during my fifteen-minute break at work,
I saw a sleeping bag in the dugout of a baseball field.
it’s almost autumn now.
too cold for whomever this belongs to.

I leave a post-it note
asking what his name is.
my break is over so I go back to work.

the next day, I check for a response
and it’s in the garbage.
I take it out and put it back with the sleeping bag
I can wait.

the day after that I check,
it says “Doug”.
I grab a notebook and introduce myself,
“hi Doug, I’m Tanner. can I get you anything?”

the next day, “anything would help.”
“I’ll bring some back warmers you can use at night
in your sleeping bag. they’re like regular hand warmers but bigger.”
later that night, after my shift,
I do

this goes on for a while.
I’ll ask him if he needs food,
I’ll bring granola bars.
I’ll ask if he needs light,
I’ll bring a battery-powered lantern.

I ask him what he’ll do when the snow comes
I get a simple response, “I have somwhere to go.”
his spelling isn’t that great.
I ask, “where?”
no response the next day.

I think about him now.
figured I’d ask him how he got to be homeless.
he said he came to town when his father got sick,
said he lost his job for leaving.
eventually, he ran out of money.

I leave a twenty in the notebook.
the next day it reads, “thank you.”
a little bit into winter I still saw his bag
and we still exchanged notes, never once seeing each other.

one day in the middle of winter, I notice his bag is gone.
the notebook isn’t so I hide it under the dugout bench.
winter passes, I still haven’t heard from him.

it’s finally spring, still no sign of him.
summer comes along, nothing
little league baseball is starting
the kids found the notebook
and ripped out every single page we ever shared,
shredding each one into tiny illegible pieces
thrown away in the trash can.

I’d never talk to Doug again.

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