Finally the door to the back offices opened up. Ms. Vines, my caseworker, stuck her head out. She was wearing an out dated pant suit too tight for her fat frame, and a pair of run over heels, which she seemed to have on each and every time since the very first day I met her. Her dark skin was dry and acne filled, which came from drinking too many of them Cokes she always had on her desk. And today her short, bob styled wig was matted to the left side of her head.
“Keema Newell !” she called.
“Bout time,” I whispered as I stood from my chair and quickly walked past her, anxious to find out when I was getting my kids back and get this visit over with. The two of us headed to her tiny office. As we walked I could smell a double cheese burger with extra onions seeping from her pores. Once we reached her office she plopped down behind her desk, opened a drawer and pulled out my case file. She opened it and sat it on her desk next to the half-empty bottle of Coca Cola.
“Was my Medicaid application accepted?” I asked as I sat down. We’d discussed me getting full coverage during the last visit. I was hoping I’d be approved before the next check, which would be here in ten days. I was always trying to milk her ass for whatever I could get. “Deniro’s doctor really thinks he may have a disability,” I lied.
“Keema, right now the Medicaid application is the least of your worries.”
Here she goes. My eyes wanted to roll but I forced them to remain still. Despite how much I hated her, Ms. Vines wrote the checks so I had to be cool.
“We need to begin this visit with you telling me about why the children are in Baltimore City custody.” She eyeballed me like she was better than me or something. “That’s the reason I requested the meeting.”
“The police kicked my door in two days ago pointing guns at me and my kids,” I told her. “They told me somebody lied and said I was selling drugs out of my apartment. Can you believe that?”
“Why would someone do that?”
“You know how people are, Ms. Vines. They nosey and always want to get stuff started. Just because I don’t associate with none of them, they want to mess with me. I’m out looking for jobs every day and they hatin’ on that. That’s all that is.”
“Keema, the police don’t just kick in doors for no reason. They do investigations before they do something that extreme.”
“Not this time, they didn’t. They kicked mine in for nothing.”
Ms. Vines gave me a smirk and looked down at my case file. “Keema, the police found a gun and marijuana in the apartment,” she said raising her head to look at me.
“But it wasn’t mine,” I said, trying to sound convincing.
“Then whose was it?”
“Your boyfriend’s son?”
“Yeah, I didn’t even know he had the stuff.”
“You had no idea, huh?” she asked pursing her lips.
“I really didn’t.”
“Doesn’t he have autism?”
“Yeah, that’s why I’m so surprised. I’m starting to wonder if the autism thing is an act. You know autism is a brain problem that makes it hard to communicate. But if he selling drugs then he communicating just fine.”
I cut her off since she hadn’t been convinced yet. His father told me that his autism only meant he’d have social impairments and some mild character flaws, but this is too much. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking about telling his daddy he needs to find Shane another place to stay. I can’t have that kind of stuff around my kids.”
She stared at me for a moment, causing me to nibble on my nails again. I always did that when I was nervous. Right now I didn’t quite know what was going through her mind but the look on her face showed me she still didn’t quite believe me.
“Ms. Vines, I miss my babies,” I whimpered. “They’re my world. I haven’t even been able to sleep since the cops took them.” I stopped to snivel before continuing, “And it’s breaking my heart so bad I went to church this morning and prayed on it. That’s why I was late to see you. Oh God, Ms. Vines, when will I be getting them back?”
Ms. Vines leaned forward and folded her hands on the desk. “Keema, do you have any idea how serious this situation is? There was a gun underneath one of your children’s mattress and drugs in a cereal box.”
“But they weren’t mine,” I whined. “I didn’t even know the stuff was there. I swear to God in Heaven I didn’t.”
“I find that hard to believe, Keema.”
“Do you think I would actually have a gun and drugs around my kids?” I asked in disbelief.
“You tell me,” she said. “The police have also stated they found a lit blunt in your apartment.”
“That was Shane’s too.”
“You mean you didn’t smell him smoking?”
“I told you that autism thing may be a front. He’s real slick.”
She leaned back into her chair and looked at me strangely.
“I’m not lying, Ms. Vines. I would never put my kids in harms way like that.”
She exhaled. “Keema, I’m going to be straight forward with you. “You’ve been on assistance for several years. You haven’t shown any urge to find gainful employment.”
I slammed my hand on the desk. “I go on job interviews all the time!”
“Let me finish, Keema,” she said sternly. “You’re always late for our appointments. You’ve failed drug tests. To be honest with you, if it wasn’t for the kids, I would’ve taken you off of assistance a long time ago.”
I looked at her pitifully, biting my nails again.
“The system is in place to empower you, not enable you Keema.”
“I know, Ms. Vines. That’s what my mother tells me all the time. And I swear I’m trying my hardest. I’ve made mistakes but I’m a good person and I love my kids.”
She looked at me with no emotion. She was pissing me off but I didn’t show it. I stayed in character despite the fact that she was trying to give me such a hard time.
“It’s so hard out here for a single black mother, Ms. Vines.” Tears appeared in my eyes.
“I’m sorry Keema. No money this month until your case is reviewed further.”
I almost fainted.
Welfare Grind starts off with an explosive scene that shows Keema, the main character not taking ownership of something that has the authorities at her front door. When her kids are taken away from her this starts a downward spiral for tons of tricks and scams that Keema pulls off to get them back…all in the name of getting those Welfare Benefits. The money is good..REAL good and she can’t stand the thought of not collecting the funds. Keema’s character is very authentic and has readers wanting to choke her!
Treasure is Keema’s daughter who subliminally acts just like her mother. At ten years old she’s had to grow up all too soon becoming an apprentice in their project based home. Treasure is quick, witty and extremely intuitive. Unfortunately for Keema, karma may come from her own child. They say- the apple never falls far from the tree.
2. Which character or topic in the book can you identify with the most? Why?
I myself was one of those kids who didn’t have a relationship with my father, so I knew this was a subject that a lot of readers could relate to.
3. Is this the book you intended on writing or did it take on a life of its own as you were writing? How do you stay focused?
4. Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from your book?
5. We are here to shine the spotlight on your new book, but what’s next? Share with us your latest news, awards or upcoming book releases. How may our readers follow you online?
Find Kendall at:
Kendall Banks, Executive Assistant by day, bartender by night is the proud author of Rich Girls, One Night Stand, Another One Stand and The Welfare Grind Series. She originally hails from both Georgia and North Carolina and presently resides in Washington, D.C. Her long time goal was to produce movies, however after writing her first movie script and failing, she turned it into a manuscript and submitted it to LCB. Ironically, after the success of One Night Stand the novel, an independent studio picked up the project and is now in pre-production. Kendall enjoys the success of her hard work but participates in community service activities often.