This story is by Roberta Brown and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Time to Go
MICHIGAN NOTICE TO QUIT
January 1, 2018
To: Angie Nelson and all tenants in possession of the premises
The Premises herein referred to in this official notice to quit is located at….
This notice to quit has been sent by the Landlord to the Tenant(s) due to the nonpayment of rent….
Angie’s hands trembled as she clenched the eviction notice. She had pleaded with the landlord to give her more time. She had paid what she could while still setting aside some money to pay for food and utilities for herself and her 94 year old mother. It wasn’t easy, especially with the cut in work hours and pay in her job as a home health aide. She had tried finding other work, but jobs nowadays required specialized skills, skills she did not have as a high school dropout. And now she had seven days to get out.
This had been the cheapest apartment she could find, a drafty slapped on shingle affair that featured ice forming on the inside of the fenestra windows. Her mother’s cough had worsened over the winter while living here; the doctor had said there was nothing more he could do and told Angie to just keep her mother comfortable.
There were no other living family members, and all of Angie’s friends had their own financial difficulties. She had also exhausted her resources at the Payday Loan stores.
With a sigh, Angie slid the notice under her placemat at the kitchen table. She went to her mother’s bedroom, changed her diaper and her position on the bed, and said, “I’m off to work, Mom – I’ll see you at 2 o’clock.” “It’s time for you to go?” her mom rasped softly. “Yes, it’s time for me to go,” Angie said, a tear rolling down her cheek.
She arrived at the Peterson’s house fifteen minutes later. Thankfully, he was just off the bus stop. When she got to the house, though, she saw a police car and her supervisor’s car.
She opened the storm door and heard the police officer. “Yeah, looks to me like he died of natural causes. Just call his doctor to get a death certificate.” Angie’s supervisor turned to Angie and said, “I’m sorry, Angie. If you could just clean him up and get him prepared for the funeral home to pick him up, you’ll be done here. You can turn in your key at the agency, and we’ll contact you when there are any new clients for you to see.”
Both the officer and Angie’s supervisor left. Angie heaved several deep sobs and steadied herself as she collapsed onto a kitchen chair. Mr. Peterson had been a long time client. He had no family left, so she became his family – the daughter he never had. And now, he too, like the three clients before him that she had been like a surrogate family to, were gone.
She opened his bedroom door. He just looked like he was sleeping peacefully in the chair beside his bed. I hope that’s how my mom will go, Angie thought.
There was not a lot to clean up, as she had just bathed him the day before and given him his meds.
Angie went to the medicine cabinet and found his blood pressure medication, his heart pills, and his sleeping pills.
Sleeping pills – Nembutal.
She placed all the pill bottles in her bag. Before turning in the key and the meds to the agency, she would need to check with the social service agencies downtown before they closed to see what alternative living arrangements she could make for her and her mother.
Once the funeral home picked up the body, it was back on the bus again for the 30 minute trip to Grand Avenue. First stop was Neighborhood Services, then the Housing Department, then the Center for Homeless Shelters. Each agency told her a variation on the same theme – “Sorry, nothing today.” “You can fill out an application and get on the waiting list – check back in a couple of weeks.” “All the homeless shelters are filled to capacity – it’s been a hard winter.” One agency even checked area nursing homes for her mother – “Sorry, but none of them are accepting people on Medicaid right now, and the waiting lists are long. In the meantime, we’ll arrange for an Intake Worker to visit your mother tomorrow.”
Angie shivered, sleet pelting her face, as she waited outside at the bus stop. Her options were gone, and the landlord would dump her and her mother out into the extreme cold in a heartbeat. While the fast food places and the libraries might allow them to stay inside during their operating hours, they would still be back on the street at night. Angie might be able to make it, but her mother would not. She knew her mother was going to die soon, but she didn’t want it to be like this.
Back at her apartment, Angie pushed through the door to discover that the room was cold. She checked the thermostat which was still set to 72 degrees but showed the room temperature as 50.
She went to her mother’s bedroom and found her still bundled up in the blankets she had left her in that morning. “Is it time to go?” said her mother in her scratchy voice. “Not yet,” replied Angie. She took the bottle of sleeping pills out of her purse, and shook them into the palm of her hand…
The next morning, there was a loud pounding on the apartment door. “Miz Nelson, are you in there? It’s the landlord – open up!”
He pounded on the door again. “Open up now, or I’m letting myself in!”
Still no response.
The landlord took his keys out of his pocket, unlocked the door, and tromped into the apartment. When he saw no one in the living room or kitchen, he made his way to the bedroom, where he found the lifeless body of Angie Nelson, empty bottle of sleeping bills still in her hand, next to her mother. In her cigarette scarred voice, Angie’s mother whispered,
“She said it was time to go.”