For his first shift, he was a no-call-no-show. When he arrived on time for his second shift, he apologized. Awarded a verbal warning, again, he apologized.
Nine minutes before his third shift, he called and said he couldn't make it, had an exam on afghan rugs. I said, Okay, fine, but please let us know 24 hours ahead next time. Again, he apologized.
On his fourth shift, he was a no-call-no-show. He later called collect and said something unexpected upended his world. He updated his address. I mailed him a written warning. Strike two, the letter said.
Two minutes before his fifth shift, he called and said he had a baseball game to play. Outside, the city hosted nine inches of snow. I sent him his termination letter. Strike three, the letter said.
He visited the library later that night still in his baseball gear, his eye black dancing with tears. I'm sorry, I said, but three strikes is three strikes. His batting glove let me know he understood. He handed me a worn baseball, said he hit a home run and was planning to give it to me.
I think about him often. Years later, I tell my friends about it, about how I fired that guy on television, the one up to bat right now, the one who's been hitting all those home runs.