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April 1, 2012 vol 8 no 1

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Margaret Dornaus

The Kindness of Strangers

Perhaps the presence of my mother and I dining in a virtually empty hotel restaurant is what prompts Chef Lou to extend an offer of dessert and coffee. Regardless, my mother, who likes attention from men, is in her element. "Thank you," she says, nodding coquettishly to the chef.

Chef Lou, who flew in to cook at an Oklahoma City food show, tells us he expected this trip to be uneventful. "I've done thousands of these shows," he says. But finding a few hours at the end of his workday, he decided to visit the memorial to 168 men, women and children who lost their lives on April 19, 1995.

The collection of 149 adult- and 19 child-sized bronze-and-glass chairs representing the victims of the Murrah Federal Building bombing seems to float above the adjacent reflecting pool. At sundown the chairs' glass bases take on a soft, eerie glow illuminating the names of the dead. "Such beauty from such sadness," Chef Lou observes.

We finish our coffee and say our goodnights. As I wheel my mother through the hotel lobby, Chef Lou catches my eye and nods before turning back to his plate.

so many empty chairs
touched by moonlight

Note: the haiku was previously published in A Hundred Gourds 1:1, December 2011