Jo sat alone, huddled on the outskirts of the shanty town. She didn't like to socialize with the others, too much risk. She had seen what happened to other women who tried to make this journey across by themselves, and it wasn't pretty. Her thin coat, that had cost her very last penny, and thread bare overalls did little to cut out the autumn chill. Still it was safer to be a loner, safer than the risks, safer than becoming dependent on someone else. In vain she tried to pull the collar of the jacket high enough to cover her ears, which stung from the cold.
She just had to make it to the city. If she could do that then everything would be alright. Her father had never let her cut her hair, so it was quite long, a wig maker would pay her well for it. Give her enough money to keep her over while she found a job. She just had to get to the city. Just get there, after that everything would be fine.
Desperately she clung to that hope, that precarious dream. The idea of getting off the streets and actually having a house and food was all that kept her going through not having a house or food. She was lucky, though her sisters had teased her mercilessly for her boyish figure growing up, and for not being pretty, in the end it was a boon. Masquerading as a boy was easy enough, people were nicer because they thought she was young. Getting called kid and sport got old after awhile, especially from people who were actually younger than she was, but you had to take the good with the bad.
Jo sighed, fighting the feeling of despair that was creeping up and wished she had a 7Up. Her reverie was broken by a shout. Someone had spotted a car coming down the road. She watched the other squatters get up and shuffle toward the road, to see. She didn't get up, chances are the car wouldn't be stopping here. If she had a car she wouldn't.
A few minutes later she could here the soft drone of the vehicle's approach. A murmur of discussion had grown through the crowd, people wondering out loud. There wasn't much else to do besides gossip, so she couldn't really blame them. Any distraction from the truth of their situation was welcome. At the moment however, she was too hungry to ponder the vehicle.
She was so shocked when the truck actually stopped that it took her a minute to actually get up and run over to see what was going on. By the time she did the crowd was thick, making it difficult to push through. Instead of struggling she decided to circle to the side. The man that got out of the truck was older, with greying hair. He didn't look rich, but he definitely didn't look poor. Actually he looked like a teacher, someone who spent a lot of time reading books. He stood up on sideboard of the truck and started talking, he even sounded like a teacher. Jo listened, but the only words that really registered were "work" and "two dollars a day".
Two dollars a day.
It was unbelievable. If she could get two dollars a day for a while she might not have to sell her hair after all. She could take that money and go to the city and get herself set up someplace nice. She could find a job that didn't leave her with bloody, callused hands. All around her every man in the camp was shouting and shoving to get chosen. Her odds weren't terribly good. She tried to push forward, but it didn't do much to improve her situation.
The man raised his hands calling for quiet, which was begrudgingly given.
"Men only, no women and no children. I only have room for actual workers on site, lodging and food will be provided."
This caused another uproar, some didn't want to leave their families unattended. One woman started screaming at the man, about making a father chose between feeding his infant son and being there to protect him. The look the man on the truck gave her was unsympathetic.