On My Own
What a fucking week that was.
I was shaking my head while sitting on the steps of an old trailer in an even older trailer park. The little trailer did have a small awning that could be rolled up and down, giving you some shade during hot afternoons. The awning was more for rainy days though, as a large oak tree shaded the trailer and its small concrete patio.
This was not what I was used to. The last twenty-five years had been spent in a decent house in an average middle-class neighborhood. It was there that I had raised kids and enjoyed life. For twenty-five years, I had painted, repaired, remodeled, and done landscaping to a house that wasn't huge but was decent. A typical three bedroom, two bath, with a two-car garage.
The trailer behind me was a one bedroom, one small bath, model with a decent sized kitchen adjoining a living room area. Tiny compared to what I was used to.
Last Monday, I think it was Monday early evening or late afternoon, my wife of over twenty years said, "We're through, and I want a divorce, not a separation, but a divorce."
I asked, "What brought this on? Why?"
She said haughtily, "I'm not supporting your ass while you sit at home. Just because you're supposed to be watching what you do physically is no reason to do nothing. Since you sold your business you don't have regular money coming in except for social security. I'm not going to support you while you do nothing."
I protested, "We have the money from the sale of the business. If we just use it like an annuity, we can live off it as if it was what I took out of the business for over fifteen years. Christ, I won't be alive fifteen years from now."
With a sneer, she said, "Thank goodness for small favors. I won't have to even think of you then."
"Jesus, Judy, what in the world has gotten into you? Did something happen at work that's made you mad?"
"Nothing's made me mad except you. You piddle around in the yard and garage and do nothing. You're not bringing in any money."
"I just said we have the money from the business. I'm going to use it like an annuity so we have a long term income, about the same as what we were taking out of it when I had it."
"You won't be taking any money out of it now; I've had it transferred to my name and its part of what I'm asking for in the divorce."
"What do you mean? That was my business. I spent thirty years building the business, supporting our family with it. It hasn't been but the last ten years that you began working at the post office. You'll have a good retirement income from there along with social security and there will still be money left from the savings, from the sale of the business."
"You don't get it do you," Judy said? "We're done. You have until Friday to be out of here. My attorney assures me I'll get the house, and the savings. He says I can't stick you with any of the bills since you're retired, but I'm taking the proceeds of the business."
She handed me an envelope. I opened it and there were twenty hundred dollar bills, a card, and a key. She said, "Use that money until you get your social security monthly. The key is for a storage shed down at the storage center that's paid up for six months. Use that to get all of your stuff out of the house and the garage. Use the money to find a place to live and for food until your check comes for next month. You better hurry because as of Friday, I will have a restraining order on you restricting you from the house."
She picked up her purse and walked out the door to go wherever it was she was going.
I went to the computer and tried to log on to our joint bank account. I couldn't get in. A sick feeling came over me. I went out to get in my near twenty year old Bronco to run to the bank to check on the account.
At the bank I put my card into the outdoor ATM and waited. The screen began flashing, "Not a valid card, See bank teller." I had a couple of grand in my business account and put that card in and got the same notice.
Crap, this was not good. I needed some legal advice, but it was not during business hours and I had no idea who to call. I didn't have any past clients that were divorce lawyers.
Back at the house, I called my oldest son who lives out in Cheyenne, working for a military equipment research firm out there. "Hey, Gene, how are you doing?"
"Great, Dad, you should see how big the kids are. They're really getting big."
"Um, ah, Gene, you didn't know anything about your mother and I splitting did you?"
"No Sir. Jeanie said there was some bad news coming from home when she called yesterday but not what. I thought it might be your health or something. Are you and Judy splitting?"
Gene was my son from my first marriage that had ended when Gene was a baby. I raised Gene as a single parent and he left home for school shortly after Judy and I got married. Jeannie came along late in my life. She was my forty-sixth birthday present. Judy was sixteen years younger than I was and had trouble getting pregnant. At first the docs thought it was me, but they finally did a laparoscopy and found a small film of skin covering her fallopian tubes. As soon as they cleared that, wham, pregnant. Jeanie, now twenty, just graduated from school and was living in Atlanta where she was now gainfully employed.
I told Gene, "I guess Judy confided with her. She just told me this evening we were splitting. I guess I need to get moving to find a place and get my stuff out."
"Come out here, Dad," Gene begged enthusiastically. "You know I have a big place and have a lot of room. It doesn't look like Mom is going to come out here so you're welcome. Sandy loves you, Dad, and I'm sure you would be an asset to the house. Just put your stuff in a storage shed for a while and come out here."
"I'm tuned in to Florida sunshine, Son. That and Sandy doesn't need a father-in-law to look after. Let me figure out what to do and I'll let you know how I'm doing. Call me on my cell if you need me."
"A, Dad, I don't think your cell phone works. I tried to call you yesterday and today and today I received the message that your number was not a working number."
"Okay, I'll check it. Look, don't worry, I'm capable of getting moved out of here. If I need some muscle, I have a couple of big friends."
"Yeah, but you don't ride any more, Dad. You don't even have a road bike. All you have is that antique you play with."
"The age of the bike doesn't reflect on my friends."
"No Sir, but your friends are getting old too. If you need help, call me. Take care, Dad, I love you."
I checked my cell phone plugged into the charger and there were not any bars. I called it from the house phone and received "This is not a working number."
I tried to call the house number from the cell phone and nothing happened, absolutely nothing.
It was seven thirty so there wasn't much I could do about the cell phone right now. I should ask Judy about that.
My mind was whirling. Where should I try to go to get a place to live? I couldn't afford anything. My sister up in Illinois lived in public housing because she wanted to. She sold her house and now lived in a tiny apartment in a small rural town in south central Illinois. She's happy, but there wasn't anything like that here. I had heard that there were not enough apartments for the demand as it was. I know my sister was on a waiting list for over a year.
Well, first things first. I'll hook up the trailer and get the bike over to the storage shed then try to load my tool boxes. I may have to empty them as I had just found out from the VA that I had an aneurysm near my stomach that was still too small to operate, but large enough to be a concern, so no straining and no heavy lifting.
It took an hour to get the bike and a bunch of small items over to the storage place. At least she rented a ten by twenty so it should be large enough. Too bad I had to leave my two nice work benches. I would have to abandon my vise and the grinder. Crap. I'd just leave anything that wasn't going to be essential for my near future life style.
What would be my future lifestyle? Crap, that's what it would be. With about fourteen hundred a month income, it would be crap. No sweat, I'd find a job. Too bad I sold the fucking business. Watch your mouth, Buddy, or at least your mind. You've kept a clean mouth all these years, keep it that way.
I'm getting nuts. I'm talking to myself.
Back at the house, I picked up the classifieds and began looking at apartments. Jesus, the cheap ones were all six hundred and up. I couldn't rent a house or unfurnished apartment, as I didn't have any furniture. I needed a cheap furnished something. There was some motel type places that were all a hundred fifty a week. That's six hundred a month. Crap. I am going to have to figure out a budget, a tight budget, and live with it until I can get some kind of job. My days of working on a few of my inventions to see if they could be marketed are over. This was going to be tight.
With my nose back in the classifieds, I saw an ad for manufactured homes in parks for rent. Some were as low as a hundred ten a week. I could probably do four fifty and still eat but I would need a long term plan for clothes and I did need some form of recreation. It would be nice to have a beer every once in a while too. There was an interesting ad that said,
Small one bedroom furn.
family park. $475, util &
cable. Anytime 555-4392
I could live with that. It was nine thirty so I should probably wait until tomorrow. I kept looking at the ad reading into it that it was probably a trailer as it was under the manufactured home for rent section and it said family park. The word "furn" had to mean furnished. If utilities and cable were furnished then this sounded like the place for me. They did say anytime so I picked up the phone and dialed the number.
An older lady said, "Hello."
"Hi, my name is Mark Robins. I saw your ad for a furnished place in a family park. Is it still available?"
"Um, Mr. Robins, may I ask you some questions?"
"Are you married?"
"Ah, I am today but probably not for long. That's why I'm looking for an apartment."
"I see. Are you used to wild parties and such?"
"No, Ma'am, you see I'm retirement age and not wild at all."
"Oh, good, I mean that's good that you're older. Do you have an income other than Social Security?"
"I did, but it looks like I might lose that. I'll find a part time or full time job though. I'll need more that Social Security to enjoy life."
"Yes, you probably will. Do you want to come see the trailer? It is very clean and has a very nice tree next to it for shade. The trailer has very good air conditioning for those hot days and nights and is furnished quite well. There are some pots and pans for cooking, but no other appliances."
"I do want to see it. When will be a good time?"
She said, "The trailer park is out on north Florida Avenue near Lutz. It's the trailer park after you pass the Holiday Inn Express on the same side of the road. The trailer is on the second street over from the entrance, all the way to the end. It's pretty far from the mailboxes and the laundry facilities, but it is a nice place. Where would you be coming from?"
"I'm over near Citrus Park right now."
"You could be out here in fifteen to twenty minutes. Come out now. There are streetlights so you can see the outside of the trailer. I'll meet you."
"I don't want to put you out, Ma'am."
She said, "No bother at all. I live here in the park too. I only live three doors down from the little trailer."
"I'll come right out, Ma'am."
I unhooked the trailer and pushed it to the side of the house. Driving out to the trailer park, I thought about where I could get a job out that way. Crap, I didn't want to work. I've been working since I was a kid on the farm, virtually all my life. I wanted to putter, work on my inventions, read, learn to play golf, travel a little. Crap.
Oh well, you gotta do what you gotta do. Crap. I have to watch my mouth.
I pulled up to the guardhouse at the entrance of the trailer park as an armed guard had come out of a little building and stood in the driveway. I told him who I was and that I was seeing a lady about renting a trailer. He nodded and said, "Betty called and said you were coming."
The security guard said, "Go on in, Sir. The trailer is on the second street. You have to go up by the mailboxes and turn down the next street and come all the way back almost to here. It's right over there, but you have to drive around."
Shoot, that's pretty nice. A security guard for a trailer park. That's a bonus.
The speed limit signs said fifteen miles an hour, so I about coasted up the street, did a U-turn around the mailbox building, and went down the next street. At the end was a little trailer lit up brightly inside, with a big floodlight at the door. There was a gravel patch that I assumed was where the resident would park their car, so I pulled up on it.
As soon as I got out of the Bronco, a little lady opened the door. She said, "Mr. Robins?"
"Yes, Ma'am, call me Mark, please," I said, as I went up the steps and entered the trailer. You entered in what would be the living room area that was really left of the door. The little trailer had a nice little kitchen across the front to the right of the door, with a little counter dividing the kitchen from the living room area. There were two tall chairs at the counter. Just behind the counter was a small table with four chairs, then to the left of that was a couch and a big chair with lamps at each end of the couch on tables, as well as a floor lamp next to the chair.
The lady said, "I didn't introduce myself. I'm Betty Jacobs." She offered me her hand.
After I took it gently and gave it a squeeze, with a smile she said, "If you have a TV you would put it right there where you could see it from the kitchen, the table, the chair, and the sofa."
She went into the kitchen and began showing me that there were glasses, coffee mugs, plates, and bowls. She opened a lower cabinet to show me a dish rack, as well as several pots and pans. She said, "I just had the place fumigated to get any bugs out that might have been in here. I washed all of the dishes and cookware already. Sometimes, we have a terrible problem with the palmetto bugs. I'm sure you're used to that. We also get those little grease ants too. I didn't see any, but as soon as you get some crumbs, they'll show up. Just use some of that Terro ant killer and they'll eat it and disappear for a couple of months."
She was done showing me the kitchen and walked toward the hallway on the other side of the sofa. The first door was the bathroom. It wasn't very big, but big enough. There was a shower curtain there so that would be something I didn't have to buy. I noticed there was even toilet paper on the spool.
We skipped a door, going directly to a door at the end of the short hall that was the bedroom. There was what looked like a queen-size bed with a headboard that had an alarm clock on it. Nice touch to make the place look like home. There was a small lamp over the bed and the room had an overhead light fixture. The bed was made with a nice quilted bedspread. She showed me the walk-in closet that wasn't big, but big enough for me.
We went back out into the hall where she opened the door we had skipped. It was a fairly large closet with shelves at the rear. There was a vacuum in the front of the closet, and dishtowels and dishcloths, along with what looked like a few sets of bedding, were on the shelves. There were a couple of towels and wash cloths too. The lady said, "I've furnished everything you would need to get started to take care of yourself. As you need more, we'll go to Sam's Club and you can get some more of your own."
We went back out to the kitchen counter and she asked, "What do you think?"
"I like it. The place is really spotless and I think it will be the right size for me. I might get a small desk for a computer and to keep my papers."
She said, "You can put it right beside the big chair if you move the chair over a little. If you get the internet on cable, it will be close to the cable outlet where the TV would connect."
She looked at me and asked, "You don't have any pets, do you?"
"No, Ma'am. I have a bird, but my wife will probably keep it. She has some cats but they are hers, not mine."
"Well, if you decide you want a pet, we'll talk about it."
"I like the place, Ms. Jacobs. I think it will fit me fine."
"That's Mrs. Jacobs, but my husband passed away about five years ago. "Please call me Betty. I'll call you Mark, if that's all right?"
"That will be fine, Ma'am."
She said, "And quit with the Ma'am stuff. This is a friendly trailer park. We're all friends here. When do you want to move in?"
"I have to move in this week. Let me give you some money. Is there a deposit?"
She smiled, "Only if you're a slob. If I see the place isn't kept up, I'll charge you a deposit. I'm sure you need all the extra money you have right now."
"Thank you. How do you want this first month? There's still two weeks left of this month. Should I give you two weeks now then the regular rent on the first?"
Another smile and she said, "Tell you what. Give me the first month's rent and you'll get six weeks for this first time. The economy is bad out there right now, so just do it that way."
"I can't tell you how thankful I am for your generosity, Mrs., ah, Betty. This is going to be a tough transition. I'll try to be a good tenant. I'll begin moving out here tomorrow. I don't have that much stuff. The extras that I have will go into a storage place back in Citrus Park."
"That's too bad that you've already rented a place. There's a storage place just down the street, on the other side of the business park where the Holiday Inn is."
"Well, it's only paid up for six months, so if I still need one then, I'll move up here." I looked around and said, "I should probably be leaving you so you can go to bed. It is getting late."
"No, no, not very late for me. I'm somewhat of a night owl. Several of us ladies often get together and play cards almost all night. When you get moved in, I'll introduce you. Since you'll be a new single, or at least almost a single man, you'll be popular. If you're home during the day, you'll have to come up to the pool with us and get some sun. We have a gabfest, or what you would probably call a gossip fest, almost every day. We do skip Sundays usually because that's when the dads get to come up and play with their kids. Oh, do you have any children?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I mean Betty. I have a son that's forty-four and a daughter twenty."
"My, my, that's quite a spread."
"My first wife left when my son was very young. I was lucky enough to raise him, then I remarried about the time he was leaving for college, I remarried and have the daughter that is twenty. She's lives in Atlanta, her first job out of school."
"That's wonderful, do you have any grandchildren?"
"I sure do. I have a grandson that's twelve, a granddaughter eight, and another grandson who's six. They all live in Wyoming."
"Well, Mark, we'll have to talk about our grandkids over coffee. Here's two keys, and I'll probably see you in the morning."
I helped her turn out all the lights and she shut the door and locked it with her own key. I was thinking that I'd bet she was going to be a snoopy landlord. Oh well, I already lived with a snoop for twenty-five years, another one wouldn't hurt.
As I drove down north Florida, hwy 41 before the split, I looked for the storage place Betty was talking about. When I saw it, I pulled in and wrote down the telephone number. It was the same name as the one up by the house. I wonder if they were owned by the same man and if they had reciprocity between the places.
Judy still wasn't home, so maybe she was out drinking. I doubted that, as she wasn't a drinker. Perhaps she had a boyfriend. We hadn't had any intimacy since my heart attacks eight years ago. Actually, we did a couple of times, but it was right about then that I found evidence she was seeing someone or was having some torrid twelve times a day telephone affair. She was pissed that I was looking at her cell bills. She snoops at everything I do, but bitches if I'm even a little curious. I demanded to know who this guy was as I had called the number and found out his name. She did her usual and just clammed up. She was so pissed that we never had sex again. I missed it, but it took an expensive blue pill to make me hard anyway, so I just left it. My hand could get me off when I wanted some relief. I could still get firm at the last minute and blast a big load all over the place. Lot's of fun, huh?
At home, or what was not going to be my home, I had a beer, with some cheese and crackers, to relax before bed. I took my cholesterol pill, brushed my teeth, and headed to bed. Judy and I really didn't even sleep together. One or the other of us would usually sleep on the couch. There's absolutely no touching. I guess I will miss the company, but there won't be any closeness to miss. Crap, I hate to have to move out of here. This is my house too, or at least it used to be.
Man, a lawyer is going to cost me a fortune. I wonder if there is a free legal clinic I can go to for advice. I'd look around. Perhaps the VA has something.
I'm a good sleeper. It took me just a few minutes to fall asleep. The alarm was set for four as someone has to wake Judy up at four so she can go to work. She can't get up on her own. Hope she figures out how to get up when I'm gone.
The alarm went off and I woke up. I went to the bathroom and went out to the living room to wake Judy up. She was asleep on the couch as usual, with the TV on. At least she did eventually come home. I shook her and she groaned. In the kitchen I poured some cold coffee in cups and heated them in the microwave. Taking hers back into the living room, I shook her again trying to wake her up. She said she was awake, but I knew she wasn't.
I needed to get a head start on the day, so I shaved, showered, and dressed quickly to be ready for the day. It took two more times until four forty to get her up, cussing because she was going to have to hurry to get to work. I made a big pot of coffee for her thermos and travel cup while I fed the animals and cleaned cat litter boxes. I was finishing the morning chores when she came rushing in and said, "Find a place to live so you can get out of here. Get everything of yours out of here while you have the chance. I may sell the place and junk everything you leave. Hurry, you only have a couple of days." She grabbed her stuff and split.
It was five twenty. She had to be at work by six.
I went out into the garage and found the stack of boxes that I had flattened after moving stuff from the business. I brought the tape dispenser with me and made up a dozen boxes not knowing how much stuff I really had.
I emptied out the closet, except shirts for a couple of days, as well as the chest, again leaving jeans, socks, and under drawers for a couple of days.
The closet had a bunch of software in a box, so I took that as I was going to have to set up a PC for personal use. Hopefully my old laptop would work for a while. Thinking about that, I wondered how we were going to separate e-mails. I logged on to Yahoo and filled out the form for a free e-mail account. It was an easy to remember address, MRobins@. No one had it so it was mine now. I sent both kids the address and said this would have to do until a new one came along. I wrote my sis a note about this screw-up in my life and sent her the new address.
Thinking that I might as well separate a PC for my own use, I went to the garage and picked out what used to be my personal PC at the business. I knew it had everything I would need right now already loaded, so I took that and a monitor, knowing I could pick up a cheap LCD monitor later.
I finished the room where I kept my clothes and pulled a bunch of books that only I read and would read again. Everything else was going to have to be junk. I left my old stereo since it needed work and I wouldn't have the money to fix it. I did take a set of new PC speakers that were kick ass so I could play my limited music on the PC. I had a CD player and an Ipod. I got all that and put it in a box. I had a cart thing by the kitchen table with stuff in it, along with my medication, that I could put the whole thing in the Bronco. That reminded me, I had not taken the morning's worth of pills yet, so I took a break and took the required medications.
I went through the hall closet for my riding clothes and winter coat. I folded them into a box too. It was then that I realized I would need hangers. I cleaned the hangers out my closet so I would have them at the trailer. That took care of the house for now.
About the time I was halfway through the garage, I realized it was seven thirty so I could go over to the storage place and ask them about swapping. I hooked up the trailer and filled the Bronco with boxes.
At the storage place, the lady was very kind. She said for ten dollars, I could transfer to the other storage facility. I handed her the ten and said the only thing in this one was my motorcycle and a couple of boxes. I would load them right now and go right up to the other place. She came back with me to make sure the stall was clean and I took off.
Up at the other storage place they gave me a garage type stall close to the gate and I unloaded the bike then drove up to the trailer park where I stopped for the gate guard. I explained that I was a new resident and had rented a place from Betty Jacobs. He nodded and made a note. I drove to the trailer and opened up the place. I had the boxes in the house when Betty came over.
"Good morning, Mark. You're early this morning."
"Hi, Betty, I wanted to get the storage building thing settled and get a load up here quickly. I was able to swap locations so my stuff is up near here now. If I do this right, I should be finished late today or early tomorrow. There are a lot of loose ends at the house I need to settle before I officially move out. I'll unpack what I brought and put it away, then go get some more."
She waved for me to come over and said, "Well, at least have a cup of coffee with me this morning so I can show you I'm a good neighbor."
As I went in, I said, "I thought you lived a few spaces down?"
She said, "I do, I'm just cleaning this one up as I have a family moving in this weekend. I have six trailers of different sizes. That's how I make a living, that and Social Security. My husband's pension quit coming in as his old company went bankrupt and the pension money was not separate like it should have been. I'm glad Cletus bought all these trailers. They will support me for the rest of my life."
As I drank the coffee she offered, I said, "I didn't know trailers last that long. You're still a young woman."
"Oh you flatterer, I'm seventy-nine. I figure to make it to maybe ninety. When the time comes, I should have enough for a decent nursing home. Before that though, I'm going to live good and enjoy life."
"Betty you are in great shape and don't look anywhere near seventy-nine. Shoot, I was going to ask you out. I guess you wouldn't want to mess around with a young kid like me. Just keep doing what you're doing."
Betty smiled demurely and said softly, "If you decide you might want to go somewhere some time, come ask. I might decide I could be an educational experience for you. I would enjoy an outing."
"The time will come, Betty, bet on it. Let me get to unpacking and getting the rest of the stuff here and in the storage garage."
I unpacked, put stuff away neatly, and headed back to the house.
Primary editing by Pepere
Proofing by Sagacious