The girls and I were home alone tonight, and since they’d been begging to go to the ice cream store all day, I told them we could go after supper IF they helped pick up the living room and IF they quit throwing those awful, stompy fits. I brought the camera, because little kids and ice cream makes for a good photo opp.
We can walk to the ice cream store, which is next to a big grocery store. There’s a little alleyway sort of path that we call the shortcut, ’cause it is, and we generally walk through that way. A very small parking lot is next to the alleyway, and a car I’d never seen before was parked illegally there, right off the main road. The car was old and full of a whole ton of stuff. I didn’t look too closely, but it looked like maybe someone was living out of it. Or maybe using it to gather recyclables to turn in for cash. After the girls got their ice cream, we started to walk back home. I was taking pictures of the girls. (you can see them here)
We were getting near the alley, and we were goofing around and having fun. A man approached us with one of those grocery store baskets full of food, and I smiled at him while mentally giving him props for bringing his own handbasket and not using paper or plastic bags.
When we first walked by the grocery store, a bunch of older teenage boys who work there were hanging out by the front doors. Some of their friends were there, too, smoking and skateboarding barefoot, saying "fuck" nearly loud enough to make me want to say something to them. Anyhow, the man with the basket was turning the corner to the alley, and we were loopily following behind, when I heard, "Sir? SIR!"
The man was wearing those rubber slide sandals, which he quickly kicked off. He dropped the handbasket and ran. "Oh HELL NO, Let’s get him," yelled several of the employees, and they barreled past us.
I grabbed my girls close to me and said I wanted a hug, but Sophie wasn’t fooled. "Mama, why do they want to hurt that man?" she asked, while the ones who hadn’t chased the man rifled through the handbasket and said, "Jeez. He didn’t even take any booze."
From what I could see, the cart had canned food, a small ham, bread, cheese.
"Well, honey, I’m not totally sure, but what I think is he’s really, really hungry and I think he doesn’t have any money to buy food. So, he tried to take food from the store, and the people who work there are trying to catch him."
"Oh, Mama," she said.
I told them we’d go sit by the fountain awhile, because there wasn’t really a way to walk home without passing by what I figured was his car, and if all those boys caught up with him, I didn’t want my girls to see what might happen. I didn’t want to see it either.
A few minutes later, the employees came back without him, and we started for home. The car was gone, and all the way home I felt so sad for the poor guy. I wished that I could tell him that if he’s hungry there are places he can go. There are shelters and churches and non-churchy places where people are willing to feed him. But, he probably knows. I’m sure he does.
We got home and I was glad to see that I’d pulled out the garbage can to remind me not to forget that it’s trash night. I went to the front door to throw my purse inside the house before taking the trash out, and saw that my front door was slightly open.
Have you read either of their books? You know, about how we see tiny clues and make impressions based on them. My spidey sense was telling me NOT to go in the house, at least not with my girls. So I made sure to make some noise, left the front door wide open, and then said, kinda loud, "Let’s go take the trash to the street, before I forget." My hope was that anyone inside would take that as a cue to leave.
I called my mom while I sorted recycling and the girls played. "Tell me I’m being over cautious," I said, and then told her the story. "You are being over cautious," she said. And, the thing is, I knew I was. I knew that the chances that man, or anyone else, was in my house were slim to none, but every time in those books there were those not all the way shut doors or windows that the person *knew* they’d closed and I didn’t want to be an idiot. So, we waited a little while. Then I told the girls to play out front while I grabbed the last of the trash. My mom stayed on the phone with me while I walked into my empty house.
Of course it was empty. But I’m still really sad for that poor man. I hope he somehow gets what he needs.