They had gone to Texas, traveling through Arkansas. Wilson called Elmer from Fayetteville, and Elmer was to come to meet them. But Wilson's friend grew impatient, and they moved on before Elmer arrived. After a brief visit in Texas, they headed north again.
The elementary school called me to come and get eight-year-old Candis. Her mother had left my number as a message phone and Candis's hair was infested with lice. I arrived at the nurse's office and found Candis with a scarf around her head.
Annie had her own place now. As we drove to her mother’s apartment, I told Candis about the daycare that I was trying to start.
"Oh! I'll help you! I'll put a table by the door and take the money for you!"
I hadn't been to their apartment before. It was above a downtown bar. Candis led me through an old door and up a filthy flight of stairs. The stairwell stunk of stale beer and urine. In the hallway, wine bottles and dirty diapers littered the floor. At the end of the hall, the window was broken. I stopped to glance out and could see little children in dirty pajamas playing in the alley. One wore a winter stocking cap pulled almost over his eyes as he swung a stick around and threw it in the air.
Annie's apartment was bare. As I'd seen many times before, a mattress served as the bed and there was little other furniture. Annie smiled a greeting and we talked a few minutes. She was embarrassed about the lice. I felt for her. I loved Annie and in all the time I'd known her, had never sensed hardness in her heart nor felt maliciousness. Despite all the troubles and as mad as I got sometimes, she seemed to be honestly unable to turn things around. Despite all I'd seen in her life, I never condemned Annie.
And although I had seen hardness in Wilson, for some reason I never believed that was really him either.
Roger asked if he could stay with me. I didn't mind. A handsome boy at eighteen years old, he was one of the few young people in Wilson’s family to have graduated from High school. In addition, he’d had a chance to go to visit Russia with the school and he took it. That was impressive. If anyone was going to make it, I was sure he would. I wanted to help him.
So I helped him fill out the admission form for the Community College and get a learners permit for a driver’s license. In addition, I took him over to the United Parcel Service warehouse to apply for a job.
Once he got the job, I drove to the warehouse daily to drop him off and pick him up. After two weeks of work, he got his first paycheck. Then he quit.
"Aren't you going to work today?" I asked him after he'd missed a couple days.
"Nah, I don't feel like it. I don't like the job."
Frustrated, I sat down beside him. I could lead him to water, but I couldn't make him drink.
"Roger. I'm not your mom. I can't have you lying around here. If you want to lay around, maybe you should go back and live with Yvonne."
Roger left. He never did go to college. I don't know if he got his driver’s license.