Bankruptcy

What do you do when you find out your husband, the man you trusted your entire life to, has not only been cheating on you, but then cleans out all your accounts and leaves you broke and destitute?

If you’re like me, you get busy and make plans to take the son-of-a-bitch out. Quickly.

Seeing the look on the bank teller’s face as I waited for her to post my check made my stomach turn into a knot. It’s automatic as you see them look at your account, frown, do a ever-so-slight head tilt, and then look up at you with a plastered smile. That smile that they make them practice to give an air of calmness while waiting for the incoming screaming that they were afraid would happen.

“I’m sorry Ms. Caldwell, but your accounts have a zero balance,” she said. Her smile grew wider and stiffer.

I blinked. I blinked again and then did my own head tilt. “That’s impossible. There was plenty of money in there the other day. Are you sure you have the right account?” I asked and leaned over the counter to look. She quickly moved the monitor screen away from me.

She rattled off my information. It was correct. She had the right account but there was no way my checking and savings accounts were empty. A thought began to form in the back of my mind. I pushed it away quickly.

“What the fuck happened to my money?” I asked. “Where did it go?” I knew I shouldn’t have sworn and I knew she hadn’t done anything wrong, but this was the worst news I could have heard. I had managed to haul myself out of bed, get dressed, which was a stretch for me that day, and drive down to the bank. The fact that I had even put on a bra was a huge accomplishment for me with the way I was feeling and the shit my life had turned into.

She looked around the bank quickly and then signaled someone to come over. Her smile was back. She said I should talk to the Branch Manager. Another woman walked over with the same smile and said she could help me. She said “I can help you. Come with me and have a seat and I’ll get him for you,” but it sounded like “Oh-please-don’t-make-a-scene-and-be-a-psychotic-bitch-so-just-come-with-me-and-shut-the-fuck-up.”

I followed her into an office. She asked if I wanted anything to drink.

“Yes, gin if you have it. If not, vodka will do,” I said and sat down.

She chuckled “Oh that’s funny….”

“You think I’m kidding? Do I look like I’m kidding?”

“No.”

“Well?” I asked.

“I can get you some coffee or water…”

“Water, please,” I said and waited while she got it.

The office wasn’t very big but it was like every other bank office I had been in. Immaculate, efficient, and sparsely decorated with one oil painting and a few brochures on the table.

The branch manager came in within a few minutes, shook my hand, and sat down. “It’s nice to see you again, Susan. How have you been?”

I didn’t feel like smiling, but I couldn’t help it. Brad had been our banker at work since day one. Most of the employee’s, including myself, banked here and he was always willing to help.

“Not so good, Brad. Long story short, my husband and I split up and now I find out that all my money is missing. That’s how I’m doing,” I said. I could feel the tears coming but I refused to cry anymore. I had cried for 3 days. Enough was enough.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. All of it. Well, let me take a look at your account,” he said. I gave him all the information and prayed that while he looked, my money would magically appear and we would laugh about the mistake and how stupid computers were.

He frowned. We weren’t going to be laughing after all.

“Yes, I’m afraid that it’s true,” he said and moved the monitor so I could see it. He pointed to the transactions. One in my checking and one in my savings. Both accounts had been cleared out 2 days ago.

“Someone must have forged my signature!” I said. I knew that someone hadn’t, but I had to say it.

“No, I don’t think so. Look at this. This is the record of each transaction. Sam came in and cashed out each one. Here, right here, are his signatures. You see those?” he asked. His voice was full of sympathy and pity. That made me feel worse.

After going back and forth with Brad, I knew it was true. Sam had cleaned out everything and it was perfectly legal. It wasn’t right but it was legal. He was a co-signer on both accounts. He had taken all my money. He didn’t even leave me $1.00. It was insult added to injury.

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rail

There are many angels among us. The underground railroad still exits. It’s primary use is salvaging women from the men who hurt them, beat them, kill them and exploit them. Jane is on the run, scared and only knows to go to her pimp. After all, it’s what she was raised to do.

Only 3 people knew where the shelter was and Robert was not one of them. He would call his mother and set up a time and place for the woman to arrive. She would be whisked away and no one knew where. Getting the woman was only a small part of the process. Once she was put in a car, she would be driven to several points in which, each time, she was moved to another car for a minimum of 5 stops. Not one of the drivers knew anything other than where to pick the woman up and where to drop her off. Disposable cell phones were used and the route changed frequently. Before getting into the first car, the woman handed over her cell phone. The battery was taken out and the phone disposed of. She wasn’t just running from an abusive man; she was running from and leaving behind her life.

Now he had to call her and tell her Jane had run. She would be upset and somewhat angry at him even though it wasn’t his fault.

He sighed and dialed her number.

“Robert, where is she?” she asked. She didn’t even bother with “Hello.”

“Mom, I’m sorry, but she ran,” he said. He was a grown man but now felt like a petulant child that his mom was scolding. “I made sure she had cab fare and the sergeant had the address to give the cab driver, but she wouldn’t listen.”

“What do you mean the sergeant had the address? Why didn’t you make sure she got in the cab? I had someone waiting for her all afternoon. Not until the sun began to set did I have her leave the coffee shop. What was so important that you couldn’t talk to her yourself?”

Robert couldn’t help but chuckle. After all these years, his mother still believed that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. She had instilled in him that failure wasn’t an option or a choice. She also didn’t understand that a judge cannot be talking with defendant’s or becoming too familiar with them.

“Well, Mom, it’s a bit of a long story…”

“Robert, it always is. You know damn well how skittish and scared these women are. Promise me the next time, you get her to me.”

“Yes, ma’am, I will,” he said because chances were, Jane would be back in a courtroom again. They always came back unless they died. From what he had seen of her, she would surely be dead soon. He prayed that she offended again and he could get her to safety before her pimp or the streets murdered her. It was a waiting game of which would happen first.

The rest of the chapter continues on my Patreon site. I do hope you’ll join in. It’s $2.00 a month. An amazing deal! https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis

 

 

Chapter 5 – Going home.

Posted: September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

#MyNameIsChantelle

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The rest of the chapter continues on my Patreon site. I do hope you’ll join in. It’s $2.00 a month. An amazing deal! Susan Lewis on Patreon

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As I continue to write my book and publish it online (check it out and follow along at: https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis), I am struck by how natural and easy it is for me to talk to people and conversely, how difficult it is for so many other people.

Why is this?

Short of someone actually physically assaulting you, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

They insult you? So what. You’ve insulted plenty in your life.

They make fun of you? Yeah…again…so what? You’ve done that too.

They scare you? Walk away then.

They disagree with you? OH MY GOD! HOW HORRIBLE! Lock them up and throw away the key.

I remember when I was doing extensive work in the criminal justice system. One thing I needed was help and 99% of the time I’d hear “Yes, I’ll help you but don’t make me go with you in there. I’ll help with mailings or phone calls or even a few bucks, but…no…not…them.”

I’d sort of pause for a moment and look at them.

“Why? What are you afraid of? Another human being? You’re perfectly safe. In fact, you’re safer in there than out here, so what’s the problem? Looking at a student scares you?”

No one could ever really answer my question, so I began to realize it wasn’t the environment (though it is different). It was the fact that they would have to look at another person and take responsibility for them.

Holy hell, what was I thinking?

Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking and it’s this – that it would be fun, different and I could learn and see “the other side” of things and maybe…just maybe…make a difference.

That I would get out of my comfortable and boring life and stretch my wings and abilities and DO something.
DO something. Not talk about it. I couldn’t handle another conversation about the latest TV show or how difficult someone’s life was because they couldn’t afford to take another vacation or buy the latest phone or car or whatever crap they were worried about.

So I went and now I’m writing about it. I’m remembering as much as I can and I see that on some level, I miss these women. I’m finally at the part of the book where I’m introducing some of them to my readers. I’m struggling with how to describe them so the reader feels they know them and are standing in my shoes.

What did these broken and horrible people do for me?

Well, that’s pretty much what the book is about, but in a nutshell, I can tell you that I learned as much from they as they did from me.

Last I heard, my program was pretty damn successful. 5 years after completing my stint, I heard back that not one of the them was a repeat offender. All of them got out, went back into society and behaved themselves.

The secret?

First of all, I had some great data and help to give them. You can’t get anything done without the correct tools.

Secondly, and I think the most important, is I listened to them. I did not try to change them. I sat down and heard every word they said. I did not coddle them. I did not allow them to be victims. I pointed them in a better direction and let them make their own decisions.

Thirdly, I pulled no punches. I ran a very tight ship, made the rules clear and never let anyone abuse those barriers. I even brought in a whistle to use if they stopped listening to me.

Sitting with the broken is tricky. You cannot allow yourself to get pulled into their crap, which they created, and sympathize and go along with their justifications. We are the ones who build our own traps and we’re the only ones that can unbuild them. Kind of cool and kind of sucks.

You’re the only one that can fix you but it’s almost impossible to do it alone. I tried and it almost killed me emotionally.

We all want everyone to listen and understand us, but how often do you do that for another? Huh? When was the last time you took the time to just sit and listen to someone and not judge them or tell them what they did wrong?
If you want to fix you, first go help fix someone else. Trust me, you’ll find that you’re really not that broken.

You just think you are.

The next installment of my book:

Sam saw the scissors in my hand and froze. I don’t know why I grabbed them. I looked down at them and was surprised to see them in my hand. Everything was spinning around in my head. I had a thought and then it was replaced with 10 more, maybe 20. Everything meant everything and nothing at once. Somehow this was my fault and my first reaction was that he was right. It was my fault. All of it. Somehow I knew he was right and then I knew he was wrong. I felt like I had been raped and was blaming myself for it. I grappled with that thought that it was something I had said or done that made him sleep with someone else. Someone else in my bed. My bed. Not her bed. Mine.

Then I remembered why I grabbed the scissors. I held them tightly as I raised up my hand and looked at him. His eyes darted from the scissors, to my face, and back.

He was scared.

So was I.

“How is this my fault?” I asked. I waved the scissors for effect. Seeing the fear in his eyes made me feel powerful for a moment. I waved them again, wanting to see him scared some more.

It worked. He gulped and took a step back. I heard Maverick crying at the patio door.

“What are you going to do with those?” he asked and nodded towards my hand holding the scissors. I had no idea.

“Are you worried that I’ll stab you? Do you think I’d be capable of something like that? Is that why you’re afraid? Huh? Is that why? Are you afraid I’m going to turn into Lorena Bobbitt and cut your dick off?” I asked and stepped forward. I had no intention of hurting him. The thought hadn’t entered my mind. As angry and hurt as I was, I was too busy fighting my own battle in my head of blaming myself and then blaming him. Back and forth it went, rapidly and with no control.

“Please put the scissors down. You’re making me nervous,” he said.

I looked down at them. I nodded, turned around, and marched down the hall and into our bedroom. I closed the door behind me and locked it. I opened up his closet and looked at all his clothes hanging there. All the clothes I had purchased for him, washed and ironed, arranged by the type of clothing and color, and all on wooden hangers. No wire hangers! I had probably spent $10,000.00 on him for his clothes over the last few years.

How many had he worn for her? What was her favorite? Did she go through my drawers and touch my things? Did she use my shampoo and hair conditioner? What about my razor and favorite soap in the shower or did she draw a bath and pour my favorite bubble bath while he rubbed her back and washed her?

I felt my heart explode with anger and jealousy.

I grabbed the expensive suit I bought him last year for us to attend a formal wedding. The wedding was for a colleague at the insurance office I worked at. I had been surprised to receive the invitation but gladly accepted. I took Sam to buy a suit and of course, we had to go to Nordstrom’s. Nothing less would do. Sam didn’t like anything on sale and I wanted him to look good, so I plunked down a few thousand and bought the suit, shirt, tie, shoes, and socks. He had no need for any suits but had to have the best. I agreed and had to admit he looked so handsome in it, I didn’t want him to take it off.

I held the suit out in front of me and took the scissors and cut the jacket from the bottom up, all the way to the shoulders. It cut smoothly and easily. I did that to his slacks. I looked for the shirt that went with his suit and cut the arms off of it. I watched as the fabric fell to the floor of the closet.

I started to feel better, so I cut up each piece of clothing, one by one, and watched the pieces fall to the floor.

I heard Sam try the door and then knock on it. “Suz, you OK? What are you doing? Open the door. Let me in,” he said and kept tapping at the door. I walked over and opened it. I still had the scissors in my hand.

“I’m fine, just busy,” I said and turned around and walked back to the closet. I heard him follow me. I took his favorite Hawaiian shirt and cut the sleeves off of it and watched the fabric fall.

He walked over and looked at the pile of his ruined clothes on the floor of the closet. “What in the hell are you doing?” he asked and tried to grab the scissors from my hand. I stepped back and put them behind me.

“No, you can’t have these. Get away from me!” I shouted. I knew how this looked. I was acting crazy and wouldn’t have argued with anyone who said so, but I didn’t feel crazy. I felt clear headed and aware. I felt as if I was taking steps to claim my life back. Somehow destroying his clothes was a way to do that. I knew if I didn’t do something, we’d end-up in another horrible fight, one that I might actually stab him. It was the type of crazy that made sense, if only to me. It was better that I cut his clothes rather than him. This was perfect logic to me in my  state of mind.

The rest of the chapter continues on my Patreon site. I do hope you’ll join in. It’s $2.00 a month. An amazing deal!

My Name Is Chantelle

 

 

Here’s Chapter 3 of the book. I hope you are enjoying what you’ve read and will come over and read the rest of the story. I’m up to Chapter 15 and it’s going quite well.

Judge Robert Ulysses James leaned back in his chair behind his desk. His middle name was in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, whom his mother and grandmother considered a saint. This was carved in stone on his mother’s side of the family. Robert had been told the story of his family being former slaves at least a thousand times during his childhood. They would have named his brother Abraham if he had had one. He was the only child and felt that their heritage now rested on his shoulders. He often wished he had a sibling to help share the burden, but he accepted his fate gladly.

He was in his chambers and relaxing after a short lunch and getting ready to go back into his courtroom. His courtroom. Even after all these years on the bench, the thought of having his own courtroom still seemed a tad unreal, as if it was all a joke and soon someone would walk in and tell him so. That was nonsense. He knew that. But he always had that stray thought in the back of his mind. It never left him and never would. It kept him honest and on his toes. Every day was another day that he worked to fulfill his promise to himself to make things right, to better the condition of his fellow African-Americans and everyone else, and to never forget where he came from.

His was not the usual and often used cliche of a poor black child growing up in poverty without a father. That stereotype bothered him more than the “Amos and Andy” or “Super Fly” droll that passed as fact amongst most people, black and white alike, as the usual life of a black man in America.

He was familiar with the “Shuck ‘n Jive” routine of his ancestors and friends growing up in Oakland. To downplay it whilst being hassled by a white police officer was the best way to go. Not necessarily being stupid, but acting it. Keep your mouth shut, nod your head, offer no resistance, and he could usually walk away unscathed. Well, unscathed physically but not emotionally. It did no good to get upset. It was best to agree, be courteous, and offer no information unless asked. The few times he was stopped for being in the wrong part of Oakland, he would politely hand over his ID, mention his father’s name and wait. Always with a smile and always with patience while the officers checked and then double-checked his ID, asking questions and trying to trip him up. He learned to give quick and concise answers and to not elaborate. That lesson served him well as an attorney and later as a judge. “Rule your life with intelligence and not emotion” was his motto.

The officers were always surprised to learn who his father was. Robert did not fit the stereotype “Negro” of most bigots. He came from a good family, his father was a well known and respected attorney in San Francisco for a prestigious law firm, made good money and lived in Piedmont, the nicest area in Oakland. They owned their home, drove nice cars, kept the yard clean and tidy, and ate food other than fried chicken and watermelon.  He spoke proper English and his mother was constantly correcting his grammar. Any type of street or ghetto talk was not allowed. He was taught to speak properly, enunciate his words, and to hold his head up high.

Robert learned of racism not from his family but from simply walking down the streets of Oakland as a young child. He was aware of the different colors of people, but he was born in 1945 when Oakland was a place for hard working people who were harmonious with each other. Racial tension was rare.

Founded in 1852, Oakland quickly expanded due to the railroads. In 1906, the number of refugees and homeless people doubled as they made their way from San Francisco after the devastating earthquake. General Motor’s opened a plant in 1916, followed by Chrysler in 1929. Oakland soon became home of many manufacturing plants, canneries, metal factories, bakeries, manufacturer of the internal combustion engine, cars, and ship building. It was known as the “Detroit of the West.” It was prosperous and expanding. After WWII started, thousands of poor and rural African-Americans migrated from the Deep South to work in the shipyards.

After WWII, the black population began to expand as the shipping and automotive industries disappeared. Harmonious and prosperous before the war, by the 1950’s, the population was becoming poorer and poorer. Between 1950 and 1960, 100,000 property owners left to live further north. It was known as the “White Flight.”

The Oakland police began to heavily recruit white officers from the Deep South in order to respond to the increasing population of the African-Americans. The stage was set for racial tensions and was escalated by the brutality that the blacks were dealt with. False arrests, planted evidence, excessive force, and falsified police documents became the norm rather than the unusual.

In 1966, there were 16 black officers and 661 white officers. “The Black Panther Party for Self-defense” was formed. They followed white officers on their rounds, documenting their actions and openly carrying guns. By 1970, gang controlled dealing of heroin and cocaine caused the murder rate of Oakland to be at least twice that of New York city or San Francisco.

On one spring morning as Robert played basketball with Jerome, they stopped as the cop car parked and two white officers approached them. They asked them the usual questions of who they were and what they were doing.

“Why are you asking us that?” Jerome asked. He was a foot taller than the two officers and was as lean and strong as Robert. At 16, they were immortal, young, and healthy.

One of the officers sneered at him. “It’s not your place to ask us any questions, boy,” he said. Robert felt Jerome’s hackles rise. He gently put his hand on Jerome’s arm to calm him down. Jerome pushed his hand away and stepped closer to the officer. Robert’s stomach tightened.

For the rest of the story, go here:

My Name Is Chantelle

 

Yep, sort of an odd thing to say. Mind you, it’s not that I ever talk to them about me. I don’t. They don’t know who I am or where I live. They only know me as a woman named “Susan” who grades their lessons and keeps them going.

Some correspond back with a letter attached to their lessons. Some just send the lessons back. It doesn’t matter as long as they are moving along.

Today, one sent me this and as I read it, I felt the universe settle down again and make a bit more sense.

On change – I’ve never met a person I didn’t care about or not care about what condition he/she was in. I could always see their possibilities. I don’t care how many may consider himself a failure. I believe in him for he can change what is wrong with his life. anytime you are ready and prepared to do it. Whenever he/she develops the desire, they can take away from their life the thing that is defeating it. The capacity for reformation and change lies within. Criminon has transformed my lief in every way. It’s barriers of study will help you understand who we are as individuals. Without these courses and the awesome instructor helping you change in the right way, it would be harder. So just go ahead and take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step. I did and it’s great! Thank you Criminon!” R.H. “Learning Skills for Life”

For you see, there’s only one thing I know when I work with an inmate – they are in jail.

The rest? It doesn’t matter because I know once someone is in the system, it’s designed to keep them there. Repeat customers are the cheapest way to keep the money flowing. It’s good business and make no mistake – the criminal justice system IS a business.

I have my own problems and the only way I know to deal with them and come out the other side is to help another.

I’ve got lots of these wonderful letters. If you want me to post them once in a while, let me know.