The Path Eclipsed

IN WHICH Our Hero and his family face the prospect of a cold night with no home.

After a quick trip to the storage unit (and a very fast unload, taking only a couple hours to unload the truck and put everything up in the storage unit), I treated the family to breakfast at Golden Corral. Who knows, it may have been our last time being together as a complete family unit.

During the meal, I called my mom in Durham and let her know that 1) yes, we had gotten out ahead of the Sheriff*, 2) we had no idea what we were going to do next, and 3) no, she didn't raise an idiot; I'd think of something. Eventually. Maybe.

Looking around at the other people in the restaurant, I was struck how content they seemed. When they left Golden Corral, they would be going to good jobs. Or warm homes. Or shopping with a pocketful of money. Or some combination of those things, things we didn't have. I felt The Beast shift in his sleep a little, but he didn't wake up. I didn;t have time to deal with him anyway. We had to think of a place to stay initially until we could get our heads together.

My oldest sone, fortunately, had friends had had been staying with, so he was covered. I had money, but knew that renting hotel rooms would burn through it fast, unless we stayed in one of the seedier ones (I really didn't want to explain to Nessie why a lady in a super-short skirt would be at the door asking about something called a "threesome" with Mama and Daddy...) In order to do something, though, I packed everyone off to the library while I used the van to run necessary errands. (There's a new one; using a 16-foot moving van to run to the grocery store, the bank, and check mail at your former address.)

I'd felt a sense of helplesness before, but for the first time in my lilfe, I was a fish totally out of water. I'd never been evicted or homeless beefore, so like we Southerners are wont to say, I "didn't know how to act." I figured maybe my first step would be to get some concrete information. so I headed for the library myself to commune with the Internet.

That was a mistake.

Most of the "information" I found fell into one of three categories: useless, passing mention, and mostly useless with a germ of useful information. Unfortunately, most of said useful information I had already comiled from other sources. Two hours later, all I had to show for my efforts was a case of eyestrain and a new amazement at the depth of dross on the Web.

By this time it was getting near time for the library to close, and I began thinking we should head for home.

Oh. Right. Forgot.

A sense of panic set in. We had no home to return to, it was getting dark, and the weather forecast called for cold temperatures that night.

Fortunately, there was a hotel within walking distance, but having passed by it many times in my travels through downtown, it didn't look to be the best choice in the world. Still, it was a roof, heat, a hot bath and the possibility of a weekly rate, so I swallowed my pride and hurried forth before the library closed with Mike (my second-oldest) and Nessie in tow.

A bored-looking older woman looked impassively at us from behind the counter as we walked in. I thought for a moment she would simply reach for a stick to prod us back outside with, but I put on my best I'm-just-a-customer outfit and asked if they had any rooms available for a week.

"Nope. Out of those."

Okay, then how about two rooms for two nights?

That they could do. To the tune of $180. I tried not to let the sound of my teeth grinding interfere with the transaction. As I handed over my debit card, I kept telling myself "it keeps Mike and Nessie out of the cold. It keeps Mike and Nessie out of the cold..."

I rented a room with a king bed for myself, the wife and Nessie, and a double for the boys. The rooms were somewhat rough around the edges, and the heater in ours made an awful din, but it was better than bunking under a bridge, or taking our chances in a night shelter.

Once we'd gotten some food and some hot showers, we felt better. But we still had no concrete idea what our next move would be. I decided we'd need some advice from a group of people who'd have some shred of compassion for us.

We'd go to Durham.

We'd go home.

NEXT: Toward Sunrise. The family decides to spend time reconnecting in the city of the parents' birth.

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