"Grippers" ( how to get homeless without even trying #7)

Episode #7 Lights out (click on “the Grippers” tab for previous six (6) episodes)

Tommy and Judi Parano were standing outside their house when Bob and Tracey arrived home. Judi and Tracey were best friends and shared and confided most everything with each other. Judi was well aware of the predicament her friend was in. She walked over to the side of Bob’s truck and when Tracey saw her she immediately stepped out of the truck, wrapped her arms around her and began to simultaneously hug and cry. “Oh Judi, this is such a mess. I cannot believe everything that has happened since Friday. I don’t know what to do”

“What happened, Trace. I thought you had everything covered for now.”

They made us pay two truck payments. Now I can’t pay the electric bill. That was due by nine o’clock this morning. We had the ten day extension already. What am I going to do.”

“Well, first thing is you are going to do is call them. You have to call them right now.”

“I did that already. Just got off the cell phone with them. They told me to do my best to get the payment in as quickly as possible and that they could not promise anything since I already had the extension. That their ‘hands were tied’. Give me a break. I haven’t been late with one payment in 12 years and they tell me ‘their hands are tied’. Now I don’t know what to expect.”

“Tracey, if we had the money we would give it to you in a heartbeat but—“

“I know Judi, I know.”

“Let me finish. I have an idea. Call the St. Vincent De Paul Society over at my church. They can probably help you out. They help people all the time who are in a jam.”

“Oh my God—how embarrassing. I could never do that. I would feel like an idiot telling strangers my business. I could never. No way. We don’t even go to your church.”

“That doesn’t matter. If someone asks them for assistance they try to help. Being catholic or belonging to the parish has nothing to do with anything. Look Tracey, you guys are in a spot. You need a little help.I’m going to run home and get you the number. I think it is on our church bulletin cover.”

As Judi hurried home Jake came walking up the driveway. He had spent the holiday weekend at his friend Tyler’s house and Tyler’s mom had driven them to school Tuesday morning. As far as Jake was concerned everything was fine at home. He did not even know his dad had been laid off and seeing Judi Parano leaving his house was as normal as the sun coming up in the morning. “Hi Mrs. Parano.”

“Hi Jake, have a good day today?’

“Yup, sure did.”

Jake headed into the house, gave his mom a cursory, “Hey, mom” and headed to his room. He never noticed her swollen eyes or thought about his dad’s truck being in the driveway on a work day.

Tracey was in the kitchen wiping her eyes when Judi came back in. At the same time Jake came into the kitchen. This time he noticed his mom’s puffy cheeks. “Hey, mom–what’s wrong? Something happen? You okay?”

“I’m fine Jake. Lousy day, that’s all. Plus, you know how I cry sometimes over nothing. No big deal.”

Jake accepted that and opened the refrigerator door. He stood motionless staring inside the fridge. As Judi handed the phone number to Tracey, Jake matter of factly said, “Hey mom, the bulb just burned out in here. It’s hard to see.”

Tracey shrugged and then they all noticed that things seemed eerily still and quiet. It took about half a minute for them to realize that the ceiling fan had stopped spinning, the refrigerator had stopped humming and that the A/C had stopped cooling. Jake had already plopped down on the sofa and was pressing the buttons on the TV remote. “Hey mom, the TV won’t come on. I think we need some batteries in the remote.”

Bob, who had been in the garage checking his tools and equipment to see what he had available when he found work, came in. “Okay, here it is. The guy from the power company just left. They shut us off.”

“Oh my God,” Tracey said. “What are we going to do?”

Judi handed a slip of paper to Tracey, “Here, call these people right now. Who knows, they still might be able to get with you today even though it is almost three. Please, do it.”

“Hey mom, dad–what’s going on here?”

Next time: Episode #8 Here come the church people

Busy Moms Who Love to Read review

Busy Moms Who Love to Read
July 27, 2011

Review: Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes by Larry Peterson
by Pamela Olsen

I always love books that have a message and there is no better message than accepting each other’s differences. This children’s book takes it a step further and reminds us to accept our own differences. I also like the Peterson was able to convey his message without it being totally obvious that a lesson was being learned. My sons loved the illustrations of this book as well as the story.

"Grippers" #6 (how to get homeless without even trying)

Episode #6: Out of money (click on “the grippers” tab for previous 5 episodes)

The Slider family was now, like so many many others, part of an American paradox. They were both rich and poor. They had everything money could buy; a place to live, a refrigerator, a washer and dryer, a personal computer, two TVs, a DVD player, a stove and oven, central heat and air, a microwave, internet service, two vehicles, cell phones, and even a video game system. They had managed to take vacations every summer and had been to Disney World numerous times. However, they were now bringing in zero income and were $14,710.00 below the national poverty level. Bob reluctantly succumbed to Tracey’s common sense and it was 10:15 when they both left for the unemployment office.

They walked into the unemployment office and Bob was surprised that it was not more crowded. Tracey said in a low voice, “Most people apply on-line. Hardly anyone comes here to sign up. If they did the lines would be around the block.”

“Well then, what are we doing here?”

“I swear Bob, what’s wrong with you? Our computer does not work—remember? We have to use their computer. We have to take a number and wait for one of the computers to open up. That’s them by the wall over there.”

“Oh my God, there are only five of them and they’re all being used and there are people waiting.”

“I know, I know. But we have no choice. We have to do this. We’ll probably be here a few hours. Let’s just try to make the best of it.”

They took numbers from the number dispenser and sat down. The number on the board flashed #23. They had numbers 41 and 42 respectively. “Dang Tracey, we’ll be here all day.”

“No, no, no. It’s not so bad. There are five machines, remember.”

At 12:30, # 41 flashed on the board. Tracey hurried over to the computer and tried to sign in. Clicking enter nothing happened. She clicked again–nothing—and again–nothing. The on-line assistant came over, “Is everything all right?”

“I can’t access my page. Look for yourself.”

The lady looked at the screen and shrugged, “It’s a code 9. You did not re-certify and were dropped from the system. You have to re-apply.”

“But all my information was there. The storm last week fried our computer. I could not sign in and then my car didn’t start and I could not get over here until after you closed. It takes a few weeks to get a check when you start, right? I mean, this is crazy. I was supposed to get a check today but you’re telling me the computer just kicked me out, just like that. The damn thing is not even a person and it can just kick you out. Can’t you people override it. I mean, it is not my fault.”

“I’m sorry ma’am. My our hands are tied. You are not the first person this has happened to. They set the system up this way. The only people that can change this are the folks in Tallahassee. My advice is to fill out the forms and get yourself back into the system. And don’t forget that every week you claim benefits you have to show that you applied for at least five jobs. That’s VERY important. Okay?”

Three and a half hours after arriving at the unemployment office they were finished applying and headed home. There was very little talk going on. As they headed down Madison Ave. Tracey said, “Pull into the bank. I’ll drop off the truck payment. It is too far ‘past due’ to mail it. This way we’ll get credit for the payment immediately.”

Ten minutes later Tracey came out, got into the truck and began to cry. “What’s wrong? Why you crying?”

Trying to speak through her sobs Tracey sounded like she was talking underwater. “They bllb–want–bllp–two payments.” Forcing out the words she went on, “They won’t take one payment because today is the beginning of a new month. They want two or they want the truck.”

“WHAT! Are they crazy. We only have five payments left. We’ve been paying like clockwork for three years. I’m going in there. Give me the payment stubs.”

Bob headed into the bank and ten minutes later out he came. “So, what happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened. I had to give them the two payments. That’s what happened. Whatever. Plus a $25.00 late fee. I think that leaves us with maybe $40.00 to our name.”

“Oh my God, Bob. The electric bill. We have to pay the electric bill. They’ll turn us off if we don’t.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. And the water and the phones and the cable and the insurance—and. Oh man, let’s just go home and try to figure something out. Maybe we can have a big yard sale. One thing is for sure, I have to find work and fast.”

"Grippers" #5 (how to get homeless without even trying)

Recap: #1, Bob Slider is laid off;  #2, Tracey loses her unemployment; #3, confronting finances over beer & pizza; #4; meeting with the landlord  (click on “gripper” tab to view previous episodes)

Episode 5: Running out of money.

It was 5:30 a.m Tuesday and , as usual, Bob woke up and began getting ready to go to work. It actually took him a few moments to accept the fact that he actually had no place to go. Somewhat lost inside of himself, he walked outside into the morning darkness and stood by his truck. He decided to drive over to the Park Slope Cafe and get some breakfast. He loved their “All-American Skillets” because they were loaded with so much bacon and sausage. He dropped two quarters into the newspaper machine, pulled out a paper and headed inside. He was surprised that there were so many patrons there at such an early hour and he avoided looking around because he just did not want to bump into anyone he might know. He was in no mood for idle chit-chat.

The server came by, placed  a menu on his table and asked, “Good morning, you having coffee?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“I’ll be back for your order in a minute.”

He smiled at her and opened the menu. Quickly he was adding numbers in his head. Dang, the skillet is $6.99 and coffee is $1.59, add in tax and that’s over nine bucks. Two bucks for a tip and I just spent $11.00. The server returned and asked, “So, what can I get you?”

“I’m going to just have coffee today, okay.”

He was on his way home by 6:30 and, in the light of the new day, noticed all the cars moving this way and that. He wished his truck was heading to a job like the rest of them. It was only his first day out of work and already he was feeling quite useless. When I get home I better get on the horn  and make some calls. Gotta find some work.  I know I can get something to make a few bucks.

Greg Margolese pulled up a little after ten. It was a brief visit. The guy never even got out of his truck. Bob walked over and handed him a check for $950.00. Greg looked at it, stuck it in his shirt pocket and said, “Thanks, Bob. Look, as far as what we talked about Saturday, right now I have nothing. I’m doing the repairs and maintenance myself trying to save some money. If something comes up or if I hear of someone needing help with something I’ll give you a call. Don’t worry, things will work out.” The entire visit had taken about a minute and a half.

Back inside he and Tracey began to face their new reality. While at Carmine’s Friday evening they had tallied up a personal fortune of $2650. On Saturday, Tracey had gone to the supermarket and spent $112.00 on food and other  items like toothpaste and toilet tissue, laundry detergent, shampoo, hand soap and a new filter for the air-purifier which was critical for Jake’s asthma prevention. Jake’s inhalor was $68.00 and Bob had put $30.00 worth of gas in the truck which had moved the needle a bit past the half-way mark. Add in the $20.00 they had “squandered” on pizza Friday, they were down to $770.00 and, besides the rent, had not paid a single bill. Three months earlier Tracey would have used a credit card to pay for some of these things but their three cards were maxed out and they were two months behind in payments already. The collectors were already calling several times a week.Tracey, a woman who managed money with unbelievable efficiency and had always seemed to be able to move the money exactly where needed keeping their finances in check, was overwhelmed. Truck payment of $278.00, electric bill of $276.00, cable and phone of $119.00, water bill of $64.00, car insurance of $158.00—that came to $895 leaving them negative $125.00 just to pay bills. Credit cards, yeah, right.

Bob, sort of in a daze, did not know what to do. Thank God Tracey began making an attempt to put some order into their financial chaos. She decided not to pay the car insurance, the cable bill and the water bill. She thought she could buy time with those creditors by calling and talking to them. Making the truck payment and paying the power bill would take precedence. That would leave them with $341.00 in their pocket. Tracey had forgotten one minor detail. If the truck payment was late and went delinquent into the following month the lien-holder would not accept one payment. They demanded that the account be brought current by the fifth day of the second month—or else.

Next time: Episode #6; Out of money

"Grippers" #4(how to get homeless without even trying )

Recap: #1, Bob Slider is laid off; #2, Tracey loses her unemployment; #3, confronting finances over beer & pizza (click on “grippers” tab to view previous episodes)

Episode 4: Meeting with the landlord.

It was 8 a.m. Saturday and Bob was sitting in Tracey’s car listening to the singing of an engine not starting, waawaawaawaa. Tommy Parano, Bob’s good friend and next door neighbor, came walking over. Tommy also happened to be  a darn good auto mechanic. “Uh oh Bob, that don’t sound good. Pop the hood.”

It took Tommy ten minutes to figure out that the fuel pump was shot. “No pressure from the fuel line Bob. No pressure. The worst part is the pump is in the gas tank. It’s a big job to replace it. .We’ll have to get it into the shop.”

“Well Tommy, not this week. Bildot closed its doors yesterday. I’m out of work. The car will have to wait.”

“No way, man. I don’t believe it. Bildot closed. You were laid off. Oh man, that stinks big time.”

Just then a bright, red F-350 diesel pick-up with tandem wheels rumbled to a stop in front of the house. Bob said to Tommy, “Hey, that’s my landlord. Look, we’ll talk later.”

As Tommy headed back to his house Greg Margolese slowly walked toward his tenant. Bob’s insides sort of twisted because the usually friendly persona of Greg was nowhere to be seen. “Good morning, Bob.”

“Hey Greg, you’re up and about early for a Saturday.”

“Yeah, well I have to take care of a broken water heater over on 72nd Terrace and I wanted to talk to you anyway so—I thought  I would just stop by. You know Bob, you still owe me $700.00 for May and June 1st is Tuesday. You think you’ll have the money?”

Bob suddenly felt intimidated and embarrassed. He had known Greg for a long time. The man owned 18 houses and Bob had helped him out many times getting him discounts on building supplies and personally doing minor repairs for him. He liked to think that they were friends first. But this Saturday morning was different. Greg Margolese was exhibiting a “business is business” attitude. Bob nervously said to him, “Uh—I was going to call you Greg. Truth is, I have a problem and—look, wait right here. I’ll be right back.”

Bob hurried into the house and wrote out a check for $700.00. He hurriedly went back outside and, handing the check to Greg he said, “I would have asked you in but Tracey and Jake are still sleeping and I though it better if we talked out here. Anyway, here is the rest of May’s rent. Sorry it took so long.”

“Sure, Bob. that’s fine.So, what’s the problem? Will you be able to pay June’s rent?”

Bob felt himself getting a bit annoyed. “Yeah, I can pay June’s rent. That’s not the problem. The problem is Bildot closed its doors yesterday. Went “belly-up”. I’m officially laid off and I was thinking that maybe we could help each other out.”

“Bildot is out of business. I can’t believe it. What are you going to do?”

“Well, for starters, I was thinking that maybe I could do some work for you and credit it towards rent. I know I can get some work but that might take a bit of time. I have the truck so I can do some hauling and clean-ups.  In the meantime, I could start working towards July’s rent now. Whaddaya think?”

Greg took a breath and raised his eyes.”Look Bob, I have four vacant houses and five tenants late with rent. I pay mortgages and insurance on all my properties. I need cash. This economy has everyone hurting , me included  But, I’ll think about it and we’ll talk Tuesday when I come back for the rent. “

“Okay Greg, thanks. See you Tuesday.”

As Greg drove away Bob felt a chill run down his spine. Forking over the other $950.00 on Tuesday was going to leave them in a terrible spot. This is exactly what Tracey was talking about the previous evening.

He slowly headed back into the house. Tracey, sitting at the kitchen table, immediately said, “You know, last night at Carmine’s we never included in the money we owe, the phone bill, the cell phone bill and the three credit card payments that are past due. What about my car?”

“Tommy said the fuel pump is shot. It’s a big job. We’ll  just have to wait on that. You can use the truck. Hey Tracey— I need to have some coffee and think, okay.  Can’t believe it. Never thought about the phones.” He poured some coffee into his mug and walked out to the backyard.

Next time:  Episode #5; Running out of money

KidSmart Books review

KidSmart Books
July 2, 2011

Book Reviewer Ella Johnson’s Book of the Month:
Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes by Larry Peterson

by Max Nightjar

Book Of The Month
July 2011

The first thing to hook me was the title, SLIPPERY WILLIES STUPID, UGLY SHOES, It was a shoe in for me. A title you could not pass up. I blogged about the importance of a catchy title on an essay blog at writestuff-writenow, (MAY). This is what I’m talking about.

The second thing that reeled me in was the subject matter ( children with special needs) these shoes are special orthopedic shoes to help poor Willie stand up straight and stop slipping around..

My dad bought me an ugly pair of shoes once, when I was eight or ten. They were an awful looking blue color “clodhoppers” with a strap across the instep and a dumb blue bow. I hated those shoes. I wanted a pair of Hush Puppies. You think it was because he said “they were good for my feet”? I actually tried to kill those shoes by beating them to death on the sidewalk. They really were good, tough shoes though….lasted a good two years. I actually had to grow out of them – G-r-r..

SellingBooks.com Interview

June 30, 2011

Larry Peterson – Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes
by Cathy B. Stucker

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The title is Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes. It is about a boy who has slippery feet and just slips, slides and spins all over the place. Even his socks and shoes slide off his feet when he is just sitting down. He has new shoes made for him that will stop the slipping and sliding. But he thinks that they are the stupidest, ugliest shoes in the whole world and that everyone will laugh at him when he wears them. The story deals with “differences” and gives the message that being different is OK. It has received some wonderful reviews.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born and grew up in the Bronx and grew up in a predominantly Catholic Christian community of hard working, hard drinking, God fearing, patriotic, blue collar folks. (Hard drinking may be an oxymoron in this mix but it was the way it was–it is also why I don’t drink since I saw so much damage from that even in my own family). I am sure my background is reflected in my writing. It was always in me to write but writing was way down on my list of priorities. Lots of illness, three kids to raise, keep food on the table etc, etc. so, for me, sporadic writing was the way of things.

What inspired you to write this book?

After I got married we moved to Jersey and got involved in the Foster Care Program. They sent us a three year old named Brian and his brother Joey, 6. They were the same age as our two boys. Our house was INSANE–They were supposed to stay for a “few days” and wound up with us for two years. Anyway, Brian was ‘off the walls”–hyperactive, no self controls, just a mess. He would simply get up and run–BOOM–into the wall, fall off the steps etc–he never got hurt. His behavior planted the seed for “Slippery Willie’s —-shoes”.

How did you choose the title?

My son’s name was William and we called him Willie (today he is Bill) The story evolved from Willie being slippery all over to just his feet and along came the shoes and here we are.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Obstacles?? Rejections–book was way too long–editing–it is half the length it originally was with far less characters.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

Like I said. I knew it was in me to write. About 20+ years ago I wrote a few unsolicited columns for a local newspaper and brought them over, dropped them off and asked if someone would read them and maybe get back to me. A few days later the publisher/editor, a man by the name of Judson Bailey, gave me a call and asked me to stop by. He was an old-timer from the old school of journalism (pre-computer, pound the pavement guy). He had this huge mane of silver hair that flowed backward to his shoulders and the bushiest, silver eyebrows I had ever seen. Anyway, he says to me, “Petie (he called me Petie), you have this unique way of saying things. So give me a column a week about whatever you want to write about. I’ll give you $25.00 a pop.” It was amazing. I had never done anything professionally and he asks me to write what I want. He never edited anything either. Well, that’s how I started. Hooked on with a few other newspapers and then, after about five years, Mr. Bailey passed away from cancer and the other papers went out of business. So, from maybe 95′ until about three years ago I was sort of in “writer’s limbo” not really doing any writing.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

I explained where “Willie” came from. The fiction I am writing is about real people so I just use real names and nicknames that feel right to me. For example, in my novel, Beeker and Dancer are two of the characters (they are kids).

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?


If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’m not sure. I am where I am at this point in time. I love the expression, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that is why we call it the present”. I let tomorrow take care of itself and use today the best I can. Yesterday is over.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I like Hemingway’s “Old Man & The Sea”. So simple, yet you are in the boat with Santiago feeling his exhaustion, his determination, his respect for the great fish he is battling who he even calls “brother”. I think Hemingway reflected life for so many in this story. Struggling, fighting to “stay afloat” and having that one moment where maybe–just maybe you think you have made it and then outside forces rip it from your grasp. I also enjoy C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”. I love how Lewis’ mind creates these strange places and peoples. I believe his motivation is biblical. In volume three, “The Horse and his Boy” the names for people and places he has come up with are amazing to me. Names like Mezreel and Lasaraleen and Tarkheena or the The Valley of the Thousand Perfumes”—it’s hard to keep up—-

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yeah–the final draft is just about done. Tweaking on mechanics is going on. “The title (for now) is “The Priest & The Peaches” and it is about five kids who have lost their parents over a period of a few years and wind up on their own on New Years, 1966. It is funny, it is sad–it is NOT dark. It is ultimately about family taking care of family being guided by a tough yet kind and humble Catholic priest. It is not a religious book. Have not sent it out yet but it should be ready very soon.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Keep at it.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

I think 6 to 10 year olds. They can read it, they can discuss it, and they can have it read to them.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?