kids. She noticed me. She came over and talked to me a little bit about flowers and perfumes and let me try on some of the nice ones. I didn't smell like dirt anymore, but like pretty lillies and roses. She said that they needed help at the shop and if I would be interested in working there.
The shop owner, Mr Sazo, said that I was too young to hire. However he could let me intern at the shop to learn how to arrange flowers and to help out a bit.
In exchange he gives me simoleans everyday which he stresses isn't a paycheck, but a thank you gift. I'm not stupid, I know it's illegal to hire a kid my age, but it's not illegal to hire me as an intern.
I pretend that I didn't hear their conversation about me and how I look like I need help and a good meal. I'm just happy to be able to bring home a few simoleans that might help us get back on our feet again.
Dad says it helps, especially since he can only pick up odds and ends at different jobs. He has stopped talking about his work and what he does each day. He just looks more and more tired.
Then one day he didn't come home.