Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Michelle Baynes
I was the case manager in a homeless shelter. I was used to seeing young children come in with their families. They could only stay three months. I saw him clinging to his mother. He was only four or five years old. I knew that Karen and her son were being abused by her boyfriend. I knew it because once you are abused yourself you know when it is happening to another person.
I met with the mom one-on-one. I would ask if everything was ok with her. She would never say she was being abused. She handed me a piece of paper from her doctor saying she had full-blown active AIDS. She was in her early twenties. I told her I would help her, whatever she needed.
The family moved out when they found an apartment. She kept in contact with me. I would ask her how things were going. She would say "Fine" or OK."
They lost their housing after a few months and were on the street again. I found out one night, when the hospital called me saying, "Karen wants to know if you can come and pick up Bobby." I drove to the hospital.
When I saw Karen I wanted to cry. Her head was swollen twice its size and the bone in her arm had come through the skin. The boyfriend had kicked and beaten her. Bobbie ran to me wrapping his arms around my legs, holding on, not letting go. I found out that the boyfriend had tried to take Bobbie with him saying he was his "Uncle." Bravely Bobby told the hospital staff, "He is not my uncle, he is Roy."
Bobby came home with me that night. When his mom was ready to leave the hospital they went to a battered women's shelter. I would pick up Bobby every Friday and bring him back on Sunday. We met in the parking lot of Safeway because the location of the shelter was secret.
When it was time to leave the battered women's shelter, Karen asked me if I would take Bobby home to live with me. She planned on going back on the street and knew she would end up with Roy again. She knew she was dying.
Bobby and I would visit his mom on the street. We would park at the Shell gas station waiting for her to walk up the dirt path. We brought her food and blankets. It was Christmas and we had gifts to bring Karen. She said she had been beaten up and did not want Bobby to see her. She died a month later. I kept trying to find her, calling the homeless service shelter. One day I called the coroner's office. She was there. I adopted Bobby a few months after his mom died.
Michelle Baynes lives and writes in Petaluma, CA.
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