What Javontae Wright's north St. Petersburg apartment lacks in furnishings, it makes up for in faith.
Faith fills the barren bedroom walls as Wright, a 24-year-old single parent, tries to cajole his 2-year-old daughter, Zi'Yhon, to sleep. She's having none of it.
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed," he sings to Zi'Yhon (pronounced Zion) in a tune that is half playful, half Dad Voice.
Faith and two large stuffed toys are all that fill the apartment's living room. He won the toys for her at the state fair.
"C'mon, give me a kiss and it's time to lay down." Now the tone is: Dad is tired and means what he's saying.
Faith fills the space between an eviction notice and a paycheck.
"Let's say our prayers. Then it's bedtime." The tone is now: That's an official Dad order.
Zi'Yhon knows about half of the Lord's prayer and most of the ABC song, and seems to think they belong together somehow. Dad helps fill the gaps, lifts her onto a pillow and starts patting her back.
"Paycheck to paycheck is no fun. You've got to make your bills meet your money and your money meet your bills. It's $40 to fill up my tank; her pull-ups will cost you at least $20 a week. Groceries, clothes, insurance - it's never ending. After paying everything I may have $50 to stretch from the first to the 14th. That's $5 a day. Five dollars a day keeps the bad man away. At least it's some money in your pocket. It beats being in debt."
Zi'Yhon is squirming. Her eyes pop open and she starts giggling.
"When rent was due on the first and I couldn't pay it till the ninth I was getting worried. It's frustrating. When I get frustrated I pray more. In those times I have to pray hard. Prayer is powerful. It changes things.
"In April my rent was late. I had an eviction notice and the Lord stepped in right on time."
Zi'Yhon is off the bed, into the living room and back with one of the carnival toys, a stuffed Spider-Man nearly twice her size.
"It's a lot of pressure. I would like to take her out of town, take her to Disney or a nice vacation, something out of our routine, but I have to do everything on a budget. I would love to have more furniture for her. ...
"Someday I want to get her a three-bedroom, two-bath home. Most people want a mansion, a big two-story home. I just want a nice house with an education/playroom and a back yard with a little nature for her to play in."
Wright is a few semesters from a degree in business administration from St. Petersburg College. He usually takes nine hours a semester. He's worked as a teacher's assistant at Oak Park Middle School, and an account manager for a collection agency.
Through WorkNet, he recently took a job as a recreation counselor with the Police Athletic League. One day he hopes to open his own youth center to provide child care and after-school activities.
"Zi'Yhon! Put ... that ... toy ... back ... and ... get ... into ...bed!" Dad Voice With Pauses means business, and Zi'Yhon wobbles out of the room with Spider-Man. Back in bed, lying on Dad's chest, she can't stop fidgeting. Dad can hardly keep his eyes open.
"Man, I shouldn't have let her have pudding before bedtime."