SHORTS - Stories From Around the World.

 


Welcome to the Scribbler 

I love short stories. Hope you do too. 

New stories, and as it suggests in the title – From Around the World.

 



November 16, 2022


Can a short story be turned into a novel?





This is one my favourite stories. I envisioned a lonely older man, an impoverished girl with child and how they could connect. It worked out he owned a store, and she needed something she couldn’t afford.

It was published in my short story collection, A Box of Memories.


I'm considering turning it into a longer story, a novel perhaps. And I’d like your opinion.

I’ll be forever grateful for your comments. They’re optional, of course. 

Enjoy the story.


PS: Chewie helped me with this one.


 

One Bedroom Ark.

(Copyright owned by the author.)



        As Noah Coyne stands inside his store, his reflection in the storefront window flashed yellow when the crosswalk light on the corner blinked.  Outlining his proud chin and the lifelines etched across his brow, the amber beam exposes a handsome man of seventy-one. The semblance poised upon the glass has dark holes for eyes for the faint light could not capture the vibrancy of the owner’s gaze. Orbs of the darkest blue, like fresh steel, stare out at the empty street in front of his store. The pavement, wet and slick from a drizzling rain, shines yellow and black, yellow and black, until the warning light suddenly stops. He looks up, wondering if the person he sees crossing the street might be coming his way, one more customer before he closes. He checks the watch that covers his hairy wrist, and seeing that its 9:30, heads to the entrance to bring in the specials sign he places outside each morning.

A wide cement threshold, pockmarked and etched by the passing of many years and many feet, divides the front of Coyne’s Confectionery and the city sidewalk. The sandwich board that holds his daily message, slouching from a weak hinge, is to the right of the double glass doors. While folding the display in half, Noah breathes in the cool, clean night air before tucking the sign under his arm, he is warmed by the same memory the board provokes each time he touches it. His father built the sign fifty-seven years ago. The first day Noah worked in his father’s store, his first chore was to put the sign out front. He even remembers the first message printed in blue chalk in his dad’s neat hand, Welcome my son Noah to the family business. Bananas 6 cents/lb.  

The person he saw crossing the street approaches him from behind and speaks in the weariest of tones.

“Are you closing?”

Noah turned abruptly, startled from his reverie. Before him stood a very young person, swathed with a backpack and a black nylon travel bag slung over one shoulder. On the other shoulder was a bundle wrapped in what looked like a beige tasselled shawl.  Everything was wet.  Stray strands of dark hair fell from her ponytail to cling to her slender jaw. A smudge of something dark touched one pale cheek. When Noah looked into her big, dark eyes, he was saddened by the confusion he saw there. They softened slightly when she added a weak smile to her slim ordinary face.  Reaching out to hold open the door, he waved her in.

“No, my dear, we’re open until ten. Please, come in.”

She straightened her shoulders, the bags obviously heavy, before preceding him into the store. When she passed in front of him, he noticed an opening in the shawl. Peeking over her shoulder, he looked into the cavity and was surprised to see a baby’s pink face. He stared at the infant until the mother moved to their left. Returning to the cash area on the right, he was perplexed by how small the child seemed, it couldn’t be very old he told himself.

He sat on the stool behind the counter, listening to the shuffle of her feet as she moved about the rows of merchandise. Looking up at one of the mirrors fixed to the back corner near the ceiling, he saw her turn into the center aisle. She was sideways to the mirror when she stopped halfway up, in the section where he kept clearance items.  She dawdled for several minutes, then he saw her tuck something into the shawl in front of the baby. It hurt him deeply when he thought he had seen innocence in her troubled eyes. He rose from his perch to confront her when the cradled infant’s face flashed in his mind’s eye. Sitting back down, he pondered his options.

Balancing two cans of soup in her free hand, she approached and awkwardly placed her items on the counter before him. As she did so, he reached under the counter to tear off several sheets of paper towel.

“Here, you’re a little damp and you have something on your cheek.”

“Oh, thank you.”

Eagerly she accepted his offer, smiling widely. As he rang up the sale, she brushed the moisture from her neck near the baby, her forehead and hair. She dabbed at the smudge on the side of her face, smearing it instead, making it worse. Noah grinned at her efforts and said, “That’ll be $1.06 please. You missed a little, closer to your nose.”

Placing the wet tissue on the counter edge she reached into a side pocket of her thin jacket, removing a cluster of coins, mostly pennies. Sliding one loose at a time with her thumb, she counted out nickels, dimes and one cent pieces. At the end of her coins, she stared at them for a few seconds before meeting his fixed look. They both knew she didn’t have enough. Noah tried to fathom the poor girl’s plight, so young, bags in tow and an infant on her shoulder.

“You know what; I think I made a mistake, just a second.”

He cancelled the transaction and keyed in new amounts until the register read eighty-two cents. Seeing the new amount, she gave him a tight-lipped smile, knowing what he had done. Her eyes grew glossy at this act of kindness before she hung her head. Guilt and sorrow leaked from beneath her tender lashes, dropping heavily to the floor. She stuttered, trying to stifle a sob.

“I... I... I’m sorry, but I was going to steal from you.”

She reached under the edge of the shawl, seemingly from beneath the child, removing a multi-gadget tool and placing it on the counter with a thin, shaking hand. She teetered as she began crying. Rushing around to steady her, he grabbed the paper towel, handed it to her and offered to hold the baby. She placed her bundle in his arms to lean against the counter, her young body tired, stooped like a thirsty plant. Balancing the baby, he stepped toward the narrow window ledge where he kept items for impulse buyers. Moving the display of lighters aside, he motioned for her to sit. Moving to the front of the store, he reached into his front pocket for a group of keys.

“I’m just going to lock up; you take it easy for a minute. This baby is a very deep sleeper by the way.”

Calmer now and with some pride she said, “She’s a good girl and I just fed her. All she does is eat and sleep, thank goodness.”

He returned to stand in front of the girl, the baby secure in his arms.

“When you’ve composed yourself, I’ll help you get home. You can have the camping utensil. I can’t sell the darn things anyway. But don’t let me catch you stealing again. You don’t want your life going in that direction.”

She nodded at his words, her head still on her chest, strands of long hair carelessly hanging down. A forlorn figure in his eyes. A silence ensued as she gathered herself. The monotonous droning of the coolers in the back seemed louder, more disturbing until she spoke in a lost, hopeless whisper.

“I don’t have a home.”

“But you have a baby. Where’s her father?”

She brushed her nose with the back of her hand, finally looking up at Noah. Her tell-all eyes were defiant now.

“The low-life kicked me out three days ago, says he’s too young to be a father. He found another girlfriend.”

“Your parents, then?”

She grimaced as if suffering from indigestion.

“They told me I would have to give up the baby, and I couldn’t. It would’ve broken my heart. When I told them I was keeping her, they said I would have to leave, so I did. I won’t go back where I’m not wanted.”

The statement released a fresh series of sobs. Noah studied the floor as he slowly swayed from side to side lulling the infant. A pleasurable sensation overcame him at how good it felt to hold a baby; it had been a long time since he had held his grandchildren the same way, as he had held his own daughter once. He moved his nose closer to the open fold, inhaling lightly; the scent of fresh talc made him think of silk. An aroma of clean newborn skin wafted out, causing him to smile. A knock on the glass door dispelled his musings.

Looking up he saw two neighbourhood boys, hats on sideways, tee-shirts with marijuana themes, wallet chains at their hips, crotch of their pants protecting their knees. They looked as if they had gotten dressed in the dark. Noah pointed at the bundle he held then motioned them away with a grin.

“Not tonight, Johnny. Go get your smokes at Macready’s.”

Both lads smiled at Noah, giving him thumbs up before taking off, pushing and joshing with each other. The interruption ended Clair’s crying, disturbed the little girl. The baby turned her head and squirmed about in Noah’s grasp for a few seconds.

“I can take her back now if you want.”

“No, it’s okay. I like this. You rest for a minute. What’s your name?”

“Clair.”

“And this little package?”

“Anna. Are you Mr. Coyne?”

“Actually, I’m Noah”

“Like in Noah’s Ark?”

“Something like that, I guess. Now tell me, Clair, what do you do all day with Anna. How do you keep her so clean?”

Clair’s shoulders slumped; she sat forward with her elbows on her knees, her head down.

“At the mall. One of the security staff is my cousin. He’s cool. There are a couple of spots where I can rest for an hour or so. They have cleaning stations for babies, which really helps. But he told me today I can’t hang out there anymore. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow.”

Noah wanted to encourage her for the baby’s sake.

“Think positive Clair, tomorrow is another opportunity for us all. Tell me where you’ve been staying.”

She sat up a little, offering a feeble smile, a curling of her lips that expressed guilt, her chin too heavy to lift.

“In your back lot. The door to your shed was unlocked. Well, actually, it was locked, but someone had left the key in the slot. I needed some place dry and warm. I’m sorry... but I locked it for you. I have the key.”

Noah reddened as she passed him a yellowish key linked to a small brass fob that said, “I Love Grampy.” He remembered taking the garbage out two nights ago; he must’ve left the key in the lock. He was relieved it was someone seeking refuge rather than a thief who found it.

“Thank you. Now seriously, Clair, what are you planning to do? There must be somewhere you can go. Family, friends, relatives?”

Her head was now in her hands, elbows still on her knees. A few more hairs came loose from the elastic that held it, falling over her small hands. The question was causing her difficulty as she shook her cradled head back and forth. She didn’t want to say it out loud, trying to shore up the tears she felt coming. Noah understood her tacit reply but remained silent, offering her respite. He backed up toward the counter, leaning against it to give himself support. Clair remained seated to his left. Noah watched her for a moment, saw her eyes were open as she stared at the floor. He imagined her deep in thought. Finding his own spot to stare at, his vision blurred as he concentrated on a solution.

Five minutes went by, a few cars passed, Clair had barely moved. Noah focused on the young girl’s head, hoping she would not betray his trust.

“I’ll tell you what. I have an empty one-bedroom apartment upstairs that you can use for a few days. We’ll find you some help tomorrow; there are several places I can think of for us to call. What do you say?”



Reacting to the benevolent gesture, she sat up straight, knocking over the lighter display with her backpack. Swinging around to grab at the spilling tray, her stuffed bag banged into the plastic container holding CDs, scattering some on the floor. She was attempting to reach for the ones still sliding off the ledge when Noah reached out with his free hand to lift her under the shoulder, helping her up. Noah was grinning at the girl’s awkwardness when the baby started to cry, woken by the racket of clattering jewel boxes.

“Come away from there before you knock my whole store down and take your little girl. I’ll close up the store and then we’ll get you settled in.”

Anna was protesting with weak sniffles, in a voice only three weeks old, as Noah handed her gently to her mother. Their eyes met when he stepped away. He was happy he was able to help, it showed in his face. She was still trying to take in her good fortune when a thought occurred. Scrunching her brow, gripping her infant closer, she asked with trepidation, “Why are you doing this? You’re not one of those dirty old men, are you?”

He was facing her about six feet away at the end of the cash counter when her directness hit him full force. His back straightened, brows arched in surprise, mouth open in amazement at such an accusation. About to defend his honour, the absurdity of her comment hit him, and he started laughing. Big hearty chuckles filled the store as he held his stomach, he was braying so hard. Clair watched him for a few seconds until she couldn’t help but join in. Her laughter was delicate and almost childlike, pleasing to hear. It changed her ordinary face, the glee briefly dispelling the worries of the night, instilling a happy confidence. Their chuckles soon calmed down, and while wiping his eyes he said, “I can assure you, young lady, I am the most respectful man you will ever meet, but I’m glad to know you are not naïve.”

Clair was still smiling as he became quite serious.

“I’ve decided to trust you. I believe what you say to be true, and I will tell you, quite emphatically, that I am ticked off at your parents. I would never, never abandon my daughter and it saddens me to see you in this predicament. My wife Martha passed away almost two years ago, our home was too big, too full of reminders of a good life together, so I sold it. I renovated the upstairs here. I live in the biggest apartment and the other has been vacant since I finished it. I just never found anyone I’d want for a neighbour yet. If you want my help, you’ll have to trust me too. Deal?”

The smile reached her eyes now. He could see how truly young she was, how the string of hope he offered her fortified her. She reached out to shake his hand with her slender fingers.

“Deal then, but only for a couple of days.”

 

Clair moved out of the one-bedroom apartment when Anna was six. At that point, she switched apartments with Noah. She and Anna moved out altogether when Anna was thirteen and Clair married Neville Coyne, Noah`s grandson.

 

The End.

 

I love happy endings. You?  What did you like best about the story? Least?


 

Thanks for visiting and reading. Looking forward to your comments.


 


This was a happy day for me as you can see by the smile on the kid's face, on the left.
 




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For those who may be interested, there is a World War II murder mystery novel coming soon. November.


Watch for more details.







We'd love to have your feedback and comments. Please Scroll to the bottom of the screen. Thank you.

81 comments:

  1. What a lovely stort that brought a tear to the eye. Thank you.

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    1. I agree, Angela. When Roger sent me the story, I felt the same as you after I read it. Thanks for stopping by and your comment.

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  2. What a beautiful story from Roger, so rich in detail and poignancy... It touched on so many interactions we share with others, both close loved ones and those who drop in and out of our lives. Combined with the emotional context, it is very moving. Looking forward to being featured Allan and thank you again for the invitation.

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    1. Thank you, Sally. So glad you liked it. It's that old Welsh hiraeth, exported to Canada, and brought back to haunt us.

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  3. Thank you so much for publishing this, Allan. I think your idea of publishing regular short stories is a very good one. There are so many great writers out there, some of whose voices are so seldom heard. All best wishes for your success with this venture, thank you for your kind words, thank you for your support, and thank you for being here.

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    1. You're quite welcome Roger. I also thank you for sharing it. Great guests like yourself, make this a wonderful and fun project for me.

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  4. Thank you Allan for including my story with these amazing writers and for creating such a lovely feature. Sally

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  5. I'm happy to have you share your story Sally. You are always a welcome guest.

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  6. Hi Allan. Thrilled to read one of Sally's heartwarming short stories featured here. :)

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    2. I love Sally's stories too, Debby. Thanks for the comment

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  7. Thanks for visiting Debby. I'm like you, always happy to read Sally's stories.

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  8. Fab seeing Sally here, Allan. Thanks for featuring her. She is such a fab support to us all and it is nice to see her as a guest for a change. xx

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    1. I agree Jane. Sally is a tremendous lady. Thank you for visiting.

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  9. I agree Jane. Sally is a tremendous lady. Thank you for visiting.

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  10. HI Allan, this is a lovely story of Sally's. Hers are always terrific. Thanks for hosting her here.

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    1. I agree Robbie. I too enjoy Sally's stories.

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  11. Great story from Angella, today. Thank you.

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    1. I like it too, Angela. Glad you stopped by.

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  12. Thanks for adding my short story to your collection, Allan!
    I love your idea of sharing short stories from around the world - so great for writers and for readers too.

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    1. I'm thrilled to have this delightful tale as part of the series. Thank YOU, Jo, for sharing it with us.

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  13. Great story, thanks Alex Hudson and Allan.

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    1. Gald you enjoyed it Angela. Thanks for visiting the Scribbler.

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  14. Another great story from Steve. Thank you.

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  15. I love how she found her stars in a new family- beautifully written.

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    1. I like the way the story went
      Thanks for visiting, jbiggar.

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  16. Thank you, Allan, for sharing this short story. The Power List is a one-off, and may have become orphaned, had you not picked it up. I don't write many short stories but thought this one might be interesting to some. I had a conversation with a young genius, Noel, who happens to be a patterns specialist, and this is what came of that chat. Please be assured the events are all fiction, with the exception of the poem, which my son wrote while in Grade two.

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    1. I'm pleased to be able to share the story Chuck. Thank you.

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  17. Wow, Chuck! I didn't know if this was fact or fiction. Good story.

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    1. I liked the story too, Susan. Thanks for visiting and your comment.

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  18. Such a wonderful, poignant story, emotional and captivating at the same time. So well written. Congrats.

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  19. A lovely story and particularly poignant as my grandfather's name is also on a monument and in a grave in France. Thanks very much Heather and Allan for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for visiting Sally and your nice comment. I enjoyed Heather's story as well.

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    2. Take comfort that there are many people who visit those grave in solemn and respectful thanks to those who gave their lives so our Boys are never forgotten. Thank you for sharing that, Sally.

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    3. I have a great uncle whose name is on a grave in the military cemetery in Meaulte, France. He died in 2016 of wounds. Until I did family research none of his family (he was my grandmother's brother) knew where he was and had never visited. A cousin went over and took soil from my Nan's grace and placed it on his and took soil from his and took it to my Nan's grave. It was so sad.

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    4. There were too many that were lost in the Great War. Unfortunately, it never ends. Thanks for visiting Jane, and your nice comment.

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  20. Lovely story. Thanks very much.

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    1. I agree Angela, it's well told. Thanks for visiting.

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  21. Interesting piece of writing. Thanks, Allan.

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    1. It's a subject I found troubling and wondered if any German soldiers felt that way. Thanks for visiting.

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  22. A troubling but poignant tale. Thank you.

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    1. I agree Angela. Thanks for visiting and your comments.

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  23. It's like the song, in five minutes, your whole life can change. Really enjoyed this story.

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    1. Yes, it can change quickly. Thanks for visiting the Scribbler.

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  24. A heartwarming story that deeply touched me. Thank you for sharing, Allan. Lovely, Jacquie! Hugs to you both! Xx

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    1. I thought it was terrific also. Thanks for visiting and your comment..

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  25. Heartwarming story that was touching. Thank you for sharing! Lovely story, Jacquie! Hugs to you both! Xx

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  26. Thanks, Allan and I hope you regular readers enjoy the story.

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    1. I think it's a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us, Angela.

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  27. Hi, Jane, great story abd thank you.

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  28. Allan, thanks so much for hosting me with The Letter. I hope your readers enjoy it.

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    1. You are most welcome, Jane. Glad to have your stories on the Scribbler.

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  29. Great to be back with Beans and Chops. Love the characters and the story

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  30. Lovely story, great characters. Congras.

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  31. Thank you for having me over again Allan!

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    1. It's my pleasure having you as a guest Ritu.

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  32. Such a wonderful piece of writing.

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    1. I liked it too, Jeanette. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Tried to leave a comment as Jane Risdon, not possible. Hope this is published. Loved the story, Katy.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Jane. I enjoyed the story as well..

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    2. Thank you so much for the comment, Jane.

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  34. Such a wonderful platform for short stories. Thank you for including me, Allan.

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  35. A lovely heartwarming story Allan. Couldn't get your comment box to accept me. Marje

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    1. I'm not sure what is going on, Marje but others have made the same comment about the comment box. But thanks for visiting and your comment.

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    2. Chantal MacDonald6 October 2022 at 10:52

      Thank you so much Marje.

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  36. This really is a heartwarming story.

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    1. I agree. Thanks for visiting and the comment.

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  37. Great story, Susan, thank you.

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  38. Thank you so very much for reading and commenting on my story! And thanks to you, Allan, for including this story and others of mine on your blog site. Much appreciated!! Susan

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    1. My absolute pleasure in having you as a guest Susan. Love your short stories.

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  39. Great story. A bit of a sad ending, but a glimpse into the ways life happen.

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  40. A fab story, thanks for sharing.

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