The $15.00 Fee

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Seung Geel Hong

A woman fills out an application at a senior citizens apartment-building, and she does not have to pay anything. A short time later, an interracial couple fills out an application at the very same apartment-building, but they must pay $15.00 for background-check.

The $15.00 Fee

First Edition

By Hong, Seung Geel

© 2019 by Hong, Seung Geel

All rights reserved

ISBN:  978-1-79471-586-8


The following story was inspired by true experience, but the names of persons and organizations were changed to protect the privacy of everyone involved.  Therefore, any similarity between any of the names in this story to any known individual, whether living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Hong, Seung Geel

The $15.00 Fee

1. Friends Cindy and Heather

Cindy and Heather had been best friends for ten years.  They were age 65 and 74 respectively, and for the past three years, they had lived in a senior citizens apartment-building in Mount Clemens, Michigan (north-northeast of Detroit).

Cindy’s parents had moved from Kentucky to Michigan ten years before Cindy was born, whereas Heather’s ancestors had migrated from Pennsylvania to Michigan in the late 1870’s.

In any event, Cindy was married to her second husband Eric, a one-armed Asian-American man who was adopted by a white family 58 years earlier.

Heather, on the other hand, was a widow.  She had outlived two husbands and two of her daughters, but she still had a bright outlook on life.  No matter how bad a situation would be, she always seemed to remain “cool as cucumber.”

2.Search for a New Home

One day, Cindy and Heather went searching for another place to live, because they wanted to live closer to Port Huron.  They both had children living in-and-around Port Huron, and they also wanted to be near their grandchildren.

Cindy did the driving, while Heather did the navigating.  They drove northward along the St. Clair River until they saw a five-stories building called “The First Nations.”

Cindy and Heather walked into the building and spoke to Pearl and Daisy, very attractive light-haired ladies in their early 20’s.

Pearl and Daisy introduced themselves and made Cindy and Heather feel very comfortable.  They gave Cindy and Heather a tour of the building and welcomed them to return and fill out an application.

3.The Background-Check Fee

Two weeks later, Heather’s youngest son Steve drove Heather to The First Nations to fill out an application.

Pearl was out of the building, but Daisy was there to welcome Heather and to answer any questions that Heather and Steve might have in mind.

Therefore, Heather returned home with a confident feeling, and she informed Cindy of how cordially Daisy had treated her.

Then, three weeks later, Cindy and her husband Eric drove to The First Nations to fill out an application.  And, on entering the building, Cindy needed to use the rest room.

So, with a friendly smile, Eric approached Pearl by himself and said “Good Morning” to her, expecting to receive a warm greeting in return.

However, Pearl simply looked straight into Eric’s eyes and then looked away.  She, then, got up from her chair and walked away, and she did not return until Cindy had returned from the rest room and had rejoined Eric in the hallway near the front door.

Then, when Pearl returned to her desk, Cindy walk up to the desk and asked for an application, whereupon Pearl handed Cindy the application.

About five minutes later, as Cindy was filling out the application, Eric looked up and noticed a maintenance man walking by, and a man wearing a dark suit was following a few feet behind him.

The maintenance man made eye-contact with Eric, and Eric instinctively smiled and said “Hello,” expecting the maintenance man to return a similar greeting.

However, Eric received almost the exact response as the response he had received from Pearl:  The maintenance man simply looked at Eric and continued walking, as if he had noticed a fly or a smudge on the wall.

As for the man in the dark suit, he had much better manners.  When it was his turn to walk past Eric, he nodded his head and smiled, and he said:


“Good morning, sir, it’s a very nice day.”


Eric smiled as he nodded his head and replied:


Yes, it sure is.”


After Cindy had finished filling out the application, they stood up to leave, whereupon Pearl charged them a $15.00 background-check fee.

Cindy and Eric wondered why Heather had not told them about the fee, but since the amount of the fee seemed reasonable, they paid it without complaining.  But they intended to ask Heather if she had paid the $15.00 fee.

Cindy and Eric later learned that Heather did not have to pay the $15.00 fee, and they wondered why one applicant had to pay the fee while another applicant did not.  Had The First Nations changed its policy within the past few weeks?  Or, were Pearl and Daisy treating some of the applicants differently?

For the moment, the $15.00 fee did not seem all that important, because Cindy and Eric were more concerned about finding a new home.  Nonetheless, Cindy and Eric intended to question Pearl and Daisy about the fee at a later time on a future trip to Port Huron.

4.New Home in Port Huron

For the next three months, Cindy and Heather applied for senior housing in several communities, including Port Huron.  And Cindy and Eric moved into a senior citizens apartment-building in Port Huron two months after filling out the application.  Heather moved into the same building a month later.

After moving to Port Huron, Cindy and Eric learned (from a former HUD worker) that Pearl and Daisy were not performing their jobs legally.  According to the former HUD worker (who had been a property manager for over 20 years), Pearl and Daisy did have the right to charge the applicants $15.00 for the background-check.  However, they were required to treat all the applicants equally.  In other words, Pearl and Daisy should have charged every applicant (or couple) the $15.00 for the background-check.

Hence, Cindy and Eric now realized that they had been treated unfairly, and they began to search for the receipt (for the $15.00 fee).  On their next trip to Mount Clemens, they intended to stop on the way at The First Nations and ask for a refund.  Cindy found the receipt a week later among the Detroit Edison receipts (electric bill receipts).

Approximately seven weeks later, Cindy and Eric made plans to visit some friends in Mount Clemens, and they thought of stopping at The First Nations to ask for a refund for the $15.00 background-check fee.

5.Let Them Keep the Money

A couple days before Cindy and Eric departed for Mount Clemens, Heather showed them the local newspaper’s headline story:


“Pearl Jenkins was arrested last night at 11:45 p.m. at her home.  She is the manager of The First Nations senior citizens high-rise on Iroquois Road.

Officer William Slaighter tried to stop Jenkins for driving erratically, but Jenkins refused to stop, and she raced home.

Meanwhile, Officer Slaighter had called for help during the chase.

After rushing into her house, Jenkins came out with a .410 shotgun and ordered the officers to leave.  Then, when the officers refused to leave, Jenkins raised the shotgun to her shoulder, suggesting that she was about to shoot.

The officers opened fire, and Jenkins was nicked in the lower right arm by one of Officer Slaighter’s bullets.

The shotgun was not loaded.

The officers entered Jenkins’ house to see if anyone had been hit by flying bullets.

Fortunately, no one in the house was hurt, but the officers found several piles of donated merchandise that should have been distributed to the senior citizens at The First Nations high-rise.

Evidently, instead of giving the donated merchandise to the senior citizens, Jenkins had been giving them or possibly even selling them to her friends and relatives. . . .”


After reading the story, Cindy commented:


“I don’t think we would have any trouble getting our $15.00 back from The First Nations high-rise.  If Daisy is still working there, she probably would give us the money with a smile just to please us, because I’m sure that she wouldn’t want any more bad publicity. . . .”


Eric replied:


“At first, I felt cheated, because we had been treated unfairly.  But now I feel okay.

Actually, I now feel sorry for Pearl:  She’ll be paying a heavy price for her mistakes.

Let’s not stop at The First Nations high-rise when we head for Mount Clemens.

Let them keep the $15.00.  I think they need it far more than we do. . . .”

Submitted: May 10, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Seung Geel Hong. All rights reserved.

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