[Prompt: A picture of frog and toad; toad has brought a bowl of something in the front door of frog’s house; WHWN 2007-6-25]
“I brought popcorn!” Alyson poked her head down into the half basement and ducked under a pipe and stepped over a chunk of concrete laying in the sand and dirt.
“Oh, man, I haven’t had popcorn since I was a little girl.” said Raven, stepping out bent-over from behind a bunch of pipes that made a turn upward through the floor of the building above them. “I haven’t exactly been anywhere where I could get it for a bit. I mean, I suppose I could have gotten some at the theater when I snuck in for a movie, but I wasn’t really thinking about that. I just wanted to get out of the rain.”
“Oh, geez, rain. Yeah. I didn’t even think about you being in the rain and all that. I mean…” Alyson trailed off, looking at Raven a bit pityingly.
“Stop that. Don’t look at me that way. Everyone does that when they find out I’ve been homeless.”
“It’s not that bad. Really. I just … y’know. I sneak into movies sometimes, and I usually have a dry place to crash if I look hard enough. It’s just that sometimes you get caught out in it, y’know?”
“Sorry.” She tried to stifle the look on her face and took a handful of popcorn from the container and then offered it to Raven. “I … I’ve just come so close to being there. So many times. I know what it’s like to try and make ends meet in this city. It’s almost impossible sometimes. Jobs suck, they don’t pay enough, you have to work yourself to death to even have a roof over your head. The cheap places to live are weird and smelly and landlords do all sorts of crazy things.”
“Yeah. My brother got kicked out of her apartment for babysitting a kid there once. The landlord just flipped, said it wasn’t zoned for family housing, that if he was going to have a kid in there, she’d have to move elsewhere.” Raven took a handful of popcorn and ate it with a little more vigor than even she expected. “This is so good!”
“That’s so not fair. You try to get ahead a little, and you just get stepped on.”
“Yeah. I just gave up. I left the place I was sharing with my brother a couple years ago. It was tiny, the roof leaked, there were bugs everywhere, and I had to sneak in anyway since he wasn’t supposed to share it. He was working as a mechanic part time, but he got laid off. They didn’t keep him around long enough to get unemployment either. Just one day, he didn’t have a job. Couldn’t pay rent, so the housing assistance people sent him there to keep him off the streets. I didn’t get so lucky, since I hadn’t had a job so recently. They just stop wanting to help you after a while. After that, you have to go find the nuns on 16th to get a dry bed.”
“Wow. I don’t know what to say.” Alyson ate more popcorn.
“Whatever. I don’t really want their help. I’ve got this basement right now. And popcorn!” She grabbed another handful, and deftly caught what she knocked out the side of the container.