It had been a long three months, full of unwanted change, financial hardship, and burnt toast. Unwanted change in the form of two prospective housemates moving in only to move out again within a matter of weeks. Financial hardship in the form of late rent and utilities without enough of a paycheck leftover even for groceries. Burnt toast was just icing on the cake, wasting what little sustenance remained in the pantry and simultaneously setting off the ancient fire alarm which could only be shut off by calling 911. And there was the new girl. Moved in and stayed five weeks so far, a record. That was all right then, it meant split rent and so far she hadn't been too noisy or messy. Life seemed to be taking a break from screwing with Eli Strong, or so he thought. It was right about 3:34 AM, and within the decrepit kitchen Eli was cooking up a storm. Not a literal storm, of course, because that would mean he had absurd weather-bending powers and if he had weather-bending powers he surely wouldn't be living in this crapshoot apartment now would he? As a slab of ground beef sizzled deliciously in the frying pan, he hummed a simple made-up tune and tapped his foot to an imaginary beat. If only he had a few potatoes left he could have made some killer french fries to go along with the burger-in-process. It had been a stroke of luck finding ground beef on sale last week. Nothing short of a miracle. His giddiness over the meal was only accentuated by the fact that he hadn't had a proper night's sleep in about four days. Creativity kept him awake and he could only afford himself a short nap between pots of coffee, forgetting to eat altogether. This was the breaking point. He was starving and there was red meat in the freezer, God help him if he couldn't resist making a half-pound burger stuffed with cheese and whatever seasonings he could scrounge up in the cupboards. The heady aroma filled his nostrils and overwhelmed his strung-out mind. The hum escalated to a few sung notes to belting out the chorus of 'American Idiot' at the top of his lungs, flipping the contents of the pan and adjusting the touchy gas stove to keep it from burning. Stepping back from the counter he spun around in what could only be improvised dancing. His long tangled hair whipped across his face as he switched songs mid-verse from Green Day to Fit For Rivals: "One last time and one good story. Screamhallelujah! Screamhallelujah! … theeeeere's just noeasywayoooooout…" 3:41 AM but he was oblivious. What was time but a mere human construct anyway? Another rule to follow. Screw it, he was hungry. His voice echoed around the bare brick walls of the kitchen/living area. The acoustics were too good to resist, it was the one redeeming quality of this poorhouse. Holy Mumford and Sons it was almost ready. There were two thick slabs of bread all ready and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, and mustard, just waiting to embrace that precious patty. Eli whimpered, impatiently testing the rare-cooked burger with a fork to be sure it was as done as legally possible. Still pink inside. Yes. It was perfect. He shut the stove off and lopped the patty onto the makeshift bun. A beautiful curl of steam rose from the glistening browned surface and Eli nearly fainted. His shrunken stomach growled angrily, demanding him to eat in one bite that which had already been designated for slow, bit by bit consumption, so as to savor all flavor. Honestly, eating was such a bother. Proper food took so long to prepare, and once it's finished it's too quickly gone. He had to make it last as long as possible. He picked up the plate. He turned toward the ancient wooden dinner table, ready to sit and feast. His shaking hand slipped. The corner of the plate cracked against the edge of the stove. The sacred burger slid dangerously close to the edge, and Eli Strong watched helplessly as it tipped over the side in slow-motion, flying apart in midair, and crashed to the floor with a sickening splat. "Oh. Oh God…" he stood in shock. Then slowly knelt to more closely examine the damage. The ancient cracked and dirty tile was not promising. The fixings were everywhere, and the patty itself lay like a soldier shot down on the field of battle, such was the level of tragedy Eli was experiencing at that very moment. "Oh God why? Why me?" Tears streamed down his cheeks. It was gone. Ruined. All his effort wasted. And two more slices of bread. Was he sure he couldn't eat it? Had he stooped to that level of desperation? Surely a bit of dirt wouldn't kill him, or mar the taste too badly. But he continued to simply stare through blurred vision. It was the only thing in the world he wanted right now, and by a cruel twist of fate had been snatched away. What was to be done? He wasn't sure he would feel this distraught if his mother had died, and that thought immediately made him feel worse. Oh God, why?