The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Visiting Hours

At the prison outside Vienna, Austria, the visiting room is an open space: a sort of junior high craft room with long tables and church-like wooden benches. There is no glass partition to keep visitors from inmates, so greetings, hugs, handholding are all permitted. Outside horses graze and farm trucks deliver the onions prisoners clean for a miniscule monthly income. It is a beautiful, clear day for staring out the windows.

A nervous inmate with a large, looped tattoo at the back of his neck, white-blue eyes, and markedly yellow teeth greets the male members of his family. The resemblances are obvious as they trade handshakes and back thumps. His father’s hand lingers on his shoulder. Slow conversation carries on in German after the hellos. The inmate looks to the guard for permission. He receives a nod before he passes a wrapped snack cake to his small brother, who sits between their father’s oxygen tank and the other, morose middle brother.

The inmate and his brothers pull their long sleeves over their hands, shove them up, then tug them down again in a non-verbal chorus. The little brother looks around before opening the cake quietly and consuming it quickly. The inmate takes the wrapper back and folds it tightly in his hand, beaming over his visitors for just a moment, before each returns to searching for anything to say.

–Hollabrun, Austria.

Vienna first district, wien

9 comments on “Visiting Hours

  1. Maccabros
    November 11, 2013

    It sounds sad, but you told it in way, that makes it easier to see, as I was standing there, too…



    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      November 12, 2013

      Thank you, Maccabros. I hate to make the stories sad, but I just found this one so moving. They really touched my heart.

  2. Steven Wordsmith Lincoln
    November 12, 2013

    Now I’m intrigued — how were you in this particular scenario to witness it? I remember reading it the first time, but I don’t remember if I asked. It is such a lovely observation.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      November 12, 2013

      I was there to visit a former student who was unfortunately also in the prison. It was such a heartbreaking day, but in the middle of it, my dear former student just smiled and smiled, and I got to witness this little interaction as well.

  3. lisarpetty
    November 12, 2013

    Girl, what were you doing in a prison? 🙂

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      November 12, 2013

      Sadly, to visit a former student, but thankfully, I got to see this while I waited. I’m always a bit of a spy these days. 🙂

      • lisarpetty
        November 13, 2013

        You are an awesome teacher!

        I think all writers are spies. I just turn these moments into fiction. We are all just transcribing some version of reality.

  4. gardenpinks
    November 12, 2013

    As someone else said it sounds sad and your observations are so vivid that we were there seeing what you saw.

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2013 by in Blogging, Europe, Happiness, Travel, Writing and tagged , , , .

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