This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
The morning seemed like any other morning to Clinton Jarvis until he realized that this would be his last day in the house in which he had lived for the past year and a half. The Underwoods were last of many foster parents he had since he was six. He had turned eighteen and graduated from high school and no longer qualified for foster care.
"You'll need to find another place to live by the end of the month," Marsha Underwood said with no emotion. "We will be taking in another foster child since you no longer qualify."
"Could I pay you rent and stay until I can save enough for a place?" Clint had asked. "I'm now working fulltime at the Black Angus Steakhouse."
"How much could you pay?" Doyle Underwood asked.
"Maybe $200 a month for the room," Clint calculated in his head. "Then I could save enough for rent and deposit on a place."
"No, I don't think so," Marsha said. "We can make a lot more than that with a foster kid."
Clint had spent the ten days before the month's end looking for a new place to live and each time it was the same. He simply didn't have enough money for rent and deposit.
After breakfast and a shower, Clint packed his meager belongings into a duffle back and left the Underwood house without looking back. Their house had been much like the other foster homes in which he had lived. They were a place to eat and sleep and no sense of belonging. He had only recently been allowed to work at the Black Angus Restaurant. He had been required to work without pay for Doyle Underwood in his construction business.
Clint decided to search for a room to rent in the neighborhood of his work. If he found a room near work he could save bus fare by walking to work. After walking for most of the day he finally gave up and decided to look for a place to sleep. He ended up at the Greyhound Bus Station and slept on a bench.
The next morning after cleaning up in the restroom Clint went to a nearby McDonalds for coffee and a breakfast sandwich before resuming his search for a place to live. After walking for over two hours he spotted an elderly woman trying to start a lawn mower.
"Let me get that started for you," Clint offered as he put is duffel bag down.
"Thank you," she said. "I think I may be getting too old to do the things I used to do."
"I'll mow it for you," Clint offered. "It could be that your mower only needs a new spark plug. But, it is probably just flooded out."
"I couldn't pay you much," she said.
"You wouldn't have to pay me," Clint said. "Just let me use your bathroom to cleanup when I finish."
"I think I could do that," she said after deciding that he was probably harmless. "I'm Louise Harper, most call me Aunt Lou.
"Come inside and have something cold to drink," Aunt Lou said after showing Clint where to store the lawn mower when he had finished mowing. "Thank you for mowing for me and now let me pay you something."
"No, I can't take your money," Clint said, although he could use the extra income.
"Come on inside and have that drink, and I'll bet you're hungry too," Aunt Lou said.
"I am a little hungry," Clint admitted as his stomach growled.
"Would a ham and cheese sandwich do for now?" Aunt Lou asked. "I don't drink soda pop, but I have iced tea if that will do."
"That would be fine," Clint said.
"I noticed that you were carrying a duffle bag, were you looking for an address in the neighborhood?" Aunt Lou asked.
"No, I work at the Black Angus Restaurant and was looking for a room to rent in this area since it would be within walking distance." Clint said.
"I have that cottage out back, if you're interested in that," Aunt Lou said while wondering why she trusted this young man without knowing more about him. He seemed polite and well mannered, but he also seemed sad.
"I'm afraid I couldn't afford that," Clint said. "I have very little money and was just looking for a sleeping room."
"It isn't that much of a place," Aunt Lou said. My husband had it built years ago for my mother-in-law. After she died we rented it out. Then after my husband died it became more of a headache than it was worth. My last renter left owing me three months rent and left it in a mess. Let's go look at it and then maybe we can come to some sort of agreement."
"Thank you, but I know I couldn't afford it," Clint said.
"It doesn't cost anything to look, does it?" Aunt Lou asked with a smile.
"No, I guess it doesn't," Clint admitted.
"I cleaned it up some, but nobody has lived there in over a year," Aunt Lou said as she unlocked the door. "I'm sure it is a mess."
The cottage had a decent size living room, a small kitchen with a dining area, two bedrooms, and a small bathroom. The sofa and chair were covered with sheets, and Clint couldn't tell their condition, but the sheets told him that they were probably covered because they were worth protecting. The other furniture appeared to be in decent condition. The cottage did need a good airing out after being closed up for a long period.
"Well what do you think?" Aunt Lou asked.
"It is plenty nice," Clint admitted. "But, it is more than I could afford."
"How do you know that?" Aunt Lou asked. "I haven't quoted you a price yet."
"Well, I know that something like this would be at least $500 a month or more," Clint said.
"I rented it for $750," Aunt Lou said.
"Yeah, I figured it was more than I could afford," Clint said. "It's getting late and I need to keep looking for a room. Thank you for the sandwich."
"I said I rented it for $750," Aunt Lou said. "I didn't say you had to pay $750. As you can see the place starts deteriorating when it is vacant for long periods. If you will be willing to keep my lawn mowed and do a few odd jobs around here that I can no longer do, you can have it for $350 a month. You'll have to pay your own utilities except for the water."
"I only have a little over $400 and I couldn't pay you a deposit," Clint said.
"Did I mention a deposit?" Aunt Lou asked.
"No, you didn't," Clint said.
"I think I can trust you to not trash this place," Aunt Lou said. "Since you're short on cash, why don't you give me half now and the other half your next payday?"
"I get paid Friday," Clint said as he began to smile knowing that he now had his own place. "Is there a resale shop nearby that I could buy some sheets, towels and things?"
"There is no need for that," Aunt Lou said. "I have plenty of extras. Let's go to the house and see what we can find. I have plenty of extra dishes, pots, and pans that you can have too."
After moving the items to the cottage Aunt Lou said, "I can drive you to the store to buy what you might need. I know you won't have much money now, so why don't we go to the Surplus Warehouse. We also need to go get your electricity and gas turned on."
"How much would the deposit be on that?" Clint asked.
"I think they will let me sign to guarantee your payment," Aunt Lou said.
"I can't let you do that," Clint said. "You've done too much already."
"You do intend to pay your bills don't you?" Aunt Lou asked with a chuckle.
"Of course I do," Clint acknowledged.
"Our first stop will be the utilities department, Aunt Lou said. "You can make a list of things you need as I drive. I've learned that it saves money and time with a shopping list."
The electricity and gas were scheduled to be turned on before four. "We'll need to hurry with your shopping and be back there when they turn the gas on," Aunt Lou said.
After purchasing cleaning supplies, toiletries, and a week's supply of groceries Clint had less than $20 left. The two returned back at the cottage and began putting away the items. "Hey, there's a washer and dryer in here," Clint said when he opened the door to the utility closet."
"Yes, and they should still work," Aunt Lou said. "We'll check them out when the electricity is turned on. Oh, I see that they're here now."
"Are you going on to college?" Aunt Lou asked as the two worked.
"I plan on taking a class or two at the college here as I can afford it," Clint said.
"You should qualify for financial aid, have you applied? Aunt Lou asked.
"I applied, but never heard anything back," Clint said. "I assumed that I didn't get any aid."
"You should have received a letter either way, and I don't know why you wouldn't qualify," Aunt Lou said. "I retired from the financial aid department at the college. If you want, I'll drive you out there and find out."
"Thank you, but I could take the bus," Clint said.
"I know a few people out there, and I might be able to get something done," Aunt Lou said. "I'll drive you there before you go to work. By the way, what do you do at that restaurant?"
"I'm a busboy," Clint said. "I don't make as much as the wait staff, but it was a job."
"Maybe you could become a waiter when there is an opening," Aunt Lou suggested.
I'm not sure I have the gift of gab that the wait staff has," Clint admitted. "I wouldn't know how to talk to the customers like they do."
"Why would you think that?" Aunt Lou questioned.
"I've been in foster care since I was six," Clint said. "Most of my foster parents only had me for the money the state paid them. I guess I was pretty much of a loner."
"Oh my, I never realized that you had been in foster care that long!" Aunt Lou exclaimed. "How many different foster homes were you in?"
"I think it was five or six," Clint said as he tried to remember all of the different homes he had been placed in. "One couple wanted to adopt me, but they got divorced and that fell through. They were the only ones that treated me like a real family member."
"How sad that you had to grow up in that environment," Aunt Lou said with a bit of sadness.
"At least it was a place to live," Clint said as he tried to see the positive side. "I never knew my dad and I came home from school one day and my mom had just moved and left me. I sat on the steps and cried until a neighbor saw me and called the police. The last I heard was that my mother died from a drug overdose."
"Were you ever abused while in foster care?" Aunt Lou asked.
"Not in the physical sense," Clint said. "Rarely was my birthday celebrated, and at Christmas I usually got clothes that were paid for from state money. The worst part was the sense of not belonging and being loved. I hated being introduced as 'Clint the foster kid.' I dreamed of having a family of my own. As I got older, I knew that wouldn't ever happen. I decided to just survive until I became eighteen and was on my own. I didn't even realize how ill prepared I was to be on my own. I had no money saved, and no place to go. My foster parents put me out with no place to go and my only hope was to find a cheap room to rent. I had just about given up on finding anything and figured I would be sleeping on the streets. You don't know what it means to me that you helped me out."
"I think we will both benefit in our meeting," Aunt Lou said. "There are a lot of things I can't do for myself, and it is next to impossible to find a reliable person to hire. Oh my, look at the time. We had better get out to the college and get your financial aid taken care of."
"Aunt Lou," a woman who appeared to be in her thirties shouted when Aunt Lou and Clint walked into the financial aid department. "It is so good to see you again. We've missed you around here. Who is this good looking young man with you?"
"This is Clint Jarvis," Aunt Lou said. "He rents the cottage from me. Clint this is Stacy Pineda. She will be able to help you with your financial aid."
"I would be happy to see what I can do," Stacy said. "Have you applied yet?"
"Yes, I applied several weeks ago," Clint said. "I never heard back and assumed I didn't qualify, but Aunt Lou said I should qualify."
"If Aunt Lou said that, then you should qualify," Stacy said. "Have a seat and let me check for you. Are you Clinton W. Jarvis?" Stacy asked as she typed information into the computer.
"Yes, I am," Clint said.
"It looks like we sent your award letter several weeks ago to 2341 South Ridgeway Drive," Stacy said. "You should have received it by now. Is that your correct address?"
"That's where I lived until yesterday when I was in foster care," Clint said.
"There will be enough to pay your tuition, books and other fees, and there will a little left over for other expenses, Stacy said."
"Is there any other financial aid that he might qualify for?" Aunt Lou asked. "It seems he would qualify for a scholarship or something."
"Clint what was your age when you went into foster care?" Stacy asked.
"Now why does that matter?" Aunt Lou snapped.
"Now Aunt Lou you don't need to snap at me like that," Stacy said. "I asked that because we have a relatively new foundation for students who were in long term foster care. A wealthy donor who was raised in foster care established the foundation. Incidentally, the donor's last name is Foster and it is called the Foster Foundation."
"Since I was six," Clint answered.
"What are your monthly expenses?" Stacy asked.
"I don't know yet," Clint said. "I just moved in."
"How much is your rent?" Stacy asked.
"He pays $750 a month," Aunt Lou answered before Clint could answer.
"We'll use a standard rate to estimate your other living expenses," Stacy said as she continued typing. "If you work, how much do you get paid an hour and how many hours a week do you work?"
"I just started and get minimum wage and work about 30 hours a week," Clint said.
Stacy typed the information and then said, "Good news Clint. It looks like you qualify for this scholarship. The nice thing about this is that you get the money up front. It was designed to help those who didn't have the means to even start college. Your PELL grant that you will be getting will pay your tuition. The Foster Scholarship is set up so that you get $4,000 your first semester, $2,000 your second, and $1,000 for the remainding semesters. Mr. Foster believed that students needed the most help when they first enrolled."
With Aunt Lou's help and supervision Clint set about making the cottage into his new home. He put his few possessions in the closet and the dresser, and when he put his clock radio by his bed Aunt Lou asked, "Is that your only source of entertainment?"
"It's all I've ever had," Clint said. "I sometimes would watch TV with the family I lived with."
"I have an extra TV that I'm not using, and we'll bring that over for you to use," Aunt Lou offered. "You can only get local channels until you can afford cable, but it will be better than nothing. Come with me and get the TV."
Friday morning after Clint had finished his breakfast and showered, Aunt Lou came knocking on his door. "I think this may be your scholarship check," she said with excitement.
"Yeah, it's my check," Clint smiled after opening the envelope.
"I'll drive you to the bank and let you deposit the check and then we'll go look for you a car," Aunt Lou said.
"I don't know that I can afford a car," Clint said.
"I have a friend who has a Toyota Corolla for sale," Aunt Lou said. "It's a good little car and at a price you can afford. You'll need insurance too."
"Oh no, I hadn't thought of that," Clint confessed. "I wonder how much insurance will cost me."
"We can talk to my agent if you like," Aunt Lou said.
"That would be fine with me," Clint said. "I don't know any myself."
"Congratulations, you're the owner of a car," Connie, the owner of the car said as she handed the keys and title to Clint. "It's yours to drive away."
"If you don't mind I'll leave it here while I go get insurance," Clint said.
"Larry, my young friend here needs insurance," Aunt Lou said as she introduced Clint to Larry Henson. "I'll expect you to find him the best policy for his money."
"Have a seat, Clint, and we'll see what we can do for you," Larry said. "Have you ever had insurance before?"
"No I haven't," Clint said. "This is my first vehicle."
"I'll need to see your license and title," Larry said. "Did you have driver's education?"
"Yes, here is the certificate of completion," Clint said as he handed the document to Larry. "I also have a copy of my high school transcript. I understand that I might get a better rate with good grades."
"You're correct," Larry said. "Give me a few minutes to calculate your rate."
"I hope I have enough money," Clint whispered to Aunt Lou.
After a few minutes Larry said, "It looks like it will be $262 for three months. You can pay monthly for an extra $10 a month. "
"That is much less than I expected," Clint said. "I think I can pay monthly for the first three months and then save the $30.00 by paying the entire amount after that."
"Remember that you will have to pay for the tax and tag," Aunt Lou reminded Clint.
"Man, it is expensive to own a vehicle," Clint moaned.
"Initially it is, but in the long run you'll be glad you have it when you don't have to wait in the rain or snow for a bus," Aunt Lou reminded him.
"Here is your temporary insurance verification," Larry said. "You'll be receiving a permanent one in the mail in a few days. State law requires that you always have a copy in your vehicle."
When Clint got behind the wheel of his first vehicle he couldn't have been more proud if it were a new Hummer. As he drove home he noticed that the fuel gage was near empty. 'Another expense I didn't think about,' he thought to himself. He pulled into the Stop and Go and went inside to prepay for $20.00 worth of gas.
"Could you get our waitress?" A gentleman asked Clint at work one evening. "My wife and I would like a cup of coffee. We haven't seen her for several minutes."
"I'm sorry about that," Clint said. "Lori has been rather busy, but I'll get your coffee myself."
Clint cleared the table and served the couple their coffee. As he pushed the cart full of dirty dishes into the kitchen, Lori said, "What in the hell do you think you're doing?"
"What are you talking about?" A puzzled Clint asked.
"Your job is to be a busboy and not a server," Lori said in a voice louder than necessary.
"Your customers said they had been waiting for a long time for coffee," Clint said. "I just got coffee for them."
"Well that isn't part of your job," Lori said.
"It is up to all of us to keep the customers happy," Bill Mathews, the owner and manager, said after he had overhead the conversation. "Clint did exactly what he should have done. Where were you anyway?"
"I went out back for a minute to talk to my boyfriend," Lori said. "I wasn't gone long."
"You were there for at least fifteen minutes," Bill said. "If this happens again you are fired."
"I don't want this job anyway," Lori said. "I quit." Lori grabbed her purse and stormed out.
"It looks like I have an opening for a server," Bill said. "Do you want it?"
"I don't think I'd be very good at that," Clint said. "I'm not sure I'd be good at talking to the customers."
"You did fine tonight when the customer asked you for a cup of coffee," Bill said. "With your tips, you would make between $400 and $500 more a month than you do now."
"Wow, I could sure use the money," Clint said.
"Come tomorrow dressed in black pants and a white shirt," Bill said. "I'll have you work with Braden tomorrow. It will be your regular pay, but the tips go to Braden. You guys will have to bus your own tables until I can find a busboy."
Clint began shadowing Braden to learn the duties of a server. "This is Clint," Braden would say at each table they served. "He is learning the ropes to be a server. If you don't mind I'll let him take your order so that he can learn."
After serving a few tables Braden let Clint serve a few tables on his own. Clint began to feel comfortable as a server and was actually enjoying it.
"How did he do?" Bill asked when the shift was over.
"He's a fast learner and I think he is ready to go it alone tomorrow," Braden smiled.
"Then he will start tomorrow," Bill said.
Clint thought he couldn't be happier. He had a job, a comfortable place to live, transportation, and was developing a circle of friends at work and school. Braden was becoming his best friend.
"Damn, it's raining," Braden said one night as he and Clint left from work.
"That's good," Clint said. "We need the rain."
"It could wait until I got home," Braden said. "I ride a bicycle to work."
"Leave it here and I'll give you a ride home," Clint offered.
"Thanks, but I'll need my bike to get to work tomorrow," Braden said.
"I'll pick you up," Clint said.
"Would you mind if we pick up my sister at her work?" Braden asked. "It's just a few blocks from our house but I hate for her to walk home in the rain."
"I don't mind at all," Clint said. "Where does she work?"
"She works at the Dollar Store on Washington," Braden said. "When we get there I'll run inside and let her know we're outside."
"Clint this is my sister, Amy," Braden said as he opened the back door for Amy.
"You're in my Political Science class," Clint said when the pretty girl got in the car.
"Yeah, you're right," Amy said. "Thanks for giving me a ride home. I was dreading the walk home in this rain."
"Come in for a cup of coffee," Braden offered when they arrived Braden and Amy's house.
"Coffee would be good," Clint said. "And getting to know your sister even better," he said to himself.
Clint learned that Braden and Amy lived with their single mother, Loretta, who was a LPN and worked the night shift at Saint Joseph Hospital. She made enough money to pay the rent and utilities, but they were on their own for college expenses. Like Clint, they were on financial aid, but had to work for other expenses. Both were saving to buy a used car to get to work and classes.
Clint spotted an empty seat next to Amy at their Political Science class the next day. He quickly took the seat before its regular user came. That was the beginning of a friendship that evolved into dating. Clint had never dated before simply because he never had spending money while in foster care.
Amy and Clint had dated for about three months when Clint said, "I love you. Will you marry me?"
"I love you too," Amy said. "But, shouldn't we wait until we graduate. Neither of us have much money."
"If couples waited until they could really afford to get married half the couples would never get married," Clint argued.
The wedding was a small affair with Braden, Loretta, Aunt Lou and a few friends from their work. Amy was beautiful in the gown that she borrowed from a coworker. The honeymoon was a weekend in a cabin on the nearby lake. However, because they were in love neither complained.
Five months later Amy discovered that she was pregnant. The pregnancy was unexpected since Amy was on birth control. Amy and Clint agreed that they would manage somehow to take care of a baby and continue their education.
Travis was perfect as far as Clint was concerned. He was born in July and this pleased Amy since she wouldn't have to miss any school. Aunt Lou insisted that she be allowed to babysit while the parents were in class or at work.
Amy and Clint were in their final semester of college when Amy's best friend from work, Emma, came rushing into the restaurant and said, "Clint get to the hospital right now. The store was robbed and Amy was shot."
"Oh my God," Clint cried. "Is she going to be okay?"
"I don't know," Emma said. "They were giving her CPR."
"I'll drive you, you're in no condition to drive," Bill said.
Clint knew the worst had happened when he arrived at the hospital and saw his mother-in-law crying with a doctor trying to console her. "Oh Clint, she's gone," Loretta wailed. "My baby is gone."
Clint was overcome with grief, but he somehow made it through the funeral. He wanted to die himself, but knew that he had a two year old son to care for. He wanted to drop out of college, but Aunt Lou and Loretta convinced him that he had to finish his elementary teaching degree for Travis' sake.
Travis was Clint's salvation. He was a loving and happy child. He was jubilant when he entered kindergarten. He got to go to work with his daddy. Clint dropped Travis off at his classroom each morning before walking down the hall to his own classroom. Travis went to Clint's classroom at the end of the day.
"One day Linda Guthrie, Travis' teacher, showed up with Travis with a paper in her hand. "Clint, may I talk to you?"
"Of course," Clint said. "What's up?"
"Look at this coloring that Travis did today," Linda said.
"Oh no, he colored the sky green and the grass blue," Clint laughed.
"He knows his colors and when I asked him why he did that he said that he couldn't tell me," Linda said.
"Son, come over here for a minute," Clint said to Travis who was sitting at one of the desk in the back of the room coloring.
"What is it?" Travis asked as he approached the front of the room.
"Why did you color the sky green and the grass blue in this coloring?" Clint asked.
"I can't tell you," Travis said.
"Why can't you tell me?" Clint asked.
"Because somebody will get in trouble," Travis answered.
"Travis you know your colors, but you won't get in trouble," Linda said. "I'm trying to figure out why you colored the sky green and the grass blue."
"I can't tell you because somebody else will get in trouble," Travis said.
"Nobody will be in trouble," Linda said. "I promise."
"Mark doesn't have crayons and I let him use mine," Travis explained.
"Why doesn't Mark have crayons?" Linda asked.
"He said that his mom didn't have money to buy him any," Travis said.
"Why didn't you color the grass while Mark colored the sky and then switch?" Clint asked.
"Because Mrs. Guthrie said to start at the bottom of the page and work up," Travis said.
"Oh Travis, you should have told me," Linda said. "I would have let you color the sky first."
"Linda would you find out what Mark needs and I'll personally purchase the supplies for him," Clint said.
"I have a few extra supplies in my classroom," Linda said.
"Mark needs a warm coat," Travis said. "He only has a light one and gets cold when we go outside to play."
"We'll stop on the way home and purchase him one," Clint said. "Linda, is there any way to find out what else he might need?"
"I'll talk to Mr. Grigsby," Linda said. "As principal he may be able to get more information."
"Son, I'm proud of you," Clint said as they shopped for the right coat for Mark. "You cared enough to think of Mark."
"Dad, it's the right thing to do," Travis said.
"If I wasn't there when you were born I wouldn't know that you're only five," I said, as I admired the wisdom of this wonderful little boy.