With mama just days away from collecting the
windfall pittance awarded her by the insurance company for the worthless junk that’s probably just buried under a pile somewhere in her trailer house priceless treasures that once filled her immaculate home, her mind has already turned to how she will spend it.
“I won’t replace ever-thing. Hell, I couldn’t if I wanted to! Some of that stuff was irreplaceable!” Yes, that’s because most people just throw away the prizes from their cereal.
“But I think I’ll look into movin’ the house.” This is the only good idea she’s had in the past decade. See, mama’s doublewide sits on seven and a half acres of land that, while she has had it for 30 years, doesn’t technically belong to her. In the coal country of West Virginia, traditionally the coal companies have owned large pieces of land that sit atop their mines. 30 years ago, there was a coal mine miles away from mama’s house. Because coal mines spider beneath the ground for miles and miles, technically, her property sits atop the long-abandoned mine. And she (like my great grandparents who once lived next door) has what might normally be considered a lifetime lease on the property. These arrangements were fairly common 30-50 years ago, but not so much now. In fact, the coal company has little by little sold off their holdings above the mine that mama lives on. A new subdivision has gone up at the extreme edge, two new schools and a business park have eaten up another chunk, soccer fields and a driving range now sit where the slate dump once was. And what was once her neighborhood, filled with old folks who had carefully tended gardens, is now little more than a scattered handful of decaying homes bisected by a newly built highway.
It’s only a matter of time, sitting where she does between two new schools and a major road, before the coal company finds someone willing to pay a fortune for mama’s acreage and she’ll be tossed off of it. So, I’m 100 percent behind the idea that she moves her home elsewhere, where she will once again have neighbors and not have 7.5 acres to pretend to care for.
Her mind is alive…worrying and fretting about how she will move her “stuff” out of the house so that it can be moved. “It’s gonna take some time!” Considering it took her two months to write a damn list of what was stolen, boxing up her possessions isn’t a task that she is likely to be able to complete in this lifetime.
“I could have it done in a weekend.” I told her. And I could. A dumpster would need to be rented, but I would make very quick work of turning her 1200 square feet into something presentable.
“I’ve got a problem though.” And, as anyone who has read a few Mama stories know, her problems are EVERYBODY’S problems.
“I cain’t put that check into my account. Or they’ll take my benefits away.” I’m uncertain of what benefits she gets exactly, but the list is no doubt extensive, and includes, apparently, free phone service and a “pay what you want” plan with the power company. “And I cain’t very well walk around with thousands of dollars in cash.”
“I’m gonna buy a gun though. I already looked at one at the pawn shop. It’s pink with “The Lady’s Gun” engraved on the handle. They only want $400 dollars fer it.” The idea of this woman walking around armed makes my skin crawl. Months from now, the headlines will be alive with stories of water meter readers who met an untimely demise at mama’s house, or she’ll blow her foot off trying to use it as a bottle opener or something.
“I need ya to get on the computer and find out how this insurance moneys gonna affect my benefits. I think I’m gonna need to put it in someone else’s account. Say, maybe me and you’d open an account in both our names?”
“Well it would still have your name on it, I don’t see how that would help anything.”
“I don’t know. I guess it would need to be a bank we got up here and you got down there.”
“There’s no such bank.” I lied. “You should look at someone else who lives locally.”
“I might have to, they’s a lot to think about. But look on your computer for me.”
“Yeah, ok.” The truth is, I don’t know how an insurance settlement affects her benefits and don’t really care. I’m certainly not going to play party to some sort of benefits fraud, nor do I have any desire to hold so much as a joint account at Blockbuster video with mama. So, I lied. At least I think I did.
“The insurance company is required to send notification to the IRS of settlements larger than $5,000, so you won’t be able to hide the money.” I told her. “Just deposit it in your own account and face whatever consequences there are.”
“Maybe it’ll slip through the cracks.” she said, “I mean it is money to repair my home, they cain’t hold that agin me.” And maybe they can’t, I really have no idea. She went on “Maybe I could just put it in your account. If I don’t have the money in my name, they can’t hold it against me.” It all started to sound like one of those Nigerian email scams.
“I don’t think so Mom, I don’t live close enough to be able to access that money for you.”
At that point, someone beeped in on her other (gubment provided) line. And that got me off the hook…for now.