Kenny Washington trudged from one auto repair shop to another looking for work, carrying an overstuffed duffel bag. He knew it made him look desperate, but the manager of the motel said he couldn’t leave it there.
He had arrived in Atlanta from Semmes, Alabama with high hopes. He had always been good with cars and thought he could land a job quickly. He rented a room in a seedy motel while he looked for a week.
But even Jiffy Lube wasn’t hiring.
Kenny found himself downtown. He watched a little boy tugging at his mother’s skirt, whining as they passed a bakery. Kenny thought of how many times he had tried convincing his mother to buy him a cookie when they went shopping in Mobile. He fought tears.
Unhooking his duffel bag, he dropped himself onto a bus-stop bench. He hoped he wouldn’t have to call his mother for help. She never wanted him to leave, yet gave him two hundred dollars to get started. He wondered how many tables she had to wait on to have saved the money. He tried gathering the nerve to ask a white man in a suit and tie waiting at the bus stop for money, but he panicked trying to figure out what to say. Even though he was grown, he understood his mama would beat him if she knew he was even thinking of begging for money.
Counting the change in his pocket–eighty-seven cents–he turned towards a hot dog vendor, a short distance from where he sat. He hadn’t eaten since yesterday and the sizzling meat smelled so good it made him hurt all over. The sign on the man’s stand read: Jumbo Hot Dog. $2.50. He put his head in his hands and prayed for a sign. Should he give up and go home or should he keep searching for a job and a place to stay? When he opened his eyes, he saw a wallet on the bench next to him. Why hadn’t he seen it before? He reached for it and counted ten crisp twenty-dollar bills.
“Praise Jesus,” he said aloud. “Enough for me to start over.”
The wallet was filled with credit cards. Kenny looked at the driver’s license picture of the young black man who had owned the wallet. He knew the resemblance in the picture was enough to pass the quick inspection of most white people.
Slipping the wallet in his pocket, and grabbing his duffle bag, he walked to the hot dog vendor. His stomach rumbled as he waited in line behind a woman with two children. The sound in his belly reminded him of the gravel voice of his pastor from back home. He could hear Rev. Echols say, “God works in mysterious ways.”