Part II: The Girl
Part III: The Father
Part IV: Back at the Office
Part V: Interlude
Part VI: The Mother
How things fell together from this point on is fuzzy in my memory. I remember snippets here and there amid all the other cases, old and new, that were added to my case load. The way it was set up, my unit was supposed to get a case, assess what it needed, and move it on within 30 days. The problem with that was that helping agencies usually had a backlog of at least 6 months. I usually held onto my cases for at least three months, counseling them myself, mediating, advocating and getting families to problem-solve and set goals to keep them out of the eye of "the system." These families were already in crisis, and there was no way I would let them go without helping them. Besides, what else is a system for besides bucking it?
Becky's case was a little different in that the 14 year old was now placed away from the documented danger and back with her mother, so by the agency's protocol, I should have closed the case and got it off my list. I held onto it by pointing out that, by law, the girl was required to be in school, something that I insisted wouldn't happen if the home life situation wasn't straightened out. Pulling in more favors, my supervisor got another agency involved and one of their caseworkers assigned to work with the mother on cleaning up that disgusting mess. That left me to work with Becky and getting her back in school. Trust me when I tell you that if I ever went back into that apartment, I don't remember; but I do remember swearing to myself that I never would step into that place again.
I called Linda at work one day and got her permission to pick Becky up to go walk the mall. When I got to the apartment, Becky was outside waiting for me. We talked for awhile standing in the driveway there and once again, I was surprised. She was bubbly, pleasant and after a few minor attempts at intimidating me, to which I didn't react at all, she easily became open and genuine with me. I let her talk about the things she wanted to talk about, and she answered my questions without hesitation.
Becky said she got a kick out of watching people back down from her. She said she would never hurt anyone, but it was fun to scare them into thinking she would. The people at school were especially fun, and her pushing one teacher into the lockers at school happened because the idiot tried to manhandle her. I had her tell me how it all transpired so that we could role play and pick apart the situation and her feelings to identify alternate ways of dealing with the problem. She fell into this little exercise easily, said "but you didn't back down like he did," and her eyes lit up when she saw the benefit of doing things differently than she had been.
Becky was a good kid, intelligent and she had a big heart that hurt a lot. Knowing that her size and appearance separated her from everyone else, she hung out with other 'outcasts' that were supposed to be anarchists, goths, and who all volunteered at the local food bank and senior citizen center. She especially enjoyed the seniors who were always happy to see her. When I asked her about not cleaning herself up, she said it was a personal challenge to see how long she could go without a shower. She had made her goal of 60 days and took a shower the day before. Standing outside talking like that gave the rest of her time to air out before she got into my car.
We were babbling away like old friends when we got in my car to go, and when I looked into my rearview mirror to back up, there was that little, junky white car blocking the end of the driveway. Oh damn, the father. What the hell could he be doing here? He was standing at my door already, so I rolled the window down.
"Hey, what's up?"
"I'm on my way to court, thought I'd stop by to see the kids. Hi, Becky." No answer.
"We were just on our way out."
Some minor chit chat back and forth. I asked what court was about, he said to try to get his guns back.
"Oh, I'm going to show that judge," he said, then he literally ran back to his car, reached behind the front seat and pulled out something long. He came back to my car window.
Before I realized what this long thing was, he unsheathed the sword and pointed it at me.
"See? I'm going to show the judge this sword and tell him that it's all I have left to hunt with when the season opens next week."
What is it with these people always pointing weapons at me? It pissed me off. "Do you really think it's a good idea to try to walk into a court room with a weapon? What, you want to end up in jail? They are not going to let you in there with that sword, and if they find you have a weapon, that will be it for you."
His face fell like I was his mean mommy telling him he could not keep the stray dog he found. It actually looked like he pouted, hanging his head while putting the sword back in its sheath.
"I didn't think about that. Well, I'd better get going or I'll be late," he said, then got in his car and drove off.
Becky had never said a word, and when I started my car, I could see out of the corner of my eye that her legs were relaxing. She was looking straight ahead when I looked at her. Yes, that was fear and now relief. I couldn't read the expression she gave me when she finally returned my look.
It was time to get down to business. I told Becky that she had to be in school, it was the law. We talked about it while we walked the mall and got an ice cream. She talked about how the other kids hated her, how the teachers were stupid and caught them making mistakes all the time, and the principal was an ass. She talked about how all the other caseworkers weren't like me, they were stupid too. She liked trying out alternative perspectives on things. It was new to her, yet she took to it immediately. Good!
We were friends. I truly liked Becky, told her so, and let her know that I was concerned about the path she had chosen for herself, that it would not end well, and how that scared me. That earned me a surprised look, and she hung her head. I asked her if she could behave in school and get back on track. A little flash of defiance, "but it's so fun to scare those stupid people," but she agreed. The look on her face told me that she meant it and I could trust her on her word. I believed her.
Ah, folks. One more post to tie up the loose ends. OK?