I’m standing in line at the grocery store. It’s the afternoon before Thanksgiving. I have my Granddaughter with me.
I’m running an errand for the women back home. Two dozen eggs, a can of cranberry sauce. Just a quick trip to town.
My Granddaughter wanted some hot chocolate mix. No problem. She could have asked for Prime Rib and a Hershey bar, I would have bought that too.
The man in front of us is counting out his money to pay. A hand full of wadded up singles, a couple of fives. I hope there’s a ten in there someplace. He’s bent over, stoop shouldered. Once upon a time, I’m sure he worked hard, putting in ten or twelve hour days.
He shuffles his feet. His boots are muddy. His coat is worn and ragged on both cuffs. There’s a tear at the elbow. Yes, he’s wearing a cap.
In front of him, he pushes a Styrofoam box towards the cashier. $2.99 is scrawled in magic marker across the top. That’s his hot lunch from the deli. He’s also got four cans of Vienna Sausage, a box of crackers and a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce. He’s got four cans of soup and a gallon of sweet tea in his grocery cart.
The cashier puts everything in plastic bags. The Styrofoam box goes in one bag. He stuffs a plastic fork and knife in with it. Another bag for the crackers, Viennas, soup and hot sauce. A double bag for the sweet tea.
The cashier tells him a number. He shakes his head, asking her to repeat it, a little louder. “I’m hard of hearing.” He says.
Now he’s counting out coins and pulling paper bills out of his pants pocket. She takes the money, hands him some change and a receipt. She turns, looks at me and reaches for the carton of eggs.
He shakes his head again, “Groceries are getting higher and higher.”
He turns and shuffling his feet, as he walks away.
He’s alone. Just watching him, you know there’s no one else in his life.
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, he’s buying canned sausages and ready-made sweet tea.
A minute later, we’re all outside. His truck is two cars away from mine. It’s green. It’s old. Old enough that I wanted one just like it, twenty years ago. I see the inside when he opens the door. A piece of trash falls to the ground.
I don’t think he’s cleaned it out since the day he bought it. Old bags, a big coat. A year’s worth of envelopes on the dash. There’s a baseball cap on top, holding them in place. It must be his spare.
He leans over, careful to put the Styrofoam box of food on the seat. The two bags go on the passenger side’s floor. He grabs the steering wheel and pulls himself into the driver’s seat. He’s careful to fasten his seat belt, then start his truck.
My Granddaughter asked me what I was looking at. I had no answer. There was something there I saw and didn’t want to see. Something I could not explain.
In her impatience, she says, “Hurry up Grandpa.”
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