[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’m going to call him Charlie, but that’s not his real name. I met him a few days ago, standing in the drizzle, holding a soggy cardboard sign that read, “Hungry.”

“I’m a veteran man,” said Charlie. “Never thought I’d be here, in the rain, without shit to eat. I can feel my ribs, little more each morning.”

He smelled like stale whiskey.

Charlie hails from Alabama, his girlfriend kicked him out years ago because he lost his job – and because he was bad to drink. For years, he lived in his Chevette, but it quit on him. He didn’t have the money to fix it, so he ditched it outside Montgomery.

“Came here ’cause I thought I’d find me a construction job, but shoot, look at me, ain’t no one gonna hire a drunk.”

I had a feeling he was right.

“Man, I got a daughter, she got two kids her ownself, up ‘neath Birmingham. Ain’t seen’em in years, I don’t want them seein’ me like this nohow.”

Charlie hadn’t shaved since January.

“I ain’t stayin’ here, I’m leaving for Miami tomorrow, found a ride with a few Mexican boys who said I could tag along.”

I handed Charlie a few bucks, he’ll probably spend it on booze.

“God bless you sir,” Charlie said. “Only two folks’ given me money today, countin’ you.”

The light turned green, he waved farewell, I rolled up my window and drove away.

I hope Charlie makes it to Miami.

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