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Confidence Man

When she told me he ran up a credit card, I imagined it was a lot $15,000 maybe, or $20,000. That kind of money is easy to rack up if you’re unemployed and saddled with worries. It is a lot to spend in a year, but it is not beyond the pale.

Still curious, however, last weekend I asked. The total: $55,000—$4,000 in December alone—and the bill is delinquent. When MasterCard finally shut off the pipe, he was at a gas station. He challenged: “What did you do?” She said she hadn’t done anything, so he huffed a while, then hung up. A week later, he called back: “What are you going to do?” She said she told him she was going to let him pay it.

She sighed. “I think your mom got conned,” she said.



so, now what?

I don’t think she has thought it through yet, but she does have a plan:

First, her business is for sale. Selling it has been something she’s talked about since before she married him, but I think this marriage has convinced her more that it is a good idea. So, she wants to get good money from that someday. More immediately, she is in the midst of taking out a mortgage on her house. (She owns it outright thanks to the divorce settlement from her previous husband.)

With cash in hand from the mortgage, she will pay the Mastercard until it is current—absorbing the myriad late fees that are owed—and change the primary address to his. Why she is not planning to close the account with a balance I do not know, but she intends to leave it open and “let him pay his bill.” Now that she is certain that he cannot get his hands on her property, she plans to take the hit on her credit.

And… that’s all. It is as much as she has thought through, if “through” is the right word. But because much of her business is in barter, she hardly has a modern income.

She does, however, have hope from the ground. The play for natural gas in White County has everyone seeing dollar signs, my family included. Mom in particular has been breathlessly talking about the well at my grandparents’ neighbor’s place, which she says is expected to pay $36K per month to the landowner. I gather that when my grandparents’ well goes in, they intend to split the monthly proceeds with mom and her siblings. I do not know whether it means that mom is counting on the money, but I do know that she believes herself to be financially safe in the long term, no matter what hits she takes now.