Best friend

“Mommy, but I really, really, really want a puppy”, Cody sniffled as his mom hugged him and drew him closer, now completely enclosing him in her arms: shivering shoulders, knees bent up to his chin. “Okay”, she finally declared with a relief, with the worst deliberations behind them, as if celebrating a difficult decision, “We are getting a puppy!”

That night Cody dreamed of a brightly lit meadow that he and his beloved puppy ran across tirelessly. He’d been asking his parents for a pet for what seemed like a lifetime. Cody was five and not a day had gone by without him badgering them. There was an excuse every time he brought it up. Like their apartment was small… or Dad is allergic to cat dander … Or baby Emma is too small for a pet to be around … or Mom lost her job. Cody wasn’t buying any of that. After all, how can this all possibly matter?

Finally, the ice melted. Mom and Dad agreed on a puppy. Not too fast, they said, first we need to make sure you’re ready to have a puppy. He’d been trying hard – helping with chores, taking care of Emma. The day had come when they were ready to get in the car and head over to the pet store.

Dad was whistling a happy tune, Cody’s heart jumping out of his chest, Mom and Emma closely behind them. “Well, that’s going to be an problem”, muttered Dad. “Oh no”, Cody’s heart dropped as he followed Dad’s troubled look and saw a flat. Mom signed but quickly recovered, “George, just get it fixed, honey, that shouldn’t take long”. Dad countered, “Sheryl, someone slashed two tires with a knife, I think it is going to take some time!”

They never made it to the pet store that day. Later on, Mom consoled Cody, “It’s okay, baby, we’ll go next weekend”. He sighed and went to sleep, upset and wondering why someone would try to carve their names on a tire when there are so many wonderful trees around.

Next weekend took forever to come but, as promised, the family headed to the pet store. Dad stopped at the red light. Seconds later, their car got a big jolt. “Is everybody okay?” Dad yelled and then said something short that Cody or Emma couldn’t understand but Mom scolded him about: “George … The kids!” Dad stormed out but put on the breaks when he realized he was dealing with a 90-year old offender in a Cadillac. “Well, look at that, what are we going to do now???” A tow truck showed up 3 hours later. They all got into a rental but it was too late for a pet store and the mood was ruined. Cody was beyond himself. When he drives his car outside and bumps into Sean’s, nobody yells or says weird short words. And he’s pretty sure Sean’s parents still take him to a pet store after that.

Another few weeks went by. He overheard Mom talking to Dad in the living room “George, are you avoiding this? We promised Cody, you can’t do that to him”. “Sheryl, we’ll go, I promise, it’s just these bozos in Corporate are driving me nuts, you know that!” Cody had no idea what bozos meant but he knew he didn’t like them.

In a couple of days Dad got sad news that Nana passed away. Cody loved Nana and almost forgot about a puppy until one day Mom and Dad decided on the pet store again.

There were no carvings or accidents this time, and they finally made it to the pet store. Cody walked around, taking his time, looking into cages, when he saw a black lab puppy that he thought was the one. “I am going to get my Mom and Dad, I want this puppy!”, he blurted out to the nearby salesman and went off. “Mom, Dad, I found him!!” He gasped for air as he ran back to get them, grabbed their hands, dragged them to the cage only to see that it was empty. “Where did he go?” He turned around and saw a fat red-haired boy, licking a whirly lollipop, his mom next to him and that salesman holding his puppy! He couldn’t help it and started crying as Mom went into argument with the salesman and the boy’s mom. “Well, it’s our puppy and that’s the end of it!” The boy’s mom kept on shouting. “Charlie loves his puppy, right, Charlie? You think you rich people can just snatch stuff away from us??” Dad tried to chime in, “Sheryl, it’s alright, we’ll find another puppy”. Mom snapped, “Whose side are you on, George?? Your son’s or the chubby chubbs’ here???” The boy’s mom then yelled that same word that Dad said before and stormed out. “George, I’m sorry, but this was the last drop”, Mom started crying but Cody’s own tears dried out as he wondered what Mom was talking about: “Drop? It’s not even raining…”

Later that night, when Mom put Cody to bed, she held him close and whispered “Cody, baby, your Dad will not live with us for some time, but I promise you, promise you that we will buy you a puppy”. The dream of him and the puppy on the summer meadow seemed like a miracle now.

Another month went by. It was winter, Dad moved out, and Mom, Cody and Emma were getting used to the new life. One day after school, Cody was at home with Emma and the nanny, looking in the window at how the sun played with snow and icicles in all kinds of colors. The door swung open, a gust of cold air and steam rushed in, with it came Mom, red-cheeked, laughing, happy, and she was holding the most precious creature in the entire world – a white, black and brown puppy! Cody grabbed the dog, hugged and kissed him, and the puppy returned love incessantly licking Cody’s face. Everything around him looked different now and his heart was singing. “I just went to that shelter downtown and saw him, and I thought Cody would love this guy”, Mom told the nanny. And to Cody, “What will you call him, Cody?” “I don’t know yet, mommy. Maybe … Brownie?”

For the first time in months Cody slept peacefully, Brownie whimpering on a pillow next to his bed. Mom closed the door and sighed. She went to the living room and sat on the couch listening to the comfortable silence, and for the first time in a long while she knew that things would get a lot better from now on, no matter what.

Cherry pit

I looked at the cherry pit and moved it closer to my face, as if inspecting it. And I thought to myself: “This is the one”.

When I was a kid, I loved cherries. I also loved cherry pits – pitting them, often with bare hands, looking at them, spitting them out. It was intriguing that there was a rock inside food.

When I was 3, my mom washed me a whole plate of cherries. I ate one or two for starters. Next, I filled a mouthful with 10 or 15, chewed slowly and skillfully spat the pits out one by one. Then I started thinking, what else can I do with cherries and, more importantly, with pits? I thought, ”It would be cool to plant a cherry pit in my nose”. I studied the next one carefully and stuck it up my nostril. Nothing happened, so I thrust it further and waited patiently.

The pit got wedged so high up and swelled so fast that no finger in the world could ever pry it out.

My mom ran into the room, following my outcry for help. She rushed me to the doctor, where, with the help of 3 nurses and what looked like pliers, an enormous, swollen up pit was extracted out of my nose, onto a metal tray.

Fork in the road

Caleb wiped off the sweat with his plead-sleeved arm and sighed, crunched over on the bench, looking older, more fragile. “I’m not feeling too hot, mother”. Darlene held his face in her cool, callous hands, couldn’t find a familiar, devilish sparkle in light-blue, cataract eyes and muttered in a deep voice: “We are going to see a doctor”.

The hospital was a mere 20 minutes away but, not knowing the area, she took extra turns before pulling up to the emergency room. “Oh Lord, Caleb, you’ve gone pale as paper!” She rushed to the passenger side and helped him out. The doors slid open and the air of death and desperation mixed with smell of blood, sweat and iodine enveloped them. “We have a real emergency here!”, her scream at the top of the human sound spectrum. Caleb crushed in the chair. “Mother…. It hurts really bad”. “Can we get someone over here, pleeeeease!!!”, Darlene started panicking, wringing hands, biting lips. Seconds later, Caleb in a wheelchair, carted behind the flap doors, Darlene by his side, consoling him: “It’ll be fine, Caleb, just hold on”. The doctor was older, a wise-looking owl with bushy eyebrows that he frowned, it seemed, upon everything. “So, Caleb, what happened?” Darlene butted in, “We are on vacation from Nebraska, headed to the ocean side, and Caleb always wanted to see the ocean. We’ve never left Hastings, you know, and…”. “Can you please just tell me what happened?” The doctor interrupted. “So sorry. We are on a road trip, and yesterday was so warm, so we stopped at a park, saw a lake and Caleb said, it’s still a ways to the ocean, I feel like a swim, Darlene. And so he went”. The doctor weighed each word, as if going through an encyclopedia in his head, and leaned towards the nurse. “Blood and urine, and CAT scan. No X-rays for now”.

The painkillers were still working magic on Caleb when the doctor briskly walked in, openly nervous. “Caleb, you have contracted necrotizing fasciitis, or more commonly known as flesh-eating disease. I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is. You have to treat it immediately”. Darlene went into offense. “Do what you need to do. We have insurance, you know, and some money”. Caleb interrupted, “How much time do I have, doc?” “24 hours at the most. Maybe less. You two stay put, the nurse will be here to get you”. Caleb looked at the wife and for a moment she saw that boyish glint again. He started peacefully, “Darlene, honey, what am I clinging to here? I’m almost done anyway. Nothing will ever bring Scottie back. Remember what he always dreamt of? And that was our dream too? I just want to see the sea, smell the wind, touch the sand. Please… I’m 84 years old, what am I doing here?” Darlene hesitated, wiped off a lone tear and carted him out.

When the nurse came back, they were long gone.


Isn’t it amazing when it snows in Miami? Good thing some kids got out in the street yesterday and made me. Especially that little girl who gave me a hug – I think she’s a friend now. The kids thought of everything – a carrot nose, plastic rings for eyes, sticks for arms. I feel like I’ve been in a cage my whole life, and now I’m free. Isn’t it great that it’s 34 degrees in Miami?

A friend just stopped by, lifted his leg and muttered: “Hey, don’t pretend it’s all good and dandy, you know it’s all going south tomorrow, I heard a weatherman”. I know he’s right. He scurried off and I sighed. Last night I had a dream, a distant memory of my great-great-great-grandfather moving up north. The sweet sound of just two words – Northern Canada – has been ringing in my ears since. I can’t get rid of that dream now. Wouldn’t it be great to be there, just to stand there, look across the white plains and be in my element? Free forever?

A black bird landed on my shoulder. She tried to eat my nose but I still like her. I think she’s a friend. Someone walked by and she flew off. Black birds are mysterious. I wonder if they live in Northern Canada too…

It’s getting dark. I guess it’s soon now. It’s making me sad. That little girl from yesterday is right there, she’s waving at me. She’s gone now. I’ll miss her. Better get some sleep…

It’s sunny. I don’t want to open my eyes but I have to. It’s so bright. The weatherman was right, he’s always right. I feel shorter for some reason. Is my mind playing tricks on me? The sun is hurting me now… Oh… what is it on the ground? I think it’s my arm… I see that girl, and the black bird is back… and the four-legged friend… they are looking at me and smiling… farewell, my good friends, until next time….

Isn’t it awesome that it snowed in Miami?….