Eric Mansfield worked for the government Department of Health and his days were full on trying to keep up with a system that was underfunded and understaffed. To reduce stress so he’d present home as a happy husband and father he did one hour of extreme workout after work at a gym near his office and would be physically tired but happy by the time he reached home. He idealized his two women Mildred and Katy and wanted to give them quality time they deserved whenever he came home.
So, two hours later Eric turned into the driveway and honked the horn to activate his daughter. Katy would always rush to the door to usher him into the recreation room where with a torrent of stumbling words she’d introduce Eric to her latest project while Mildred peeped around the corner brushing hands on an apron welcoming her husband home. She’d protest when he moved to her side with daughter tugging at his pants Mildred drawing his attention to imaginary kitchen spillage on her apron. But Eric would fold her in his strong arms regardless, and she’d subside gratefully. This was their usual evening greeting routine. After supper it was bath and bedtime for Katy then Mom would clean up in the kitchen while Eric read Katy’s favourite books until the little girl fell asleep. Then it was quality time together for Eric and Mildred as each caught up on the events of the day at home and work.
Mildred reported on how embarrassing it had been when she discovered Katy had drawn attention to a difference in skin colour with the family next door. Then she related her visit to the refugee family and impressions she’d gained in that encounter. Eric nodded approvingly as she told of buying food for them at the supermarket and how she wanted to buy some furniture to make their lives a little more comfortable. But then she’d realized these people would be possibly humiliated getting a large handout like that after Maria had firmly indicated the only help they needed was jobs and permission from immigration to remain in the country. Eric nodded again.
“Milly you’re a rescuer but sometimes you need to be sensitive, so others feel they’re supporting themselves. No one wants to feel obligated. Even your own aging Mother is sometimes resentful when you’re overprotective and try and do everything in her home for her. She wants to feel independent too.” Eric laughed and Milly snuggled in.
“I can’t help it Eric, I just want everyone to be happy, valued and cared for. But you love me anyway don’t you.” Mildred giggled.
“But what about the things they did indicate they needed help for Eric. Maria’s husband is struggling with English and has narrowly avoided being made redundant because he didn’t understand instructions. She wants a job. Could we find a job for her? She was an English teacher in her own country. Their stay here is only under a temporary protection visa. Your brother works in Immigration, can’t you have a word with him?”
Eric sat up in alarm. “No Milly! The government has procedures that need to take time. If everyone who has sympathy for families who bypass the system could put those procedures aside on a whim then we’d not know who a legitimate refugee was and who was not. These things need to be checked by those who know how to get authentic information. It would be unprincipled for me to compromise my brother asking him to try and use his influence this way. He’d lose his job!”
Mildred never gave up easily. “What about a job for Maria then? Surely we could help her with that simple request. She’s not asking for money and was embarrassed when I helped her out with groceries so she’s obviously not looking for free handouts.”
Eric sighed and pulled his wife closer whispering in her ear. “OK can’t we drop the subject. I’m tired but if I can see any possibilities I’ll let you know.”
Mildred smiled contentedly. She knew Eric would pull out all stops to make her happy even when she went off on one of her hobby horses as she often did.
Next morning Mildred gave Eric a kiss as he prepared to leave for work. Katy looking on pulled at Eric’s pants. “Me too Daddy!” Eric scooped her up in his arms and kissed her on the forehead. Then handed her to Mildred and picked up his briefcase.
“See you guys in the evening!”
“Eric don’t forget to look for a job for Maria!” Mildred smiled winningly and Eric shook his head in mock frustration.
“Give me a break Milly!” He chuckled as he inched down the driveway watching for potential traffic hazards on the road. When Mildred was on a hobby horse she didn’t give up easily.
Several government departments were housed in the multi storey office building Eric worked in. As he stood in front of the elevator block waiting for the green light indicating ground level arrival he scanned the list of departments located on each floor and the word Education with its various subdivisions caught his eye. On impulse he decided to pause on that floor as there’d been a good traffic run and he was early for work. One of his gym friends Roger Munford worked there. He didn’t expect there’d be any work for Maria given her background but at least it would get Milly off his back when he reported home that evening he’d tried.
Roger looked up as his secretary Rhonda materialized and handed him Eric’s calling card. He immediately got up and went outside to usher Eric into his office.
“This is a surprise Eric. Did you lose your way and think this was the gym by mistake? We’re commencing work not finishing it!” Roger roared with laughter at his own joke and his secretary smirked at her desk. It was a laugh a minute working for Roger.
He motioned to the interview couch and they both sat. “What can I do for the Health Department? Have you all suddenly realized how much you need to be educated?”
Eric grinned. “On the contrary, we’ve had a report that you guys need some advice on good health practices, and I’ve been sent to do an appraisal.”
Both men laughed. They’d been friends for years now and enjoyed the banter between them.
Roger sobered. “What can I do for my good friend.”
So, Eric reported on the story of his wife’s encounter with the neighbours and their plight as refugees. He told of Maria’s experience as an English teacher before her country erupted in civil war and how they had permission to work while their protection visa was considered for a permanent residency. Were there any possibilities of work for Maria, and what were the formalities needed for her to find work successfully.
Roger frowned. “That’s a tough one Eric. Unofficially you need to get me as much information as you can on the level of her competence and the amount of time she’s taught at upper levels. Where was she educated and to what level? Even with that information there’d be no way she’d be employable as a regular until her competence could be evaluated firsthand. Occasionally there are teacher aid positions which would provide a good way to get a firsthand evaluation of her usefulness. Unfortunately, her country is in shambles, so it would be hard for us to verify her teaching degrees now. Get me whatever information you can, and I’ll investigate any possibilities around the city. I presume she’d not be available to work in a remote area.”
Eric glanced at his watch. He needed to get back to the elevator and head for his Department level. “Thanks Roger, I’ll get Milly onto it.”
On reaching his office Eric contacted Milly by cell phone and shared the conversation he’d had with Roger. Mildred made notes and smiled as she disconnected the call. Grabbing Katie, she sped over to visit Maria and dictated into her cell phone as she received information on Maria’s educational background.
“It’s sad you don’t have documents to support this Maria, but I suppose you had to leave in such a hurry.” Mildred sighed as she reflected on the difficulties this family were undergoing.
“My husband managed to scan documents relating to his position, education and experience before his office was trashed. We could see the writing on the wall. It’s on a USB chip we were able to conceal as we were constantly robbed of all we had in the refugee camp over the border. But it’s all in our language and he’s only learning rudimentary English now. I do have my educational service records certificates and degrees as I wouldn’t leave those behind. They were concealed in a plastic bag which I kept under my clothing as we went from place to place. I figured they may help me some day.”
Mildred stood up in excitement. “Let me see those documents and the USB chip.”
Maria headed for the kitchen and stood on a wooden box so she could reach the top of the cupboards where they were stored for safety out of sight. It was hard for Maria to comprehend those documents would be safe in this country. She handed the chip to Mildred and pulled the stained documents on her educational history from a yellowed plastic envelope.
“What are you going to do with these documents?” Asked Maria nervously.
Mildred moved to the Scan App on her phone and began to look for the best light source to present a good image on her phone. She took her time scanning, inspecting, rescanning until she had the best results obtainable under the circumstances. She’d download these at home and work with a more sophisticated editing program on her desk top computer later. She could see Maria was becoming distressed at the possibility of letting these documents out of her sight.
So, she handed the documents to Maria who hastily put them into the yellowed plastic envelope. Then on impulse she handed the USB chip back too. None of her husband’s history though available in another language would be of help when his English was so rudimentary. He’d have to struggle for some time until he could express and understand properly.
She took leave with Katy and they headed for a second-hand furniture shop she knew to look for cheap furniture which could possibly make the family’s lives less uncomfortable. If there was anything suitable she’d take Maria there to see it for herself. Eric was right, no one likes to receive handouts and feel obligated to the giver no matter their good intentions so she could present this as a loan perhaps.
To be continued.
© Copyright 2019 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved
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