What does "homeless" mean?
he asked, gazing at the occupied corner of the SE Portland intersection and its cardboard-sign carriers.

You don't know what homeless means?!
his older sister screeched.
I can't believe it! We've talked a whole bunch about homeless people and you didn't know what homeless meant?!

he said.
I kind of know, but I didn't know EXACTLY.

she said.
Being homeless means that you don't have a home to live in.

he said.

I interjected.

he said.
If you're homeless, it means you get to go camping every night.

she agreed.
That is definitely lucky.

I said.
For many people, it's not something they WANT to be doing, or CHOOSE to be doing.

Why are they homeless then?
he asked.

A lot of different reasons.
I said.
Sometimes people lose their jobs and can't afford to pay for their homes or rent anymore, and sometimes people need special kinds of help but there's no one available to help them with the kind of help they need, and sometimes maybe kids run away from home because they have a difficult home life or family who's not very nice, and they end up living wherever they can on the street or in a shelter.

she said wistfully.
I wish we had mean parents. Then we could run away from home.

her brother agreed excitedly.

I said kindly.
That is something your mom and I will try to work on. I'm sorry we haven't accommodated you in that regard.

It's just,
she said.
that it would be fun to run away some day, and go camping. If we had mean parents it would be easier to run away.

I said.
We should do that!

they said.
Not you! Just us!

I said sadly. would that work?

We would leave a note saying that we had run away.
she said.

he said.
And we'd be camping, probably by a creek.

That would be so fun!
she said excitedly.
And we'd need to pack stuff in a backpack...just the things we needed, like a lantern, and a book, and some snacks, and a sleeping bag. And a knife.

And also,
he said.
a camera.

Oh yeah,
she said.

(my heart burst)

Are we REALLY going to run away sometime?
he asked her.

Before you go,
I said.
You'll need to fill out a permission slip.

she said.

I said.
if it's approved, then we'll be all set.

she said suspiciously.
What do you mean, "we?"

Well it goes without saying,
I said.
that we'd be going with you. What fun would it be to run away without your parents?

We didn't mean for you to go!
they groaned,
and turned to whisper to one another.

Just remember,
I cautioned.
Permission slips.

I ignored their whisperings of rejection and disgust in the backseat and internally began plotting my own runaway, with my wife, and minus them, because they were being mean, only I don't know who I should turn in a permission slip to. So I guess I'll have to stay un-homeless for another night. The kids are tucked in and sleeping soundly, which I know because I don't hear any sounds from their rooms...