I'd been going about my business with the poop house family for a couple of weeks at this point. I know that it's difficult to comprehend that all of this disgusting, revolting information can occupy such a small amount of time, but I assure you that's the case.
I mentioned in the last post that during this time I suffered from nightmares about the poop house, and in general didn't sleep very well. I was about to see things which would add to those troubles.
Seasonally, at this point in the story, we're in roughly early- to mid-autumn. In the Midwest, that generally means that it can still get up in the upper 90's during the day, sudden showers can crop up out of nowhere, the humidity makes life unbearably sticky and gross, and it's possible to have frost on your car when you wake up in the morning. All of these factors combine with other things which in all are supposed to comprise the appeal of life in the Midwest. Personally, despite spending the overwhelming portion of my life here in the North American Midwest, I still don't see the appeal, and if it weren't for the ties of friends and family, I don't think I'd have anything to do with the place. I mean I like seasons and everything, but the Midwest finds new and interesting ways to make the best parts of the best seasons totally suck.
So one sweltering day, I had a mid afternoon cancellation. This meant that if I went to the poop house a little earlier than normal, I could be done for the day. Normally people would look at finishing a work day early as a good thing... Since the poop house stood in my way, I was not one of the normal people. I knew that in order to finish early I would have to ruin my day early by going to the poop house, and that by going to the poop house earlier than they typically expected me, I would be surprising them. (And not in a good way.) In all likelihood, they would not have lifted a finger to work on anything because they weren't expecting me until later.
I went to my office. I chatted up one of my friends who knew my caseload while I was there.
"So the 'Waltons' [name changed] canceled on me."
"Oh! That's great! There's no coverage today. You want to go get a drink? I finish at 6:30... We can go then."
"No can do."
"Why not? You just said that you had a cancellation. Last time I checked, that means that you finish early since there's no coverage on the board."
"Well, you see, I always go to see the poop house family last."
"And since they're not expecting me until after that appointment is supposed to be over, if I show up now, that place is going to be extra gross."
"Yeah, extra gross poop house means you'll probably have to stay there longer than usual. And that equals extra-strength heebie jeebies, and an extra long shower, it's almost more trouble than it's worth."
"If you ask me, that whole case is more trouble than it's worth. They should just put the kid into a permanent placement and be done with it. The parents are NEVER going to change."
"Well, if you're out of the shower by 8 give me a call and we'll go get that drink."
I chatted up a few other people around the office, putting off the inevitable, giving them time to get something done, even though I knew it wouldn't happen.
Sometime between 5:30 and 6, I ran out of people to talk to, and procrastinate with, and so I went begrudgingly on my way to the poop house. And on the ten minute drive from my office to that festering sore of a residence, I shuddered at what I was likely to encounter, and I cursed to myself, and my upper lip curled in an unpleasant snarl that was becoming a victim in the form of an entirely involuntary facial tic.
I pulled up to the curb. I tried to control the snarl, and the cursing. I sat in my driver's seat, gripped the steering wheel in my fists and violently shook back and forth. I then reached back into the bag in the back seat and changed into the poop shoes while muttering incoherently something to the tune of, "...Can't believe this... fucking disgusting... nobody is paid enough for this... fuck... if one of those fucking little dogs touches me... son of a bitch... living in poop... this is hell... I'm in hell... need to advocate human sterilization... Fuck."
I walked up to the front porch and noticed that some of Mitch's alley-way finds hadn't made it to the trash, but to the top of the porch heap of garbage. Not quite the same thing. I knocked and the dogs began to shrilly bark. Mitch opened the door a crack, looked surprised, and told me that he was going to put the dogs away in the bathroom before I came in.
"Fine. Do it."
A few minutes later Mitch emerged, coming out onto the porch rather than letting me into the house.
"Yeah, I am. But your goals were the same no matter what time I was going to come and check on the progress."
"Well, we're not exactly done yet."
"Would you be done by the time I normally show up? Think carefully about how you answer."
"Probably? When did you get started working on the stuff we talked about?"
"Well... uhh... you see..."
"Let me guess, you haven't even started."
"Well, uhh, kinda."
"Kinda? You 'kinda' started to clean up the mess? You 'kinda' picked up poop? You 'kinda' did the dishes? You 'kinda' did laundry? You 'kinda' got rid of all the stuff you picked up in the alley? You 'kinda' gave Millie a bath? Stop me when I hit something that you 'kinda' did."
"Well, we didn't do any of that."
"None of it?"
"Well, we were going to do it before you got here, but you're early."
"That wasn't a wise answer Mitch. You just told me that at the very most the goals I've set for you would take up less than two hours of your day, because you haven't started, and I'm roughly two hours early. That's not good for two reasons. One, you're not working at a full time job, so you have AT LEAST EIGHT workable hours per day, and yet you're not managing to work here for even two. And I'm betting it's not the commute that's stopping you. And two, if you're not working to accomplish the goals I set until you know I'm coming over soon, that means that you're not spending the right amount of time on them, which means that you're not cleaning appropriately, and that means I'm going to have to look harder at what is getting done, and how it's getting done... There are more things wrong, but those are the biggies!"
"Mitch, why haven't you started? Why is there poop on the floor? Why are there dishes in the sink?"
"Well, that's the thing. We're out of toilet paper. I don't have any way to pick up the poop."
"Well, usually when I run out of something necessary like that, the solution is to go and get some."
"Well, Martha has the money, and she's at work... And we don't even have bus fare to get out to see her."
"You have no money and no toilet paper in the house?"
"Ok, that's something that you need to take up with your wife. It's absolutely unacceptable that if you have money between the two of you that at least some of it should be left here, because taking care of kids costs money, and you're going to run into expenses."
"Yeah... I guess you're right."
"I know I'm right. So what I'm going to suggest is that for right now, you pick up some of those old newspaper ads and use that to pick up the poop, because it can't stay here on the floor."
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that."
"Ok, so let's get going on that."
As Mitch went through the house using newspapers which should have been thrown out months or years ago to pick up poop deposited days or hours ago, little Millie came bounding out of her room to see what was going on. She was filthy, but that took a backseat to the first thing that I noticed, which was the angry red rash which covered the vast majority of her exposed arms and legs. I then noticed the swelling in her face. I'd like to say that the facial swelling was noticed first, but due to her normal level of pudginess, it took me a moment to realize that this was well above and beyond her normal look.
"Mitch! What's going on here?"
"Mitch, Millie is covered in a rash, and her face is REALLY swollen. Don't tell me that you didn't notice!"
"Oh, that. Well, Martha took her to the doctor, and he said that it's a heat rash and swollen tonsils. She's got medicine in the fridge."
At this point Millie began screaming that she wanted more of the medicine. Mitch responded by screaming back that she couldn't have any more until later.
Millie became enraged at being told no once again. She ran over to the disgusting rusty box that they called a fridge, and tried to pull it open. Mitch blocked her and prevented her from opening the fridge. This only pushed her further over the edge. At which point she turned suddenly and felt that her best course of action was to sucker-punch me in the stomach.
The wind knocked out of me, and aghast at that response, I could not speak. I inhaled sharply trying to recover my breath... My body's natural response to a need for air was met with a considerable problem when the only air to inhale was so foul and nauseating as that which I was being forced to inhale. My eyes began to water, and the chunks rose in my throat. Meanwhile Mitch grabbed Millie by the upper arm and pulled her into her bedroom. He closed the door behind her after casting her solidly into the room in a forceful but not abusive way. Millie audibly screamed and cried in her room for the next several minutes but did not reappear.
Once I was able to regain my breath, choke back the vomit, and blink away the natural eye-watering response to the foulness, I said something briefly to Mitch about his response to the outburst. The exact words escape me.
As Millie continued her temper tantrum in her bedroom, I looked around and noticed that the roach problem was significantly worse than it had been lately.
"Mitch, I noticed that your roach problem seems to be getting worse, what's going on there?"
"Well, they usually get worse this time of year, but they are pretty bad right now."
"And did you guys go out and get any spray like I suggested?"
"No. We couldn't afford it."
"Ok. When does Martha get paid again?"
"Not until next Friday."
"Ok... Well, I really think we need to get something going before then... Hmmm."
"Well we don't have the money for toilet paper right now, so we REALLY don't have the money for bug spray."
At roughly this point in the conversation little Millie came out of her bedroom calm as ever, as if the previous incident involving her fists and my stomach had never happened. I admit that part of me was pissed off at getting physically assaulted by a five year old, but pity took over when I looked at her swollen face and the horrid rash covering the vast majority of her body. Kids lash out when they don't feel good in any way... It happens.
Little Millie then asked Mitch for a sandwich.
"I can't make you a sandwich."
"We don't have any bread, and I don't have any money to go get some."
My heart broke.
"Mitch, you don't have any toilet paper, bug spray, or bread, and you don't have any money whatsoever?"
"Nope. Martha might have a few bucks, but we've got to make that last until her next check."
I thought for a moment. I knew very well the idea of not having the money to go and get necessities. I knew what it meant to have to make it work with what you've got, but as someone who typically planned for things like toilet paper, I knew that hunger often took a back seat to being able to wipe your ass. But in the time I'd known that feeling, I never had a child I had to support. It wasn't fair that she couldn't have a sandwich and had no toilet paper. It wasn't fair that she had to live in this roach motel because her parents were spending their money on god only knows what instead of getting bug spray.
"I tell you what, Mitch, get started on your chore list. I will be back in a little bit and I want to see some progress."
I let myself out as Millie pleaded with Mitch for a sandwich and he repeatedly told her that he couldn't make it happen.
I went to a local market and picked up toilet paper, bread, and bug spray. I paid for it out of my own pocket, and never submitted the receipt to the office for reimbursement, because it was within my power to do $7.64 worth of charity that day. I then drove back to the poop house and walked up to the door. I knocked and Mitch and Millie came out to the porch.
"Mitch, I went and I got you enough bread and toilet paper to get you through, and a can of bug spray because you need it."
Millie looked at me as though I were the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy all rolled into one.
"You bought us bread?"
"Yeah, I did... You said you wanted a sandwich, didn't you?"
"Well, now you can have one."
"But you got us toilet paper, too?"
Mitch thanked me, and I told him that he could thank me more effectively by going back into that house and actually spending some time on the chores he knew he needed to do.
I turned and left, driving to see Martha at work.
I walked into the pizza shop, and shook my head in disbelief at the fact that they let her work there. I then addressed her as she stood at the front register.
"I was just over at your house. I saw Millie and talked to Mitch. He said that you took her to the doctor for that rash and the swelling in her face."
"Yeah, it's a bad heat rash, and the doctor had to run some tests to figure out what is going on with her face."
"What do you mean?"
"He thinks she might have lymphatic cancer or something... Said he'd know more in a couple of days."
"Oh my god!"
"Yeah, my aunt died of lymphatic cancer... so there's a chance."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"It could be nothing, that's why he gave us the antibiotics."
"Ok, well, be sure to keep me updated about that! But the other thing I wanted to discuss with you is the fact that you're the one working and you're leaving Millie with Mitch, and he's got no money to buy anything as needs arise."
"I don't have any money either. All I've got are the bus tokens I got from Dave."
"And you don't get paid until Friday?"
"Nope... We're due to go to the food bank though, so we should be fine."
"Ok, well, if that doesn't go as planned, let me know, or have Mitch let me know... We'll figure something out."
I couldn't believe it. We had enough horrible shit to deal with... Adding cancer to the mix was not anticipated.
I left Martha's pizza shop, and called Dave to let him know what was going on medically. He showed a marginal amount of concern, but didn't seem to get too worked up. I, on the other hand, was plenty worked up for the both of us. I just had to wait to see how it all played out.