Tyler’s stomach growled. He tried to ignore it, but it loudly reminded him that he hadn’t eaten in three days.
“Shut up!” he muttered under his breath, glancing furtively around the café.
He swallowed as he pecked out the last few letters of a desperate plea.
“I’ll do anything!” his ad read.
He posted it to Facebook, to Craigslist, to Twitter, anywhere he could.
“Hey, man,” a voice said.
Tyler looked over the top of his phone to see a pair of legs and an apron. He followed the apron up to see the proprietor standing there with his hands on his hips, the light from the fluorescent lights shining off his head between combed-over hair strands.
“I’m sorry, man, but someone complained. You know the drill. Out you go,” the proprietor said, his tone kind and apologetic but firm.
Tyler sighed and nodded. “Thanks for letting me use your outlet,” he said.
His face burned with embarrassment as he put his phone in his pocket—he’d managed to charge it enough to last himself another day as long as he conserved the energy—put his charger in his tattered, dusty backpack, and shuffled outside.
He stank. He knew he did. How long had it been since his last shower? What was today? He shook his head: without a job, the days all seemed to blend together, a nebulous mess of long days, increasing desperation, and weakening optimism. He tried to think back, but his mind was foggy.
His stomach growled again, loud enough that he was sure that passersby could hear it as he sat in the shadows of the alley, struggling to find something to be cheerful about.
At least it wasn’t raining. That was something.
It had rained a few days before. Yes, three days before. And before that, it was humid…humid for a couple of days…three days?
He sighed yet again. He couldn’t even count on the temperamental weather to help him figure it out. One thing was certain, though: it had been over a month.
He didn’t know how it had come to this. He’d been well-employed, had a great career, made good money. All of a sudden, the stock market crashed, he got laid off, and things got really bad, really fast. In all fairness, he had been living a bit on the edge; his lifestyle wasn’t extravagant, but he did have a lot of debts. Ah, the debts…
He exhausted his savings very quickly. First his emergency fund, and then he started dipping into his retirement. He’d pay himself back, and this certainly counted as a hardship, he reasoned.
Then the calls started coming in, collectors demanding payment. The stock market had hit them, too, and people were defaulting right and left. Tyler didn’t want to be one of those, but…
The furniture went first. It had to. He had to keep a roof over his head and transportation. The furniture was nice—very nice—but he could do without it. The repo men came and took it away.
His car was next. He cried when they took it, but he didn’t fight them. He’d been dreaming of that car his whole life. He had it…and then it was gone. He could still feel the key as it fell from his hand into the repo man’s expectant palm.
I’ll get it back…someday…Until then…I guess I’m walking.
Then came the house. Without reliable transportation, Tyler couldn’t find work even close to sufficient to make the payments. He could still remember it like it was yesterday, staring numbly at the door—his door…well…not anymore—with a huge FORECLOSED sign taped crudely over it.
That was…Tyler couldn’t remember how long ago. He squinted, trying to clear the fog in his mind.
His phone dinged. It was the only thing that had survived the repo men—thank goodness he’d paid it off!—and now it was his last hope for finding work.
It was a response to his Craigslist ad. Who knew what the person on the other end wanted with him?
Tyler swallowed hard as he typed his response with thumbs cracking from dehydration.