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I went into an auto parts store, five guys working, five guys talking about paying child support and nearly starving. There was laughter. It was the type of laughter you hear from men who have survived tragedy or war in their lives, laughing at the horrors that had changed them. They didn't have the part I needed but they seemed to want a short chat - one by one they all told a short tale. I did not ask. I used to. I used to tell my own to strangers - I would stop just to tell. The horror had overwhelmed me. But now where ever I go I hear these stories. I do not have to ask.

I went from the auto parts store to a wrecking yard. I overheard three guys talking about how little they had left in their checks after child support; and talking about how it was a good thing there was an unused portable building they could use on the job to bed down. It is December and getting cold. They weren't illegal aliens. They weren't being lazy bums. They laughed too. It was the same laughter from the auto parts store. I had heard it before in the barracks when men were coming back, alive. I did not chat with those men at the wrecking yard. They were too busy taking parts off a truck nearby. Their boss was watching them closely. One of those parts was for my truck. I paid and left with the only words being the ones when I asked for the part.

Went to the grocery store and stood behind a line of five overweight young women, each with at least two children and all using Texas new food stamp credit card or the new child support paid cash card and no wedding rings and no men. Listening to them chat giddily, it was clear they all had no jobs and were proud of their free income. They spoke of quality steaks and how to buy food for others on their cards to get cash for beer and liquor. I imagine drugs too, but this was a public place and they were not stupid women. They have money they do not earn. They are not stupid at all. They were all very plump and very giddy.

All this in 90 minutes or less. From what I heard I am now more grateful. I have a place to stay with utilities. It is a plain place. The landlady gave me a few pieces of furniture. I have some of my daughter’s artwork from when she was little for decoration. I have managed to save those treasures. If they had dollar value I would be forced to sell them. I work on a ranch and they give me all the meat I want in hunting season. I am very grateful. I saw men with less. All the men I saw had less, except the man in charge of the wrecking yard; I did not hear him talk about anything except the price of my part. When the wrecking yard men were talking of the shed out back where they slept, I thought about the tale of one of the guys behind the counter at the auto parts store.

I haven't always lived like this. Some of those men had not always lived like that. Some used to have dreams. I used to be a professional with a string of businesses. But then there was the birth of my precious child and soon the divorce. I have been homeless, since, and not had food at times in the past. But now I have food and a place to stay with some furniture and a place to put my child's artwork. I even have Internet, again. And, well, those men know the story even better than me. I paid thousands more last year than I made to child support and only went to jail twice because I overpaid but did not pay exactly as they said. And, I still get to eat and to sleep on a borrowed bed in a plain house with utilities and a safe place for my child's art. I am very grateful. Compared to many fathers I am still wealthy. I have a plain house, food to eat, a borrowed bed, heat, and a safe place for my child's art.

One of the guys at the auto parts counter told me how when he was 17, his girlfriend's mom moved him into his girlfriend's bedroom. She got pregnant right away and the girl's mom took them to get on welfare. As soon as the baby was born, he was kicked out and the girl then did this three more times. She received welfare and the child support she collected was tax free above the welfare and she still lived in her mother¢s house. The man behind the counter said she always had a new car and new boyfriends she kept in beer. She never worked and she made regular trips to “the casinos”. He said he has been poor ever since he left his father's house at 17 to move into his girlfriend's bedroom. He said he had not been allowed to see his son for 14 years until the boy walked into where he worked with a small backpack and said his mother dropped him off. The boy said his mother didn't need him anymore, she had a new baby. The man behind the counter said he still had to pay because he now has to pay back the welfare she received. The law had changed. The boy is grown now and is paying child support to a girl down the street that had him move into her bedroom when he turned 18 and the boy would not listen to his father, the man behind the counter. The man said he has to find his son in this cold weather to give him a warm place to stay inside. He has to wait until he gets off work. I think it may be after dark then. It is good that we are far south. The bitter cold does not last long here. The man behind the counter said he is still paying child support

Just a story from a guy behind a counter at an auto parts store on a Saturday morning. That is how my days in town go now. I keep thinking I will wake up. I will probably dream of starving men and fat young women.


Don, the 14%er said…
Although Stan calls it a work of fiction, every word rings true.
Don, the 14%er

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