Happy Birthday to ME!

November 2015.

Despite my beard and stubborn little gut, there’s still an 8-year-old boy inside me that once a year wants to jump on the nearest table, put on a paper-coned hat, and shout, “It’s my birthday! What’d you get me?”

But my learned social composure and 32-year-old crow’s feet always keep me from making a scene. Luckily for the little despondent birthday boy inside, however, Thai people have cultivated a more subtle way to get attention.

“Anyone want pizza for lunch?” I blurted in the teacher’s lounge moments before morning assembly. A ripple of excitement flittered across the faces of a few of my fellows. B-r-r-r-r-ring! There was the bell that regulated the lives of student and teacher alike.

As the students lined up outside sucking in the moistening morning air, I gazed around in wonderment at how unremarkable the day would be. The sun wasn’t any brighter or dimmer. The students weren’t any more or less chipper. The sky was the same shade of pale blue with the same brownish overlays of pollution wafting here and there.

Thump! Thump! Thump! The bass drum counted in the national anthem. The flag-pulley’s irregular squeaks struck a dissonant harmony with the patriotic chimes of the xylophone no differently than any other morning. The tatters of the flag sighed apathetically in the light morning breeze.

On my last birthday, I had only been living in Thailand for a couple months, so it was the usual celebration—out to a bar for the night with any old acquaintance who could make it. The difference was that my acquaintances were new, not old, and there was actually cake. The Thais aren’t shy about carrying a cake into a bar and asking the service staff to help with cutting and plating. In a way, last year’s birthday was an official welcome to the Land of Smiles—a welcome to a foreigner using universal elements of birthday partying.

This year, my birthday landed in the middle of the workweek. That meant that I had to teach classes and get on with life as if nothing special was going on. It also meant I wasn’t going out partying that night or doing anything extravagant.

It’s only fitting, I told myself. Thirty-two is an unremarkable age. Tuesday is an unremarkable day of the week. Why should anyone make a fuss? I certainly wasn’t going to. Propriety had long taught me not to make a fuss, even on my birthday. However, honesty reminded me that I craved the attention.

So I went about it the Thai way. I ordered two large pizzas from my favorite pizza place. As the lunch hour neared its closing, my treat had finally arrived.

I carried the two giant boxes proudly through the canteen, feeling the heat of the students’ glares almost as viscerally as from the bottom of the pizza. As I crossed paths with students stumbling about as they’re wont to do during free periods, I had to stifle my laughter at how stunned and confused they were when they eyed my lunch. I became aware of a slowly rising mob of zombies salivating for the spoils of ambush. Don’t look back, I told myself.

I entered the teacher’s room, the beam of my smile lighting my way. “Oh, Lord,” uttered one British teacher.

The aromas of freshly baked dough and tomato sauce comingled and filled the room, betraying to all within nose-shot what repast we teachers were enjoying. I opened the box and felt a burst of steam flow through my face. My colleagues stood nearby, perplexed at what to do next. “Help yourselves,” I said.

They reached in and tried to manage the greasy cheesiness without the aid of plate, napkin, or fork. Eventually I brought A4 paper in from my classroom to serve as impromptu plates. And we all ate in satisfied silence. Compliments were given to the pizza restaurant, inspiring recommendations and a rough description of its location.

But in ten short minutes the tyrannical bell rang, and I left two largely uneaten pizzas on my desk in the staff room and proceeded to my next class. On my brief shuffle from staff room to classroom, rumors of “pizza” were being whispered among the students. They gazed at me with curiosity and supplication. A change was gradually infecting the students—some primal parasite prodding their mouths to water and their gait to limp. Pizzaaaa.

I finished my class without episode and reentered the staffroom. My pizza still sat there cooling. I grabbed another piece and chewed while contemplating the acute angles that marked it’s missing pieces. How in the hell was I going to finish this thing? No way was I bringing it home! I’ve become my mother—overzealous in preparation. It didn’t help that the other teachers had already eaten during the lunch hour, before the pizza arrived.

Then it occurred to me—I was in a building full of teenagers, whose appetites miraculously never wane even in spite of gluttonous gorging. I went back to my classroom and announced to the four girls milling about, “If you want a piece of pizza you may help yourselves.”

Beams of light shot from their eyes. “Really?”

“Yes, but keep it amongst yourselves. It’s a secret. I don’t have enough to go around.”

They each grabbed a slice and began chomping down on it. Immediately I realized I had made several mistakes. First, they were already late to class, and I was rewarding their tardiness with pizza. Second, there were teachers on other floors who should have had first dibs. Third, there has never been a time in human history when a teenager has been able to keep pizza a secret. Within minutes, other students were creeping out of their classrooms asking for pizza. I had to tell each student that other teachers needed to have a slice, but when the teachers have finished they could have the leftovers. That promise, however empty, was enough to keep the zombies at bay for another hour.

At afternoon break, I began visiting all the other classrooms. “I have pizza in the staffroom for all teachers, if you want a slice.” The Filipino teachers knew immediately what was up: “Oh, it’s your birthday today?”

One by one, teachers stepped into the staff room to claim their slice. Being walled with windows on all sides, the staffroom was fully visible from outside. Thus, students gathered around the windows peering in, drooling over promised pizza, groaning whenever another teacher entered the staffroom.

I entered the staffroom after making my rounds, passing a panting, murmuring mob of hungry students on my way inside. “Teacher, now?” they inquired.

“Let me make sure every teacher’s had some.”


I examined the pizza when I entered. There were 4 slices left, and I had taken a request to bring one up to the head teacher. I grabbed a slice and looked up. Fog waxed and waned on the windows of the staffroom as students smeared themselves against the glass. I couldn’t possibly pass the famished throng unscathed. I darted left where there were fewer of them, and dashed to the nearest staircase. I glanced over my shoulder—they had begun limping my way. I had only speed and wits as my advantage over them.

After delivering the pizza to my boss, I cautiously crept downstairs. They students were still smudged against the windows salivating. I ducked quickly into the staffroom–the only safe haven from the ravenous teenage mob. The pizza had been wholly consumed, with only a mound of cheese and toppings in the middle of each box. I brought the boxes into my classroom, with the undead in tow. “Eat your hearts out,” I said.

Their eyes narrowed. They licked their lips. They stared gluttonously at the boxes. After a momentary pause, they attacked the boxes. Seeing its contents, they slowly looked up from their scavenged scraps as if to say, “That’s it?” But they simultaneously shrugged and tore up chunks of cheese and toppings and devoured them. And like a gust of wind, they were gone.

Only an hour later, when the final bell had rung, did some of the students appear to me, looking human again, and wished me a happy birthday.


Ban Sokkam

We’ve just finished breakfast, and I am left alone on the breakfast mat outside to soak in my surroundings. I close my eyes. The shrill of electric saws slicing through timber resemble infants crying for milk. Low rumbles of distant engines occasionally pitch upwards as motorbikes and trucks pass by the house. Countless birds in treetop ensembles tweet harmoniously in the nearby rubber tree grove. Splashing and clattering can be heard as the neighbors clean, while chattering in Isaan over the steady clucking of chickens and crowing of roosters. Dogs bark and whimper. Leaves rustle in the breeze. The peace of this place amplifies the quietest sound.

I sniff. Clay, mud, dust, dirt. Wood smoke. Animal musk and dung. The sweetness of barbecues and boiling coconut milk. And faint herbal smells. These combine with the bittersweet aftertaste of Thai iced coffee on my tongue, and the dull dryness of my upper palette, dusted by the roadway.

I can feel the chill of the breeze, accompanied by the cool of the shade, and contrasted by the heat of the sun. My throat and feet feel dry, and I can feel the earth’s dryness scrape against my soles. But the grass and leaves are damp, slowly drying in the morning sun. The ground feels ruggedly soft, compared to the smooth, cold, hard tiled floor inside the house. A stickiness still lingers on my fingers and teeth from the rice consumed at breakfast. Most of all, I feel, smell, and taste the cleanest air I’ve ever known—rich and good—unadulterated by pollution or noise.

“Around the top of the wall, broken glass protrudes upwards, warding off intruders.”

I wander the house and its surrounding grounds.This house, like it’s surrounding village, is seeped in rustic modernity—the organic growth of steel, copper, concrete, and cement, from the clay, mud, rocks, and grass. A plot of red earth compounded within walls forged from poured cement and cinder blocks and mortar. The entrance is guarded by a painted iron gate that slides on wheels straddling a monorail track. Around the top of the wall, broken glass protrudes upwards, warding off intruders. Oxidized iron and tin creak in the breeze, shading the driveway from sun and rain.


On the veranda outside the house, clothing hangs to dry on weathered rope clinging to iron support pillars ornate with make-shift electrical installations, all battered with the rust-red of the clay-dust.

The house is made of old timber, cracked plaster, and tin roofing. Holes in the walls let in obsolete satellite TV cable and precarious electrical wiring. Inside, the electrical wiring dangles and drapes across the ceilings, providing crude lighting and power. Patterned tiles decorate the floor with reflective smoothness. Single panel doors on iron hinges, and locked with sliding bolts, hardly protect the occupants from thieves or vermin. They’re merely a formality.

My girlfriend arrives on her motorbike and I climb on. We drive the solitary road that winds through the rural plains along the Bung Khong Lung River.

"We drive the solitary road that winds through the rural plains along the Bung Khong Lung River."
“We drive the solitary road that winds through the rural plains along the Bung Khong Lung River.”

The road, bordered by wild, ragged vegetation that encroaches upon the order of what little civilization thrives here, provides the vehicular tributary for a village of 200 people. The roadside is like an alluvial plain fertilizing a hearty crop of farmers, artisans, and shopkeepers—mostly farmers. Vast stretches of rubber tree orchards, rice paddies, vegetable patches, and banana tree groves separate brief clusters of dwellings and shops. In the shade of rubber trees, farmers toil near the elevated jungas that keep watch over their land. The next harvest will barely subsist their utilities and fuel.

A soft, unsung song sweetly plucks my chords. A vague hum resonates in my organs as the pull of the planter’s piping caresses my soul. This village and its rural simplicity—its fragile poise between modernity and tradition—between the industrial and the primal—they reverberate an overtone that pulsates to the steady beat of my heart.

It is a symphony that has many movements. The sweet swell of its opener will gradually transform into the off-beat, tentative syncopation of rural toil and hardship. It plays a rhythm uncertain and anxious. It’s a dissonant counterpoint to the tragic melody of urban modernity. The rural beat is a simple grave accelerating to a steady andante—a Phrygian folklore sung by the have-nots of a forgotten fundamental. The rural song hums unheard phrases that both depend upon and provide substance to the leitmotif of mainstream Thai society. And I am the lonely baritone, momentarily duplicating their resounding bass lines, only to rejoin the tenors in the chorus.

“In the shade of rubber trees, farmers toil near the elevated jungas that keep watch over their land.”

Christmas in Rural Thailand

Today marks the last day of my visit to Isaan, the northeastern region of Thailand located near–and sharing an affinity with–Lao DPR. It’s a special day because by now my girlfriend’s family has started to like me, and because it’s the first time they’ve been around someone who gives a damn about Christmas. Like so much of the chocolate we eat on this tinsel-quality holiday of commercial cheer, it’s also bittersweet. Today, I miss my actual family, who as I write this are settling down with eggnog farts and visions of sleigh bells. And today, I’m leaving my newly acquired Thai family to return to the now-monotonous life of teaching in Pattaya.

As I write this, I sit at a picnic table constructed from bamboo shoots, while swatting flies and dogs away from barbecue chicken sitting out for sale to locals. The hollow clunk-clunk-clunk of a mortar and pestle keeps a steady tempo as Yai-Loh–my girlfriend’s mother–makes som tam.

Her shop is a makeshift vending booth, also composed of bamboo with a logged skeleton. Behind it is a raised bamboo platform for Yai-Loh to sit crossed-legged as she bashes away at strips of green papaya, chili peppers, garlic, palm sugar, fish sauce, long beans, lime, peanuts, and tomatoes. Occasionally she’s interrupted by customers, chattering in Thai, laughing, and most likely making remarks about the farang guy sitting and writing in his notebook. Except for their periodic appearance, Yai-Loh and I are alone outside. My girlfriend is inside cooking rice. When we’re alone together, we’re usually speechless due to our language barrier. By now, we’re comfortable with that, and use facial expressions and body language to communicate, often joking in a silent but powerful language, and laughing heartily at our jests.

The three of us, my girlfriend, her mother, and me, have had a tiresome 4 days together. We returned late last night from Vientiane, Laos.

Upon returning, I was craving some chocolate. Every Christmas in my memory tastes of chocolate–especially thanks to the Toblerone I receive in my stockings every year. Foreseeing this craving, and feeling the pain of being far from home, away from my family, and away from the holiday atmosphere that customarily annoys me, and knowing that nostalgia and sentimentalism are the languages of the holiday, I bought some chocolate in Udon Thani. And not just any chocolate–a special gift pack of Toblerone in a branded triangular box. And my intention wasn’t selfish. I wanted to share it with my Thai family, and give them a taste of my Christmas nostalgia.

So I came back from a tiresome visa run to Vientiane, to a home (Yai-Loh’s house) away from home (Pattaya) away from home (America), and I thought, I’ll sneak in one piece of chocolate tonight for myself. After all, I bought it, and I always sneak a peak on Christmas Eve.

I found the box next to my pillow–not where I left it under the blanket roll at the foot of the bed before we left for Vientiane. Perhaps someone–other members of the family–had cleaned the room while we were gone and placed the box kindly next to my pillow. I picked up the box and began to search its edges for its sealing tape. Instead of finding tape with that perfect factory seal–no bubbles or folds in the tape, and that transparent color-saturating quality–I found that the tape had small inconsistencies in its re-colorization of the yellow hue of the box, with small air bubbles. Its edges were also raised at the corner. The tape, in other words, had been unstuck and re-stuck. The box had been tampered with.

In a panic I lifted the tape on all three sides and removed the top of the box. In the bottom row, the middle piece of dark chocolate was missing. I checked the package count and recounted the pieces–the total number minus one! Someone had stolen a piece of chocolate–a piece of dark Toblerone chocolate!

I was hurt. Not over the missing chocolate itself–which would have been shared anyway. And not because I’m gluttonously fat either. I was hurt over the lack of respect and bewildered by this obvious breach of the code of hospitality–that someone would steal from a guest in their home. And not just any guest either–a significant other–a tentative extension of the family–a person whose lasting first impression matters more than most. I was hurt also by the lack of gratitude. I had already given so much to this family. I promised my girlfriend I could ignore their dysfunction for the sake of staying with her and enjoying her companionship.

But it wasn’t just the breach of trust, lack of respect, or principle dishonor. I was hurt because that box symbolized my holiday experience. It was home. It was a memory in the making. And someone tampered with it, and tainted it!

So I told my girlfriend. I told her my feelings in so many words, not expecting her or her family to fully understand. She was pissed. “I think my brother,” she said.

This assertion didn’t surprise me. At 18 years, he was rebelliously independent, conniving, and dishonest. My girlfriend warned me not to leave anything valuable when we left for Vientiane, for fear that he might pilfer it. Just as we were both considering the likelihood of his guilt, we heard his voice outside calling for her.

After some harsh Thai shouted back and forth, he stormed off on his motorbike. “He talk bad to me. He say he not eat it,” she said. “But he lying, I think.”

She called her mother, who was down the street in her junga, where he was also headed in a rage. She told her what happened.
Yai-Loh, after seeing her son come in crying, upset by the accusation, explained over the phone that he had been out working the fields all day, then went to play video games at a nearby Internet cafe. He hadn’t been to the house at all.

Samoa, however–my girlfriend’s niece and Yai-Loh’s ward–had cleaned the house that day. She had lately been defying her grandmother’s orders not to bring people over to the house during the day when no one else was home. Despite being a generally well-behaved, sweet 17-year-old girl–studious in school, helpful around the house and junga, and well-mannered, this disobedience and circumstantial happenstance left her looking rather suspicious. Yai-Loh chided her granddaughter amid Samoa’s insistence of her own innocence. My girlfriend remains convinced of her niece’s guilt.

Seeing a witch hunt in action, along with the realization that teenagers will be teenagers, I began to sober from my initial hurt. I assured my girlfriend, who was still conducting the investigation over the phone with her mother, that I would soon forget the offense and we should just let it lie

By Christmas morning–this morning–it had been forgotten. In fact, I had forgotten it was even Christmas. So I woke up thinking nothing of the missing chocolate, nothing of bitterness, or even bittersweetness. I just wanted to enjoy my last hours in this peaceful rural bliss by getting some writing done. I could finish a novel in this tranquility, I thought, as I walked out to the som tam stall with notebook in hand.

As I sit here writing on the bamboo table, listening to Yai-Loh bash her income into being, I begin a simple sketch of a Thai village on Christmas Day conducting business as usual, unaware that in 12 hours my friends and family will stumble sleepily to gather around their Christmas trees.
But while I write, the hollow beating ceases. Plastic rustles and bamboo creaks.

“Brandon,” Yai-Loh says nearly perfectly–I have been teaching her how to say my name all week.
I look up and smile. She hands me a translucent plastic bag containing peanut M&Ms and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. “Mah-lee klee-mah,” she says. She rarely smiles because 60% of her teeth are missing, and this gesture involves no exception.

Confused, I look up at her. ” Klee-mah?

“Uhn!” she mutters, indicating “yes” in casual Thai.

A-rai?” I ask. (“What?”)

Klee-mah, klee-mah! Mah-dee klee-mah!” She smiles, showing her missing teeth.

I take the bag, understanding only that it’s a gift. I write “Klee-mah=chocolate?” in my notebook.
My girlfriend, who has just entered the scene during this exchange, explains that her mom bought the chocolate for me that morning, feeling bad that some of mine had been stolen.

Then it hit me.

Understanding is funny that way. It often arrives late to the party. Yet it holds all the booze necessary to make the party go. So in its absence, everyone sits around waiting, nervously tapping their feet or fingers, smiling anxiously at each other. Then Understanding bursts into the room, gallons of liquor dangling from each arm. Everybody cheers, pats Understanding on the back, and begins pouring their icebreaker over their ice.

I cross out my crude interpretation “klee-mah=chocolate.” I say to Yai-Loh, smiling, “Thank you! Merry Christmas to you, too!”


Crazy Kate

This kind of shit only happens in books. Last week during assembly, one of the Thai teachers announced a singing competition. Being the nationalists Thai people are, the students were being encouraged to compete in singing “Phleng Chat Thai,” the Thai national anthem. I immediately thought of Katie.

Crazy Kate, they called her. Her parents are Swiss, and she looks every bit as European as they do—pale skin, blond hair, blue eyes. But despite her Swiss heritage, every morning she would belt out “Phleng Chat Thai” during assembly. I can thank her for my ability to hum the anthem on command. I can’t very well thank the school band, since the only instrument playing the melody is a xylophone, drowned out by clashing cymbals and bashing drums. Apparently this school can only afford a percussion section. Anyway, thanks to Katie, I now know the Thai national anthem.

In the teacher’s lounge, we started discussing the competition. Mostly mocking it. What students would be that interested in competing over singing the national anthem? “Katie would do it,” someone quipped.

Everyone laughed. “God, I hear her singing it every morning,” I said. People chuckled. “No seriously, she practically screams it from literally right behind me.”

“How is she these days?” Fred asked, looking at Mickey, the director of studies.

“She hasn’t had an episode for about a year now,” he answered.

“Episode?” I asked.

“She’s a bit crazy, that one. She’s been known to bite people.”

“Seriously?” I chuckled.

“I’m afraid so,” Mickey said.

“Eugene wouldn’t even go near her, did you notice that?” asked Roy, another teacher.

“Haha! Yes!” said Mickey. He looked at me, “Last year Eugene was the student body president. Whenever he saw Katie coming down the hallway toward him, he’d turn around and run the other way.”

Everyone laughed.

“So don’t stand too close to her in the morning,” Fred joked.

This concerned me a bit. Katie was in my homeroom class. If she had an episode, I’d be responsible for dealing with it. I’d have to call the hospital if someone were injured. I’d have to call her parents. I’d have to monitor her medication. “But she’s better now,” I asked.

“Yes, she spent some time in Singapore sorting out her medication. Since she’s been back she’s acted rather normal,” said Mickey.

“Is it true she bit Matthew, too?” Fred asked with a grin on his face. Matthew was the head of English studies.

“Haha! Yes I nearly forgot about that!” Mickey replied. Mickey turned to me, “Matthew used to teach Secondary 1 and 2, back when Katie was Secondary 1. She got herself into a tuft with another girl for some reason. Matt tried to break them up and she bit him on the finger. He’s still got the scar to prove it! Haha! Crazy Kate!”

More laughter.

“But she’s under control now,” I reiterated.

“Look, you’ve got him all scared now, Mickey!” said Roy.

Laughing, Mickey put out his hands and waved him in a calming manner, “Not to worry, not to worry. She’s got her meds sorted out and she’s been acting fine now.” Mickey paused to think for a moment. “Though she has been on edge lately, I’ll be honest.”

The bell rang. I needed to run to my next class. The Secondary 2B Remedial English. God, they were exhausting!

I hadn’t thought too much about Katie’s behavior until today. Normally, when I come to homeroom, she’s cheerful. “Good morning, sir,” she always says.

This morning we didn’t have homeroom. The Thai P.E. teacher led marching practice for Sports Day this Friday. If this morning was any indication of how Sports Day would go, I can only expect disorganized chaos on Friday. Having skipped homeroom, I had to check in with my students during free time. So far I had five students unaccounted for.

I ran into Katie in the hallway on the way to report the absences. “Good morning, Katie. Have you seen Marcus today?”

She looked at me startled. She stared at me a moment, then asked, “Why?”

“He wasn’t in assembly this morning.”

“Oh…no, I haven’t seen him.”

I decided to disregard the issue of Katie’s potential unstableness for the time being. She seemed off, but then again I don’t really know any of these students very well. Besides, we all have our off days.

The students of Secondary 2B Remedial English were better behaved than normal today. But that isn’t saying much. The fact that they were all there, and that some weren’t skiving off, was already an improvement. And I was trying a new strategy: work together to improve. I basically set the class up so that they were largely accountable to each other through games and, although I don’t normally condone this, corporal punishment. So they were starting to cooperate and help each other out.

Thirteen is an awkward age. And I’m the only teacher with enough youthful energy to deal with the pandemonium that can be a Secondary 2 classroom, much less a classroom full entirely of delinquent 13-year-olds. But today they were quite well behaved, all things considered. In fact there was only one odd disturbance, besides the usual mundane disciplinary issues one can always expect with such a group.

It happened when I started writing on the board. We were revising first conditional sentences. While I was writing on the board, I heard the classic Thai “Oo-wee!”—the sound all Thais make when something bad or unfavorable occurs. I turned around and caught Rainbow, the only girl in the class, reaching towards Jay—one of the usual skivers. “Teacher, what’s this?” asked Jay playfully.

I walked over and saw a whitish-grey bunny sitting on his lap, its soft fur sticking up and pulsating with its startled beating heart. “Where did you get that?”

He pointed to Rainbow. Sheepishly she raised her hand and pointed to the side of her desk where she was keeping the bunny.

“Ok. Well, give it back to her, please,” I said.

“Ouch!” He said as the bunny dug its claws into his leg. He handed the bunny back. “Teacher what is it in English?”

“Rabbit,” I said. “Or in this case, ‘bunny,’ since its still a baby.” Never shying from exploiting a learning opportunity, I wrote the word “bunny” on the board. The class repeated it in unison.

“Rainbow, you should put the bunny somewhere safe for today. And please don’t bring it in tomorrow.”

She nodded.

At the end of the lesson, I returned to the teacher’s lounge, where my desk is. Peter arrived not long after. He’s taught the other Secondary 2B English class—the group that’s not so at-risk. “How’d it go today with the buffalo?” he asked.

“Not so well, as usual,” I replied. “I think we need to rethink whether they should be taking the same exam as your class.”

He agreed. So we sat down and started looking at the exam to figure out what we can simplify or cut.

After we had worked for about an hour, Mickey barged into the teacher’s lounge. “You won’t believe what’s happened! Katie’s bit someone again!”

“Christ! What happened?”

“Someone had snuck a rabbit into school today. She was petting it in science class on the fourth floor, then she just switched! She grabs it by the neck and heads for the window. She thrusts the window open and threatens to throw the rabbit out!”

“Is it ok?”

“Yeah, the rabbit’s fine. But Tina and Christine didn’t fare so well. In the process of stopping her and getting the rabbit out her hands, she bit Tina and slugged Christine in the face!”

“Where on earth did they get a rabbit?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea. Strange isn’t it? Anyway, Christine’s going to have a black eye. Her face is all red around her eyes.”

“Wow! And are they taking Tina to the hospital?”

“No she said she’s fine. But I think she should go. Anyway, Katie’s parents are on their way.”

“Crazy Kate strikes again.”

Needless to say my day got a bit more complicated. And I couldn’t help thinking that the poor thing wouldn’t get to sing the national anthem after all.

Note: the events of the above story are true. It happened just today, actually. But I changed the names of the people Dragnet style. Admittedly, for the purpose of storytelling, there were a few “artist touches.”