One of her children flips on the television every day at a.m. The set is old and the screen seems to be shrinkling from all four sides, blackness eating away at the images. Some 17 hours later, after Perry Mason has finished guarding virture on Channel 5. Linda Thaxton turns off the set and goes to bed.
"I don't go nowhere," said Thaxton, a 27-year-old divorced mother of four. She has a seventh-grade education and moved to Fairfax county's Rte. 1 to get away from her former husband in Pittsburgh who beat her. Her montly welfare check of $442 exceeds her fixed montly expenses by $29, she says.
There is no money to fix the television and Thaxton dreads the inevitable black screen.
Thaxton, who did not want her real name used for fear of embarrassing her children lives in an 8-year-old mobile home in the Woodley-Nightingale mobile home park. The park is a jumble of closely packed trailers, trees, narrow driveways parked cars, dogs, low-hanging electrical wires and children with no place to play.
Woodley-Nightingale is schedule to be refurbished next year, but now local firemen consider it dangerous. The roads are too narrow for fire engines, firefighters say.
Thaxton said she does not allow her children to play outside unless she can watch them. She fears they may be run over by the cars that swing into her yard to avoid the speed bump on the nearby roadway.
"It's hard for the kids to get it all out just running around this trailer," Thaxton said.
It is even harder for her without a car, to get out of the trailer she calls a "piece of junk" and escape boredom.
"It feels like vacuum. I go crazy sometimes. Yesterday I wanted to do something. I didn't know what. Whatever it was. I don't have enough money to do it," Thaxton said.
She said she has looked for a job. "I walked up and down all of Rte. 1. But I don't have much schooling, and they said they didn't need anybody."
Thaxton has no bank account and deals strictly in cash. When the money runs out - as it does almost every month - Thaxton used to feed her kids soup until the next welfare check came.
She now receives food and counseling from United Community Ministries, a volunteer organization that gives food, clothing and counseling to the Rte. 1 poor.
Thaxton said she did not know that Fairfax County is by many measures, the wealthiest county in the United States. She said she would have never guessed it from living there four years.