The Nice Thing About Strangers

Non-Fiction Short Stories. Travel, oldsters, love, moments worthy of pause. Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Lightbulb in the Lighthouse

Before taking the lighthouse tour, visitors loiter at the Interpretive Center. A family with four children waits for the 1 pm tour. In the meantime, they explore the exhibits and … Continue reading

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Parking Lot Pep Talk

I’m not looking forward to shopping. I am almost never looking forward to shopping. This is a benefit of living abroad with one suitcase– I can’t acquire new things since … Continue reading

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Mr. Independent

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
A little boy in a blue t-shirt acts tough, strong, fearless. He clutches a toy truck low at his side and eyes…

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From the Subjects of my Blog, Perhaps

Vade Mecum I want the scissors to be sharp and the table perfectly level when you cut me out of my life and paste me in that book you always … Continue reading

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The Lunch Date

The little old man settles into the booth with his wife. He sits on the same side with her, though the waitress set the menu on the left, expecting them … Continue reading

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Richard Gere Was Here

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
I sought a place to collapse and eat after a day of haplessly wandering Sarajevo map-less and on foot. The choice was…

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Unrecognizable

A great deal has been said about love at first sight; I am perfectly aware of love’s retrospective tendency to make a legend of itself, turn its beginnings into myth; … Continue reading

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Serenade for the Sheepish

From the moment she and her husband are seated, they eat and drink in silence. They don’t discuss the menu. They order by pointing. He looks through photos on his … Continue reading

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Special

“You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.” –John Green. The Fault in Our Stars.

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The Impatient Italians and the Fighting Irish

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
In Medjugorje, there’s a crowd of people entering the church, praying at the grotto, climbing steep hills in prayer. It’s a place…

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Best of Intentions

I’m delighted to share this story from the clever and insightful SFC Keith Hummel, a former student and current friend. ** I make it a point to avoid social interactions … Continue reading

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Missing You

It’s a good turnout for a morning Mass service at the Irish church on the top of the hill. Though, as usual, I am the only person under 40…perhaps the … Continue reading

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I Wear My Sunglasses Mid-Day…

Sorry, I’m relocating! Oh, no, not the blog, just this car full of 1/4th of my worldly possessions. I hope you don’t mind a detour to a happy summer from … Continue reading

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The Purpose of Rainboots

The little girl is hustling out of daycare with her mother right behind. It’s been raining and Mom is trying to protect and preserve the handful of paper-crafts that her … Continue reading

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Guest Post: Rachael Hanel. We’ll Be The Last Ones To Let You Down.

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Photo credit: Steve Pottenger Thanks so much to Paige for allowing me to guest post on her fabulous blog! If you’re like…

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Guest Post by Steven Lincoln: Know Your Audience

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
He sat in the center of the third row, the person nearest the screen in the movie theater. It was a weekday,…

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Guest Post: The Huffy Prophet by Sarie Fischer Norval

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
I hope you’ll enjoy this guest post from my dear friend Sarie. I think her story helps explain why we’ve been friends…

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A Moment of Silence

It’s rare that I have a photo without a story, but here it is. -Vermont

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Two Cheers for Staying Cheerful

He crawls on the elliptical next to mine. He summons a huge breath and sends out a slow, I’d-love-to-seem-determined-but-I’m-here-against-my-will exhale. “Well,” he says it to himself, but doesn’t mind when … Continue reading

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You Can Tell Me

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Yes, it’s true, I was speaking to myself, but don’t we all? We all have a second person buried inside us, a…

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A Free Spirit

The plane is nearly full when the family boards. Bringing up the end of the line, the father wears an Armani Exchange t-shirt that reads not only the brand name, … Continue reading

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A Thank You Note on a Gloomy Day

I’m sorry. It’s been one of those days where I can’t seem to focus on anything for more than a few minutes. Tonight, I was preparing my coffeepot for tomorrow … Continue reading

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Saints and Selfies

Every few minutes the caretaker shushes the visitors. They go quiet for a moment, then keep on talking. It doesn’t disturb me as I kneel, watching young men walking cautiously … Continue reading

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Prints

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
It’s the Department of Motor Vehicles, so no one is really crossing any items off their Bucket List around here. The lack…

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Spring Reverie

It’s finally and officially warm in Vermont. I think Wednesday there could be snow, but everyone I’ve seen has been seizing the day. People are wearing t-shirts. Scarves have gone … Continue reading

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On Dogs and Tough Guys

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Photo courtesy of Brittany Rolle. The slim, green-eyed teenaged boy wears the now-typical skinny jeans, flashy shoes, and puffy black coat. He…

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Men at Work

“Always I find when I begin to write there is one character who obstinately will not come alive. There is nothing psychologically false about him, but he sticks, he has … Continue reading

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A Happy and Beautiful Solitude (For Now)

I felt happy and grateful and kept thinking an old thought: I wished that all my friends who I love so much could see and feel what I see and … Continue reading

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Light Bulb

Of course, I’m chatting with the driver of the shuttle from the parking lot to the Boston airport terminals. The minute I walked up to the bus he said, “Look … Continue reading

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Black and Gray

His set is winding down, but the guy with the guitar has a few more songs in him. The women who were singing along with his 90s rock covers have … Continue reading

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Hey, Hi, Nice to See You Again

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows which giant cookie has your name on it. The old man in a baseball cap shuffles in and waits patiently behind the … Continue reading

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How To Get Rid of the Hiccups

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
She has the hiccups. Her husband wears a golf cap. They are extremely slow in shuffling to their Buick. The snow has…

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Bundles

The family of four will be the last out of the bus and they are taking their merry time departing. Dad exits first with the clunky stroller, but he can’t … Continue reading

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Hana and Sarajevo

I hope you won’t mind a poem. This tale is attached to the photo from Wednesday’s post, but I couldn’t find a better way to explain the scene than in … Continue reading

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Every Meal

With this feast I drank most of a bottle of Muscadet out of my modest ‘cellar’. I ate and drank slowly as one should (cook fast, eat slowly) and without … Continue reading

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Stealth

The little boy entertains himself with a paper airplane. People with boarding passes wait on a flight that’s full-sized, but sit with quiet smiles and watch the boy’s take-offs in … Continue reading

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The Ladies of Wifi

In the Italian restaurant overlooking a busy bus station and the remarkable Hungarian parliament building, three women exclaim, “Hotspot? Hotspot?” in unison. The waiter gives them the password and they … Continue reading

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Livin’ on a Prayer

He doesn’t speak English, but he speaks Bon Jovi. He wears a black button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a necklace with some sort of animal tooth or … Continue reading

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Mapmaking

“The life of an individual is in many respects like a child’s dissected map. If I could life a hundred years, keeping my intelligence to the last, I feel as … Continue reading

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Layla La La La

There are only four of us in the bus. The driver and I smile as I show him my pass, and I take a seat on the left side and … Continue reading

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A New Season

“See that tree?” he said. I nodded “What color is it?” I knew he was leading me to an obvious answer that I couldn’t yet see. “Green” I said. “It’s … Continue reading

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Super

For a 6 am flight, there is a nice camaraderie in the airport. People seem too groggy to have their defenses up. We trade bleary-eyed glances. We stifle or release … Continue reading

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The Tightrope Retiree

She’s tiny under her fuzzy red hat and scarf. She’s come out into the chilly weather to inspect her sidewalk. She steps like she’s on a high wire, one foot … Continue reading

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A Place to Tie Your Wishes: Affection and Cargo

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
A line of tour buses waited outside the leather goods store. As tourists wandered in to admire coats and boots despite the…

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It’s Not So Very Cold Here

The young man is sheepish about the avocados he’s placed at the check out. He’s looking at the cashier as she finishes the prior transaction. As soon as she turns … Continue reading

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For Flyover Country

Oh, America, how I began to love your country! What miles of silences God has made in you for contemplation! If only people realized what all your mountains and forests … Continue reading

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Red Light

Stopped in traffic, I may or may not be listening to 80s music and dancing in my seat. (Okay, I am.) I glance around for witnesses and find a bulldog … Continue reading

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Icy Conditions

In the middle of Pennsylvania, after driving through sleet and ice for five hours, it is a relief to smile at the two older men sitting for coffee at the … Continue reading

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New Year, New Adventure

I’ve enjoyed the holidays, though I found few strangers. I’ve been spending time with family, childhood friends, neighbors who have seen me grow up, and my sweet nieces who make … Continue reading

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