If you haven’t read part 1 of this series,”Kindness”, it would be a good idea to peruse the opening storyline before starting this segment. You’ll find it, scrolling down this page to the post labelled, “The Kindness of Strangers.”


HOW SACRIFICE REAP REWARDS – But what are they?    [Part 2 of 12]

Mark’s sitting in a plastic waiting room chair. As he waits for his call to connect, his left ear has a phone pressed against it. His right ear is targeted for tongue attacks from a Boston Terrier licking machine with no OFF switch. LICK, LICK…KISS, KISS. Yep, Bijou bonded; and it happened on Mark’s lap, in a veterinarian’s office, at a time when he should be at work.

He hears the pick up, followed by a,“Yeah?”

“Hey Len, it’s me. Do me a favor. Tell Mr. Collins I got seriously tied up with a sick dog and I–”

“Too late,” comes through his cell.


“Jesus, Mark! Why’d ya have ta call me? Now I’m the one that’s gotta tell ya.”

“Tell me what?” LICK-KISS.

“Pete didn’t come in either, and the run is a week behind. And when YOU didn’t show, Mr. Collins–”

“Fired me?” LICK-LICK-LICK.

“Pete too. Mr. Collins, he’s runnin’ the line himself now. And I gotta–”

“But this is only the second time.” LICK-LICK. Love, love.

“Yeah but Pete screwed up major. And Collin’s exploded. Was harsh, man. Gotta go.” CLICK. End of call.

Mark stares into the room, his cheeks glistening with dog drool. How could this happen? He got that job just four months ago! How’s this gonna look on his résumé?

Mark flips his cell closed, exhaling a long, depressed sigh. LICK-LICK. Love, love, love.




Val the retriever prances into the room, almost smiling now. He’s followed by the red haired lady on the other end of his leash, who is smiling. Her pet looks happier, she looks happier, and Bijou’s definitely happier. Doggie leaps from Mark’s lap into her master’s arms. Motherly affection pours over the pooch. “Oh Bijou! Bijou!” Kisses to dog, kisses come back – LICK-LICK. Love, love, all around.

Bridget steps closer to Mark. “Thank you so much for staying with Bijou.” LICK-LICK. “She hates waiting in the car.”

“’Kay,” Mark mumbles, still flattened from his call.

With dog in arms, dog in tow, Bridget drops into the closest urine-safe chair. “You know, I never got your name.”


“Mark what?”


“I’m Bridget. You can’t imagine what you did for me and Val.”

Mark nods, looking down at Valentino. “He seems better.”

“Yeah. The doctor wrote him up for a bland diet, did some blood work, took X-rays. They think it’s gastro enteritis.”


“I thought it was pancreatitis. Thank God they ruled that out. When they get the tests back, we’ll know for sure.” Her hand drops to Val’s furry head. “You’re such a good boy! Yes you are! You’re my boy, my big boy!” She drops Bijou onto Mark’s lap and retrieves from her bag, a checkbook and pen. “Is that S-i-d-w-e-l-l?”

“You don’t have to pay me.”

“Please take it.”

“No, I can’t.”

“Yes you can.”

“Look…it was just…a thing I had to do. And…you know, what you had to do.”

Her eyes fix on his shy, boyish face, looking away from her now, as if he can’t take the gratitude. But it can’t be that, she thinks. That distraught look, it’s about something else. Maybe being late for work. Maybe he’s angry about that. Sure, that’s it. She got him in trouble and now he’s pissed. She has to fix it. “Mark, are you gonna catch it for being late?”

‘Umm…it kinda…already happened.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Let’s go to your boss right now. I’ll explain.”

“It wouldn’t work. It’s over.”

“They terminated you?”

“Seems that way.”

“That’s not fair! This was an emergency! I’ll explain about Val!”

“It wouldn’t help,” Mark exhales, with a far away look in his eyes. “My boss and me, we didn’t get along. And he hates dogs.”

He looks so forlorn, she thinks, with that face of a cherub staring out the doors into a world with no place to go.  She has to make up for this, show him that the world is not all bad. “I’m taking you to breakfast,” she announces. “No, is not an option.”




You know what Europeans love when they land in the U.S.? American breakfasts, which is too much to eat, except for Germans…and Mark Sidwell. He’s sitting opposite Bridget in a booth for four. And because it’s now 10:30 and between shifts, the coffee shop is pretty much theirs and quiet for conversation.

“So how are you going to get by?” she asks, raising a dainty piece of French toast to her pink glossed lips.

“I got somethin’ saved.” Bacon finds our lad’s mouth, followed by eggs, hash browns, a muffin bite with a swallow of milk. She watched him top off.

“Do you have a degree?” she asks.

“Yeah. Why?”

“I was wondering if you’ll have a hard time finding another job.”

“Don’t know. Most companies want an MS.”

“What would that be for you?”

“Chemical engineering.”

“You’re working on that?”

“Not now. Maybe later.”

“Is it a money thing?”

“No. I started grad school. And then things happened.” He reaches for more syrup, pours it liberally onto his butter-drenched  pancakes. She stops the questions. Truncated answers shows he’s uncomfortable about talking. About everything? She doesn’t know. But certainly about himself. So she let’s the discourse die and revisits her breakfast.

Twelve seconds lapse. With an empty plate now, Mark reboots their dialogue. “Ya don’t haffta go back to work?” he asks her.

“It’s my day off,” she answers, sipping coffee. “I covered last weekend.”

“So what d’ya do?”

“I work in surgery.”

He nods, again closing the subject. He’s thinking. About the vibes, her pretty face, her long neck, like a ballerina, her gorgeous red hair. Yeah, she’s fine. And she’s even paying for breakfast. Very cool. This is kinda like a date with a real woman, who makes serious money and drives Lincoln Town Cars and wears real jewelry like that gold heavy bracelet and the little heart around her neck with the diamond on it. Or maybe it’s fake. Nah… Wouldn’t be fake. She’s not fake.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” she says, cracking the silence.

“What?” he asks, returning to the Hear and Now.

“You don’t talk much.”

“I talk.”

“Girls must find you mysterious.”

“Nah. Boring.”

“Oh c’mon,” she smiles. “You’re cute.”

“Yeah, right.” He shakes his head, staring at his plate. She’s asking questions again. Should he answer them? He hardly knows her. Yet, she seems okay.

“Am I embarrassing you?” she quietly asks.

“No, it’s not that. It’s just… When it comes to girls… I don’t, umm…”

“Are you gay?”

“Oh no! No way! Not that I have anything against gay dudes. But I, uh…”

“You’re a virgin?” she probes, holding that puckish grin.

“Well, not really. I mean, I think I did it once. But it was dark. Really dark, and I couldn’t see what was going on.”

She didn’t know?”

“Yeah, uhh… I think she said something about it. Like it was good. But I was nervous and all…”

“You didn’t try again?”

He bobs his head, jostling his neural RAM. He just exposed a secret, one of many under lock and key. And now what? His eyes meets hers. She’s waiting for words. His. Wish there was more milk. He takes down the water. She’s still waiting, her gaze locked on target – his face, with a mouth on it, where words come out.

Okay. Might as well confess. She’s like a mom. And moms understand. “Wanted to… But she didn’t. So I guess I really didn’t do it…that well.”

He looks at his plate. It’s sort of a place to hide. Ah. Missed a smidgen of bacon. In it goes. More thoughts come to mind. Mark kicks back the ball. “You’re not married, are ya?”

“Never.” She pours more coffee. “Lived with a man for eight months, though. But he went back to his wife.”

Mark bobs. She didn’t have to tell him that. But she did. That’s kinda…nice feeling. That she’d trust him. His eyes return to her. “Did ya love him?”

“He broke my heart.”

“But like, he was married, right?”

“When I first met him he was separated. I scrubbed for him. He’s a surgeon. I still work with him. That’s hard.”

Again Mark bobs, as if he’s taking this all this in. But really, he’s clearing more time to check out her green eyes. Orange-red hair and green eyes – awesome. Maybe though, he should be listening more. Back to their talk. “You work with a surgeon?” he asks.

“I’m a nurse, in surgery. Remember?”

“Oh sure. Yeah. Didn’t sink in. You do brain surgery?”

“Brain surgery, vascular…bone…GYN, urology…and gun shots on the weekends.”


“It’s physically, so demanding. They run us ‘til we drop.”

Mark bobs, his signature response, which by now she knows, is all about processing data. Another question floats in his head. “No boyfriends?”


“Well, you’re still hot. I mean, not that you’re old–”

“I’m thirty-six.”

“I betcha you could get all the guys ya want.”

“I do. They’re all jerks.” She pauses, thinks for a moment. “Well, not all. You’re not. And some of the married ones aren’t.”

“You like married guys?”

“They like me.”

Mark bobs.




They walk out of the restaurant, into the parking lot. Their cars are parked side by side with dogs in hers and fast food trash in his. They reach his first. “Would you mind if I had your number?” she asks.

“Uhh.. yeah. I mean, no. Why?”

“Because I want to invite you to a party. And when I find out when and where it is, I’ll call you.” She digs into her purse, again retrieving her check book. She rips one out to write on its reverse side.

“818-555-7346. That’s my cell,” he informs her. “It’s all I have.”

“I think it’s this weekend,” she responds, jotting down the number. “I’ll pick you up and we’ll go in one car.”

Mark bobs, thinking. Whereupon he asks, “Can I bring my roommate?”

“It’s a private thing. Sorry. By invitation. Couples only.”

He again nods, trying to figure out what that means. He can’t.

Minutes later Mark’s driving home. He stops for a light, waits, reaches to turn on the radio and notices a folded paper on his passenger seat. He picks it up and brings it close to his eyes. It’s a check made out to Mark Sidwell for one hundred and fifty dollars. She also wrote, ‘For tire services. Thank you.’

To be continued…09/23/2010


This segment illustrates how back story exposition is worked into character development while advancing the plot. Pure exposition is boring. It has to be integrated into a scene with tension.  Scene #1 is a plot point – Mark gets fired. This changes everything and sets him up for spending more time with Bridget. It also sets up the question, just how is Mark going to take his dismissal? Will he be angry? Will he blame Bridget? Will we see a side of his personality we don’t respect?  Scene #2 answers these questions. Mark is upset but assigns no blame. Nor does he feel sorry for himself. (I wish I were Mark.) This scene also gives Bridget the opportunity to express a kind and generous act – she takes Mark out for breakfast – which sets up the expository scene in the coffee shop.

So scene #3 delivers some of Mark and Bridget’s history. But more importantly, it defined their characters and shows how they trust each other by revealing personal information about themselves. A mutual attraction is being established. The scene also sets up the mystery, why did Mark drop out of grad school? (Remember: unresolved questions drive a story forward.)

The last scene, open ended, sets up a possible date to come and Bridget’s monetary gift for changing the tire. The object of the first two segments, is to establish a love interest between two kind and generous people, each carrying the trepidation of failing in romance.

So what do you think? Is this going to be a romantic love story between Mark and Bridget? Or is Mark really gay? Will Roque ever get laid? Will Bridget turn out to be a man?



  1. Jerry's Cousin says:

    Mark needs to show more enthusiasm in Bridget and his life. He needs to stop worrying about Roque. He and Roque are roommates, not soul mates. Does Bridget have another means of income that she can freely write a check for a tire change? Triple A would be cheaper. I’m not finding these 3 people very interesting, yet. They seem rather bland at this point. Maybe, give Bridget some big boobs or a nice butt that Mark wants. Mark could have a “nice package” that Bridget would be interested in or just a nice bod. Maybe they like opera or bluegrass and can connect on those levels. I guess I just don’t know enough about them to be anxious to see what is next for them.
    Come on Irv, pull me in!

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Hi JC,

      Although I don’t feel I have to defend what I’ve written, sometimes I do explain it. I always put a lot of attention into making a scene PLAUSIBLE. I thought I did in this story. But your comments suggest that I didn’t do that for you. Consequently I’d like to point out where I feel I addressed your issues. If you feel I still didn’t after reading my comments, I will, as always, gladly accept your observations. And I do welcome them.

      So here we go. First your comment and then my response below it.

      “He needs to stop worrying about Roque. He and Roque are roommates, not soul mates.”

      Actually Mark & Roque are like brothers. Perhaps you didn’t read the first part of of this story where I wrote, seven lines down: “Yes, it’s another typical kitchen morning at Mark and Roque’s, roommates and best buddies since the forth grade.” (It’s just one little sentence and easy to miss or forget.) But from a writing point-of-view it’s more important to SHOW that they are soul mates than to SAY they are. And as the story progresses, you will see their behavior expressing a close connection.

      “Does Bridget have another means of income that she can freely write a check for a tire change?”

      Bridget explains to Mark she is an RN in the OR. OR nurses today in big cities, working full time and overtime, pull in six figure salaries. Bridget wanted to pay Mark because he stopped. Not because he changed the tire.

      “Triple A would be cheaper.”

      It’s not about cost. It’s about TIME. In part one Marks asks, “Ya can’t call a cab?” Bridget responds: “It’ll take too long. They’re waiting for him now!” (HIM meaning her dog.)

      “They seem rather bland at this point. Maybe give Bridget some big boobs or a nice butt that Mark wants.”

      Mark IS attracted to Bridget’s looks. In part one you can read: She turns, and for the first time, Mark sees a face. And wow! What a face! An older face. But not too old. A Jennifer Aniston type old, like the sexy girl next door.

      In part two he notes her appearance again: “He’s thinking. About the vibes, her pretty face, her long neck, like a ballerina, her gorgeous red hair.”

      A few paragraphs later he again notes her looks: “But really, he’s clearing more time to check out her green eyes. Orange-red hair and green eyes – awesome.”

      Could I written he was attracted to her breasts? Sure. But that’s not what Mark noticed as striking. He’s not your average beer ‘n burger guy. And two, what is alluring about Bridget is not necessarily her breasts. Now Roque, HE would be attracted to Bridget’s breasts! (Keep reading!)

      “Mark could have a “nice package” that Bridget would be interested in or just a nice bod.”

      Bridget is gorgeous. She gets all the “nice packages” she wants. And she says it when Mark says: “I betcha you could get all the guys ya want.”

      “I do. They’re all jerks.” She pauses, thinks for a moment. “Well, not all. You’re not.”

      What attracts Bridget to Mark is his CHARACTER, not his looks. I think that makes her more interesting.

      “Maybe they like opera or bluegrass and can connect on those levels.”

      Opera and Bluegrass? How bland! What brings them together in parts three and four, is way beyond a music concert. And yes, you WILL get to know a lot more about them as the story unfolds.

      Now, having said all that, if the story and characters are not holding your interest, then maybe I need to reconstruct the beginning of this novella. I hope to get more feedback on and off this site.

  2. Jerry's cousin says:

    WOW!! Irv, you just wrote JC a novella!
    I guess I was equating this story to the first one you wrote or maybe I was thinking of Irv’s Triology – sorry about that.
    I’ll read more closely and not assume anything.

  3. Edwin Tucker says:

    IP brings us a new story, and as we have had but two installments, one is loathe to make any but the most superficial of comments. The author has indicated the possibility of surprise and strange revelations yet to come (in comments to readers), and the commentator is therefore cautious, for he or she may make pronouncements that will later seem silly.
    Nonetheless this is a participatory project and we are asked to reflect and comment.

    In the first story, I cared little for the characters, but this was not at all needed. The story generated interest, drew the reader in, and built in intensity to a climatic point.
    The plot and resolution were entirely satisfactory. Things worked not because of our liking the characters, but because of the mayor’s position and his impending demise.
    So also in this new story I feel very ambivalent about the characters, but am waiting to see what will be presented to make me care about their fates.
    On the issue of kindness, I should like to consider what we heretofore have seen from a different vantage point. In fact I should like to argue that we have not seen
    much in the way of kindness. We have Mark stopping to help a woman in need, but his kindness is washed over by weakness. Changing the tire was fine, and alone would have been a kind act, but then in allowing himself to be enlisted as a dog sitter for little Bijou in the vet’s office he is allowing himself to be manipulated. What kind of a sacrifice is that? Compromising his job in order to relieve the momentary anxiety of a dog that otherwise is obviously well cared for? Perhaps he could have been so entranced by Bridget that he was ready to ignore everything just to get a chance at her! Not an unusual reaction from a young man, and what stupid things have I not done just to …..! – but this option is not indicated in the story. Furthermore, were it the case, it would only show another aspect of boyish weakness. As for our nurse, the curious dog loving Bridget, she thinks nothing of what duties or undertakings the helpful stranger may have, and any protestations by his regarding such and his available time must be taken as polite speech, at least by a considerate and kind person, who would utilize him only for the necessary help. But not Bridget, why she exploits his kindness to the hilt, and Mark, why he can set no boundries, he just does what she requests. Kindness must come from strength and be judiciously administered,otherwise it ends in doing harm to all and exhausts its author.
    We may counter that the generous Bridget gave Mark $150 and bought him breakfast.
    Some unemployment compensation! I ask the question, what was Bridget planning to do at the vet’s office when she set out alone with the dogs? I would say that Bridget is then incosiderete and selfish and little Mark would do well to keep away from her, especially as he is weak and inexperienced with women.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Okay… Maybe you’re right. I’ll think about what you and Jerry’s cousin wrote. And we’ll see if the characters draw you in next segment.

      1. Edwin Tucker says:

        In the end you have to be very careful with criticism. Neither positive nor negative comments can you fully trust. All must be carefully weighed in a scale set by your own judgement. Audiance responce must always be registered, and it is the relationship with the audiance that animates us,
        but you cannot be a slave to it, you also must lead the audiance, and it is not leading if you are just taking people where they want to go anyway.

        1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

          Well, in that case, I’ll tell you that I don’t agree with your premise that Mark is weak and is being manipulated. Nor do I believe that putting one’s own priorities above someone else’s shows inner strength.

          Mark stopped to change a tire and then discovered the emergency was about a sick dog that needed to be rushed to the animal hospital. He didn’t want to do it but Bridget pleaded and he couldn’t walk away. Once he got Bridget and her dog to the vet he called work, only to find out that he had been fired by association with a fellow goof-off worker. After that, there was nothing else pressing to do that day, so he accepted the invitation for breakfast.

          Now Mark could have blamed Bridget for getting him fired and then punished her with guilt. He didn’t. That shows character and maturity.

          Bridget was not manipulating Mark. She offered to pay him for his time and also offered to explain to Mark’s boss what she asked him to do. Mark told her it was too late for that. So she bought him breakfast, forced him to take $150 and then invited him to a private party. You call that manipulation?


          1. Edwin Tucker says:

            It looks like I commented without double checking the story, as B. implored M. right away to drive her and the dogs to the vet. Now, I am not disputing that we are often called to put other people’s priorities above our own, but I do say that we ought not to be foolish about it. What would a character be without weaknesses?
            M. is presented as not being very wise, but this fits in well with his youth. Obviously his call to work should have been made immediately when it was apparent that his stopping to help B. was developing into a major undertaking. If work desperately needed him there on time, than this would take precedence over the dog.
            His failing to show up at work on time it turns out left his colleagures in a bad situation. B. also could have called the vet’s office to say that she was running late. Let us remmember that was not a situation where even the dog’s life was dependent on the most rapid transport to the vets office possible. B. knew that M. was concerned about the time, why did she insist on his driving her and the dogs to the vet? She could have waited for a cab – the dog would have been fine.B. is putting convienance for her dog above M/’s interest. For this reader B. is a most unattractive person. Regarding M. I speak from the experience of someone who has on various occasions stopped to help people in brocken down vehicles, vehicles with flats, run off into ditches etc. Often these things have taken a good deal of time, one must be a good manager of resources and as a helper see the situation clearly, often in the midst of those who are distraut and not thinking clearly.
            At any rate that is only my take on the characters!
            And as I indicated most likely a mistaken one. How quick we are to judge and condem – even fiictional characters !

            1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

              Actually Edwin, you made some good points. This kind of story analysis happens all the time as a plot is built. And I remember thinking that I should have Mark call into work from the street BEFORE he drives her to the vet, but I cut that out to make the story move faster.

              So here are some subtle but important tweaks I will make in this story set up.

              First, I’ll make Val the dog more sick and in need of immediate care, which means he won’t be OK at the vet’s after his examination. He’ll still be hurting but out of immediate danger. Next I’ll have Mark make a call to work on the street. The advice from his friend at work – the boss is in a bad mood. Don’t be late. Then I have the dog throw up and gulp air, to establish it IS a real emergency (and raise the stakes). Mark must then make the decision – tell her to call a cab or risk getting chewed out at work. He takes Bridget and her dogs to the animal hospital.

              This is an easy adjustment without affecting the spine of the story. Thanks for pointing this out. (Now I have to get back to work on Novella #3, to be published after “Kindness.” It will be titled, “Pretending.”


              1. EdwinTucker says:

                Yes, those alterations seem to me to eliminate the problems that I was seeing, and return the story to a good footing – in my estimation.

  4. Heinrich von Ofterdingen says:

    Well Mr. Tucker, there you go again! I have to laugh, you state that you can only make “superficial comments” and then you go off on a long exposition around the central theme of the story! My dear friend! You have something to say, but you use too many words and go around the substance of your thinking like the cat around the hot soup. Jerry’s Cousin gets right to the point and is not afraid of clearly expressing his mind.
    Now if you want to make a superficial comment, than write maybe about Mark’s ungrammatical speech. For example, Mark says “My boss and me, we didn’t get along”.
    Instead of the objective case “me” the nominative case “I” is needed here, but then that is how Americans speak. It is sad how the English language is becoming so degraded in the United States and how much this compromises communication.
    We live though in the age of the image, and not of the word.
    With full respect to I.P.
    Heinrich v. O.

    1. Edwin Tucker says:

      My dear Heinrich v. O. ,

      you seem to be driven to respond to my comments in unflattering ways, which in and of itself is not a problem except that
      1) here that is the role of I. P.
      2) I suspect that this emanates from your rancor over my having once advised you
      to give up your writing and stick to your work as a geologist and mine safety inspector
      or whatever that is you do with the mining companies.

      Please, please, please consider point #1 and as for #2 let me here go on record and publicly state that YOU SHOULD BY ALL MEANS CONTINUE TO WRITE. I eagarly await the publication of this latest work by you “A Disapearance” or whatever it is called.

      ps I also apologize for assailing you for beginning a love affair with what I called “an age unapropriate girl” after the unexpected death of your wife. I wish you and Sofia all happiness.

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