The Nice Thing About Strangers

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

Soup and Sisters

I’m willing to bet they are sisters, or perhaps very close cousins, but the group of three women are all sitting with identical postures while waiting for the airplane. The … Continue reading

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You’re a Stray and That’s Okay

The woman proudly marches with a designer purse and sunglasses, but she also totes a plastic bag of cat food. She stops along the sidewalk to give a handful of … Continue reading

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The Biblio-Commuter

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
The man’s briefcase lies across his legs like a desk and he rests his elbows on it. The U-Bahn stops, but he…

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Inheritance

I inherited from my father his way of looking at things and some of his integrity, and from my mother her dissatisfaction with the mess the world is in and … Continue reading

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Traffic Dynamics

I like to imagine the shuttle bus from the airport to Taksim Square is a tour bus for my band. Of course, I’m in this band with about 40 people … Continue reading

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A Sentimental Sunset in Montenegro

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
In his saner moments he would have been ashamed to respond so strongly to the familiar, banal and utterly meaningless colours of…

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Over Your Shoulder

Brno is a city that nearly evaded all vowels. You can see the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul straightaway upon arrival. It leaps up and towers above everything. From … Continue reading

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Meet Me in St. Louis

It did not take him long to act. Often nowadays people do not know what to do and so live out their lives as if they were waiting for some … Continue reading

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I Want To Tell You Something Beautiful.

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
After a few weeks practicing my Turkish with various strangers, I’m pleased with my progress–but overwhelmed by how much I still have…

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Wandering and Mispronunciation

A friend asked me, “What did you do in Krakow?” I smiled to myself because my chief activity was wandering. I walked for hours in random directions. I sat in … Continue reading

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The Delight of Responsibility

He’s overjoyed. The small boy has been placed in charge of the hose at the car wash, and he’s drenching the hood of the family sedan. Straining to keep the … Continue reading

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There There

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
He is the man with dark, well-slicked hair and a perfectly pressed dress shirt–imposing even in the shuttle to the airplane. He…

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The Symphony: Part II

A little girl of about eight years old is a few seats to my left, but she isn’t seated. She stands through the whole first movement, wearing a red velvet … Continue reading

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The Symphony: Part I

In the lobby, I spot him first. His gray hair is nearly tended. He wears a green tweed sport coat and a tie with small printed horses. I notice his … Continue reading

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Upbringing

A family of four walks through the falling leaves as they circle the castle. Dad has a camera with an extensive telephoto lens. One son walks, hops, stomps alongside the … Continue reading

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Next Stop

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
As usual, stops were not announced on the train. People familiar with the route rushed the hallways as we pulled into a…

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Tram 6: Another Abbreviated Love Story

They see each other while she is a passenger and he waits at the stop. As the tram slows and the doors opens, they both lift their chins just a … Continue reading

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Three of a Kind

Even before you can recognize their similarity, you can read from non-verbals that they are related. The older woman picks something off the shoulder of the woman who must be … Continue reading

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The Juggler

There’s a huge crowd out for the street festival on Andrássy út. The roads are closed to cars. Pedestrians mill around and inspect food stands, beer stands, and watch performances … Continue reading

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Relieved

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
A stray dog circles the rather vacant beach. Lean and leisurely, he weaves around people sunning themselves like he’s a bored security…

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So Very Grateful

I have a file on my computer with photos from my first trip to Europe, and I have a lot of fuzzy pictures from bus rides. My first city was … Continue reading

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Oh.

The blonde man wearing a blue shirt struts in his immaculate tan shoes. Even behind his sunglasses, I see him light up. Down the sidewalk a pretty brunette is waving … Continue reading

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Table Manners

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Is it raining? At an outdoor café in Novi Sad under an expansive web of umbrella-like-awnings, I wait for a slice of…

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Your Life as a Masterpiece

Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting … Continue reading

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Must Love (Beware of) Dogs

It’s a damp Sunday morning. There’s a vague rain and a gray haze. Between the center of the city and the airport, patches of trees are a deep green like … Continue reading

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Slapstick Grandma

She gives her grandchildren a bright, rainbow umbrella. She opens it for those cherubs–a boy and a girl in galoshes–and lets the girl hold it over them both. She follows … Continue reading

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You Can Read Over My Shoulder, But You Can’t Come Along

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
In the shuttle bus to the airplane, I break into scraps of conversational Turkish with a group of teenage boys from Kahramanmaraş.…

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A Home on the Horizon

It is just that, as it now suddenly occurs to me, this is the first time in my life that I have been really alone at night. My childhood home, … Continue reading

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Shoeless Wonder

In the park, I sit with a friend on a blanket. We have taken off our shoes, made ourselves comfortable, catching up on what we’ve done while we were apart. … Continue reading

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You Know How To Whistle, Don’t You?

He can whistle like a dog’s squeaking chew toy. A few of the people sitting in the park look up and expect to see a dog. Yet, it is the … Continue reading

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Respect Your Elders

Pantera is the name of a metal band from Texas, and it’s scrawled across his t-shirt. He gruffly approaches the Information Desk. His girlfriend stands at his side with elaborate … Continue reading

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Driving Questions

It’s hard to hear their actual conversation. There’s the kind, booming voice of the bus driver, the questioning tone of the young, blonde boy. The boy wears a Transformers t-shirt … Continue reading

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Shake It Up

If we attempt to fix a logic for the travel souvenir, I believe the following generalization might hold: the souvenir reduces the grand, the magnificent, and the beautiful to the … Continue reading

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Moving Day

Running boxes to a moving truck can be very therapeutic, and can remind one that reading isn’t always the lightest of hobbies. Nonetheless, I can’t quite part with my books, … Continue reading

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Mugging

At brunch, the three young girls sit on the left of the table, and their mothers face them on the other side. The girls chat over their pancakes, modeling their … Continue reading

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Tactful (and Tattooed)

When they climb into the airport shuttle, she is in the middle of a story, her husband half-listening and half-overseeing the driver loading their suitcases. They have reached the age … Continue reading

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Seaside Sobbing

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
At the park, the family waits for their turn on a swing. The huge contraption has two benches that face each other…

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Bunnies.

“Hi bunny. Oh! Two! Hi other two bunnies!” Yes, I greeted the bunnies aloud on my evening walk. I smiled as I said it, and felt another presence near by. … Continue reading

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Up, then Rocks, then Up

I’ve been remiss. I noticed that in the last few weeks, I’ve been looking less at strangers and more to loved ones and old friends. This is important, of course, … Continue reading

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Watch Your Step

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Thank you Lord that I spotted the three little old ladies in their long skirts and head scarves recoiling in horror at…

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Corner Pocket

It doesn’t seem fair to give too many details, since she didn’t know she’d be on the record. She challenged my friend to a game of pool, she challenged everyone … Continue reading

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The Whatever Grandpa

Though there are dozens of food carts outside for the Midnight Sun Festival, she sits with Grandma and Grandpa in an air conditioned restaurant with tall tables. She gazes at … Continue reading

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An Apple A Day

She’s been silently enjoying her lunch. Though she’s consuming soup she blows quietly to cool it, like whispering over a sleeping child, and she eats from a breadbowl, which makes … Continue reading

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Inspire Curiosity

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Men who sell simits–a bagel-pretzel coated in toasted sesame seeds–are almost as ubiquitous in Istanbul as ankle-breakable holes in the sidewalk. Since…

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In Mom’s Garden

Mom and I are on a little trip and I have to hustle, so I don’t have a story today. Actually, I’ve been collecting tons of stories for you all, … Continue reading

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Bosnian Bullfighter

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
A sheepish lady tourist examines a plaque in Mostar’s Spanish square. It seems a good place to pause, fan herself, gaze around…

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Intractable Gestures

In those years his father held that a nation could change its way of life, its history, its technology, it’s art, literature and culture, but it would never have a … Continue reading

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Do Envy the Oldsters

From this one may see that there is no reason to pity the old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, … Continue reading

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Way Far Away

He is tiny in Timberland boots. He holds the orange plastic bat over his shoulder, as his father shows him. When Dad tosses the light, white plastic ball the little … Continue reading

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Resolution

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
“Beware of pickpocketers while praying.”  I pass the sign in the entryway to the Church of the Infant of Prague. I keep…

October 22, 2014 · 1 Comment

Get In Someone’s Way

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Pen at the ready, the old man attempted to fill out his check, clutching the checkbook in one hand and scrawling with…

October 1, 2014 · Leave a comment
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