A Human Sampler

Smoking Alone

“Several times Ben was caught stealing, and because the kids who talked him into it had threatened him, he wouldn’t say who they were. He also had a temper, and the tantrums he threw in town frightened some of the neighbors.”

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“Amy’s voice was hoarse and her speech had a mournful tone, as if to say, all pleasures are fleeting–only weariness and persecution endure.”

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I Deep Breath

Wally, a client who loved to provoke him, would sometimes grin and say, “Boulder, Charles? Charles going back to Boulder?” Charles would bite his hand, then grab a paper towel and write, “Mad, Mad—NO MORE BOULDER.”

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Your Mouth!

Grant extended his arm and held it rigid, pointing his fist at Craig. “Your mouth!” he shouted. He slapped his other hand over his face, and a few moments later his voice exploded: “Shut up!! Your mouth!!”

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“For Holly, lethargy was not a passing mood, it was a chronic condition. She dragged through the hours, dragged through the days. Life was not a gift she had received; it was a sentence she had to serve.”

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Feeling Small

It was a typical lunchroom episode in the on-again, off-again romance between Jerry and Candy. “She don’t like me no more!” Jerry shouted. “Candy Allison don’t like me no more! I’m not gonna sit by Candy Allison!”

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The Shepherd

“George was breathing rapidly, his head and shoulders were bent forward, tense, and his color had turned ash gray. Inside he was throbbing: his eyes bulged and his head seemed even larger than usual, as menacing as the thick end of a club.”

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The Craftsman

Deeply ingrained in Henry’s personality were certain principles of behavior, certain unshakable habits, from which he never strayed: “Say what you’re supposed to say. Do what you’re supposed to do. And always be accommodating.”

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“I enjoyed reading these notes, though I never saw or spoke to the woman who wrote them. I didn’t even know her name. We were two strangers sharing scraps of paper concerning the one person we had in common.”

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I Got My Orders

“Except for lunch and breaks and class, he stood beside the workfloor sink all morning, then all afternoon—arms folded, head drooping, silent. I had heard about Earl’s work stoppages before, but this was the first one I’d witnessed.”

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He Lived Alone

Occasionally a jewel fell off right after he glued it on. Otto would go into a rage, his face and fists quivering, then let out a roar. If I asked him what the problem was, he’d respond in a loud voice, “I—don’t—want—to—talk about it!”

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