We called him Scraps.
That seemed to be mostly what he was. We’d met him down at the mission one night as we volunteered to work the bread line. He sat there in a baggy coat and too-tight jeans – a scrabble of hair that couldn’t rightly be called a beard.
We called him Scraps, because he’d never give a name. He had these wrinkled up, yellowed papers that looked like they’d been folded at least a thousand times. He would spread them out across the oil cloth and stare at them while he ate.
We called him Scraps, partly because of those bits of paper. If we tried to talk to him, he’d just shake his head, nod toward the papers and look away. And we’d smile our easy smiles, pat him on the shoulder and walk on.
We called him Scraps. That seemed mostly what he was. Until one night we sat beside him and read his faded yellow papers. A theater program with a familiar name underlined, newspaper clippings about shows and charity events - that name appeared often. An obituary fluttered from his hand, about a child of three… A page from a bank book lay to one side, the credits at 0; the withdrawals like none we’d ever known.
We called him Scraps because that’s the way his life was and he wouldn’t give a name. When we pointed to the one we thought he owned, he shook his head and, before he turned away, we saw his eyes fill. Sometimes we’d see him on the street, shuffling along with his life in a beat-up backpack. Once in a while he’d pick up a scrap of paper someone had discarded, carefully smooth it, fold it and put it with the rest of his life.
We called him Scraps. We don’t know what God called him.