Mason tugged at his mother’s coattail. “Mommy, what’s those words say?” He pointed at a stack of board games on the toy store shelf.
“That’s called “Life,” I used to play it when I was little like you. Would you like a game like that? Maybe for Christmas?” Rita read the labels of the stacks of games.
“Oh, yes, Mommy. Can I have it now?”
“I will talk to Mrs. Walker when she comes by on Tuesday. Maybe someone has donated one. This one is fifteen dollars.” Which is ten dollars more than I have right now.
“How come mommy?”
Rita rubbed Mason’s shoulders. “Cause I have just enough to buy a toy car for that birthday party you are going to at kindergarten tomorrow.” Rita fingered the crisp five dollar bill in her pocket. If I can get a little car for a couple of dollars, I will have enough for bus fare till Friday.
Rita found a small toy car in the bargain bin and happily accepted the four dollars change, a dollar more than she had counted on. The two stepped out of the store and walked along the street toward their apartment.
The sunlight was beginning to dim as she unlocked the door to the small former motel room - now an apartment. “Did you eat your meals today?” Rita put her purse and jacket on the bed.
“Yes, Mommy; breakfast and lunch. And, I have the stuff in my backpack.”
“Good, this is working out well. You brought the bread and crackers.” She rummaged through his backpack and finally tipped it up and dumped it on the bed.
"I got extra crackers."
“Mrs. Walker said that it shouldn’t be much longer before all our paperwork is straightened out. Maybe then we can get real food.” Rita worked part time in a local sewing shop and what she brought home in wages covered rent. Electricity was out of the question.
Mason walked over and snuggled up to his mother. “You think Ms. Walker give me the game?”
Rita fought back tears. “No honey, I will ask her if there have been any donations.” She wiped her eyes. “People take stuff they don’t want to a place where those things are redistributed to people like us.”
“Oh, like when that lady gave you some shirts for me.”
“Uh, huh. Are you sure you are in kindergarten?” Rita managed to laugh. “Let’s get you cleaned up while we still have some light.” Rita pulled her son up and walked to the lavatory. Water was included in her weekly rent.
The two bathed, then played cards by the light of the streetlamp shining in their window. They played very quietly because they could hear the TV of the man living above them. Rita knew that when he shut the TV off it was time for bed, and when his alarm clock went off, it was time to get up. Each sound and move was coordinated.
“I have to speak to the landlord tomorrow.” Rita confided in her son. “We have to be late on the rent again. The sewing shop can’t pay me till Monday.”
“Will we have to move again, Mommy?”
“I don’t know. I hope he will understand.” Rita stoked her son’s hair.
When morning came Rita watched her son get on the school bus, then walked to the office of the landlord.
The next Tuesday, a tall woman dressed in a blue pants suit knocked on the door of Rita’s apartment.
“She ain’t there no more.” A voice yelled across the parking lot.
“Couldn’t pay rent. So, she moved on. No forwarding address.”
The woman took a clipboard out of her briefcase. She balanced the board on the door and used a pencil to mark through a name. “Game of life gets another one.”
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