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(and other questions that could use answers)

The Ambler moved slowly among the midday crowds along Rio's Rua Humaitá, the heat of the Brazilian summer sending them all to sweat.


Suddenly, the sunlight dimmed, and the Ambler's gaze rose into the gray-white of the sky, the haze blurring the distant Cristo Redentor atop Corcovado. Sweat stung the Ambler's eyes. Shutting them tight, the Ambler drifted into a nearby lamppost— meeting with it headfirst.


The pain drove the Ambler into a nearby tavern for a drink. When it arrived, large and full of ice, the Ambler held the glass to the fresh bump.


The only other patron, seated nearby, smiled with a cheerful, unhurried bearing. They raised their glass and announced simply, "I watched that happen. I'm glad you made it anyway. Saúde."

The Ambler listened as the patron continued talking, telling stories about other accidents that had occurred just outside, then about accidents of history, before telling many other stories having nothing to do with accidents at all—sometimes addressing no one at all.


Time seemed not to matter: as it wore on, the Rambler kept on, gazing on the tavern and its tides of crowds, looking on them with patience, respect, and appreciation. The Rambler's glass was kept full by a server who worked without word.


The Ambler considered leaving many times, but in a life's worth of unhurried travels, no one but this Rambler had shown they could speak uninterrupted, from the swelter of a summer day into the heaviness of a humid night, always saying something of interest, but never seeking an audience's attention.

Yet eventually, the Ambler's curiosity of the Rambler soured into morbid fascination, which could not help but force an interruption: "You talk so much, and for so long, and sometimes for no one's pleasure but your own. Doesn't that bother you?"


Their server returned just then, but the Rambler held up a hand. That hand then set a few bills onto the bar. As the Rambler rose to leave, the Ambler, saddened and concerned at the abruptness of the departure, asked the question again, with an apology for any offense.


"Not at all," the Rambler answered. "I am an ancient stone on this street, and I've let the water carve enough of a path in me today. I hold no greater motive than that. I am simply full; the rest is coincidence."

The Ambler insisted: "Please don't leave on my account. I apologize: I did not mean to insult you. But please, for the sake of my own curiosity, I need to know: can you tell me how you live this way?"

The Rambler considered the question, leaving another bill for the servant. Eventually, with a last glance about the room, the Rambler posed a question in response: "How did you come to hurt your head? Do you enjoy running into lampposts?"


The Ambler frowned, replying tersely, "That was an accident. You know it was. The sun blinded me; my sweat stung my eyes. I would never do that on purpose. Why would you think I enjoy that?"


The Rambler shrugged, waved a goodbye, then left.

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01--The Ambler And The Rambler-agustin-diaz-gargiulo-7F65HDP0-E0-unsplash.jpg


02--The Baker-yeh-xintong-go3DT3PpIw4-unsplash.jpg

A baker waited impatiently for a certain customer to arrive for their daily breakfast.

The popular baker on the busy street served many people all day, but one in particular would, without fail, arrive precisely fifteen minutes after seven AM, and order a sticky bun with a lemon tea. The baker would watch as the customer stopped just outside their front window to take a sip of tea and bite of bun before continuing their morning walk. To the baker, it was a sign the day could then begin in earnest.

But today, the baker waited... and waited... and waited... Other regular customers arrived and ordered buns and cookies; cakes and pies; popovers and tarts... it was one of the busiest and best days the baker had ever had. But still, the baker waited... Hours passed, and the baker at first grew worried, then sad, then angry, then hostile: losing all interest in the light conversation usually traded with those who breezed in seeking something sweet and warm to brighten their day.


The baker slept coldly that night, surprised by the bitter taste the day had left and vowing that never again would they count on someone who clearly had no regard for them.

When that certain customer arrived the following morning at the usual time, the baker for their order with an chilly air, and the customer ordered a croissant and a coffee. The baker laughed sarcastically, and said, "You don't show up yesterday. And today you change your order!"

The customer raised an eyebrow at the tone of the baker's comment. "Yours is not the only place I get my breakfast."


03--The Meal-janko-ferlic-KwU5Cl0LSXs-unsplash.jpg


A chef prepared a special Sunday evening meal for their teenaged children. Of course the chef loved to cook, and turned out magnificent and delicious plates at their restaurant, to great acclaim. But rare was the occasion that a Sunday came around where life slowed down for all at home, and a meal could be more than just simple nutrition.

As the dishes came together over long hours, the children set themselves to their homework and their friends, chatting idly with each other and occasionally visiting the kitchen, where their fingers found their way into pots and bowls, making faces with each taste, each time. The chef knew the dish only came together at the end, when flavors melded in a perfect harmony of depth and clarity. Indeed, the time spent in the kitchen this day was so pleasant—each sample of each ingredient so satisfying; so foundational—that by the time the meal was ready, the chef found their own hunger had not awakened. The effort it took to present this work was filling in its own right. The chef tried one spoonful, and knew it was delicious.

The children took their seats at the table as if under orders, and watched sullenly as their meals were served them. Tentatively, they dipped spoons into their heavy, steaming bowls, then raised them full to their lips, and each attempted a sip. "Awful!" they cried. "Disgusting!" they laughed. "I could make a dinner ten times better than this!"

The chef nodded, and removed their bowls carefully, as the children's laughter died. Pouring the bowls back into a large pot, the chef shut it with a lid and pulled on a jacket, announcing simply that they would take the meal to a neighbor with whom they'd not visited in some time, and would be back later.


"But what are we going to eat?" asked the children.

Walking past the pantry, the chef opened its door. "Careful with the stove."

04--The Barber-allyson-carter-iKTLt39Dp6k-unsplash.jpg

A barber welcomed a new client to their shop, guiding them to a chair with a gregarious hand, complimenting their shoes while offering to take their natty sport coat. The client grinned, obliged, and took a seat.

As they made their introductions, the barber whipped clean a chair cloth, and draped it around the client. With a sheet of tissue paper, a snap-shut of the cloth, and a quick spray of the client's hair, the barber spun the chair to face the mirror to talk about their work that day.

"What would you like?" asked the barber. "You seem rather proper. I can keep your style as-is, with the part down the side. Or I can manage a conservative yet still technical fade starting just below the crown of the head, for a bit more panache."

Before the client could respond, the barber leaned in. "It appears as though you leave your hairline natural. I can imagine you're not much interested in taking clippers to it, but I think it will leave you looking neater for longer."

"Also," the barber continued, "I could see you keeping a little length at the front—not bangs; just a touch of sprezzatura along the crown—that'll let you style your hair in different ways for different events: still beautifully even for business; brushed back for sport; loose and playful for the evening. What do you think?"

Waiting to ensure no additional interruption was forthcoming, the client replied, "I dunno about any of that shit, man. Just get it off my ears, please."


Upon their death, the souls of three scholars so

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