Shelter

“Dad, what does the letter say?”

Jimmy saw his Dad collapse in the chair. The envelope was on the floor. Tony had the letter in his hand, his arm on the chair, eyes closed.

“Dad, what’s wrong?”

Tony expected the letter sooner or later. The protests delayed it, but he knew that the builders always got their way.

“Jimmy, I have some very bad news. The builders are going to tear down our block and put up a shopping center. We have to move.”

“Where are we moving to?”

Tony thought for a few seconds about how to answer this simple question.

“You are going to a school. You’ll be sleeping there. It is a very good school. You will be able to visit me on weekends.”

“I don’t want to leave you, Dad.”

“Jimmy, it’s the only way. Sometimes, we have no choices in life.”

The town of Cydonia had limited space. The underground colony had been founded by the Fifth Martian Expedition twenty years before, and had opened for business ten years later. It seemed like a good place to live, a good place to raise kids.

Tony’s wife had died of the Arandas plague when Jimmy was a baby. It was difficult to raise a son alone, but Tony learned. When the plague forced the Council to close the colony to all transport, difficult measures had to be adopted.

“Dad, where are you going when I’m at school?”

“We are on a waiting list for a new apartment. Until that apartment is built, somewhere, I am being sent to the homeless shelter.”

“Where is that?”

“It is in the center of town, about a hundred meters down. There is an elevator there, which you can use to visit me.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Jimmy, it’s the only way.”

“Will we be able to play games when I visit you?”

“I wish I could, son, but it is not allowed. Go to sleep. We’ll talk more in the morning.”

Tony put Jimmy to bed and got himself a cup of coffee. He played through in his mind would happen next Monday.

First, they will pick up Jimmy and send him to the school. I have to pack his things. Then, they take all of the stuff here and put it in storage.

Lastly, they take me to the shelter. The time will pass quickly. I’m on the list to get an apartment in five years, but they are always behind in the digging schedule.

I’ll set up some recordings for Jimmy to listen to, me giving him advice about life. I’ll make ten years worth, just in case.

I’ve heard that the freezing is painless and I’ll wake up feeling fine. I hope they keep the window clean so Jimmy can see my face during the visits.

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