These people are all made up, but of course they are made up of bits and pieces of reality, since that’s all any writer has to work with.
She is a rural mail carrier. She carries dog biscuits and knows all the dogs on her route by name. When she must get out of her truck to deliver a package, every dog is happy to see her–even the ones with reputations. Although nothing “keeps her from her appointed rounds,” if she meets someone by the mailbox, she always has time to chat. Two of the people on her route are disabled, and cannot shovel around their mailboxes on snowy days, so she keeps a shovel in her jeep and does it for them. She has quietly replaced the mailboxes of several people with very low incomes when their boxes were smashed by vandals. She bakes bread on Sunday afternoons. When she found out that an elderly farmer on her route used to love the homemade bread made by his late wife, she began making extra loaves and every Monday she brings one to him. She and her husband have three children. Their oldest son, who is seventeen years old, is a drug addict, so she and her husband are part of a parents‘ group at a counseling center. Their thirteen year old daughter is already an accomplished gymnast, and their ten year old son likes to read. She sings alto in a community chorus and in her church’s choir, and in both, she is known for her good humor as well as her pleasant voice.
He is an actor who teaches at a small community college and directs a community theater. When he is not on stage, he is insignificant and goes unnoticed on the streets. When he is on stage, he is unforgettable. Without being sentimental, he can make people cry. Without showing off, he can make people laugh. Once his wife told him that as she left the theater after a perfomance, she overheard someone say, “I don’t know what happened there, but it opened all the windows and doors in my heart.” He considers that the justification for his life.
She is the manager at a busy food coöp. Her desk is covered with piles of papers, and her telephone rings often. Staff members and board members are in and out of her office all day long. If she is on the telephone when someone comes into the office, she smiles and gestures them into a comfortable chair, and returns to the telephone call. When she is listening to someone sitting in the chair and the telephone rings, she does not answer it. It rings twice, and the caller is directed to leave a message, which she will return as soon as her present conversation is completed. At home, she follows the same practice; her wife and their three children know that she will not interrupt, or be interrupted. She enjoys doing counted cross-stich embroidery, and grows dahlias that win prizes at the fair.
She makes indexes for history text books. She lives alone in a small house on the bank of a river. Every day for twenty years, in sll weathers, she has walked the same path. She keeps notes about what she sees: when the kingfishers return, when the alder buds open, tracks of raccoons and possums in the mud or snow. Once each week she drives her old car into town to buy groceries and to have lunch at a diner that she likes. The people in town say she’s a “character,” and she knows that, but she doesn’t mind. She carries prayer beads in her pocket. Every day she prays for everyone in the town.
He owns a laundromat on the corner of a busy street in a rundown neighborhood in a rundown city. His prices are low. He offers free coffee and bread and jam to his customers. Instead of tattered magazines, he keeps a shelf of books that he buys or gets for free at book sales: books about birds and flowers, travel books, small volumes of poems by little-known poets. He doesn’t mind if people take the books home. The people who come in regularly sometimes talk about the books while they drink their coffee and wait for their clothes to dry.
She cleans rooms and hallways in the big city hospital. She mops the floors and washes the windows and dusts the tables and cleans the sinks and showers and toilets. Sometimes she has to wear a mask. Usually she is working early in the morning, before the visitors come, and before the doctors make their rounds. Sometimes patients talk to her. Sometimes they tell her that they’re afraid, or that they want to go home, or that their family doesn’t like to visit very much. She is quiet and listens carefully, and when she answers, she always says something that helps. One of the doctors, a new resident, has noticed her and thinks that she is the best medicine in the hospital, but he hasn’t told her. If he did, he thinks she would be embarrassed, and that is true.