The prompt was to write a scene about the slums in your characters' world.
|Marley understood why her mom married Jim. He promised to move her out of their trailer park and into her dream home in Connecticut. As far as Marley was concerned there was nothing wrong with their life in Virginia. It fit them well. But according to her mom, who often called the park “the slums,” the place was the pits. She complained about the neighbors being too close as well as too “hick.” She also hated her small kitchen (not that she ever really cooked in it). So one day Marley’s dad drove them to the nearest example of a slum to prove their living arrangement wasn’t even close.
As soon as they crossed the highway and entered Hampton Heights, Marley knew they had arrived. She saw some low rise apartments with both bricks and windows missing, followed by houses with broken front porches, or ones that looked like a strong wind could blow them over. Houses even closer together than their trailers. Marley wondered how people allowed children to live here, especially during the winter.
Dad drove slowly down a few streets, not so much because of the speed limit or the traffic, but because of the numerous potholes. He still managed to hit a few. They passed a playground where clumps of barefooted, barely dressed children chased after each other. The top half of the chain link fence surrounding the park folded over the bottom half. No one in the car spoke until at some point, thankfully, Marley’s mom said, “I’ve seen enough. Let’s go home.”
On our way back Mom and Dad argued with Dad claiming, “Nothing he ever did would be good enough.” She knew his status when she married him - a construction worker without a college degree. He worked hard when the work existed, willing to drive almost anywhere to find it. He claimed once her initial infatuation wore off, Marley’s mom’s acceptance of the situation did too.
Shortly after that trip Marley’s mom and dad separated.
So what was keeping her mom in this relationship with Jim? Marley was pretty sure their current residence did not fit that “dream house” bill. No white picket fence and no yard to put it around.
Marley remembered when they pulled into the cracked driveway for the first time. Jim buffered their expectations a bit by saying, “I bought this home based on its potential. It's the worst house in the best neighborhood. In a year, you will see. It will be the best house in the best neighborhood.”
As Marley looked around she thought it wouldn’t take much to reach “best house” status in this part of town. But neither she nor her sister said anything. Her mom warned them ahead of time. Surprisingly, even as they walked through the small kitchen and subsequently realized it only had one bathroom, her mom said little as well.
A year later, the fact nothing changed was just one of the reasons Marley could not understand why her mother stayed married to Jim.