Why We Lived in a Chicken Coop

image of old chicken coop

Mountain View: July 2, 1984

We live in a chicken coop. Across the street from Tim’s job at Acuson. Every weeknight, Sunday through Thursday, we wait until dark and drive back into the old walnut orchard behind the house that’s set for demolition – broken windows, floor strewn with litter: old books and magazines, a stained mattress, grease from the garage next door. Musty, harsh, germed. But out behind, in the chicken yard, it’s so clean and sweet. We camp in our little nylon tent, under the wire, which makes geometric patterns on the ceiling after we turn out the light, the miner’s light, the one we went down into the mines with in Randsburg only a couple of months ago. But last night that damn mouse chewed a hole right into our tent to get the bread. He’s a big ugly mouse, not cute and little, no field mouse with little pink ears and a fat little body. This one’s more like a small rat, dark gray, scaly, ugly. I don’t like this mouse at all.

Free rent. No driving to work in horrible traffic. Just up in the morning, put the coffee on, have a little breakfast, or not, break camp (putting everything on or in the VW Beetle), jump in the car and drive Timothy across the street to work. Nobody knows where we live, they’d be surprised.

We kiss and say goodbye – until lunch, when I drive back after looking for work every morning. I get the paper, walk into the coffee shop, order coffee with extra cream, and sit down with my red pen. There are always places to call where I have a chance for a possible job.

Noon. Timothy is down in the dumps. He flubbed his work and delayed progress on the boss’s project, two hours lost this weekend because of a glitch. He goes too fast, that’s why the mistakes. It happens to both of us. He feels terrible and worried that they won’t hire him on after his three month’s are up, but I tell him everybody makes mistakes, especially in such a tedious field as electronics. “Go slower. Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter if you have to stay later, it’s your job right now.” We need a van. We will get one. We need a home, our little step van that’s coming up. I will soon get a job and, sooner than we think, we will have our house-on-wheels.

~ Frances

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