The next stranger you meet may be your next book.

Everybody you meet is fighting some kind of a battle. The best wars may wind up in a book.

I sit and watch them. They are lost in their own little worlds. Mostly they are simply lost. And nobody knows.

I talk to them when I can. Sometimes in airports. Sometimes on park benches. Sometimes at church.

Few want to talk.

But smile. Say hello. Let them know you’re glad they came your way. And they can’t wait to start talking.

The lady in the airport lounge was middle-aged and professional. No doubt about it.

Fashionable suit. High heels. A big diamond ring on the right finger. Her briefcase was new leather.

Nothing wrong with her, I thought. She’s got the world whipped. She’s on her way to the top and maybe already there.

Her eyes were black needles. The tears she shed were ice. Her voice was free of all emotion.

“Where are you headed?” I asked.

“Home.”

“Where’s home?”

“New York.”

“Business trip?”

“My last one.”

I waited for her to smile.

She didn’t.

“We all call it quits someday,” I said matter of factly.

“I didn’t quit.” Her eyes flashed. “I was fired.”

“I’m sorry.”

The ice melted a little.

“Don’t be.”

“Why not?”

She patted the new black briefcase. “It’s all in here,” she said.

“What’s in there?”

“I’ve been keeping records a long time,” she said. “I know who did what to whom and why. I know who cheated whom and who stole from whom. I know why the company isn’t profitable and who has offshore accounts.”

“It sounds like you’re ready to go to war,” I said.

“I can’t wait.” Her voice had an edge.

I thought it over and asked, “How long have you been keeping records for your secret dossier?”

“Thirty-two years.”

“Why did you do it?”

“What?”

“Keep records.”

She laughed out loud. “This is big business,” she said.

“It’s a dog eat dog world,” I said.

She laughed again. “The big dog doesn’t always win,” she said.

“Will he be forced to resign?”

“He has two options.” She hugged the briefcase. “He can go to jail or he can jump.”

“What do you think he’ll do?’

She shook her head and settled down for a long flight ahead. “Don’t know,” she said, “But if he wants to jump, I’ll open the window.”

 

I met the old man in an all-night diner. I was new in town. He said he had lived there all his life. His khaki trousers were starched and pressed. His white shirt had been washed too many times and was yellowed. He wore striped suspenders and a baseball cap.

I glanced at the icon stitched on the cap and asked, “You a Detroit fan?”

“Never been there.”

I tried again.

“You a baseball fan?”

“Never played the game,” he said. “I found the cap. Guy left it in the diner last week. Just finished his eggs, wiped his mouth, stood up, walked away, and left it on the counter.”

“You stop him?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“He probably needed his cap,” I said.

“Why?” The old man laughed again. “It wasn’t raining,” he said.

He bought me a cup of coffee. He wanted to talk some more.

“You a vet?” I asked, trying to make conversation.

“Vietnam.”

“It wasn’t a good war,” I said.

“I lost some good friends,” he said.

“We all did.”

“I didn’t see them die,” he said, “but I heard them.”

I waited.

He stared out the window and watched the train pass by. “I was in communications,” he said. “We had the radio down in the hole when the Viet Cong attacked us. There was a bunch of them. There weren’t many of us. Gunfire. That’s all I heard. And men screaming. And men crying.  And men dying. Fight didn’t last but fifteen minutes, maybe less. My buddy and I lay in that hole for three days and nights. Didn’t know if the VC had left. Didn’t know if they was waiting for us. They liked killing better than we liked dying.”

He removed his cap. “My hair was jet black when I went down in that hole,” he said. “Three days later this is the color it was and the color it’s been ever since.”

His hair was snow white.

He ordered another cup of coffee.

“I guess you were glad to be home,” I said.

His grin faded.

“I don’t have a home,” he said.

He turned away and waited for morning.

 

Are you writing a book? Do you need a story? Go talk to a stranger.

Inside – amidst our own grief and heartbreak and fears – everyone is fighting a battle.

Win or lose, it may be a battle worth writing about.

Please click HERE to find The Man Who Talks to Strangers on Amazon.

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