safe to smile at strangers (chapter 23, part 2)

(photo courtesy Bitzenhofer)

She’s outside kicking the wrought iron fence with her silver high tops when Robin walks up behind her. 

“Good morning, mamselle.  Did we wake up on the wrong side this morning or did that fence try to sneak up on you?”

Eleanor jumps and blushes.  “Oh.  No.  I just like the way it sounds.  See?”  She kicks it again; the metal vibrates like an angry hornet.   

“That reminds me of when I was a kid.”  She wants to say that everything reminds him of when he was a kid but she also wants to hear the story. Robin takes her arm in the crook of his elbow like a proper gentleman.  He smells of the same kind of deodorant that Lang uses. “I wasn’t allowed to hit my sisters, not even when they asked for it, not even if they begged me to, so instead I would go out back of our house and take a switch to a hackberry tree.  Did you ever see a hackberry tree?  I’ll find you one today.  My Uncle Kenny used to call it a backscratcher tree, because of the bark.” He smiles and winks at her.  “We could rub up against one and see if it actually works.  We’ll give it a scientific test.”  Sometimes he speaks with an exaggerated accent, as if he were only pretending to be southern.  “One time our cat caught a mouse and my sister and I weighed it on a postage scale then watched it squeak and squirm for an hour or two until it finally croaked and we weighed it again. We wanted to know if the soul of a mouse could be measured, you see.  It was all very scientific.”

She likes to hear him talk.  The more stories he tells her, the more they have in common.  If she plays it right she can sometimes keep him talking for more than an hour without stopping.  While they play chess, he gets so caught up in the stories he’s telling he forgets to watch his king and when they went fishing, he scared all the fish away with his constant chatter.  He tells her she has an old soul.  He says she reminds him of a girl he played with when he was a kid. 

The streetcar is creaking toward them as they cross to the median and fumble in their pockets for the fare.  The driver helps Eleanor flatten the dollar and feed it into the slot, slide the quarter in behind.  There are two seats together near the back. 

Elle slides into the varnished wood seat by the window.  “Could it be measured?”


“The soul of the mouse.”


A large portion of this chapter has been deleted.

To read more, contact me and we can discuss publication. (!)


(If you could cut out any word, sentence, paragraph from this chapter, which one would it be?)


About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. elma

    I will not withdraw any paragraph because that is the story of the World and of Life. I especially like the scientific tests with mouse. Can we measure the soul of the mouse? It’s amazing that children believe that mouse and animals in general have souls! Childhood is innocence but it seems that adults have forgotten this possibility with regard to their behavior. I dare ask: can we measure the soul of man as we
    measure their intellectual quotient? We might call this the spiritual quotient.
    I also like the first kiss to taste mustard to followed by the test of ketchup…..
    Thank you for the music video.

  2. Lovely work as always, Anna. I might change “half-lidded” to something else, only because the image itself is evocative and I think you can describe it better.

    (And “Sugar in My Bowl” is one of my favorite Nina Simone songs. So sexy.)

  3. funny and insightful. so glad you finished the tale of the soul, i was afraid you were going to leave me hanging. my picture of the soul includes motion, i see it as vibrating energy.

  4. 2&4&12B 9 18A 14B 22 12A 18B 20B&7&16A&16B 14A 15A&15B 11
    3B 3A 19A&19B13&23A&23B&21A&21B 20A 6 10 21C 8&17A&17B&
    5&1 – I think every thing has a different soul, and their is no regard for
    species or type. Germs and even rocks may have souls, if you can get
    enough of them together – rocks are lucky because they can’t be killed.
    A rock, I imagine, would have the same amount of consiousness whole
    as it does when it’s broken in half. It would merely ride it’s existence
    down all it’s possibilities – shape-shifting as it whent. A pair of identical
    twins may have very different souls, but a human my meet a cat with
    a soul similar to his own – A legond of the birth of Budda, makes it
    seem to me that his soul was that of a white elephant, who died
    and came back as a man.

    “The driver helps Eleanor flatten the dollar and feed it into the slot,
    slide the quarter in behind. Their are two seats together near the
    back.” I know, that’s two sentences. I just thought I’de give you an
    example of a peice it could stay afloat without, since you asked for
    it. I actually had to look for it. They are not hurting anything by the
    way. I kept wanting Robin to shut the hell up, but he does remind me
    of myself – hope he turns out to be harmless ‘~’

    Note, in your previous chapter your reffered to the heat like a tape
    worm in the soul – gooooooood analigy. 😉

  5. P.S. I like what you do with these
    videos. I can listen to that as I read,
    and it’s seems like I’m actually there.

talk to me

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