The Can Man

By Publishers Weekly

In Williams’s (The Best Winds) poignant story, Tim wants a skateboard badly, but money is tight. Watching a homeless man everyone calls the Can Man (except Tim’s parents, who remember when he used to live in their building and still call him by name) collect cans to redeem for cash, Tim decides to do the same to bankroll his skateboard. As he encroaches on the man’s turf, Tim suppresses flashes of guilt—especially when the man says he hopes to buy a new coat “before the snow starts flying.” After the Can Man offers his shopping cart to help Tim transport his cans to the redemption center, the boy hands him the money he’s made. In an emotional final scene, Tim receives a skateboard that the Can Man has refurbished and personalized for him. Orback’s (Hot Pursuit: Murder in Mississippi) realistic oil paintings on canvas bring the tale’s urban setting into clear focus in warmly lit scenes that illuminate the characters’ feelings—notably Tim’s unease and his beneficiary’s gratitude—and readily transmit the weighty themes at work.