HELLO, STRANGER

BY MICKEY HESS

You see an acquaintance of yours in a coffee shop. You recognize him, he recognizes you, and you have fixed your faces to say hello when a woman steps between you. “Hey there, stranger!”

Your acquaintance looks past her at you, as if you might be the stranger, but you are not. She is talking to him. “Excuse me?” he says. “Do I know you?”

The woman, who smells like incense, assures your acquaintance that he does. “Last summer at the museum! With Tim and Laura?”

He shakes his head. “No, I don’t know those people.”

Her clever greeting robbed of its irony, she continues listing places and people in an attempt to convince him. “No, you must be confusing me with someone else,” he says. “I’m sorry.” His eyes dart from you back to her. She is smiling and nodding, and he looks terrified.

He pays for his coffee and runs without saying hello to you, as if she has shattered all faith in his connections with people

– – –

Mickey Hess is an Associate Professor of English at Rider University, and the author of Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory (Garrett County Press, 2008), which was featured as “Critic’s Choice” in The Chicago Reader, described as “thoroughly humorous” by The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and mentioned online at The New Yorker, Poets & Writers, and USA Today. He writes a column at TheRumpus.Net called “I Will Blurb Any Book Within 24 Hours.” His stories and essays have been published in Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category (Knopf, 2005), and such journals as McSweeney’s, Ninth Letter, Punk Planet, Fourteen Hills, Pear Noir, Opium Magazine, The Foundling Review, Quick Fiction, and The Rome Review. He won third place of 1400 entries in the McSweeney’s 20-Minute Stories Contest. He is also the author of Is Hip Hop Dead? The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Most Wanted Music (Praeger, 2007), and the editor of Greenwood Press’s hip hop reference series, for which he has published two edited collections: Icons of Hip Hop (2007), and American Hip Hop: A Regional Guide (2009).

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One thought on “HELLO, STRANGER

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Brilliant. Thanks for the good read, Mickey.

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