Yoharie: What It Takes to Fly (part three)
Eleven days. Eleven days and you’re dead. Her rotten little sister had texted her this. True, she had one thousand dollars on a debit card, untouched. Tomorrow it would be. She’d got early cash for turning eighteen…from Mom and Dad, two hundred. Rae had given her fifty, saying along with the gesture, “And shut up about it.”
She’d had a paltry twenty of her own. From Grandma Hibbler, welcome to the adult world, the other debit card, the five hundred one, gone for airfare. Quite a bit of her walking cash had gone to the cab.
Then this room, if she wanted to keep it. Savannah sat on the made bed of an eighty-five-dollar-a-night motel in Harbor City. A Starbucks was close, a Carl’s Jr. Two gas stations. Banks, lots of banks. They were not going to hire her as a teller. (Did people in L.A. just drive around needing ATMs all the time?)
She’d just got off a long phone conversation with Rae, the promised one: “I’m here. I got a place….yeah, a motel. A lot, that’s how much, but I don’t think it gets any cheaper…” She had marching orders. Everything she could see or find on the map, reachable on foot…
And that of course was a question…ditches, fences…
In theory on foot…
She was to list. Well, it doesn’t matter, Rae said, they’ll call you on your phone. Look up an apartment building and say you live there. Only be real, don’t get fancy. But I mean, right? They’ll just file it. When they want someone for part-time, they’ll dig it out. If you get work, make yourself indispensable.”
“What Grandma would say. But…”
Something went mutedly thunk, and after a minute Rae came back. “Dad’s home. I feel like maybe he doesn’t work at the buggy place anymore. He hasn’t said.”
Savannah was in a limbo of trouble; she’d gained three hours to her first day, felt nothing like jet lag…knew the axe was poised. At home Dad in his bedroom armchair watching Food channel barbecue shows, his blue TV. Lights off. Mom, through one dinner, could be bluffed. Rae carry a plate upstairs and pretend she was sick or snitty. Savannah felt generous about this. Sure, let Mom judge.
“Oh, she’s not coming down? What’s up this time?”
“But, you can have a job and be homeless. You can’t get a place to live without a job. Right now, while things are open. And find out if you’re applying online and all. Maybe you have to make an account… I bet the software doesn’t care what you put in for an address. Savannah, you don’t need me anymore?”
She let Rae go.
Rae texted the kicker.
Savannah decided to reconnoiter as far as the Arco, spotted when the driver’d turned from Harbor to Sepulveda. Leaving off freeways and boulevards as though she already knew the city. If she could cross the street okay…
She might or might not ask the cashier about a job. It was possible to picture it all working out, some real-life fantasy like in a movie…
Like, someone in the movies would have just fired his assistant. He’d see this girl on the street…
“Anybody could do a better job than you! I’ll prove it.” Tosses phone aside. “Hey, kid! You need work?”
So, if you got rejected, and the next place too: “No, sorry.”
And the place after that.
The eleven days would start to weigh. Savannah didn’t want to feel afraid. She was not opposed to talking to everyday people. Why would a Savannah Hibbler be a snob? She had only worked once, sweeping hair for her mother…a time they’d been frustrated with each other on every topic, Kate coming home mad she was even there.
“You’re sixteen. You can get a summer job.” And then, “No, forget it.” But, a smile. “Honey, I don’t trust you.”
And what that meant, though humor had saved the day, was if Savannah hated grunt work, she could check out the mall offerings. She would be dressed, alert, her sole reference within waving distance. Mom was probably a genius in her way.
The cab driver had said, “You wanna give me your number?”
The first thing unavoidable she’d said to him, being: “Is there a kind of cheap motel that if you’re eighteen, they don’t…like…get stinky about it?”
And so he’d taken care of her, talking all the way through the traffic jams about neighborhoods she didn’t want to go, what lines, “if a guy says” she should walk away. And Harbor City, a nice area, lot cheaper than up around the airport, and you don’t wanna be up around the airport.
“There’s a big medical place, they hire a lot of people. You going to school?”
“No. I’m done with it.”
“Well, get yourself in with some roommates. L.A.’s not too bad, you just gotta get that refugee mindset, right? Don’t expect too much.”
The advice might be perfect. It was comforting, but not the magic sort of thing you wished for. Some motherly figure who ran a boardinghouse…what, from her reading, had put the word in her head, she didn’t know. But a kind of everybody-jumble-in Victorian mansion full of quirky but kindhearted…
Misfits. Don’t expect too much, she told herself. You really are in la-la land. She felt bad for having said, “Oh. I haven’t bought a phone yet.”
God, she’d prayed until he let her out in front of the check-in hut, don’t let Rae call.
What It Takes to Fly
(2020, Stephanie Foster)