Friday Fictioneers – Fuel Poverty

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © TED STRUTZ

Fuel Poverty

Her marijuana was hidden above the reach of the kids. It was her lifeline.

Noreen emptied the mailbox. Two red reminders and a Final Demand. How could they use so much electricity and yet be cold all the time? She’d asked about insulation, but there were no grants for trailers – a mobile home was not a building.

She switched off the tumble-dryer; that monster ate electricity. “My blouse is wet, Mommy,” whined five-year-old Reena.

Baby Kyle started to wail. Teeth, Noreen supposed.

She glanced up at her stash. No. Keep it until she really needed it in the evening chill.

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59 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers – Fuel Poverty

    • Walk a mile in Noreen’s shoes before you judge her, Mason. She’s a good mom. Because I only have 100 words I can’t list all the ways she’s a good mom, but note that her little girl is dressed in clean clothes. Noreen uses a (very small) amount of marijuana as an analgesic, and although she’s tempted to use it during the day, she saves it until she really needs it.
      Once you’re in the poverty trap, especially if you’re a single parent, it’s very difficult to escape.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your sympathetic comment, Iain. Noreen feeds the kids as best she can, but I’m afraid that when the maintenance cheque doesn’t arrive, the kids are hungry (not as hungry as Noreen, mind you, who puts food in front of the kids and goes without where necessary).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your sympathetic comment. Noreen only uses small amounts of marijuana, and isn’t an addict, and she loves her kids. I think she’ll survive – but whether she’ll escape from poverty, who knows?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I automatically went into “therapist mode” when I started reading your story. Then I realized I wasn’t required to fix anything 🙂 You told this woman’s story so well, including the lack of a breadwinner aka her children’s father. Divorce is the main cause of the povertization of women in America. I don’t know the stats for other places. Lots of underlying tragedy in this situation.

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  2. Ah, the reality of all too many, especially single parents, especially even more so single mothers, who are turning every dime (and every ounce of energy and patience) a hundred ways in desperate attempts to stay sane and keep their children reasonable safe in the process. Poverty rears its ugly head still. So though we can hope that recent measures may help cut the poverty rate in half, there is more we can – and ought, as humans – do to offer support to those in need. Well penned!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and sympathetic comment, Na’ama. The trouble with being poor is that everything works against you. You have no car? Public transport and cabs are an expensive option. You have an old, cheap car? Fuel consumption is much higher so you pay more per mile. Mobile home? You can’t get grants for insulation, so your heating bill is high and the place is still cold. We need to somehow deal with the systemic biases that make it expensive to be poor.
      Sorry – rant over!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am all for that rant. These are truths that need to be said, and realities that too many prefer to continue to ignore, or worse – make as if it is the fault of the person who is poor for ‘not planning better’ or some such. Here’s to compassion and better solutions.
        Na’ama (waving from her own soapbox)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Penny,
    This was a hard story to read. You painted us a picture of poverty and need, but also a woman whose desperation has only the “safety net” of her marijuana stash. When she escapes into her drug-induced haze, what will happen to the children? Heart-rending.
    ∼🕊Dora

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. While it’s not explicit in the text, it is implicit that Noreen is a user rather than an addict – she can, for example, postpone the pleasure until the evening. She can’t afford enough to be helplessly intoxicated. While we might prefer that she wasn’t a user, it probably won’t seriously impact her children – not as much as vodka, for example. We live in a fallen world, and we mustn’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good!

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      • After re-reading, I truly can’t see Noreen putting her kids in danger. One has to wonder where her husband is, or his child-support, or the extended family and friends. But that would take a novel to tell.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your empathetic comment, Tannille. We gradually make progress towards greater social justice – witness universal healthcare systems, for example – and it would be good to think this trend will continue. UBI (Universal Basic Income) looks like the next step, and it would certainly make an immense difference to Noreen.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A terrible situation to be in. She’s obviously not addicted to the drugs or she would have taken them right there, as borne out by your previous comments. I hope she can find a way through.

    Liked by 1 person

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