5 November 2009 | Vol. 9, No. 3

The Wondrous Quiet Life

She was sixty-two and widowed. Church people did not recognize her, but people at the animal shelter did. People at the shopping mall did not recognize her, but people at the library did. In this woman's life, there were more books than traffic lights, more cats than cell phones, more vegetables than credit cards.

In appearance, she looked ordinary in her blue denim jeans and workshirt, her graying hair wrapped tidily at the back of her neck. Her hands had the size and strength of a laborer's, but her smile had a gentle sweetness. She did not startle easily, though she moved through the world with a smooth swiftness, with a confidence that was not aggressive.

She seemed neither lonely nor gregarious. She seemed neither indifferent nor friendly. Still, some curious and good people wondered if she was all right. When they asked her, she said she had what she needed. When they gave her gifts, she accepted but offered more in return than what she had been given.

She had neither answers nor questions for anyone. If she had strong opinions, she didn't offer them. If she had worries, she didn't share them. Those who came near her felt a peacefulness spreading around her. She was like a soft cloud passing overhead, or like a hidden bird singing from the shrubbery. "Let's not disturb her," someone said.

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About the author:

Jim Heynen has published dozens of books including novels, short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His stories about 'The boys' have been featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and the Minnesota astronaut George Pinky Nelson took a taped collection of Heynen's stories for bedtime listening on his last space mission. Heynen's most recent collection about boys, The Boys' House, was named Editor's Choice for Best Books of 2001 by the Bloomsbury Review, Newsday, and Booklist. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Jim Heynen at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 9, No. 3, where "The Wondrous Quiet Life" ran on November 5, 2009. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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