Tom brought up the last gallon of shellac to the raised wooden portion of the split level deck of their new home. It had been a long time coming to have a home like this in a well sought after area on the outskirts of the city. In a not so strange way, it really wasn't on the outskirts of the city, but instead bordered an enormous shopping center with multiple malls, businesses, physician's offices, and the like. Right on the other side of the complex was a sister city, much like his own.
However, the main attraction was that the house set in an allotment that was bordered by two main streets leading to the mall from town. It was posted 25 miles per hour and in effect most people actually obeyed that posting as the streets meandered around and looped back upon it with off shoot streets and cull de sacs. All of the homes had been built in the late 50's and 60's and made of high quality materials, 12" centers, sheetrock walls, and no veneers or plywood.
He felt so lucky to have found the house so late in life, and at a price that was shockingly low for the area. Actually his sister in law had found the house for them. She had been urging them for years to move up into that area of town, but money restraints and his wife's adamant refusal to move had made that impossible.
As he stirred the shellac, he started thinking about the past. Two years ago the first thaw in his wife's cold and frigid attitude on moving, had surfaced. The old neighborhood they lived in was rapidly changing and it was not for the better. They had lived in their old house for over forty years, and had seen cyclic changes before in the makeup of the neighborhood. When they had bought the house originally they were the youngest couple on the block and the only couple to have children. Almost all of their neighbors were in their senior years, and it was a peaceful and pleasant place to be. Later, other young couples started moving in, fixing up the older homes as cost of all real estate had escalated during the 70's. About ten years ago, real estate people started buying up the homes, specially the larger two story homes and turning them into rentals. At first this wasn't so bad. But when these absentee landlords and rental companies just kept on milking the properties and not fixing or keeping them up, then rapid changes started in a downhill manner.
Yeah, it was only two years ago, that all at once, street gangs starting roving the neighborhood at first during the night, and then even in the day. That might not have been too bad, but the gangs graduated quickly to guns. Many people had first thought it was just a racial issue and city involvement and extra police patrols should be able to take care of the problem. The city fathers should have looked closer, as while some of the problem was racial as some of the gangs consisted of whites, blacks, Mexican, and Asian youths, many more of the gangs were multi-racial and were involved in drugs, theft, holdups, arson, and then cold blooded murder if they didn't get their way about something.
As the problems worsened his wife started talking about moving. When Tom first heard this coming from his wife, he started selling off things that he had been collecting over the years from garage sales, neighbors moving, and what not that friends had given him.
He might finally be able to make up to her the fact they had lost their home before, when he had tried to make a go of his own business. After a couple of promising years, it looked like they were going to make a real go of it. Then in one day, it all came crashing down. The bank called the office and said they had a seizure notice from the IRS and were taking possession of the building and land. He called his accountant and bookkeeper at once. Not receiving an answer, he then called the IRS. Yes, they were foreclosing and he should immediately come into their offices.
Tom immediately grabbed all his books and statements and went down to the IRS. Then the real nightmare began. First he was accused of falsifying tax returns and not filing or paying quarterly returns. He showed them the documents he had, and they did not match. The IRS agent looked at him and asked who did filings for him and when he told him, the agent looked at another agent and nodded. Tom was then told that he was one of several that had been screwed by his accountant whom the IRS were already looking for, for Tax Evasion. To make matters worse, the agent then told him he had better get in touch with his bank, as his house was held on a second mortgage on the business property. Tom tried to protest and the agent just looked at him and told him he should have been more careful about whom he hired to do his accounting and bookkeeping, because Tom was going to pay all the back taxes owed to the Federal government and that the State had been notified and that all taxes that were due and payable by the business including all withholding taxes from employees also had to be made up and paid for. Penalties for late payments, fraudulent filings would almost double the taxes and withholdings he would have paid. Tom then realized that the accountant had the check books for the business and he had no idea what had been paid or not paid in the last several weeks.
Tom went over to the accountant's office and as he drove up, he could see people taping big yellow X's on the windows and the front door already had one. He pulled over and asked one of the men what was going on, and he was told that the IRS had seized the business and the records inside. Tom asked about getting his checkbooks and the man very coldly told Tom to go see the agent at the front door. He went up to the guy and politely made his request to get the checkbooks. The agent looked at him and said no one is going to get into this building, nor is anyone going to take anything out of the building.
Realizing the futility of trying any further Tom headed to the bank. Many of the cashiers, tellers and officers smiled and waived at him as he had been doing his business with them for some time. He began to relax a little and thought that maybe someone here would be able to help him. The vice president of loan operations came out of his office and seeing Tom standing there came over to him. "Mr. Harris there is nothing we can do for you, please leave this facility." Tom couldn't believe his ears or the look on the VP's face.
Two weeks ago, he had been over to George's house to pick up a large desk that George had wanted to get rid of. While he had been there, he had fixed George's daughter's bike that had the handle bars skewed when she had hit a pothole and crashed the bike into the curbing. Luckily she had been unharmed except for an abrasion mark on her knee and one on her shoulder. Tom had always been a smiling and carefree type person, going out of his way to help others and lend not only a helping hand, but many times loaning near strangers money. Most of the time, he had never been paid back. This was another of Tom's failures according to his wife. The little girl seeing Tom had rushed up to him showing him her scratches and telling him all about how her bike was messed up. Of course, he had to help. Now George was addressing him as Mr. Harris and to leave the bank?
Tom told George he would close his accounts first and then leave the bank without giving anyone any problems. George just laughed at him, "You have no money in this bank. We will be foreclosing on the house to pay off the business building loan." Tom's heart sank because he knew the IRS would claim any differences between the loan remaining, the second mortgage and whatever their house sold for.
Tom went home to face his wife and family. He tried to act calm and rationale about the situation as he told them what had happened. The screaming and verbal abuse was over whelming from his wife. He tried to tell her he would get a job and they could start over. That someone in the family would loan them enough to at least rent a house from which to begin again. Nothing worked. "I don't want to move. All my family lives around us. Why did you have to be so stupid? Why couldn't you have been happy working for someone else, instead of having to have your own business? I never liked that shyster anyway. I told you to pick someone else! What are the kids going to do now, you promised us a vacation? The litany of his failures to include mental incapability, lack of caring for the family, caring more for other people than the family and the fact he seemed to care more in pleasing and helping others than them. It only stopped when she screamed for him to get out of the house, as she couldn't stand the sight of him. Tom got up and after trying to apologize again, finally left. He went over to several of the family member's houses and was refused staying over as they didn't want to get into family squabbles especially with his wife. It took six phone calls to friends before he found a place to stay that night.
The next morning he had gone home to see what could be done. His wife answered the door after he lightly knocked on it. She told him to come on in, as she wanted to talk to him. She told Tom to get his own cup of coffee before he sat down, because she was not about to wait on him again. Tom was a bit surprised at this statement, because most mornings he got up and made the coffee. She then stated that she had given considerable thought to what Tom had told her yesterday and about loosing the house. "The kids need a father, a place to stay, clothes, food and books. You are going to provide that for them and you will get us another house somehow. Then and only then will I forgive you, but I will never forget. From now on, you will not loan anyone money, you will stop doing anything for anybody else but this family. If you cannot live with those terms; leave now." Tom started to say something, but thought better of it, "I agree." He loved and his kids and still felt he loved his wife.
"Luckily, I talked to the Ziegler's across the street and we can rent their house. They have a place down in Florida they bought this last summer and they were going to put a For Rent sign out next week." She then went on and said "The rent is cheap because they know us and that we'll take care of the place." Tom just nodded his head.
The following week Tom got a job and they started paying back his wife's brother who had loaned her the money for the first couple of months rent and groceries. The IRS after seizing everything they could, as well as the bank foreclosing on their house, gave Tom a repayment schedule he had to meet every month. To meet all these obligations Tom took a second job and any odd jobs he could. His wife finally took a job also when several family members told her she was being spiteful to herself and to get a new home they had to have a down payment and money to move and fix up. Almost every day, she would remind Tom and point across the street at their old home and say almost the same thing every time, "See what your stupidity cost us?" Anytime she thought he was going to do something for somebody else, she would remind him of their agreement.
Two and a half years later, their old home went up for sale, and that afternoon they signed a purchase agreement, using his GI bill and the money she had saved from her job. The house cost them $10,000 more than when they first bought it. It took a month and a half to move back into their old home, waiting for the closing and then repainting the interior top to bottom. Six months later, she bought new carpet for most of the rooms. Each time she spent her money fixing the house back up she would remind him of his errors and mistakes.
Finally after their two daughters kept saying something about her constant reminders, she started laying off him with her remarks a little. Five years later, she told him he could have a small allowance, but he could not loan any of it out, or help anybody except the family. He had tried very hard to live fully to the agreement made but still found himself helping others, not himself by action, but trying to help by suggesting ways or means that they could get help or who to see to get help. He usually found a way.