The public library was often a mixture of homeless folks and wealthy older residents. The affluent elderly walked with their grandkids, wove around through the children’s corner, and checked out audiobooks. They altogether avoided the presence of the homeless, who mostly slept and kept to themselves, happy to find any kind of refuge. The divide between the wealthy and others has become so vast that the middle class has completely disappeared. Citizens are either part of the small percentage of privileged elite or striving from check to check. That or wholly unemployed and homeless, merely looking for a place to be.
A young girl wandered from her wealthy grandparents over to the children’s corner where the giant stuffed animals and oversized picture books can be found. She discovered a homeless man was using a massive teddy bear as a makeshift mattress and a soft stegosaurus as a pillow. The girl approached the man with one hand outstretched and the other in a hefty bag of trail mix wedged into her pocket. Just before her hand could poke his nose, the homeless man’s eyes popped open, and he became aware of the small finger before him. The girl was just as startled as the man, recoiling her wrist and stepping backward. The man’s raspy voice cracked and sputtered with a few strange sounds before words came out.
“Hello there,” the man spoke up. “Good morning.”
“It’s afternoon now,” corrected the young girl. She had relaxed her stance after the initial surprise.
“Ah, yes,” replied the man. “You’re right. But the library is only open during the day. It’s a safe place for me to rest.”
“Why don’t you go home and lay in your bed?” asked the curious girl.
“I don’t have a bed or a home.” The man choked up a bit at his own statement since it was the first time in a long while that someone reminded him of what he used to have. That was before the pandemic hit, well before he lost his job, and before the federal assistance utterly ceased. He felt grateful that the public library was still accessible. Mostly, that was due to a few employees that took pity on the homeless, allowing them to wander around.
The young girl noticed the man withdraw into his thoughts. “Are you ok? Do you not feel good?” As if on cue, the homeless man’s stomach began to gurgle and growl ferociously. “Do you want some trail mix?”
The homeless man couldn’t believe the innocence and innate goodness in this young girl. “I couldn’t take that away from you. You’ve been so nice to me. People don’t usually talk to me so much.”
“But if you don’t have a home, where is your food? Your tummy grumbled. I think you’re hungry. Here, I’m full.” The little girl yanked the big bag of trail mix from her pocket and abruptly stuck it out for the man to take.
“Thank you so much. You are very generous and kind for sharing with me.” The homeless man found himself generating a genuine smile. It had been a long time to find a reason to smile. “Are you here all alone?”
“No. My grandparents are over there. I’m Aggie. What’s your name?”
“William. How about I help you find your grandparents?” offered the homeless man.
“Ok! Then they can say hi too,” the young girl took the man’s hand, leading him away from the stuffed comfort of the children’s corner and out into the jagged stacks with the many wealthy out of towners wandering about.
They made their way toward the elderly couple that Aggie knew as her grandparents. As they approached, Aggie called out to them, and they turned away from the vast selection of audiobooks on CD. As they noticed what Aggie’s hand was attached to, their jaws gaped in horror.
“Good lord Aggie May let go of that filthy pervert. You have no idea where he’s been,” shouted Aggie’s grandmother. Her grandfather stepped forward and snatched Aggie up as quick as he could, tearing the little hand away from the homeless man.
“And what’s this?!” the grandfather belted. He grabbed the trail mix out of William’s other hand. “How dare you steal food from a little girl? Where were you taking her, you sick freak?!”
“Please, sir, I was bringing her to you. I just thought she shouldn’t be left alone,” pleaded William. “I never meant any harm.”
“I knew we shouldn’t have come here dammit!” The grandmother was now yelling at Aggie’s grandfather, and the homeless man was once again invisible to them. They began hustling Aggie out of the library, all the while scrubbing her hands and arms with isopropyl alcohol. William could hear them as they dashed away. “There’s too many goddamn homeless here!”
“There aren’t that many libraries open anymore, don’t blame this on me!” retorted the grandfather in the distance. “I guess we’ll just have to buy all the audiobooks we want to hear. Get in the car Aggie!”
About the Creator
Jesse is the founder of Pied Raven Games, and his first card game, Hibernation, won Best Family Game in 2018. He currently has a book in the process about game design. The book, titled Make Your Own Board Game, will be available 08/2022.