it was obvious by Maria’s manner that it was some despicable thing. Something that was of course part of yet another self-serving scammer scheme Fred had cooked up and that Maria was no longer swallowing.
As I begin to do a little more research about the history of “welfare” and “welfare reform”, I realize that I’m not going to be able to include here (in this post) a comprehensive look at that part of my story. Since my story is now touching on my naive, young, good boy/good man mind’s head-on collision with Maria’s story, it will be helpful to consider that historical context. I may get to that before I publish this in book form (and I may not) but I ask you now, my dear reader, to consider what (in my opinion) needs no such explanation.
A single mother of two children, with no family support is in a very difficult situation. This has always been so. Everywhere in the world. It was also true in The United States of America in the 30s, the 60s and it is true now, in the year 2018.
In 1979, in Omaha, Nebraska, the single mother of two boys, with no family support that I knew (Maria) was in an intolerable predicament. I was learning about that as Maria told a story that made me very angry at the despicable Fred who was making her already difficult situation into this intolerable predicament. While I ate the delicious plate of beans and rice, tortillas and hot sauce she had fed me, I was getting hot.
Yea, I was getting hot, and it wasn’t the sauce. As I ate and listened, I tried imagining how hard it must be for Maria to be telling me this. She made it clear that she felt as guilty as her story clearly indicated Fred to be, but that only legitimized her story (and my anger) to me even more.
I was beginning to realize just what he was capable of too… this despicable scammer. This lying predator that I had seen as so very cool, not so very long ago.
Whatever her situation had been in Norfolk (I hadn’t been paying attention so I had no idea) Maria had left it all and come here to Omaha with Fred. Whatever he had promised, to get her to come here (she didn’t say and I wasn’t asking) he had now made it clear that he would never be making good on that promise.
And now he was threatening her.
As Maria told me of how Fred had lost his job at Brandeis Department Store and was no longer looking for work. She said that he now spent all his time with “some rich white kid in the suburbs somewhere” and although he never spent any time with her anymore, he still came home at random times that she could never predict. As I listened, I was learning why this was the biggest part of Maria’s problem.
The welfare inspectors had been coming round. They said they suspected her of “fraud” and if they found out that an able-bodied man was living permanently in her home, she could loose all her benefits. Fred knew this and was using Maria’s fear of loosing the assistance to get her “to do things” for him.
She never said what those things were. She said she thought he might be dealing drugs or something, she didn’t care. Maria just wanted Fred out so she could move on with her life.
“Fred needs to know that he can’t come back here.
Maria looked at me. Her eyes were pleading but strong. She also seemed embarrassed. Perhaps she knew that she was asking me to do something I didn’t feel comfortable with, but she was desperate. She seemed to appreciate that I was getting angry.
Then Fred came home…
To be continued…