His baseball hat was black, it sat extended in his hands like a soup bowl, and there were no coins, and he was an older man with a grey beard and smile-eyes and he said hello as Aiden passed by on my hip and I said hello and wondered at the empty. The town was a mountain one with mountain people and shops with overpriced rocks and gems and no one seemed to see him and I wanted to make sure Aiden did. And so we went to Starbucks and I bought an overpriced coffee and organic chocolate milk for my boy who sipped it as if he’d never had chocolate milk before and the customers all laughed and cheered as if they’d never seen a baby before and we bundled back into mitts and toques and I spilled milk and coffee on my jacket as we walked back to the man in the beard on the bench. Praying he wouldn’t be offended. Praying he would still be there. And he was and he smiled again and I said hello again and I handed him a paper bag saying, “We bought you an apple fritter.” And he immediately put on his hat as if that fritter was worth all of the coins in the world and took the fritter in his large hands. “It’s my husband’s favourite,” I said. “Is that okay?” “Why yes, thank you very much,” he said biting into flakes, and his face seemed to turn 10 years younger and I nodded, satisfied, then turned and “I hope you have a very good day,” he told us. “You too,” I said, and walked away. I didn’t say “God bless you,” and wondered if I should have, but I wanted the blessing to be in the giving and not in the words, and I wish now I’d sat down beside him and asked him for his story.

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*original of ‘mountain love’ sold; prints available here*