The Nice Thing About Strangers

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

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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My Journey Home

TSA airport security in O’Hare is making me cry. I receive glares, short-tempered orders, eye rolls, and blank stares. After twenty hours of travel, I have tears in my eyes … Continue reading

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Random Apple of Kindness

Our checkout woman has short, funky blonde hair and she’s been very unhappily scanning groceries for a ceaseless line of customers. I don’t blame her for being grumpy. I’m with … Continue reading

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On Your Way

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in word or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent,…

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Writer’s Blah

It’s not been Writer’s Block, but Writer’s Blah. I’ve found many Nice Things lately, but the stories are giving me fits. It’s like I keep pulling burned cookies from the … Continue reading

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The Fence, The Dog, The Gasp.

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
There’s a creature sniffing in the bushes, this is clear to the small girl with a set of freshly coiled braids. She…

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A Heartening Tip for Homebodies

Travel? One need only exist to travel. I go from day to day, as from station to station, in the train of my body or my destiny, leaning out over … Continue reading

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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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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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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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Health and Wellness

The old man winks at a woman on a stationary bike, the kind where one can sit upright with the pedals before them. He is pushing seventy, or pulling eighty.  … Continue reading

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Cheers.

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
At the border crossing from Croatia into Bosnia, my bus pulls to a stop next to a bus parked and pointed in…

January 12, 2015 · 1 Comment
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