People You've Passed

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Museum guards were well aware of Crane’s eccentric behavior, although he was never thought to be a danger to the works or people. They signaled each other on his arrival each week and kept a casual eye on him, more or less as some “local crazy” who had a wandering pattern that was not based on saving steps, but on some unknown internal requirement. Occasionally, a guard would walk slowly past him, coming as close as possible without being obvious, so he could hear what Crane was saying. More often than not, it was a dialogue between this tall, thin gentleman and the painted person directly in front of him. It seemed to guards that Crane asked more than he told, receiving unheard answers to his queries, which he acknowledged with nods and affirmations such as “Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I thought.” On this day the guard was present at what appeared to be the one-sided conversation between Crane and, well, what looked like Crane. The real Crane sat on a bench directly in front of El Greco’s Portrait of a Man. Except for the clothing and beard, the portrait could have been of Crane, himself. The painting’s balding, oval head and tired, drooping eyes that sat sadly between oddly protruding ears mirrored Crane so much that the flesh and blood man seemed to have been foreseen by the artist. To Crane, the pigment man wasn’t so much a renaissance relative as an interpretation of himself in fur and ruff. The conversation was more introspection than dialogue. “I don’t look forward to another winter. The cold slows my already deliberate steps. I might need another coat, and I have often wanted a hat like they wear in Russia, with side-flaps of fur, such as you wear.” Crane mumbled something the guard could not hear and then concluded, “Or maybe not.” He shifted on the wood slat bench, taking what appeared to be a more uncomfortable position.

AUTHOR: Chet Meyer
GENRE: Short Story
PUBLISHED: Jun 28, 2008

A Collection of Stories of People Who Have Crossed Your Path. We pass people everywhere--on the street, in the mall, at the grocery store, in the library--and we tend to think that they are all basically just like us. Sometimes we even feel guilty that we interact with so few of them because we are too busy, too self-absorbed or too afraid. But they're always around us, and every one of them is unique. Here are twelve people you've encountered in your travels. Some would have appreciated your help, some might have become your friends, and others you were probably right to avoid.

These are their stories. You be the judge.