September 30, 2011

"Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying #15)

Episode #15: "Here come the Holidays" (click on the "Grippers" tab for previous 14 episodes)

Tracey Slider was frazzled and had reached stress levels she had never before encountered. She was not smiling, she was abrupt with Jake, she could not sit still for more than ten minutes at a time, she was not sleeping well and a sense of impending disaster monopolized her thoughts. She was doing her best to manage every penny she was earning but there are no finish lines  when you are riding on a merry-go-round.

It was November 12, less than two weeks until Thanksgiving. Tracey  had worked her six hour shift and, upon clocking out, started to do shopping for the family. She knew to the penny how much was in their checking account, $143.00. She filled the cart with about $60.00 worth of grocery items including two cans of cranberry sauce, two cans of corn and two cans of sweet potatoes which would be used for Thanksgiving. There would be $83.00 left and $75.00 would go to the electric company as per her arrangement with them. There was enough gas in the truck to get them through payday which was four days away. She was proud of herself and deserved to be. She was like  a car running on fumes and now the gas station was in sight.

Tracey unloaded her items onto the checkout counter and watched as her friend, Helen, scanned the items. They were chatting about nothing important when Helen said, "Okay, Trace, that comes to $60.28."

Tracey smiled, "I can't believe it. I wanted to spend $60.00 and I went  28 cents over. Not bad." She swiped her debit card and keyed in her pin number. A message popped up, Insufficient Funds. Tracey was startled and smiled at Helen. She swiped her card again. Insufficient Funds. She looked at Helen, "I don't understand." She tried again. Insufficient Funds.


Customers were lined up in back of her. She was wearing the store's company uniform. It is a fact that humiliation can embrace a person in a nano-second. Tracey instantly wanted to be somewhere else. She fought the panic rising within her and garnered some composure. She took a deep breath through her nose, exhaled and said, "Okay Helen, I'll just leave the stuff over here. I'll be back in 15 minutes."

She left the store, got into Bob's truck and began to tremble. Taking a few more deep breaths she wiped her teary eyes and headed home. All she could think was, It has to be a mistake, it has to be a mistake. How could they do this. She hurried into the house and right past Bob who was sleeping on the sofa. Sitting down at the computer she logged into her on-line banking site. The screen opened, she keyed in her password and stared at the screen. Balance--negative $89.00. Transactions--there had been two. Friday afternoon a $100.00 cash withdrawal had been made and another one for $60.00. Then there were two bank charges of $36.00 each, one for "insufficient funds" and one for an "over limit" fee. She stared and stared. She thought ---I don't understand--I didn't---Oh my God----She jumped up from the chair and rushed into the living room yelling, "Bob, Bob, wake up! Wake up!"

He remained still and quiet on the sofa. She started yelling at him and pushing his shoulder, "Bob, wake up right now. C'mon, wake up!"

Her groggy husband opened his eyes. "Huh---what? I'm sleeping. Leave me alone. What's your problem anyway?"

"Did you take money from the ATM yesterday?"

"Huh---the ATM. No--I don't think so. What's the difference anyway?"

""Oh my God, Bob, you did--didn't you."

"Fine Tracey, I did. So what. I needed some medicine and I can't get any until next week. So yeah, I took some money. I suppose I should just lie around here in pain. Now leave me alone."

"Oh my God, Bob. You're buying drugs. You're buying drugs.You took our food money and our money for the power bill and bought drugs from someone. Your stupid two withdrawals overlapped and you caused us to be minus $89.00 in our account. How in God's name could you do this to me and Jake. How could you?"

Bob was pretty well stoned so he shrugged, rolled over on his side and went back to sleep. Tracey looked down at him and at the moment all she could feel for her husband was contempt.

Next time: "Thanksgiving"