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Meanwhile, Kate was having a grand day by herself. The weather seemed perfect: sunny and 67 degrees. Just cool enough to warrant a cardigan in the shade. She was strolling along the busy promenade when, up ahead, someone was waving at her. Kate didn’t immediately recognize the person but then realized it was an old boyfriend, someone she hadn’t seen in years but had always held a fondness for. Her heart started beating faster. He was waving so wildly and walking right toward her. A huge smile washed over her face and she could feel her cheeks getting hot.

He was less than three feet away from her, and then passed her. She quickly turned around, utterly dismayed, only to see him embracing a petite blond who was smiling just as hard as she had been seconds earlier.

Kate had to stop herself from walking up to him and punching him in the back. She was suddenly filled with rage but wasn’t even sure where it had come from.

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The rest of the girls were doing it so why shouldn’t I? I was sick and tired of my stick straight hair. Waves were what I was after. Silky, shiny, loose, to my shoulders waves.

Being thirteen, I certainly didn’t know where to go for a perm so my Mom took me to the salon she’d been going to since the sixties. Sure, I was a bit nervous, but the thought of my hair looking anything close to some of the popular girls’ hair quelled any irrational fears.

I sat in the chair patiently while slim rollers were placed tightly all throughout my head. The stench of the chemicals had no effect on my optimistic nose. Whatever it took, I was going to have those waves.

Two hours later, I lay on the backseat of my mother’s powder blue Dodge Dart, sobbing uncontrollably, a comb in my right hand.

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"Suuuuuuuuuuwee! Suuuuuuuuwee!"

Bessie, his favorite hog, came runnin’ toward him. Well, more like lumbering toward him but so be it. She was a good hog. It had been decided long ago that Bessie would never go to slaughter because, as everyone in the whole town knew, she was Jimmy’s best friend.

She was rubbin’ against his legs, almost like a cat, and he was slappin’ her sides with the palm of his hand. When Jimmy was nervous, he liked to pet the tiny hairs on Bessie’s back, going with and then against the grain. If someone saw this from afar, it looked like some kind of meditative act because Jimmy and Bessie both remained essentially motionless while he petted her.

After the pets stopped, Bessie would always turn her big ole head toward Jimmy and he’d plant a big kiss right on the end of her snout.

This is how it was most afternoons on the farm.

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As I walked out the back door of the building and out onto the sidewalk, I noticed there was frost on the grass. Frost already. It all seemed too soon but that’s the way it always goes. Summer is here and I’m sweltering and dizzy and then there’s frost on the grass. I looked at it for a moment, shrugged my shoulders and kept walking.

I was walking pretty slowly up McKinley Road. In fact, I became aware that I was practically shuffling. I hate people that shuffle. I’m not sure why I was doing it. Suddenly, I was startled by a crow’s cawing, seemingly right above my head, and I tripped and fell. My hands are what cushioned my fall. If it weren’t for my hands, my face would have hit the ground. I lay there for a moment, stunned. I rolled myself over and up into a sitting position. The palms of my hands were scraped and the right one was bleeding a little bit. The middle of my back already felt sore. I looked at my legs and saw that my left pant leg was ripped at the knee. I gently opened the tear and saw that my left knee was bleeding. In fact, the blood had already soaked well into the fabric of my pants. I was shaking a little.

I stood up and began shuffling back toward home. My left knee was throbbing now. My palms stung.  

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"Did you see the  new neighbors yet? I saw them moving in a few days ago", Susan asked, legs folded under her, coffee mug in hand.

"No, but I’ve met their wind chimes multiple times", grumbled Hal.

New people had moved in a few days before. From Arizona or New Mexico or from some other equally hippie dippie place. What seemed like two seconds after walking through their new front door, they hung up wind chimes on their balcony. Every apartment in this complex had a balcony and Hal’s had the misfortune of being right above the new neighbor’s.

"Well, if they bother you, just ask them to take them down. I mean, you were here first. Besides, there must be some apartment rule about no wind chimes."

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"Take a deep breath…good….again….and another…"

The cold of the stethoscope combined with the dull ache of every deep breath was almost enough to make him run out of the room. He felt vulnerable, the same way he felt when his mother would take out the Vaseline to take his temperature as a child. That felt cold, too.

"I’d like to get a chest x-ray", the doctor said, very matter-of-fact-ly.

"Oh…oh…okay…so you think it’s pneumonia?", the man said as he sat up.

"I just want to rule things out. No need to worry." The doctor didn’t look concerned. "Just wait here and the nurse will bring you to the x-ray room." The doctor put his hand on the man’s shoulder. The gesture brought some comfort to the man.

"Okay…thanks doc…". He buttoned his shirt up and sat very stiffly on the end of the examination table.

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It was kind of pathetic. The bill came, he opened it, looked at the balance, realized he needed to write a check, put it in the envelope that came with the bill, put a stamp on it and mail it. He had never actually written a check. He didn’t know what the protocol was. He didn’t even know where his mother had kept the checks or the stamps, for that matter.

Joey, his dog, hobbled into the room, tail only wagging toward the right. Joey was old now. Sometimes he would bump into furniture. Cataracts, most likely. Poor Joey.

Rifling through his mother’s desk drawers, he found one of those souvenir pens where there’s a girl in a bikini and if you turn it upside down, her top comes off. On the side it said, “Asbury Park Summer of ‘75”. He turned the pen right side up, then upside down, right side up, upside down. Joey came over and bumped his head into the desk leg.

"Poor old boy…come here", he rubbed Joey’s head. "Looks like I’m going to have to make an ass of myself and ask someone at the bank how to write a check."

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The train had been moving for twenty minutes before she even noticed. It was going to be a long train ride: over four hours. So be it. She was in no rush to get home and wasn’t even sure why she hadn’t made up some lie to get out of going.

"Fifteen years….", she said softly. For a woman of 35, fifteen years was a long time. “I wonder how everyone’s going to look…”

She pulled her coat lapels tighter around her. It was quite cold on the train and she wasn’t even dressed properly to begin with. Four hours of being cold.

Gazing out the window at the passing fields, a white speck hit the window and melted. Then another. And another. Soon, all she could see through the window was white.

"First snow…", she whispered, smiling.

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"Yeah, Antonio’s taking the kids to his mother’s for the weekend…no, he’s staying, too…yes, which means I can actually sleep in on Saturday…yeah maybe we can meet up later but I don’t want to commit to anything…yeah…yeah…that sounds good….I’ll talk to you then…bye!"

Jen put the phone on the kitchen table and stretched her arms above her head. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had the opportunity to sleep in on a Saturday. It was going to be glorious.

Alone in the house, she began her normal weekday routine of tidying by first wiping down the kitchen counters when she caught her reflection in the toaster. There appeared to be something dark on her cheek.

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"It’s all filthy…everything in here is filthy…these people are always messing everything up…I don’t know why I bother cleaning at all…", Sandra muttered to herself as she shuffled around the living room. It was true that the room, the entire house for that matter, had seen better days.

The house was tiny but when Sandra and Ray first moved in nearly thirty years earlier, it seemed palatial. It was just the two of them back then and they’d both grown up in families of seven siblings. To have a space of one’s own, let alone an entire house, was more than either one of them could ever ask.

"God damn dog hair…where is that fuckin’ dog?", Sandra’s voice became louder. She plopped herself down onto the couch and began twirling pieces of her hair with her right pointer finger. "My hair was my crowning glory…Dad always said that a woman’s hair was her crowning glory…". She dropped her hands into her lap and stared straight ahead.