The homework

Sunday’s dusk drew me to the living room windows. The time had come to pull the curtains shut and tuck the house in for the night. First, though, I paused to take in the view. Outside, a soft breeze ruffled the fallen leaves—more pink than orange in the rosy hue of waning light—and they skittered across the sidewalk. But something even more colorful than the handiwork of autumn sat near our front door, capturing my attention. 

I stepped outside. A stack of homework, neatly squared, perched on the steps. 'Thyara' was scrawled on the top folder. No kid hovered nearby to claim it, and so I brought the items inside and leafed through one of the notebooks, most of the writing in Spanish.

Ricka sauntered into the room. “Whose are those?”

“Someone named Thyara." I flipped open a folder. "I found this on our front steps.”

She pointed to one of the notebooks. “That’s a planner. There might be a phone number in there.”

She was right. Thyara had written her full name, Grade 5, a phone number, and an address in New Brighton—a suburb ten miles away—on the inside page.

I dialed the number, and a woman answered, an accent flavoring her words. I asked for Thyara, but she hesitated, saying something I couldn't decipher. Soon a man came on the line, and I explained the appearance of Thyara's homework on our front steps.

"Could you text me a picture of the things?" he said with a Hispanic lilt. I did as he asked. "Yes, those are hers, but I don't know how they got there. We've never been to North Minneapolis."

"Maybe Thyara has a friend in our neighborhood?" 

"I don't think so."

"Why was it on my front steps, I wonder?"

The man chuckled. "It's a mystery."

"I'll bring it back to you, so she has it for school tomorrow."

The man introduced himself as Eduardo, and we agreed on a time and place halfway between us to meet.

While Husband drove us to meet Eduardo, I ran my hand over the homework in my lap. If one of our girls had lost her schoolwork, tears would've soaked through the time spent finding it. Maybe Thyara was the same way.

We pulled into the parking lot of our meeting place: Menards on Central Avenue. Eduardo jumped out of his vehicle, a grin stretched across his face. A small girl and an even smaller boy followed him.

"These must be yours," I said to the girl, returning her possessions.

Thyara nodded, a smile almost breaking loose.

Eduardo introduced us to his boy and told us the name of his wife who waited in their vehicle.

"Thank you for this," he said, bobbing his head. "Thank you."

An hour after we returned home, the phone rang. Eduardo.

"I just now saw that someone broke into my other car," he said. "Some of my things are gone. Thyara's backpack was in there. It's gone too, but thank you that we have her papers back."

The pieces of the mystery clicked into place. After the crime in New Brighton, the thief had passed through our block, chucking the unwanted parts of his or her spoils. But who had later gathered up the homework and delivered it to us?

The next day, Husband and I puttered around in the back yard. Our neighbor Bruno pulled up in his car.

He rolled down his window. "Did you find the stuff on your steps?"

He told us a new homeowner on our block had discovered the schoolwork in the street, picked it up, and asked him about it. He had looked it over and suggested she leave it with us. Since we had kids, he had told her, maybe we knew something about the girl who owned it.

"We brought it back to her," said Husband.

"I figured." Bruno nodded. "Good."


The story of the homework, though small, was one of many similar accounts. And it spoke a greater truth about our block in North Minneapolis. What the thief meant for trash, several of us had seen as an object of value. And we would pass it on until it made its way home.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.