It took me much longer to find a job than it ever had before. It was 2009 and it was an employer’s market. I had my lovely Associate’s Degree but now it seemed that was little better than a high school diploma and almost dismissed in most cases. I looked for three months. It had never taken me that long to find a job but I realize how lucky I was to get the offer. It was less money than I’d been making and it was really menial office work but I didn’t care. I took it. I snatched it up quickly.
Tuckerette of course was not working. She was helping to spend the money alright but even with her doing the feeding and taking care of the animals, what little I had begun to make was doing naught but disappearing almost as soon as I made it. I got myself a checking account and flatly refused to get any checks for the account. Tucker acted wounded and I told him he could go cry in a bucket...but then there was work. Sweet sanctuary. I could leave my madhouse for 8 hours a day and feel smart and important and not worry with all the bullshit. I was slowly starting to feel myself, just a little anyway.
Tucker it seemed had decided to work some angle with bank accounts between Tuckerette, Tucker, Jr. and some DBA he had started. I was flatly told over and over not to worry about what the fuck was going on. I knew though that we didn’t have enough money even with my check to cover bills and for all of us to eat. I cannot count how many times we ate dollar McDonald’s for supper because he had managed to scrape $30 together before I got off work. He didn’t believe in my cooking and us having groceries in the house unless I was going to be home to cook them.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any crappier, summertime arrived and so did the two younger Tuckers. I now had an apartment with an 11, 12, 13 and 14 year old in it along with a whiny, lazy 23 year old and an infant. Plus there was the grandbaby…bazinga!!! I went and got food stamps. I wasn’t going to watch all four of the younger kids starve to death and survive on McDonald’s for the summer and then I forced Tuckerette, Jr. to go and get WIC for her and the baby. Tucker was furious about the “charity”.
I told him, “It’s not charity, it is welfare and we won’t continue to receive it unless you participate in their work program.”
I think we can all surmise how the rest of that conversation went. He wasn’t going…fuck them…and their goddamned charity…blah, blah blah.
Things smoothed out a bit during the summer and we went on a little vacation of sorts. Tuckerette and Tuckerette, Jr. had taken the baby and gone to see their mom. Freddy had gone to his Granny’s and Tucker, Tucker, Jr. Jr. and Harlow and I went to a swimming hole I’d read about online. Hiking and swimming and picnicking. We headed back to the house as it was getting dark and were driving through a construction zone. I was driving because Tucker’s license was still expired and it so happens I was going 70 in a 65 and got us pulled over.
The officer took my license and my insurance and went back to sit like they do, where you’re sure they’re pulling up everything that’s ever happened to you along with your bank account information, internet history etc. etc.
The police officer stepped up to the window and said, “Ma’am is there another licensed driver in the car?”
The taste in my mouth was copper pennies. “No.” I said shakily.
“Well we’ll figure that out in a minute, could you step back here behind the truck please?”
I slowly looked in the back seat at Harlow. Her eyes were huge and questioning and fearful. “It’s fine baby. It’s fine.” I told her and didn’t believe it for one second.
As I stepped behind the truck the officer asked me to place my hands behind my back and he handcuffed me. “Ma’am, I’m placing you under arrest for theft by check on a warrant from That County.” He read my rights to me and I began to tremble and cry. Tears running down my face that I couldn’t wipe away and I was unbelieving and kept thinking, This. Is. Not. Fucking. Happening.
My daughter watched me get handcuffed, placed in a police car and taken away. What followed was humiliating, horrifying and not the worst thing that anyone’s ever endured but at that moment, for me, it was the end of the world.
I remember standing there at the counter, in handcuffs, sobbing and the female jailer asking, “This your first time in jail, honey?” I looked at her and nodded but thought, No, I’m a hardened criminal, I do this every weekend.
After having to strip, put on a fucking orange jumpsuit, be fingerprinted, have my goddamned mug shot taken and then ask the male jailer for sanitary napkins since of course the lady had disappeared, I dragged my mat into the cell and laid it down on the floor. I curled up on it and stared at the urine stains on the floor and thanked my stars there was no one else in there with me.
I lay there for hours wondering what check I could have possibly not picked up. What was it? When was it? Who had it? And why had I trusted him when he said he had it all taken care of? I was in that cell from 10PM until 2PM the next day. I had a lot of time to think. A lot. I was furious. I was scared. I was defeated. I was tired. I was so hurt. I was alone. I was worried for Harlow. I was wondering how in the fuck I was going to get out. When I was finally arraigned the next day next to drunks and thugs, I ran the gamut of emotions again but mostly I was just still in that place where you don’t believe this shit is happening.
When I walked out into the sunshine, I was not free. There he sat with my baby girl waiting. She ran from the truck and hugged and hugged me but I refrained from crying. The rage was too great.
He walked up to me and I held my hand up, “Somehow, someway, this is YOUR fault.” I told him, “I know it and you know it. Don’t fucking talk to me, don’t apologize to me. Let’s just get home so that I can shower and eat and think about what the fuck just happened.”
“Baby, it’s fine.” He had a look on his face that was unreadable to me. I looked down at Harlow and back to Tucker and decided not to lose my shit on him outside the county jail I had just walked out of lest they drag me back in. I walked away from him and got behind the wheel. I drove us home without a word.
When we got home he left immediately and I was happy to have the time without him in my vision. I took a shower, wrapped up in a robe and curled into the recliner in front of the television. Harlow stayed by my side but was exhausted because as she relayed to me they had stayed outside the jail all night waiting. They had run all over town trying to find the judge to get him to come to the jail and arraign me. Tucker had discovered that the charge was not for the check itself but for unpaid court costs on a check that I had not written but one that he had signed my name to at the feed store. I was less than pleased that my 12 year old daughter had been through all this but she had refused to leave with Tucker, Jr. when Tucker had him come and get Tucker Jr. Jr.
Tucker walked back into the apartment and brought me some food and went back downstairs without saying another word to me for the rest of the night. Harlow told me he had worried himself sick all night saying things like, “She’s gonna leave me for sure now.”
I could have. I should have.