She was a cashier at a supermarket. You’ve probably seen her before. You might have even pushed your buggy through her checkout lane.

You couldn’t miss her. She was the nice, late-middle-aged lady behind the register, ringing you up, asking if you were having a nice day while she scanned your Folgers, your Wonderbread, your Little Debbies, your frosted raspberry Pop Tarts, and your Cocoa Pebbles, which, let’s be honest, is a far superior chocolate-flavored cereal than Cocoa Krispies.

She was the cashier everyone loved, clad in a red apron and a smile.

But many of us never really stopped and paid attention to her. After all, we shoppers lead pretty busy lives.

Usually, when she asked how customers were doing, most would glance up from their smartphones momentarily and say, “Good, thanks,” then go back to thumbing away on their screens.

Most folks totally neglected to ask how she was doing.

Still. If these people would have looked closer they would have noticed that her name tag said Monica, and that she was a very

cheerful woman with a soft spoken personality.

She had piano-black hair, caramel skin, and dark eyes. Her mother was from Chiapas, Mexico. Her father was from Davenport, Iowa. She was born in Florida, but moved around a lot because she was a military kid.

Ah, military kids.

Military children are a unique bunch. They don’t put down roots, many have no official hometown. It’s just part of the deal. Your parents move from assignment to assignment, from coast to coast, from country to country.

One year you’re in California, the next you’re in Kanagawa, Japan. It all blurs together in your childhood memory. You’re always attending new schools, endlessly making fresh starts.

You make friends on a playground in Clovis, New Mexico, and by the next year you’re in Ramstein, Germany, trying to pronounce “Sprichst du Englisch?” for a teacher who looks like the…

Her family won a raffle.

Well. Sort of.

It happened a long time ago, but the event will never leave the woman’s memory. Not even when she is old and gray, lying in her final bed. There are some moments that stick with a body.

“Ain’t never gonna forget it,” she tells me in a thick Tennessean accent. “None of us will. No way we could.”

She grew up poor. Very poor. Imagine the poorest kid you knew growing up. Now multiply that times a few hundred. That was her.

Her brothers and sisters were bone thin, her parents were as shapely as fence posts. Sometimes the family went whole weekends without eating anything more than cold grits and hambones.

I’ll pause right here. Can you imagine being a child and not having enough nutrition to make it through the day? And yet, currently, there are 13 million American kids living in homes without enough food. Or, to put it like this: One out of every six children will face hunger this year.

“We were pretty much hungry

all the time,” she said. “We quit paying much attention to our sour stomachs.”

The ramshackle house sat on the edge of town, sort of leaning sideways. You’ve seen the kind of place I’m talking about. It was the house everyone drove past while shaking their heads in disgust. The word “eyesore” comes to mind.

There was a leak in the bedroom—if you could call it a bedroom. The room was just a couple of mattresses thrown on a pine floor.

There was no running water.

“We had to steal water from our neighbor’s hosepipe.”

The electricity was never on—no heat, no lights. And the kids were usually fighting some kind of seasonal infection from being malnourished.

But one holiday season, that all changed.

“This man came to our house,” she said. “He was driving a little green car, and wearing one…

The Boys Without Dads Club gathered a few nights ago in Albert’s garage to watch the Braves play in the World Series.

The garage is outfitted like a makeshift living room, complete with two sofas poised before a television that is roughly the size of a rural school district.

There are bean bag chairs, cork coasters, a Georgia Bulldogs banner, an Atlanta Braves flag, and an ancient GE refrigerator stocked thick with soda and other high-octane libations.

Twelve young men watched Albert’s TV, slugging Coca-Cola and malt beverages, making various remarks at the screen, calling the umpire ugly names. A few guys played eight-ball on an old pool table.

Not a smartphone in sight.

The garage door was slung open and the cool night air was alive with crickets. It was forty-nine degrees in rural North Georgia.

“C’mon Freddie!” one young man chanted to the batter on the TV.

This was followed by a round of slow claps. The kind of rally clapping most guys do during televised games to prove they are “real” fans even though the players can’t hear them.

“Let’s do this, Braves!” shouted another.

Clap, clap.

Meantime, Albert’s wife, Lynn Ellen, scurried around her kitchen, tending to her oven, shoving pretzel sticks into cheddar balls, sprinkling paprika on anything that sat still.

Her faux-wood laminate table was littered with snack foods. Mushroom puff pastry bites, sweet-pickle deviled eggs, ham-and-olive roll-ups, and of course, Lynn Ellen’s famed Swedish meatballs.

“All men love my meatballs,” stated Lynn Ellen.

Lynn Ellen is eighty-three. Her husband clocks in at eighty-five. They have been married since “Ike” Eisenhower was a household name.

Most club members in Albert’s garage, however, were between ages seven and fifty-nine.

“This is a great club,” twenty-four-year-old Oscar told me. “Al is a stand-up guy, and he’s a mentor to so many of us.”

Still, calling it a club is a little misleading. It’s just an informal…

Remember when Walter Cronkite reported the nightly news and there was actually good stuff on TV? Remember when you watched news reports and didn’t need Tums afterwards?

No, I’m not saying the national news back then was always sunshine and Hershey’s bars, but it wasn’t all nuclear explosions, either.

Each weeknight Walter Cronkite appeared on your screen, hair slicked with axle grease, shirt pressed within an inch of its fibers, speaking in a voice that sounded like the Midwestern version of God. He’d cover topics ranging from exciting lunar launches, to Willie Nelson playing a concert at the White House.

And when the broadcast was over, Cronkite would sign-off with the same words:

“And that’s the way it is.”

Today, however, you don’t see good news on TV. Not even a little. You see talking heads chewing the same proverbial cud. The worst part is, the television people lead you to believe that goodness in this world is about as rare as a purple carrot.

Well, I recently discovered that this notion is pure bull.

It all started

yesterday when I discovered I lost my wallet. The truly frightening thing was that on this specific day, my billfold contained a lot of cash, which is a rarity for me.

I never carry cash. In fact, on any given day my wallet will contain dryer lint, faded Chinese restaurant receipts, old poker chips from Biloxi, and cryptic notes I’ve written to myself which are illegible. But I never carry cash.

Even so, this particular afternoon I had six hundred dollars tucked in my billfold. And I misplaced it.

I immediately became nauseous. I started slapping my pockets like a guy whose Levi’s were on fire.

“My wallet,” I said in the privacy of my truck, achieving the pitch of a mezzo-soprano. “I’ve lost my wallet!”

My wallet is pretty hard to miss. I’m like most males, my wallet weighs at least…

Dear kid,

I wish you could’ve been there. You are reading this letter in the far-off future, long after I am dead and scattered. But tonight, as I write these feeble words, I hope they will help you understand how we felt when it happened. Because the sports history books simply won’t do the occasion justice.

Tonight, the night it took place, I was sitting in my den, anxiously squeezing a throw pillow, watching the television. My wife was beside me, howling at the TV screen. “Hit it outta the park!” Then she crushed a few beer cans using only one hand.

That’s the kind of agony we underwent on the night the Atlanta Braves, America’s oldest continuously operating baseball team, established in 1871, won the World Series.

My God. I have waited twenty-two years to write that last line.

You’re a child. Thus, you cannot know what this monumental moment means to us middle-aged fools. I don’t know if baseball is important to the people in your future era, but we, your ancestors, love this

game something fierce.

I wish you knew how many thousands of innings we’ve faithfully watched over our lifespans. I wish you could fathom how many on-the-road games we convinced our wives to attend, traveling upwards of twenty-nine hours across the continental U.S. only to watch our team lose to the Diamondbacks.

You don’t know how much money we’ve invested in HD television equipment, live streaming packages, expensive ball caps, nosebleed tickets, tepid ballpark beers, overpriced hotdogs that tasted like fried squirrel.

You don’t know how many weddings, funerals, baby dedications, banquets, and bar mitzvahs we have excused ourselves from, faking full bladders, then rushed to the men’s room to check the score.

Yes, I freely conceded that it’s ridiculous and irresponsible to be a baseball fan. Because when you think about it, professional sports is a frivolous endeavor with all the chaos in this…

“I found old Whitey behind a gas station,” said the old man, stroking the cat who lingered beside his feet. A white cat.

We were sitting together on John’s porch at dusk on Halloween. The neighborhood was steadily being overtaken by trick-or-treaters with dangerously low blood sugar. I was returning a borrowed weed eater to John’s house when the Pabst loosened the old man’s tongue.

John has a bushy white beard, unruly eyebrows, and he usually has the whole unkempt-old-man thing going on. His hair was disheveled, his shirt was stained, and his ratty sneakers looked like they had more mileage on them than my truck.

Kids in costumes stopped by John’s porch during our conversation, dressed as officially licensed cartoon characters, half blinded my misaligned plastic masks.

John had placed a barrel of candy on his steps and told kids they were free to help themselves.

“We operate on the honor system around here,” said John between swills.

I watched one kid who was dressed as Uncle Fester Addams take an armful of candy the size

of a bowling ball and run like hailfire.

“When I met Whitey,” John went on, “the gas station people were feeding her behind the Dumpster. Only problem was, not all the store employees actually cared about cats. Usually they forgot to feed her.”

The white cat knew we were taking about her. She crawled onto John’s lap and leaned into John. Whenever John stopped moving his hand upon the feline’s slender body the cat would weave beneath his hand and force him to keep stroking.

“She loves to be pet.”

It sounded like Whitey had a small motor beneath her hood.

“Lemme tell ya,” said John. “This girl was hard to catch. Harder than most cats.”

John ought to know. He has fourteen cats including Whitey. They all have stunningly creative names like, Brownie, Blackie, Red, Gray, Yellow, and Susan.

“Why Susan?” I…

The beach is empty this morning, and devoid of tourists. The weather is forty-nine degrees. The water is what we Gulf Coast people would call, “bathwater.” The air is what we thin-blooded Florida writers refer to as, “cold enough to freeze a dog’s pee midstream.”

I am dutifully typing on a laptop, working on another novel. Working on a novel is a lot like driving across Texas. You drive for an eternity until eventually you realize that, hey, you’re still in Texas. And even if you were to turn around and drive the other way, you’re still going to be driving through Texas for a very long time.

Not far from my chair is an older couple. I’d say early seventies, late sixties. They don’t have chairs, their haunches are nestled right in the flour-white sand. They are covered in a thick plaid blanket, sipping from a steaming thermos.

It’s a good day for beach-sitting. The sun is low, making its ascent into a pink morning sky. The Gulf is spearmint green.

The man

has a mane of white; she wears the universal floppy straw hat all old ladies wear. Their arms are draped around one another, and they are watching seafoam.

I amble over and introduce myself to start the conversational ball rolling because I need a break from “driving across Texas.”

Our talk gets personal when I ask how long they’ve been married.

“Been married twenty-three years,” the man says. “We were both married previously, our spouses died.”

They both lost their significant others to brain cancer, twenty-some-odd years ago. It was the same rare kind of brain cancer, too. The odds were astounding.

“We were shocked to find that connection,” she says. “We took it as a sign from God, that we were meant to be together. What else could it have meant?”

They got married in a hurry. The day of their wedding was their three-month…