An Encounter at Big Lots

This afternoon I went to Big Lots. I needed a fan for my apartment; the motor for my fan had seized up and burned out.

I pulled into a parking space, and I saw a man of an indeterminate age, dressed mainly in brown, shuffling through the parking lot toward my Beetle, shuffling as though one of his legs didn’t quite work right. He was carrying something — it looked like a notebook — and he gestured toward me as I stepped out of the car.

“Yes,” I said, “what can I do for you?”

He made a series of sounds that weren’t speech, that were nothing even like speech, and he came up to my left side, so he could stand next to me, and he held out what he was holding so I could see it.

It wasn’t a notebook. It was a sheet of folded paper. And it began, written in all capital letters:

My name is Tyrone. I was shot in the head. I can’t talk but I can hear.

The short of it. Tyrone was also homeless, he was from Washington and (for some unexplained reason) stranded, he needed money for food, and could anyone spare him some money?

I read his note quickly, and he began smacking the paper with his left hand, I guess to make sure that I was reading it instead of ignoring it, and making that inhuman sound.

“Yes, yes,” I said hastily, perhaps a little brusquely. “I read it, Tyrone. Let me see what I have.” I thought I had a few dolalrs in my wallet.

By few, I mean one. I had one dollar in my wallet. I rarely carry cash anymore.

I handed it to him. Had I more, I’d have given it to him, too. He stuffed the dollar in his pants pocket.

He seemed surprised when I held my hand out to him, to shake his hand. His hand grasped mine. His palm was rough, and his shake was firm.

I wished him good luck, and he hurried away. Another vehicle was pulling into a parking space.

Big Lots had a fan. I bought a 19-inch box fan for something like sixteen dollars.

When I left the store, Tyrone was gone.

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