Free Time

fly

Ida struggled with most everything. Her kids were wild-bad, her paycheck was too small, and now her health was in a downward spiral. She tried not to think about any of it too often. Like her ma, and her ma’s ma before her, she trudged forward in life until the day that she felt would come sooner than later.

Today, she quite literally trudged through the snow and ice up five blocks to her home from the bus stop. Her entire body ached. She cleaned all day, mopping and sweeping, scrubbing and dusting. Day after day, the routine was the same. It was easy. There was no thinking involved, she could check out and go through the motions. It was the physical effort that was slowly draining her of life.

All she could think now was how to put one cold foot in front of the other in order to reach her front door. Dull pain came from her frozen toes in the end of her cheap shoes. Snow had melted through the canvas and soaked into her thin socks. Ida tried to make herself remember to wear an extra pair of socks for the walk home tomorrow.

What does it matter? she argued with herself. You’ll be home soon enough, just like every other day. She chastised herself, Stop complaining. Think about those Johnsons, they have it worse than you on any day of the week. What you need to do is drop off a plate of food for them next time you get a chance.

Ida felt good about this plan. The Johnsons were her neighbors with too many kids and never enough to eat. They weren’t too proud to beg or above filching anything that wasn’t tied down for resale elsewhere. Somehow they managed seven people in a two bedroom apartment. It was more chaotic than cozy.

“Oh, Praise the Lord,” Ida shouted as she stepped onto the broken and cracked front steps of her apartment building. Almost there, she told herself and willed herself inside and up two more flights of stairs, one step at a time. Finally, she made it through the door and collapsed onto a ratty red couch. It was covered with a number of pillows in various sizes and colors, equally as ratty as the couch.

Silence greeted her. The wild-bad kids were out running the streets again. At least they turned off the tv before they left, she thought. She used to try and fool herself when she left them for work by saying, “At least they have that nice group of friends.” Now she knew they were in a gang, not that she liked it. There was little that upset or shocked her these days. What could she do?

A fly buzzed past her from the window and landed on the wall. It watched her with as much curiosity as a fly in a section-8 apartment could muster while navigating around drafts and strips of fly paper. Ida shook out a handful of pills from a bottle in her purse. The fly crept closer to see better, hopeful of something to eat. It flew to her shoulder in joyful anticipation.

“Shoo fly,” Ida said. “I’m tired and hurting. I need to rest.”

Disappointed, the fly buzzed by her face and off to investigate the kitchen again for real food.

Ida grabbed a crocheted blanket from the back of the couch and pulled it over her aching body as she gulped down the handful of pills and prepared to sink into the dark oblivion of sleep that would leave her rested just enough to get up and do it again tomorrow.

No more, no less.

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