It would happen after Norfolk though. After another of Fred’s lies led to us all moving to Omaha, and well after I’d realized that Fred was lying to me all along about the band.
I started suspecting Fred of (at the very least) exaggerating the possibilities that this band of his was a real thing for me to look forward to, quite soon after I’d settled in at “his” apartment in Norfolk. Again… I was very naive, not dumb. Fred would quickly change the subject every time I inquired about any details of the group like, what kind of music they played or where they had performed. He actually never talked about music influences at all.
Fred also had claimed to be the drummer yet I never saw anything from him that was consistent with my already extensive experience of how I’d seen drummers behave in school and other places.
Of course I know that every musician is completely unique in how their musical inclinations are expressed. I was still quite young and had yet to hang out with many types of drummers, but Fred didn’t have what I saw as a drummer’s natural tendency to drum on things. He never did stuff like tap on tables or glasses and bowls, trashcans… stuff like that.
I didn’t act on my suspicions and challenge him however. Fred was almost ten years older than me and (as I mentioned in yesterday’s post) at least as masterful a manipulator as the one from which I had only recently escaped. Besides… I so wanted it to be true, it took a lot longer than it should have for me to really see how completely I’d been lied to.
The topic of discussion at “Fred’s” apartment was almost always about money. That, and the fact that Norfolk was too racist a place for a black man like him to find work. The idea that we were going to have to move to Omaha for him to get a job eventually became the main plan to address that problem. Meanwhile, I would see what I could do to contribute money for food and to pay the rent on top of Maria’s welfare checks.
I got a pretty good job right away.
Less than three days after arriving in Norfolk, I got a job as a laborer for a small family-run company that did custom interior work and the like. The owner had just landed a contract to lay the floor tile for a brand new shopping mall under construction and needed a lot of help.
It was really hard work. I carried what seemed like endless boxes of floor tile and eventually (once I was trained to do so) given a trowel to spread adhesive while my boss and his main guy laid that floor tile, one at a time and faster than I could ever imagine anyone doing such work.
It was a HUGE job! but we worked our asses off and got it done sooner than expected. My new boss was very happy and asked if I knew anyone else who needed a job. I mentioned Fred and he said he’d be happy to hire him.
But Fred never even applied. First he simply dismissed it, saying that he would surely not be hired as soon as my boss saw that he was black. But when I assured him that this would not be the case. That my new boss (while not currently having any black employees) was a good guy and very fair to everyone, Fred said something about it not being the type of work for him and besides… he had a lot to organize regarding the band.
Again, he never went into any specifics about that. It was just that taking a full-time labor job would take up too much of his valuable time.
His valuable time.
By the time I started to see what Fred’s valuable time really meant. What he was actually up to and how I fit into HIS whole operation, we were in Omaha.
THAT was the goal from the start. I eventually would learn what he’d been up to all along. Looking back now, my adult self can see how Fred really was a penny-ante operator. My adult self now sees what no doubt George Heaton had seen, and what had probably so frustrated the big man more than anything. That Fred’s considerable social and manipulative skills were waisted by his inability to be willing to make the effort to use them for more than simply getting by. To just get by and provide himself with leisure (at the expense of others) and ultimately, to feed his addictions.
For Fred to do that in the way he saw as easiest for him, he needed to be in a big enough city, like Omaha.
But to get to Omaha (easily and comfortably) he needed people like me and Maria. I was doin my part just fine in Norfolk. I was making good money but Fred also needed me to not get too established. So he planed (I’m sure of it now) to intentionally throw me off balance. To get me back to believing I needed him. So he could get where HE wanted to go. His hold on me was wavering so he needed to up that ante.
I wouldn’t understand the hold Fred had on Maria until Omaha. Not even until I’d left the apartment we all got together there. Not until I was truly on my own.
So… we went to Omaha, after Fred did what he did (I have no proof that he was the one who did it, but I’m now sure it was) and I got thrown for a real loop that day. My newly (almost) stable world, got tossed onto it’s head and I went into a bit of a frantic tizzy.
After that I had little choice but to quit my job and follow along with Fred, and Maria and the kids…