Memphis, 1984—your name is Billy. You’ve got two bucks left to your name.
A few months ago, your landlord kicked you out. Strike one. You got fired from your job. Strike two. Then, your dog was hit by a car. Strike three.
Thanks for playing, Billy.
The last few months, you’ve been sleeping in your storage unit. But not for long. You only have a few days left before the unit lease is up.
Then, you’ll be living in your car.
And you know, of course, this was all your own fault. How could you not know? You’re no angel.
Right now, it’s late night, and you’re walking into a supermarket because you’re hungry. You’ve already searched dumpsters behind restaurants.
And hunger doesn’t just go away.
So you shove apples and bananas into your jacket pockets. A loaf of bread. An old woman sees you do it. You notice her. Now she’s following you through the store.
Great. Just what you need.
“Young man,” she says. “Don’t do it.”
There’s no use ignoring her. Besides, you’re a terrible liar. You hang your head and say, “I don’t know what else to do, ma’am. I’m starving.”
She’s sweet. Eyes like dewdrops. Face like your Great Aunt. She tells you to walk with her.
You put the food back. She holds your arm; you push her cart. She shops. You reach items on top shelves, lift heavy things, you help her check out.
She asks you to follow her home. So you do. You drive behind her—your tank is on “E.” So is your belly. It’s dark.
“This is ridiculous,” you say to yourself.
Hers is a small house. You remove your jacket and hang it on her kitchen chair. You unload her groceries. She makes you a pot of canned chili.
When you finish, she hands you a few bucks. It’s not much. But it’s her kindness that touches you. You almost start crying.
You use the cash to put gas in your car. And that night, you sleep on quilts over cold storage-unit concrete floor, smiling.
Funny, what a few bucks and some chili can do.
It’s morning. You’re going to hunt for jobs today. You get dressed. You comb your hair. You shave. You put on your coat. You reach into your jacket. You feel something.
Almost a six hundred dollars. Small bills. It takes your breath away. You nearly collapse.
This must be a mistake, you’re thinking. A big, big mistake.
Now you’re driving side streets and cul de sacs looking for a strange old lady’s house. You’ve got to give this money back. It’s too much.
You knock on doors. You drive. No houses look familiar. You’re lost. You never find her.
And you never will.
That was a long time ago. You were young then. That was before you got your life together. You got married and moved away. You made three kids, and worked a decent job.
Today you’re retired. You have a modest house. But you still think about a stranger sometimes.
And the older you get, the more you think about her. You unloaded her groceries. She changed your life. It only took a few minutes.
You don’t know her name, you don’t know her story. You don’t know who she is, where she is, where she went, or if she’s still alive. But then, none of these things matter.
Because you know exactly where she came from.