Morning. I’m drinking my coffee when his photo pops up in my cellphone memories. And I’m thrown three years backward. I remember it all too well.

There I am, watching him. He sits on the steps of the Shell Station. A backpack beside him. His skin is rawhide. His beard is white.

His name is Buck. He’s from North Carolina. He says he completed two tours in Vietnam.

He’s not here begging, he’s resting his feet.

“My old feet hurt more’n they used to,” says Buck. “Hard getting old, buddy.”

There is a half-smoked cigar next to him. He dug this used cigar from an ashtray. It still has life in it, he says.

He’s sipping coffee.

“First cup’a joe I had in a week. Fella gave me a quarter a few minutes ago. Piled my coins together to buy me a cup.”

A quarter.

When Buck went inside to buy it, there were only cold dregs left in the pot. He asked the cashier if it were possible to brew a fresh pot. She told him to get lost.

“But I’m paying for it,” he


She escorted him to the door.

So, he’s drinking dregs for which he paid full price—for which he is grateful.

There are holes in his shoes. He found these sneakers in a sporting-good-store dumpster. Buck estimates he’s put nearly eight hundred miles on them. Who knows if he’s exaggerating or not. Buck has a flare for the dramatic.

Still, his bloody toes poke through the fronts. His middle toenail is missing.

Buck explains, “God says, ‘Don't worry what you’ll eat, drink, or wear.’ And I believe it. But it's hard sometimes. ‘Specially when you ain’t eaten and you don’t have [cussword] to wear.”

So I walk inside the gas station on a mission. I ask the aforementioned cashier to brew a fresh pot of coffee—I tell her it’s for me. I am very…