[Note: I took 2 days a week off during the first round of Climate Anxiety Counseling sessions, so this is an alternate history from a day I’ve already visited.]
I’m worried about the financial situation … I’m embarrassed to say this: I work part time so I can qualify for food stamps so my son and I can eat. I was working full time, but I couldn’t afford food. Daycare was $800 and I was taking home $1600 after taxes, health insurance, everything, but my rent was $600, and then utilities. So I would pay a little rent each month and buy food … I went to college, I wanted to be able to sustain myself.
Can I ask why it’s embarrassing?
I just feel like I should be able to support myself. Everybody struggles, but people just don’t talk about it.
The next day, F and her son O had a quiet conversation.
Three days later, at their parent-teacher conference, O’s teacher asked, “What do you need, F? What would make your and O’s life easier right now?”
“Actually,” F said, “we could use a bodyguard for O.”
The teacher blinked. “A bodyguard? Why a bodyguard?”
They both looked at O’s round, deep-brown cheeks and his long legs stretched out from the school desk.
(In this version of history, when this conversation happened, Michael Brown was still alive. Akai Gurley was still alive. Eric Garner was still alive. Writing about the past as though it were the future makes for strange times.)
“A bodyguard,” the teacher said again.
“And they have to like Percy Jackson,” O said, holding up his copy of The Sea of Monsters.
“Or be willing to give it a try,” F reminded him. “We agreed that would be okay if they haven’t read it yet.”
The following week, when O and his bodyguards had left for school, F’s landlady asked her, “What do you need, F? What would make your and O’s life easier right now?”
“Honestly,” F said, “about a hundred dollars off the rent would be good, if you can afford it.”
“I think so,” F’s landlady said. “I think we can short the bank a hundred a month for a while before they get feisty. What about the toilet—is it working now?”
“Yes,” said F, “it’s working.”
About a year and a half later, O and his friends, one of O’s bodyguards and their friends, O’s teacher and her friends, and F’s landlady and her friends sat together in the house, filling the living room and the kitchen, while the police banged on the door. O’s bodyguard read out loud to O and his friends from The Message, which is the Animorphs book where the human kids meet an Andalite kid for the first time. He did all the voices.
Outside, O’s other bodyguard and a ring of witnesses were watching and recording the police from as close as they could manage. Two of the teachers were sending social media updates, and two more were trying to get in touch with their pro bono lawyer. Everyone had picked up fire extinguishers, food, and toilet paper on their way over, and they were all glad the toilet was working. F’s niece, who had been asleep on the couch, woke up and started wailing as the door began to splinter.