A short piece for Three Word Wednesday. The words are advance, pander, shuffle.
Mornings came earlier and night came sooner and people seemed more tired, hungry. Truckers wedged themselves into vinyl seats and made her feel important. She was the go-between, the pander for their addiction to coffee and stale danishes. Old men with crossword puzzles, young men with want ads. The old men wanted to chat, the young men didn’t. Times were tough but people still ate out. They saved money by not tipping. She saved money by not paying her bills. If her phone got turned off, so what? She only heard from creditors and her ex. They sounded the same. She’d pin the phone between her ear and her shoulder and say, yes, I know, and shuffle through her deck of dollar bills – once fifty-two of them, exactly – and think about how quickly they’d be dealt. Hospital, credit card, electric. Babysitter, phone, gas. Rent, groceries. Every month was a test: All of the above, none of the above, or choose A and B? Maybe she’d “borrow” another bag of bread, another giant can of vegetables from the diner. If Emil noticed he never said. Maybe he knew that the deck was stacked against her. Once he advanced her a check when her car wouldn’t start – something with the transmission, the mechanics told her, and then handed her an estimate for seven hundred and some. No car, can’t get to work. No work, no rent money. Pay for the car, rent goes unpaid anyway. Sleep in the car, lose the child. She smiled through it, smiled at work, because if you didn’t smile and pretend then you made even less money. She was an actress paid to perform. A tight-wire act.