Here’s a short story I wrote recently. Remember the books about The Boxcar Children? Imagine what they might all be like today …
Jessie and Henry tiptoed around the house on the thick carpet of grass, hoping that the owners weren’t looking out the window at the broad expanse of their lawn. If they were, the two of them hoped the people wouldn’t call the police to report strangers trespassing on their property.
The pair wouldn’t be on the lawn long, but it was the only way to get to the forest behind the homeowner’s property, the forest that still belonged to their family. It was all that remained of Grandfather’s legacy. And it was the only refuge Jessie had at this point in her life. The 10 x 20 foot boxcar would have to be her home once again.
Only a week ago, she’d ripped open the envelope and pulled out the pink bill: EVICTION NOTICE.
She scanned the page quickly, but focused on the number at the bottom of the page and the statement that followed it.
OVERDUE 180 Days. Foreclosure Procedures Have Begun.
She laid the statement on the granite counter and lifted her eyes to the window over the kitchen sink. She had one week to get out of the little house she’d so carefully purchased with the down payment of funds from Grandfather’s estate twenty-five years ago.
Jessie didn’t understand how this had happened. She carefully budgeted her money each month, dividing her earnings into columns on the computer to cover the utility bills, her credit cards, money for food and clothing, her car loan and, of course, the mortgage. Some months were tighter than others, but how could it be that she was suddenly six months in arrears for the mortgage?
The edge of a blue envelope peeked out in the remaining mail pile. She slit it open and pulled out the letter, bit her lip and waited for her vision to clear after an initial influx of tears. The Homeless Shelter needed her help again this month.
Quickly, she pulled out her check book and wrote the check: $150 was the suggested donation this time. She stuffed the check into the envelope, added a stamp, and laid the envelope on the table by the front door. The homeless– those in straits as dire as hers had been–needed the money so much more than she did. She glanced at the remaining letters in the stack; all of them were requests from various charities, to which she often gave hundreds of dollars every year.
Her eyes smartest with a fresh wave of tears as the realization hit her – she’d been giving her money away to needy organizations, at the sacrifice of her house.
She picked up the house phone and dialed her brother. “Henry? Can you stop by after work? I’m in a pickle.”
Her older brother quickly agreed to stop by on his way home from work. She didn’t know what his reaction would be to the news. Henry and his wife Beth had a big family; the triplets would start college next year, and then Josephine was only a year behind. Those fertility treatments had definitely done the job. Add those four teenagers to the fact that Beth had a penchant for keeping up with all the current fashion trends, including home fashions, she redecorated every five years. Henry’s income, although much greater than her own, was probably as stretched as hers was, if not more so.
Jessie had long since stopped hoping for a raise; she’d worked for forty years as a high school teacher and there’d been a few pay increases through the years, but none lately. The district had tightened its belt on all expenditures again this year, as they had for the past ten. There had been furloughs and pay cuts. She was buying the supplies for her room now, and kept an extra stock of notebooks, pencils and such for the students whose families sent them to school without even the most basic of needs.
On top of everything, she’d fallen for the pitch of a scam artist, investing her hard earned money with him instead of the much safer Teacher’s Retirement fund. Thousands of dollars, lost to that shyster.
(Watch for Part 2 and 3 next week!)