one hundred

They walked him out of the room hours ago, a flimsy bathrobe flapping behind his surgical gown.

Still no news if the procedure went as expected, or if his heart stopped during the anaesthesia.

Odds are forever in favour of the former, but that’s what Melissa Rivers imagined.

What’s waiting like for the non-anxiety prone?

The last quarter-century’s highlights reel continues to loop though my brain. I try to press pause by reading, watching tv, counting breaths. Nothing stops the runaway train of worry.

A lifetime later, a Caribbean nurse comes in and moves the empty bed. “He be back in a few, hon. Just needin’ to rearrange the furniture.”

The sigh of relief just won’t come, as I’m suddenly from Missouri. They need to show me.

They wheel him back in, his gown now polka-dotted with blood. More than a little disconcerting as it was a non-scalpel procedure.

“Doc say everythin’ be fine, my lovelies,” the nurse assures us.

The highlights reel jumps around to the countless times I’ve rolled my eyes at his inability to consume pasta, ketchup or Cabernet without staining his shirt.

My stinging eyes blur over, ever so grateful for the dining mishaps to come.


The taxi jerked to a stop so as not to hit the two beardy blokes who had bounced out of the Cereal Killer Cafe into the road.

“Nice smoking jacket, ya cunt!” the taxi driver yelled.

“That’s no smoking jacket,” I said.  “He’s wearing a bleedin’ bathrobe out as a coat.” I fumbled with my phone to get a photo, but missed my chance. “Hasn’t Boris made it legal for you guys to just mow down the hipsters?”

“Ha! If he had, it’d have been the only good thing he’s done, innit?” The driver rolled up his window and looked back towards me with a sly grin.  “Sounds like you could use some R&R.”

“Nah, I’m plenty rested. Just back from a weekend meditation retreat.” Three days of silence had left me chatty, but London had already put me back on edge.

“No, mate.  R&R, a new intervention service that some friends of a friend have started.” He handed me a card.

Rohypnol ’n’ Razors. 

De-bearding trendy twats,

one shave at a time.

“Hmm. So, your … ‘friends’ … they get rid of the beard or the hipster?”

“Well, depends how much you pay.”

I asked for the number.  Just in case.


Sally inserted her earbuds, clicked “play” on her “Mindful Walking” app, and set out for a Shoreditch stroll. She’d arrived in London from Houston a few days earlier, and already the constant grey was taking its toll.

“Be active, be present!” her shrink had urged, scribbling a prescription. “One before bed. Remember Buddha’s words: ‘feelings pass, like clouds hiding a clear blue sky’.”

Buddha’d never been to Blighty.

Still groggy from the Paxil, she followed the recording’s instructions. Breathe.  Pay attention to the weight of each foot touching the pavement. What can you hear? What do you see?  Passersby speaking Spanish. Hipsters on bikes. An Amy Winehousian trainweck shouting “innit!” into her cell. A funky “coffeeteria” across the street.

A latte might perk her up.

She looked up the road. With no cars coming, she sauntered off of the sidewalk.

Winehouse wailed. Horns honked. Brakes brayed. Thud! The pain of the pavement. People rushing towards her, spinning into blackness.


“You’re lucky,” said the doctor. “Only a fractured wrist.” Pulling a marker from his pocket, he gently lifted her cast. “Let me be the first.”

He left her a new mindfulness trigger, where her watch should have been.

“Look both ways.”


Bob Merckel was awarded the not-yet-prestigious “Teclado de Mierda” (Keyboard of Shit), aka the “Teclacaca”, last night for his short story “The Trainwreck of Her Soul”. The annual prize, awarded by “Criticamos” (the literary offshoot of Spain’s political party, “Podemos”), celebrates the worst of the printed word.

During a post-awards interview, Merckel said, “What a shock! I always knew I was bad, but I never thought I’d scrape the bottom of the barrel.”

The story, hailed “a litter box of literary vomit,” is a stream-of-consciousness monologue of a 17-year old with a fraudulent Eurorail pass and a bottle of Adderall. She imagines herself as the pet cat of each of her fellow passengers, featuring gems such as, “this purring train meows to me, whatever scratching post it leads me to will be better than the claws of Carrefour cashierdom.”

Merckel said he tried to write (and finish!) something bad after struggling with the second draft of a novel he had started years ago. “Aiming for perfection was exhausting, so I gave mediocrity a shot.”

Will he return to his novel? “Well, now that I see just how bad I can be, maybe I’ll try a screenplay. Something starring Mario Casas.”


Equal parts sexy and annoying, he tapped away on his phone well through the appetizers, the latest iGadget more intriguing than the tried and true (albeit liver-spotted) fingers caressing his forearm.

“Honey, you’ll want to save your battery.”

The rest of the table talked around them, occasionally chiding the lad to join the “non-virtual” conversation.

“You know I can’t stop,” he said, shrugging steroidal shoulders to prove he was powerless. “Besides, Paul was on his.”

Sugar Bear leaned over to me, swooning, “Richie’s ADD, one of his charms.”

Not wanting to shade the intersection of this unlikely Venn diagram, nor mention the benefits of Adderall, I pocketed my cell, assuring the rest of the group I’d merely been trying to confirm tomorrow’s consultation, while mouthing “Happy hunting,” to His Textness, having recognized a certain app’s logo, which I was sure I’d logged out of hours ago, on his not-so-SmartPhone.

Halfway through the entrees, he excused himself.

“Will we see him again?” asked one the diners.

As I squelched a “not likely,” Sugar Bear explained, “Sooooo sweet. He always calls his mama this time of night.”

My vibrating pocket reminded me of tomorrow’s patient.

“Hunt’s over, Doc. Come get your dessert.”


The flight attendant announces seats upright and tray tables up as the plane takes a wide turn to the left, descending the through the clouds. The quaintest of Spanish villages, some 20 miles south of the airport comes into view. She can just make out the beachfront bar where they first sat, sipping Sangrias and gesturing at jets floating across the horizon. “Adios,” they’d giggle. “We’ll never see you again.”

Better times.

Ten more minutes till landing. The next announcement would be it is now safe to switch your cellphones back on.

All those years not knowing when he’d return, whose perfume would be on his neck, how long the next bruise would take to heal. All those times he sneered at her, saying she couldn’t make a decision, she would never follow through with anything, she could never survive on her own.

The sun is setting on her week away, ostensibly vacationing with her family, while actually putting into motion the vapor trail to her future.

She powers on her phone.

The past: Behind her.

The present: An SMS informing her, “There’s been a terrible accident.”

The future: Unknown except for one fact.

She would never see him again.


I moved into his house 21 years ago, but we’re still not sure when he moved into my head. There’ s no anniversary for “here are the keys” or “would you like a drawer?” He just started randomly vocalizing my thoughts, usually during walks.

We spend less physical time together these days. The only real changes are the streets we wander, the bedrooms we share, and lately the language that stumbles across my tongue. One I know he doesn’t comprehend.

Strolling the streets of a Spanish village this Halloween, we had passed the occasional coven of pre-teen witches and random vampires doing some afternoon trick-or-treating.

We came across the poster child for cute outside a local shop, her dad watching from the doorway. Her pumpkin-faced grin was as wide as the Costa del Sol, wobbly on toddler legs, like a tipsy adult who’d just returned to land after a week of Rollerblading on a cruise ship. “Happy baby” energy swirled around her tutu, fairy wings and witches’ hat.

“¡Ganas!” I whispered, caught in the spell of her smile.  My partner-in-mind giggled as soon as he saw her, proclaiming, “You win!”

He still lives in my head, now with Google Translate.


He opens his Kindle, wishing the on-screen sentences could drown out the chatter of the crawling-would-be-faster express.

  • The Arabic mother behind him arguing with her son (he hoped wasn’t as aggressive as it sounded).
  • A chorus of chavs chanting “like, y’know, innit.”
  • The man alongside him, barking some African dialect into an ancient Nokia, like a game show contestant who’d be electrocuted if he paused.

Whatever happened to inside voices? Does everyone need to know your business, even if it was intelligible?

He taps to the next page.

His mom used to say, “My Tony’s always reading. He’d rather read the Cheerios carton than carry a conversation.”

If only she’d let him bring Encyclopedia Brown or The Hardy Boys to breakfast. He wouldn’t have had to feign interest in nutritional values.  Being lost in a good box sure beat hearing her same old stories.

  • The bastards at the bowling alley forgot to tip me last night (again).
  • “Uncle” Frank heard about “Uncle” Dave, so we won’t be seeing them anymore.
  • New shoes as soon as we win that lottery!
  • Daddy’s coming home next month. I promise.


He wonders what’s worse: conversations you can’t understand or those you couldn’t comprehend.


She slinked into Simone’s and waited at the hostess stand, a Gucci leash dangling from her manicured hand. The Silky Terrier attached to it promptly sat down, inches from her alligator slingbacks, head bouncing like a bobble toy.

Seconds behind her, a boy, he had to be at least 5 or 6, crawled in and proceeded to circle them both, occasionally roaring. The dirt on the bottom of his pink Crocs clear evidence he was bipedal. The dog merely looked away.

She clocked us staring from the bar. “Don’t mind my Jasper.” She fluttered her unleashed hand. “He’s having a Simba day.”

“Not sure that’s king of the jungle footwear,” Becca said.

“Seriously? I am so sick of people judging my son for wearing pink. We’re raising him to be gender neutral.”

“No problem with that, love.” Becca raised her vermouth. “Here’s to gender neutrality. And more power to you for training your pet better than your child. But, I just wonder. Don’t you think we parents should draw a line, uhm, somewhere?”

“And where would that be?” she asked, as Jasper tried to lick the hostess’s leg. “Table for two, please.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Let’s start with Crocs.”


Janie’s mom shot into the dining room, yanking the Wings 8-track out of the player. “Fetch your brothers, we’re going to the beach.” She ricocheted out, leaving a Merit 100s trail and ash on the table.


“Soon as I make a call.”

“But it’s pouring, and I need to finish my geography.”

“Do it in the car.”

Twenty minutes later, they were packed into the back of the Bonneville, weaving through Beach Boulevard traffic, windshield wipers a metronome for songs they couldn’t hear because the radio was still busted.

Through the rear-view mirror, Janie spied a thin black line creeping down from behind her mother’s faux Foster Grants.

“You okay?”

“Course I am, do your homework. And Jimmy, quit kicking the goddamned seat.”

Janie squeezed her youngest brother’s knee, pulled him close, and kissed his wavy black hair. Justin was half asleep, his head bouncing against the water-streaked window.

She wished she’d found them sooner. Maybe she’d have heard more than “wants me out, Mama … can I come home?”

Hopefully the storm would pass. It’d be a long drive to Nebraska (especially without a radio), and she knew this band on the run could never afford a jet.