Gold in the Treasure Chest
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Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:58 pm
This is one of my creative writing essays I submitted for my class, and I really liked typing this one up. However, one of the things our class did is form a group where other peer review your work before turning in the final product. My group did not review anything, so I never got the feedback I wanted/needed.

So after you read please give me any advice/criticism you have. I was thinking about turning this into a better developed story, make it bigger than just a graded assignment. ^^



Gold in a Treasure Chest

It is a strange phenomenon that consumes young boys and girls the moment they turn 5 years old. Suddenly, there are stories about marrying prince charming and “Amber”(fill in the blank with whatever name the son mentions), having many children of their own, and moving into their dream house. As many years go by, the young boys and girls now have a steady job and a loving family safe under their perfect home. The most stressful part isn’t surviving high school or college, it is keeping up with the mortgage and making sure the bond between the family continues to grow. There are commitments that need to be fulfilled constantly and breaking those commitments can be damaging for those who took a jump too fast or began to let responsibilities slip further and further. I decided to step where the grass isn’t greener and see what living without a home feels like for a week or more. I wanted to see if I was taking my own home, and the things inside it for granted every day. I was not going back to my home until I felt like I had accomplished the hardship of those who are struggling.
Entry 1
Before I left my house, I packed a backpack with my blue, green and orange stripped, half fingerless gloves, my olive green scarf, an empty bottle an old jacket, and some food to get me by as least 2 days. First chore on my list was to find a place that could benefit me the most i.e, shelter with a nearby food source. I knew the best option would be to find a good dumpster, but the problem was finding one that looked “safe”. Also I wanted to find one near a busy city because I know the stores and restaurants would constantly throw stuff out. It is the perfect gold mine for anybody destined to live on the streets. Honestly, the thought of sleeping inside a dumpster was unsettling for me, so I had to scout out for a thrown out tent or craft one out of a large cloth and lots of string. I walked around for hours and eventually came across a dumpster behind this large Italian restaurant, with a lit street on the other side. It was the perfect spot, though I couldn’t find an area I could hide from the world. I figured for the first night, the best way to sleep is under a streetlight.

Entry 2

I haven’t starting missing home yet, but I hated sleeping in the cold air. Thankfully, it was not raining so as the sun started rising I started warming up. Wearing the same clothes as I did yesterday was not bad either, because I’ve done that before, except I slept in my P’Js at night. As the people around the city started waking up, I began to wander around the “neighborhood” to get a sense of who and what I will be living by. There aren’t many shopping stores but each street had its own fast food place, or a restaurant. Ruby Tuesdays, Tropical Smoothie, Chilis, and a Wendy’s were some of my favorites that I found close by. About two blocks down was a drug store for when I score some cash and am able to get supplies.
Different aromas started filling the air as well like donuts, coffee, cinnamon, pancakes, and over sprayed perfume. I wasn’t feeling hungry yet, so I decided to pass the time by down my first dive until the breakfast rush was over at 11am. When I opened the top, the dumpster was almost bare except for paper, eaten food and this faded out hoodie, which looked really warm. Maybe after my adventure is over and a few good washings, I might have to add this to my closet. I didn’t see anything else worth bringing so I closed the top and wandered further away to explore more of the city.
Entry 3
I found a group who knew the ins and outs about living on the streets and they were not shy about welcoming me into their family. They had a nice set-up as well. Three large cloths from a nearby fabric store were thrown out because of how easy the material tears. These people used the rips to hoist two of the cloths up and tie them on the rails at each side of the alley; this formed their roof and two walls. The third cloth was used as a door so the cold breeze doesn’t reach them. The back wall was opened in case we needed to make a quick getaway, something I hope would never happen to me. They lined the cemented floor with stain covered blankets, shirts, and old curtains.
One of the people in the group was allergic to some of the fabrics, so getting medicine from the local drug store was hard. She was telling me how each day the family hunts for loose change so she can go to the drug store and calm her reactions, as well as get bags of chips and candy for the rest of the group. What inspired me was how they termed dumpsters as “treasure chests”. I didn’t realize it at first but whenever you open one, you dig and dig for your own personal gold. Every member of my family found something precious that others would deem as trash. But because they can see the real value, that old and broken item it a shiny piece of gold. As we set up our beds at the first sight of the sunset I went to find another dumpster and see what my gold would be.
Entry 4
Unfortunately, my second go at diving did not turn out great because I slipped on the edge, fell in, and somehow got the door stuck. I pushed and pushed with no luck. There were holes at each corner so light was able to fill the darkness and I see what I am laying on top of. I found an unopened box of crackers that expired last week, half a bag of stale chips, a binder with a tear in its spine but still together pretty well, old cheese, and three unopened yogurt cups that were not even expired. I couldn’t believe how much stuff people threw out that was still good. One thing I did find was one of those toy birds that can balance on your finger, despite its heavy weight. I started eating one roll of crackers and marveled at the birds’ magic trick for about an hour straight before realizing I found my first piece of gold. I didn’t feel uncomfortable being inside the filthy treasure chest because I felt safe and happy staring at this multi-colored bird. I called for help a few times until someone who was about to throw trash bags away lifted up the top. I was expecting it to be daylight still but was surprised to see I spent the entire morning and afternoon inside that chest. The local gave me a nasty look, called me a street rat, and told me to get before he calls the cops. I grabbed all of my new finds, tucked the bird deep in one of my backpack’s pockets and ran off to find my family.

Entry 5
It has been more than a week since I left the comfort of my home behind and started my experiment, but some days I actually forget that I do have a family and a warm home waiting for me. I am not suggesting everyone back their bags and live on the streets, but I am starting to see how the two sides of living are the same. These homeless people take care of their young and each other, and make sure there is always food for everyone to eat. They also make clothes for us, stitch the tears back, and basically become a normal family. I felt so inspired that each day I spend a good 14 hours finding all the necessary things we need to continue staying alive. A girl who was about my age knew how to sew from a class she took in school, so while I was out diving, she decided to surprise me with a gift. She took my hoodie and sewed on two big letters she found in a dumpster of a fabric store. When I came back with half a loaf of bread, gloves with holes in the palm, a few jackets with missing buttons, and lots and lots of pizza, she smiled and held out the hoodie. She told me the letters G and M stand for Garbage Man because nobody could find interesting things like me. Everyone laughed so hard, and I felt proud of my skill. I showed them the toy bird I found and how attached I was becoming, so we all passed it around and started a contest to see who could balance it the longest. I suspect cheating was in play because one of our elders with half his finger missing, due to a bad run-in with a restaurant owner, won. After dinner, we all snuggled together under our tent and went to bed.

Entry 6

With the last few days of my time as a professional dumpster diver, I decided to make the most of our adventure, and take my family out to dinner. I didn’t care about how big the check was going to be; I figured if this was goodbye, I wanted to say it in the most memorable way ever. I did feel like I was cheating by using my credit card instead of finding the best thrown out food, but I wanted to show my appreciation. I took my family to this restaurant with a 1970’s theme and a working jukebox and bought them all burgers and fries. My “sister” put in a few quarters and picked out some songs we all knew the words too. The lyrics of one song caught my attention, because it was about flying around the world and leaving pieces of you behind, so you can find your way back home. After we got the bill and rounded up a taxi, we said goodbye with tears and laughter. I left the toy bird with them and said whenever they want to see me again, just fly it to my home, and it will fly me back to mine. As I looked out the window, my sister already had the bird balancing on her finger, it’s wings ready to take flight.
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Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:45 pm
I really like how you chose this as a topic, becsause there are some many things that you can talk about when it comes to living homeless, because it is different every where you go. and each person experiance is a little bit different then each other persons.

When I was homeless at first I went right to the local shelter because the person I was together with knew where it was. I was living in abad situation and needed to get out of it. I was looking for a new appartment to get into but my room mate caught wind of it and kicked me out.

For a while I worked, I was pregnant at the time and the stress of it all caused me to miscarry and I left work because of the depresssion of no home and then that was pretty crushing. If left me with no real reason to work. but besides that part of it, Food stamps is the one big thing that I remembered doing, because with no work, I had no money for food. So I applied and after a half a month I recieved my money card. They only get loaded once a month. Buying smart while you are homeless is hard becsause you have no refigerated place to keep you cold food. so you tend to buy o the fly a lot. and buying hott food or microwavable sanswiches are a no no, because the food stamps only pay for cold food.

Ussually near the lasts week before the food stamp card were full we would find our selves at either a dunkin donughts or an amatoes, for doughnuts or pizza. The doughnuts were always dumped in a bag without regular waste. I remmbered this from working at one prior to becoming homeless. and my partner at the time showed me that the pizza shop packaged all there pizza that they had cooked by the end of the day and threw them in a clean bag as well at the end of shift. Those were consedered out local hot spots for food. they were relitively close to each other.

There was also the local soup kitchen that served you and only opened specifically for breakfast, lunch, and diner. and was closed at all other times as well as inbetween the meals.

So if it was cold you were stuck outside unless you wanted to spend time inside of the "day room" which would still have you leave a half hour to an hour before they were ready to feed you. This was becasue they have the clean the "day shelter" up every night for it to turn into the night shelter for the women. Here they split the women and the men of from sleeping together in the same buildings.

at night the cots were about a foot and a half to 2 feet spaced away from each other, and the womens shelter had about 80 or more standing cots. and then another 9 mats layng in the room that was called "overflow"
Overflow almost always had someone in tehre by the end of the night.

It was not terrible, the bedding was washed and dried nightly so that everyone could have a fresh blanket or two. but you had to sign p for a laundry slot of ou wanted to do any laundry cleaning that night.

They also had some snack foods tere as well for if you were hungry while you were there.

When summer time came around I left the shelter and we had gone to live out in the woods. it was pleasent for a while because there was no one else to have to sleep around and you could hear nature all around you. I was still taking showers at the shelter and at one of the local clubs that let you hang there during the day time, they have public bathroms, a show sign up area and a sign up area to also do your laundry. A lot of disables and homeless people were there.

Sme of the people were nice enough to give us meat to take with us to cook at night because they kep we made a little camp fire, and they would fill our water jugs as well. and every so often they would toss us some toilet paper for incase we weren't able to find any where in the middle of the night. They were also known for giving out military sleeping bags and blankets when they had them.

I had one friend who would find treasuresd in dumpsters but this I was accustome from my grand father bringing me dumpster diving when I was younger at the local dump. he used to get my bikes there.

But the bg treasure forme inside of the sumpsters were the recycalable drink containiers. I would grab up a shopping cart and I would go dumpster to dumpster looking for returnables so that I could bring them to the local redemption center. I could ussualy make 5 dollars on a bad day, and on a really good day I could bring in 50 bucks. But ussualy it ended up being more like 10 or 15 dollars on moe than one account. The there were times were I would ask for spare change, but instead of vocally saying it, I would have a peice of card board because it is stiff against the wind. and I would write on it what I would need. It would always ben somethng simple. like "homelss and need help, anything counts."
A lot of the tie I would use money for tampons or toilet paper, or paper plates to eat the food out of that we got from the club thatwas up the street.
Many times I had been given bags of food that was baugh at the grocery store.

I had noticed a lot of the time, the people who are homeless and have driking problems is because they are depressed, or they feel like they actually need the beer (alchohol dependancy they get the shakes). so they can be seen in the same spot every day asking for change)n. though not all of them do it for beer. Others do do it for money, some of the do it for drugs.

The only big problem with living homeless in the city or outer city is you have to pick a smart place to sleep, other wise you will be ordered no tresspassing papers, and if you get caught there again in the aloted amount of time, you can go to jai, which is exactly what happened to me. I was asked to move off the water front and to somewhere else. just under a year later we had gone back to go fishing for the 4th of july and some foot police had come through the area and ended up serving us and taking us to jail. I spent a day and a half there. I took one shower at a couple of meals, and spent the rest of my time laying in bed, angry at the fact I was there for somthing so stupid.

Sometime random strangers are nicer than the people right nex to you. There was a really nice lady who had seen my holding my sign up, I was trying to bail my pertner at the time out of jail because he was stupid and stole money from the job I had gotten him (I really regret being with him to this day) She asked me if she could bring me to lunch asd if she could ask me what my story was. So I said yes and I let the woman take me to a small restauraunt called Silly's, I can't remember what she had, but I remember eating peanut butter noodles with chicken chunkc i it. it was the most delicios hing I had had in months. While we at I talked with her about how I had came to be in the situation that I was in, and that it was really hard after being out of work and on the streets for over a year to get a job, because it seemed like once the store owners/managerrs saw that I was homeless it's like they didn't want to hire me, even with prior job history I had,. It made me feel segrigated. A lot of the land lords acted the same way when it came to trying to get a home when you are homeless as well, and with no prior rental lease history it looks really bad on the homeless person.

On another account when I wasn't homeless and was working at wendy's I had a magager who had seen someone dumpsdter diving for food out of out bin. and we don't bag is a specific way, and she couldn't bare to se him eat that way. so she called him over,, told him she could not let him inside because it was after hours, but she asked him what he would like to eat for a sandwich free of charge.

So yeah, that's some of the stuff that I can share with you from personal experiance Smile I hope some of this can help you in any way.
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Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:47 pm
Keres -- If you were here in person, I would hug you, and have a hard time letting go. I know that you shared all of that to help Ivy with her story, but that is such a powerful story that I'm glad I got to read it too. I'm glad that you're not homeless anymore.

Ivy -- I like your premise -- to explore an alternative to what is still today considered the "ideal" or "normal" family life, but there needs to be a little bit of reality in there too. I'm sure that keres' story can help you a lot with those details.

As for the premise, I half agree with you. Girls are primed for marriage, practically from infancy. Note that in your story, Prince Charming is an archetype that means the same thing to everyone who reads that name, whereas "Amber" (or whoever) is whichever real girl the son meets in real life, not in a fairytale. (Also, we're ignoring the boys who like boys and girls who like girls, in favor of time and space constraints, I assume.) Also, boys aren't taught to want to get married. Boys are taught to be fighters, adventurers, explorers. When they get older, boys are taught that in order to prove their manhood, they have to have sex with as many girls who will let them (or not). Marriage is often unappealing to older boys and young (and old) men, in no small part due to the pressure of trying to live up to the very specific Prince Charming archetype.

As for the rest of your story, you have sight covered because as a reader, I can "see" everything you're describing, but we also have the senses of touch, hearing, smell, and taste. Now, obviously, you can't go around describing every single texture and smell -- I mean, we don't notice everything that we hear, smell, etc. -- just the things that make big impressions on us. I would think, for instance, that since an empty dumpster smells so bad that it makes me gag, that your character would have some sort of reaction to the dumpsters that she's sleeping in -- unless she doesn't have a sense of smell, which would be an important piece of information. Then again, even if she doesn't have a sense of smell, she's still going to stink after sleeping in a dumpster, so that needs to be addressed, at least.

Also, the nice parts of being homeless are covered in your story, but not the nasty parts. Maggots live in dumpsters because people throw used toilet paper, diapers, half-rotting food, etc. The sheer luck it would take to find an unopened box of crackers would be far more dramatic against a description of all of the super gross stuff that your character would find in a dumpster.

I like that you give your character a new definition of family, but it's way too easy. Most people don't choose to be homeless for a week -- most people are thrust into homelessness against their wills, choices, and wants. So, there is a level of desperation, frustration, anger, hopelessness in the people your character is meeting. Also, any thing that a homeless person has is hard-won, and not something they'd share or give up easily. I remember for instance, a news story that took place in my home town, in which a Good Samaritan bought a homeless man new shoes, and immediately afterward said homeless man was murdered, and his shoes stolen. This is one of the horror stories of homelessness, and certainly doesn't cover every homeless person's experience, but it does demonstrate that the homeless "family" your character found on the streets is magical, not normal. Also, remember that a lot of people who are homeless are homeless due to mental illness, PTSD, etc., so they're not all going to be friendly and reasonable.

Again, it's okay that you want your story to retain an optimistic, affirmative note, but a single light shines brightest is against the darkness, not in the presence of other light.

The only other thing I would say, is that in any good story, a character's assumptions are often challenged, and sometimes found to be false, so it's okay if your character thinks that homelessness is just a different lifestyle at the beginning of the story, and then learns that not being homeless is not just as good as having a home.
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