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The Maze of Poverty

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42 cents, that was how much I was able to get in the six long hours of begging. As I started walking home, towards the familiar dark alley, I counted and recounted my money. Even for it being christmas time, that was more than I had hoped for. Usually 25 cents was a good day for me. With this money, I might actually be able to have a full meal tonight, or better yet, a new pair of boots. My worn down, hole covered wool socks were practically threads by now and did very little for my feet in the cold, snowy streets. Even a pair of slippers would be heaven . I started dreaming of all the small niceties I could get, and a steaming bowl of soup kept coming back to my mind. Finally, getting to the cardboard box also known as my home, I dug out my ratty paper bag I used as a coin purse. Carefully dropping the coins, as not to rip the bag, it got heavier with each clang. Soon my coins were all sitting in the palm of my hand inside of my paper coin “purse.” Jumping with joy, I quickly started heading towards town. My nerves were tingling with excitement since I had never had enough money for anything, not even to save my own family.

I remember like it was yesterday, Pa holding me close in his signature bear hug. He always told me stories of our massive house and my gorgeous Ma, but that is all they were, stories. We had never had a nice home, and I never knew my mother. You see, months before I was born, my parents went bankrupt, and they lost everything. They had no food, money, house, or job, which is why it was so hard for them when I was born. They couldn’t even afford a blanket for the birth that took place in the same alley I sleep in now. My mother died that day, giving up on all the tiring problems. December 23rd was the day my father and I celebrated both her death day and also my birthday. Pa was the only bright thing in my life that I loved to the moon and back, and even more. He always made the best out of life, even if that meant my birthday cakes looked like stale bread with  snow decorations. He was what kept me warm and happy in our poor life. When he got sick a year or so ago, I felt as if my heart was being cut out of my chest. My father worked at the factories when he was still alive, the only job he could get. He had to go through the bad part of town to get to the factories, which I hated. Even worse, his job was very dangerous and only paid 36 cents an hour. One evening, Pa came home from the factory limping and wincing continuously. He had been impaled by thousands of shrapnel all over his body. The factory had exploded, sending shards of metal, wood, and glass everywhere. Pa had been impaled through the stomach by a short metal beam, that was still inside of him when he stumbled his way home that night. I remember being so scared, and wanting to help him, but he kept saying he was fine and going to be okay. That morning, I woke up early to go into town for a doctor. I searched everywhere for someone who could help, but nobody wanted to listen to a frightened little girl frantically calling for help. Even when I did find people who were willing to come save my father, they wanted money for it that I did not have. After the depressing visit to town, I sprinted home to Pa, who was still asleep. I decided to let him rest before I tried to get him into town. Laying down beside him, I closed my eyes and started dreaming of my father. Hours later, I woke from the heat of the day, and knew it was time to go to the doctor. Looking into my father's face, I started nudging him, trying to get him to wake, but he wouldn’t budge. More forcefully, I tried getting Pa to wake up and still he was silent. By that time, I started getting worried since Pa was usually a very light sleeper. I opened his jacket to see how bad the wound was from the explosion, and that's when I realized how stupid I was for leaving him like that over the night. He was drenched with warm, sticky blood that was all over his chest.I tried finding his heartbeat to make sure he was still with me, but I couldn’t find anything. My vision became blurred and my heart was throbbing. I rested my head on top of Pa’s heart straining to hear the faintest beat, but there was no beat to hear. That was when the tears came. My hair was wet from blood and my clothes were stained red, but I did not care about any of that other than my father. I lay there hugging him for what seemed like hours, weeping into his shoulder. From that day on, I had never gone back to the factory, even if I could get a job there. The memory of my father's death would be too painful for me if I had to do the same thing he did when he was alive. That is why I beg for money and sell flowers in the summertime. The winter was very hard to make money because it was colder so it was hard to beg, and also I don’t have anything I could sell. Christmas was the only thing that kept me alive through the long winter months.

I trudged my way through the fresh fallen snow, finally making it to the main street. The lamp posts were casting a warm glow along the sidewalks and revealing all the small snowflakes falling lightly down to the ground. With pink cheeks, numb ears, and frozen fingers and toes, I made my way towards the town’s Cafe. Clutching my money bag in one hand and the door handle in the other,  I made my way inside. A feeling of warmth spread through my body as I took a seat at one of the plush bar stools. I set my coin pouch on the table to make sure they wouldn’t kick me out like they have before. Minutes after setting the money down, an older waitress came up to me giving me a menu and a curious glance. I looked down at the menu and had a rush of fright come upon me since I could not read the menu, other than about six words that my father taught me. While still trying to make out the meal options, a younger looking waitress came up to me with a sweet, welcoming smile.

“Is there anything I can get for you there? Would you like a nice hot cup of cocoa or tea, perhaps,” the waitress asked in a soft, gentle voice.

“Um, well, do you have,” I started. I paused to think of something, anything to say so I wouldn’t look like a fool, and that's when it came to me. “Do you have soup here, nice and hot soup that I could order, please?”

“Why, of course, darling. Soup it is, nice and hot. It will be ready in a few,” answered the waitress kindly.

Sitting there, waiting for an actual meal, I felt so incredibly happy. In that moment, I was warm, comfortable, and just plain happy. No words could describe how strange, yet amazing, the feeling I was having at the moment. I was imagining warm broth flowing down my throat and rushing into my now empty, about to be full stomach. My life so far has be an adventure with many negative experiences and not so many positive ones. But, today was going to be the turning point, I just knew it. My life was already starting to get better, and this was only the beginning. Poverty is like a maze, it is very hard to figure out, and some will run into dead ends, but there is always a solution, and a way to break free, a way out of the trapping maze of poverty. I had just found the way, and I knew it. I was getting out of this maze. The soup in front of me proved it.




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