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Contemporary Fiction Funny

I hated Toronto winters. They dragged on and on. I missed the sun and its warmth. It wasn’t just cold. The wind and dampness made it bone chilling. As runners, Peter and I would slosh and slide through the slush and snow on the sidewalks. My feet would burn until they became numb. My shoes and socks would retain their wetness and add to my misery. I could not find gloves warm enough to prevent my fingers from turning purple and feeling like they were on fire. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered I had Raynaud’s phenomenon. My little blood vessels in my fingers, toes, even my nose would spasm in the cold and their blood supply would be compromised. The worst-case scenario could have been a lost finger, toe or even nose. Maybe I’d be sent to a leper colony. That was not even the worst of it. The cold wind would send my bronchial tubes into spasm. I was also blessed with asthma. So early in those cold weather runs my throat would tighten and burn but I persisted. The cold would not defeat me. I was up for the challenge. So, when I finished Medical School, I moved to the Northwest Territories and to work in an Eskimo clinic. Surely Eskimos could teach me to overcome my cold intolerance.

The Canadian government made an enticing offer of incentives and subsidies to motivate my move. I was single and adventurous. Besides, I could save a fortune during my five-year commitment and afford to live in a big city in the future. Maybe, I’d move somewhere warm if they’d have me. In the meantime, I would learn to overcome my aversion to the cold and embrace Inuit culture. I’d also be working in an underserved community and providing much needed healthcare.


So much for good intentions, I lasted two days. When I walked off the plane in Yellowknife, my beard froze, my face burned, and I could not feel my hands or feet.  After one day of work and a walk to my car which would not start, I’d had enough. I resigned, applied for a work visa in the States and flew to Cabo San Lucas for a warm climate vacation.

I lay on the beach for hours soaking in the warmth of the sun. When I finally jumped into the ocean for the first time, my body tensed up and my lungs spasmed. The water was friggin’ cold! I swam like a bat out of hell and in a few minutes, my body acclimated to the temperature. Still the damage was done. I had PTSD. I could not escape the cold. When I got out of the water, I sat in the hot sun for another few hours and then took a hot shower. Dinner was in a few hours, and I was meeting a few snowbird friends at the Giggling Marlin. It was a favorite with the guys. They loved the party atmosphere and their margaritas. I needed a stiff drink. To be honest, I had never had a margarita and was curious about all the fuss.

I walked on the broken sidewalks from my hotel past glitzy storefronts and the throng of street vendors trying to sell me vacation packages. They usually were strategically standing in booths along the way but occasionally followed me along the sidewalk. Every one of them had a special deal for me. They offered big sea fishing, passes to exclusive golf courses and of course invitations to a new resort. Inevitably, most of the invitations included a free meal if I sat through hours of a time share sales pitch. I had been warned by my buddies and waved my new ‘friends’ off. After fifteen minutes, I turned down a busy side street and saw a white stone wall with the name Giggling Marlin painted in large print. As I approached, from a distance, I heard the Eagles singing Hotel California and loud chatter. I entered a small courtyard in front of the bar/ restaurant and could see my friends sitting at a large table an even larger open-air courtyard. There was a man in a sombrero with shot glasses of tequila walking from table to table enticing young women to hang upside down from a pulley and do shots at the back of the restaurant. It was a festive atmosphere with dancing, drink and mayhem. My friend Jake stood with a drink in his hand and waved me over. Jake, Steve and Stu had clearly had a head start with the margaritas. Two empty pitchers sat on the table.

“Hey Robbo, come join the fun! You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” Jake called over a waiter and ordered a super-sized glass of margarita. When it arrived, I thought it was just a Slushy. Later I realized it was frozen. As a virgin margarita drinker and very thirsty, I inhaled half the drink through a straw. In a few seconds, I had a brain freeze, my esophagus went into spasm. My PTSD kicked in. I needed a hot drink immediately and the boys ordered me an Irish coffee. Jake and the boys loved it when the waiter lit my drink on fire. I drank it so fast that I burnt my palate. Out of desperation, I took another sip of my margarita with the same result-brain freeze! Would I never learn? Fortunately, my enchilada appeared and after wolfing it down, my body temperature returned to normal. I pushed my margarita aside and after an hour of jokes and stories, I wobbled back to the hotel and crawled into bed. I awoke in the middle of the night shivering. Someone had turned the air conditioner up high. I could not escape the cold.

During the next week in Cabo, I only swam in the heated pool and avoided frozen drinks.  At the end of the week, I received a notice that I had an interview in San Diego. I said my goodbyes to my friends and flew to sunny Southern California. I looked forward to more warm weather runs on the beach. When I arrived, there was a dense fog, but the temperature was sixty degrees, perfect for a run. I registered at a hotel, put on my running shoes, socks and shirt and was running in the marina in minutes. Within seconds, I felt a chill in my bones and tightness in my chest. The fog was damp and toxic. A cold cloud was following me. It was my fate. I picked up speed and entered a park with a dirt path.


I was so concerned about the cold that I had not paid attention to the path in front of me.  My toe caught on a large rock, I fell, hit my head and lost consciousness. When I awoke, there was a uniformed man standing over me and an ambulance with flashing lights a few feet away. There was a crowd gathering. I was chilled and couldn’t stop shivering.  My fingers, toes and nose burned, and I had a searing headache.  I understood why my head hurt but why was I shivering? While I was trying to unravel the mystery, the uniformed man began to address me.

“Hello sir, I’m a paramedic. You’ve had a fall, hit your head and lost consciousness. I think you’re going to be fine. Some runners saw you fall and called us. We’re going to take you to Scripps hospital to get checked out. Your fingers and nose are blue, and we can’t get any reading on our oximeter. We couldn’t find any ID or a cell phone. Is there anyone we need to call?”

“No, my family is in Toronto, and I don’t want to alarm them. I’m a doctor. I think I’ll be fine. I have Raynaud’s and that’s why my fingers are blue. No need to take me to the hospital.” I tried to rise but felt woozy. I realized I had bandages on my forehead and elbows. I lay down again and asked: “Why the bandages? Was I bleeding?”

The paramedic shook his head. “They’re ice packs.”

It figured.

December 03, 2023 22:14

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Mary Bendickson
23:03 Dec 05, 2023



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