ROK of Ages : Calculating Age in Korea

It’s no big shock to anyone who has lived in Korea or studied a bit about the culture that Koreans count their ages differently than westerners. Koreans count the gestation period towards the life of the child (which should speak volumes about where this country would side culturally in a “Does life begin at conception?” debate). Thus, once the child is born, he/she is technically about 9 months old. Koreans get a little sneaky here and just round it up to 1 year.

Likewise, when the New Year comes around (meaning January 1st) *everyone* in Korea celebrates a birthday. Yea! Everyone tacks on an additional year. So, what happens later in the year when the date of their actual birthday comes to pass? More celebrations! (But no adding numbers to their age this time around. Boo.)

Thus calculating one’s age can be a bit tricky when asked (and believe me, you WILL be asked…a LOT). It’s possible for a baby to be born in December (1 year old at birth), then be considered 2 years old a few days later on January 1st. That little tyke won’t add another year until the following January, but it is a bit overwhelming to think that your newborn baby has zoomed up to 2 years of age so quickly.

I first encountered the Korean aging system while living in Guam from 2009-2011. We operated a Kids Club at the hotel resort I worked at and there was a clear minimum 5 year-old age cut-off. The waivers we had the parents sign were available in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and English. The sheets required the parents to write the date of birth of their kids. Often times, we’d catch sneaky parents trying to put their 4 year old kids there, relying on the trusty old Republic of Korea Department of Aging Mathematics to handle the paperwork. Not on my watch, folks.

In fact, I think I’d like to see Koreans get even more exact with aging. Instead of calling a 9-month old newborn 1 year old, why not wait another 3 months and celebrate a true full year? Well, they kinda already do! It’s a 100-day celebration (백일), so close enough. Besides, maybe it’s a little creepy to start counting on the exact 1 year mark. Then you’ll live the rest of your life knowing a little too much about what season your parents like to get giddy.

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Fight Fire with Fire: Korea’s Love Affair with Spicy Cuisine

Koreans have an expression called: “이열치열” which translates as “fight fire with fire.” This expression is most often used regarding Korean cuisine, and especially in the summer months. Foods that are both temperature hot (삼계탕, ginseng chicken soup) or spicy hot (take your pick of nearly any Korean dish)

Tonight I had some spicy jjimdalk with my neighbors (also expats). We had two types. Regular and spicy. Normally, regular is fine with me but on occasion I will have the spicy variety to assess where my tolerance currently sits with spicy Korean food.

See, when I arrived in Korea 4.5 years ago, I remember being rather confused about spice. At the time, it seemed to me that Korean food was relatively bland in taste (think veggie-based dishes) and that they used spice to “shock” flavor into a dish~ to give it at least something for the taste buds to respond to.

However, in the past 4.5 years, I’ve watched as my tolerance for spicy food has steadily grown, getting to the point of being able to stomach spicy 쭈꾸미 (baby octopus) as well as the aforementioned 찜닭.

I think part of the appeal to eating spicy food here is that it forces one to savor the full taste of whatever sweet counterpart has equipped the dish. In the video above, you’ll notice the couple sipping on sweet peach juice, a necessity when taking down spicy tteokpokki. I think that the juice is more appreciated, more revered, when acting as a sweetening and cooling agent against the strong, ripping spice of the main course. Perhaps it’s something about balance, or maybe it just serves as justification for having a sweet dessert after the meal. After all, the juice can be sipped during the meal and these restaurants often offer complimentary bingsu (빙수), or Korean shaved ice, as a proper dessert.

이열치열 can be a blessing to some or a death sentence to others. What’s your favorite kind of Korean spicy dish? How was your tolerance when you first tried it? Leave a comment and thanks for reading!

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F2 Visa: Upgrading Your Life in Korea (Pt. II)

[UPDATE: A new Points list has been released by immigration. Links are provided below. Valid from July 20, 2015]

Over two years ago, I posted about the F-2 (F-2-7) points visa offered by the Korean government. Often referred to as “the points visa” I was interested in completing the steps to obtain it since I knew I would be in Korea long term.

Now, over two years later, I have successfully obtained the visa and would like to share my experience.

What is the F-2 Points Visa?

The points visa is based on one gaining 80 points from a list provided by the Immigration department. Click here for the English Breakdown: 07.20 KIIP Update English (07.20.2015 Update) However, I also recommend checking out the Korean version, since the Immigration officers will reference this when processing your application and there are a few things that aren’t translated properly into the English form (more on that later). Here’s the Korean version [updated July 20th version] 07.20 KIIP Update Korean.

Other blogs break down the points, so I won’t get into that here, except for how it unraveled in my personal situation.

The Korean Immigration Integration Program (KIIP)

Now, most participants will need to take part in KIIP (Korean Immigration Integration Program, 한국사회통합프로그램). This is a state-funded Korean language / culture study course offered for free to participants. If nothing else, it is an excellent way to get some free Korean classes. When working towards the points visa, it will give you 25/26 points towards the 80 you are building towards. (More on the 25/26 discrepancy below)

KIIP consists of 5 Levels. Levels 1-4 are grammar lessons. Level 5 is called Understanding Korean Society and Culture. It is not a grammar-learning course.

To participate in KIIP, I first registered for my placement test via the Socinet website. There’s an English option for most of the forms, but anyone who has used Korean-style sites before should be relatively accustomed to the procedure. After making an account, I signed up for the test. It was held on June 8, 2013 at Yeungnam University in Daegu.

Taking the KIIP Placement Test at Yeungnam University, Daegu.

Taking the KIIP Placement Test at Yeungnam University, Daegu.

The test involved a grammar and listening test, similar to TOPIK or other standardized tests. Being a placement test, one could feel the questions increasing in difficulty. After the written test, we were shuttled to another room to do the reading/speaking test. For this part, I sat with 4 other test takers directly in front of the exam proctor. Since I was sitting on the end, I had to start. I read the short passage taped to the table (only about 4-5 sentences about a girl who enjoyed spending her time watching movies on the weekend), then answered some comprehension questions about it. (ie. “What does the girl like to do?” “How does watching movies make her feel?” etc.). Then the proctor asked me a random question: “Describe for me a national holiday (명절) in Korea.” So, I started talking about Chuseok (추석) and described all I knew about it. She then went down the line of other students who had to read / answer the *exact* same questions. Then the test was over.

Via the Socinet website, I was able to see I had been placed in Level 4. This was the highest grammar class of the KIIP system. So, I was pleased to have been placed so high, allowing me to skip the lower levels, saving me gobs of time.

Level 4 KIIP class at Yeungnam University, Daegu.

Level 4 KIIP class at Yeungnam University, Daegu.

I registered for the Level 4 class via Socinet again. This was in March 2014. (I had a busy summer 2013, so had to push it off). I did my time, took my notes, and passed the final test with relative ease.

I then registered for Level 5 and took that in October 2014. Again, I put in my required time, took my notes, and did my test. This time, during the final test, there was another similar speaking component. Seeing as how the test was administered at the Daegu Office of Immigration, we had to answer some questions in front of one of the Immigration employees. One question was to describe what we knew about Jeju Island. Another question was to recite / sing what we knew of the Korean national anthem and describe the national anthem from our own country.

Attending KIIP Level 5 at Keimyung University, Daegu.

Attending KIIP Level 5 at Keimyung University, Daegu.

One thing I should mention is that I *loved* the text for KIIP Level 5. It’s like the Cliffs Notes of Korean history and culture, written for non-Koreans, so uses easy language and is very visual. I wish this book was available in the marketplace. It’s contents are very valuable I think.

KIIP Level 5

KIIP Level 5 “Understanding Korean Society” textbook.


KIIP Level 5

KIIP Level 5 “Understanding Korean Society” textbook.

After passing Level 5, I was ready to head to Immigration and get my points totaled! And *this* is where the headache began.

Applying for the F2 Visa

First Attempt:

As soon as I found out I had passed Level 5, I headed over to the Daegu Office of Immigration to get my points calculated. In my calculation, I was over the necessary 80 points. One of the things I handed in was proof of having worked 6 years in a professional field back in the States prior to coming to Korea. I had worked in the professional security world and served as a Security and Fire Life Safety Manager for one of Denver’s high rise office towers.

The immigration officer accepted this documentation and said I was over the 80 points needed, however, I would need to gather tax documentation for at least 3 consecutive years from back home. But, not to worry, he said. I could request those documents and immigration would accept a PDF showing it.

So, I went home, emailed my old manager, and woke up the next morning with the requested tax documents, in PDF format, in my inbox. Again, I went to immigration, pulled my number, and waited. When my number was called, I found myself sitting across from a different immigration officer. I explained how I had been in the office on the previous day and was ready to submit my new documents. This officer, however, refused all work experience from back home citing that the experience had to be in a related field. Here, he produced the original Korean form of the points breakdown and showed me, in Korean, that it states it needs to be in a related field (which it wasn’t in my case). I told him that the other officer said it was fine. The two talked. Then the officer I had originally spoken with apologized and said he was mistaken.

Not only this, but the new officer insisted that passing Level 4 of KIIP was equivalent to 15 Korean language points, not 16 as specified in the documentation I had (which is linked above). He said TOPIK Level 4 is 16, but KIIP Level 4 is only 15. I asked him for documentation, and he swiveled his computer around to show me that indeed it was only 15 points. I asked for the date of that document. It was dated April 22, 2013. Mine was dated April 17, 2013. That means there was an updated version made 5 days after the original was published and released to the public. I asked the officer for a printed copy of his updated points breakdown, but he refused, claiming it was an “internal document”. I was pretty upset at the inconsistency here. He said I had 79 points and suggested I “just pass TOPIK 5” and all would be ok.


I took my documents and went home.

Second Attempt

In February 2015, I had to renew my normal Korean visa, so when I went in I decided to take all my documents again and see where my points stood. This time I spoke with another immigration officer who tallied the points and said I had 79. She suggested I do the 50 hours of community service and come back. I asked if there was anything else I needed. She said no. Just the document showing my 50 hours. So, I renewed my other existing visa, and left.

Third Attempt

A few months later, this time May 2015, after having successfully fulfilled 50 hours of community service over 6 different sessions (via festival event planning with the YMCA in Daegu), I returned to the Daegu Office of Immigration with my documents and spoke to the same officer I had spoken to in February. She didn’t remember me, no big deal, but when she calculated my points, she said I had 80 now, but also needed *an additional* 5 more documents. I was not too shocked anymore to see the goal posts changed on me once again. I started complaining to her that everyone in the office kept shifting the target around on me and telling me different things. I reminded her that in February she had told me the community service document was *all* I needed.

She apologized and said the other 5 documents would be easy to obtain (recent phone bill to establish residence, 2014 income earnings [I still had the 2013 earnings statement with me then], bank account official document, employer’s certificate of registration and tax info, etc.)

Feeling a bit guilty perhaps, she said I could leave my documents with her, pay the 100,000 application fee, 30,000 won card fee, and a 5,000 delivery fee, fax in those 5 documents, and then they would process my F2 and mail it out to me. In a huff, I did as she asked. (Side note, I had brought a few profile pictures of myself for the application, knowing they would need it, however the background at the studio was gray and they only accept pure white backgrounds, so they made me take new pics in the basement for a 7,000 won fee.)

…and now things get really complicated…

I gathered those 5 documents and faxed them in. Then the immigration officer called me and said that for 2014, I had paid 980,000 won in federal income tax in Korea. The point bracket shows 1 point for paying over 1 million (which I had done for the previous 3 years, including the document from 2013 she had originally approved). So, she said sorry, but they wouldn’t process my visa because I was down to 79 points again. That’s right.  I lost a point because in 2014 I happened to pay 20,000 won (about $20) under the threshold requirement.


She said that unfortunately they could not refund the 100,000 won application fee they had taken from me just 3 days prior.

Oh….was I ever livid.

Thankfully, it was a Friday, so I could cool my temper down over the weekend before aggressively campaigning for that extra darn point the following week.

Over my 4.5 years living in Korea I had successfully completed 4 YMCA language academy Korean classes. There’s a part of the points where 1 point is given for “Korean Language Training”. The Korean version says:


Nowhere in the Korean does it mention it must be from a university. The YMCA courses are all recognized by the 국립국어원 (National Korean Language Institute). It’s not some fly-by-night language school. All teachers are certified. I then presented the 4 수료증 (specifically stated in clear letters on the top of each certificate and underlined in red in the requirement above).

YMCA Certificate of Completions

YMCA Certificate of Completions

Daegu Immigration shot back by saying that it’s only for university programs. I mentioned they don’t specify anything about universities. They were adamant. Only university programs qualified for this point.


The only other thing I could think of was to re-approach my previous work experience back in the States. I worked in the security field but also published articles about the industry in national trade journals during my tenure there. Also, I had spent the past 3 years working as assistant editor for the Daegu Compass magazine and had just been offered a promotion to Editor-in-Chief. Perhaps they would accept it now?

Well, after a few days of volleying back and forth over it, they finally accepted it. I think they just wanted to get rid of me and realized I wasn’t going to give up over 1 measly point. So, they accepted the work experience, which put me to the 80 points (perhaps over? I don’t know), and sent me my new F2 visa! I received it about a week and a half later.

One side note: I was under the impression that the visa was an automatic 3-year visa. Two of my classmates from the KIIP Level 4 course were given 3 year visas. Mine was only made for 1 year. Perhaps because I was stingy about it. I called the 1345 Immigration hotline and spoke to a representative in English about it. She said that immigration officrs have discretion over the length of sojourn, so it really is up to what they think of you / how well their day is going.  ㅠㅠㅠ

Likewise, the officer that ended up giving me my visa didn’t make a stink about the 15/16 point issue with Level 4 of KIIP. She calculated 16 points for me, not the 15 that the first officer had claimed 6 months earlier. Again, there’s no consistency in this office. Walking in is just a roll of the dice it seems.

Anyway, hopefully renewing it isn’t a mess. Be prepared for Part III of this F2 adventure if it is.


In a Nutshell…

The F2-7 points visa is possible. My experience dealing with KIIP was wonderful, yet dealing with immigration was a nightmare. I felt they kept changing the goal posts on me, telling me one thing one day, and changing their minds the next. Keep in mind, the immigration officer has discretion over what they will or won’t count as points. The inconsistency is a pain, but you can do it!

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments and if anyone has any experience in renewing this visa, I’d love to read it also in the comments below! Good luck to you all!

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KPOP Junkie

I wrote, produced, and directed this KPOP parody for Stompy Ruffers Cultural Fusion Check it out and leave some feedback! Hope you enjoy it!

Also, here’s the companion “behind the scenes” vignette too! Shot entirely in Daegu, South Korea over the course of four weekends.

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Poor Girl (V)

Poor Girl

Part V

By: Brian M. Van Hise

I realized after pulling over at Brooks Bridge that umbrellas would have been useless, so maybe I should scratch that regret off my list. Turns out the evening shower from earlier had now exploded into something approaching a definable monsoon. And besides, I knew Linda didn’t care any longer about her hair and it getting wet. She said we had what they call “more pressing issues” at hand.


From the trunk, Linda and I picked up the girl’s limp body, me at the feet and Linda cradling her head and shoulders. We hoisted her up and out of the trunk, she was heavier than I thought, probably from all that rain having soaked into her hooded sweatshirt. Propping her up on one knee, I lowered the trunk back down and then shut it fully.


I looked Linda in the eye in that moment. The rain was coming down hard on her face. I wanted to believe they were tears, as if an overwhelming sadness had taken over her, not over the dead girl we held between us, but for her recent actions with Jack Drainer. However, I knew they weren’t tears.


We moved away from the car in sync with each other, our steps beginning to clamber down the slope that would lead to the Trent River, now gushing with a mighty force from the rainfall.


“I tried to tell you about Jack,” Linda said, with her elbows bent at ninety-degrees. I looked back and forth between her and the closed eyes of the poor girl. “But you wouldn’t listen. I tried telling you two months ago, when I mentioned seeing other people.”


“But you never said you had met someone new. I thought you were just expressing a fantasy,” I retorted. “You should have told me you wanted to get serious with him. You’re my wife, for Christ’s sake, Lindy.”


“It was wrong,” she said. “But, I really wanted you to listen.”


I could see the Trent River now, still below us as we lowered further and further down the embankment. The earth below my feet was soft and slick. A slippery slope. Something like that.


Linda reached out for the arm of a tree branch that was snaking down in her path. The branch looked strong and rigid, like it could support her. I watched as she gripped it, tearing off a few weak flakes of bark as she let go.


The dead girl’s body was getting heavier and heavier it seemed.


“Do you love him?” I asked. It was really the only question that mattered. The one that could decide our fate, our future.


“I don’t love him,” she said quickly, as if the question a silly one. “That’s a silly question, Les. You’re the man I love. It’s not about love.” She stopped for a second, looking at me carefully. “You were my first love, you know. And I decided to marry you and spend my life with you. But, I never knew what love felt like from another man. Maybe it was foolish to get married as early as we did.”


“Let’s keep walking,” I said. “We’re almost there now.”


The river was in sight and what a magnificent sight it was! We couldn’t even make it to the proper landing at the bottom of the bridge. The river was flooding over now and roaring with life as it streamed eastward.


“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”


I fretted at this.


Remembering how she had made her angry exit from his house earlier, I said: “Why were you yelling at him when you left? I saw you.”


Linda lay the dead girl’s body onto the ground and crossed the girls’ hands over her chest. She tugged on the drawstrings in the hoodie to cover the dead face as much as possible.


“Because we had a fight. He wanted me to leave you. He kept persisting, Les. And I knew I never wanted to leave you. But, he wouldn’t let it go, kept persisting. Talked so much about a future together with me. So, we argued about it. And I hit him. I told him I never wanted to see him again and that it was all just a dumb mistake.”


It was clear what we were to do with the body. Linda was now prepping it for its journey down the river off to some other place we would hopefully never know about. As she adjusted the hoodie, I took time to re-tie the girl’s shoelaces, as they had loosened considerably.


“Anyway, it happened. And I’m sorry,” she stood up, and brushed a bit of hair out of her face. “And it won’t happen ever again. I never want to experience that again. Ever again.”


I stood too and looked at my wife. “Let’s get her in the water.”


We hoisted the body up again together. The burden was almost too much to bear.


“On my count,” I said as we began to sway her limp body from side to side.




I gripped the girl’s ankles as hard as I could with two hands. Ambidextrous.



I looked into the open face of her hoodie and could see only the girl’s lips and a small part of her nose still jutting out.  I briefly imagined it was Linda’s face. Linda’s body. Linda’s horrible deed that we were about to cast out into the rushing waters.




We released her.


She splashed into the water and went under, but a moment later she resurfaced and we watched as that poor girl was carried briskly downstream, out beyond what we could see, into the winding darkness of the river that would lead to greater rivers and at some point to the great body of ocean or lake which undoubtedly lay beyond.


And I released her as well.


I cast her out in some personal way. Linda, I mean. What she had done.


There were going to be talks and fights and arguments and mistrust and denial and anger and confusion and hearbreak yet to come. Undoubtedly yet to come. But in this moment, she was still my partner and not caring if it was my left hand or right hand, not giving any thought to bringing further balance to my life, I reached out and grabbed my wife’s hand and began to lead her up the embankment once again.


She gripped my hand tightly and let me pull her.


And behind us, that river kept on rushing by and the rain, it wouldn’t let up until almost morning.



Poor Girl Car

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Poor Girl (IV)

Poor Girl

Part IV

By: Brian M. Van Hise


Some folks live their lives full of regrets. Regret not having played football in high school, regret choosing the wrong major in college, regret meeting the wrong boy or girl. Others tend to live without regrets, feeling that the natural course life takes makes us much stronger and better prepared for unknown challenges.


I do have one regret that night.


I regret not bringing my umbrella.


Of course, I hadn’t intended on hitting that jogging woman or needing to get out of my car at all really, but when Linda insisted I open the trunk and show her what was inside, I realized that in doing so, Linda’s hair would get wet. Sticky wet from the rain. And it would get matted and knotty, kinda like the dead girl (well, apparently alive still) and I would likely spend the better half of the evening brushing out Linda’s hair after she had dried it back home.


“Open the trunk,” she said, looking at me wide-eyed.


I didn’t hesitate, but just reached over and depressed the lever. I heard a click come from behind us. I looked in the rearview mirror, seeing the trunk now slightly open. Part of me expected it to spring upward and hear the girl climb her way out. When that didn’t happen, Linda opened her door and stepped out.


“Honey,” I called out after her. She turned briefly to me. “You’ll get wet” was all I could think of to say. She grimaced and closed the door behind her.


From the driver’s seat I watched through the mirror as she lifted the trunk. It covered her face through the reflection so I could only guess at what horrid expression must have struck her then. I gulped slowly, wanting to take my eyes off the mirror but couldn’t. She didn’t say anything, nor did the jogger girl. Both women seemed absolutely silent.


A realization struck me. Just an hour earlier I had discovered my wife’s dirty secret about another man. And now, she was discovering my dirty secret about another woman. Albeit different secrets of different natures, it gave me pause as a rationalization of sorts. Who was I to judge and criticize her when–


Linda lowered the hood a little and walked around to the passenger side of the car. She opened the rear door, not saying a word to me, and reached for the black squeegee. She gripped it firmly and shook it briefly in the air. Then she closed the door, raised the trunk once more, and through the rearview mirror I could see her hold the squeegee high up in the air. Then a moment later it came crashing down, punctuated with a sharp THUD sound, the force of which shook the car, feeling for a moment like a small schooner on a swelling ocean wave. The force of her blow moved my insides up and down, up and down. Like the drop from a roller coaster.


Anyway. Like I was saying, I had a realization. Who was I to judge and criticize her secrets when I myself had a new secret I was keeping about another woman? Granted, I hadn’t been having sex with her and certainly didn’t know her name, but it was somehow similar, wasn’t it? I tried to keep this thought in my head, because I had a feeling that if I kept thinking hard enough about it, I could expand it into a larger thesis…heck, maybe even a publishable article for Psychology Today if I worked hard on it.


Linda slammed the trunk shut, tossed the squeegee into the backseat, and got back in next to me.


“Drive to Brooks Bridge.”


I swallowed hard.


“Is she…?”


“Just drive to Brooks Bridge now,” she commanded, not looking at me.


I started up the car once again and began to drive. One blow was all she had given the poor girl. One good, solid blow, from the hard edge of the plastic squeegee was all that was needed apparently, to wipe out a life that had been dangling on anyway. Dangling was a good word to describe a life that could be closed out by a squeegee. Dangling like the headphones she’d been wearing I guess.


I rolled down my window as I pulled away from the side of the road.


Brooks Bridge was only about two miles off.


I picked up the bloody squeegee from the backseat, passed it into my left hand, and started to scrape the rain off the windshield. Blood from the girl had mixed in with the drops, but I suppose it was a good way to clean it off. After all, once I got the wipers fixed, I had every intention to return the squeegee to J&J’s Texaco on Route 3.


Linda spoke again: “We need to get rid of this body.”


To be concluded in Part V…

Poor Girl Car

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Poor Girl (III)

Poor Girl

Part Three

By Brian M. Van Hise


It was a good thing I had taken out the tent set from the back trunk the week before. Usually I procrastinate those kinds of things. Linda and I had spent two nights in the mountains, our first time using the tent that I had bought on impulse three years earlier. We left for the mountains eager to get some R&R (Linda works as a county commissioner, which tends to be a stressful job for her), but came down the mountain full of mosquito bites and unsettled arguments. The whole trip probably added more stress actually.


The dead woman’s body fit comfortably in the trunk, in between the tire jack and plastic bag of empty water bottles I had meant to take down to the recycling center. I gave the poor girl one last glance before slamming the trunk shut and carrying on with the night’s mission.


I found Drainer’s house with relative ease, even with one headlight busted and the rain coming down harder than ever. Linda’s SUV was parked about a block away, probably her only major effort to try to conceal her devious actions. I parked in front of his neighbor’s house, next to the sidewalk she would have to take to reach her car. I turned off the ignition and rolled up the window, sitting in darkness, watching the light from his front porch scatter and bend through the rain.


I had a moment to reflect a bit, to better understand what it was that was unfolding now. I didn’t think for one moment about the dead girl in the trunk. Rather, simply found myself peering up to that porch light and thinking what lay beyond, behind the walls of that house. Which room were they in now? Top floor or bottom? Did they even find a bedroom for their tryst or would the living room sofa or kitchen counter suffice? Each time I blinked, I saw his face…that ugly airbrushed, studio pic Jack Drainer used for all of his real estate ads.


I didn’t know what to think. Should I prepare what to say when confronting her? Should I let anger take over or calm, collectiveness? I wish I had a copy of Psychology Today in the car. Maybe an answer would be there.


Was the affair Linda’s way of reaching a better balance in her life? Had she read an article somewhere that suggested sleeping with your real estate agent was a better way to achieve balance?


I was in mid-thought when I saw the front door open and Linda stammer out. I say stammer because she was livid. Stomping her feet and not caring about getting herself wet, she turned around to whoever was still inside and, though I couldn’t make out the words, there was no denying their meaning. She was pissed at something.


I moved my head slightly from left to right, gazing through the rain trying to catch more of what was happening.


Then Linda started walking down the driveway and when she reached the sidewalk, she turned my way.


I sat up straight and watched as she came closer. Behind her, the door closed and that front porch light clicked off.


I watched as my wife unknowingly approached me, shuffling about in the storm, testing the durability of her heels. She made no effort to shield the rain.


Then she saw my car, at least, I could tell she had a moment of recognition. Certainly the broken headlight and whatever damage there was to the fender made her take pause, but once her eyes moved about and she saw me, sitting there behind the wheel, she had her affirmation.


I swallowed, then leaned over and unlocked the door. I pushed it open for her and said: “Get in” before she was close enough to hear me.


Linda lowered her head and looked at me through the passenger. She didn’t say anything at first. She knew I knew of course. And there was nothing for her to say.


“Get in,” I repeated.


She climbed in and closed the door. Soon we were on the road.


“We’ll pick up your car tomorrow,” I said. “I can take you on my way in.”


I looked over at her.

Her eyes were pointed forward. She looked quite still on the outside. I could only imagine how fast her heart must have been beating then, how, just under the surface of her skin, her systems were in overload.


Finally, she spoke.


“What happened to the headlight?”


She kept looking forward.


“The headlight?”

“Yes. It’s broken. Don’t you know?”


“I…hit a deer.”


Then she turned to look at me.


“You what?”

“You heard me. I hit a deer.”


“Here? In the city?”


“Yes. Just 20 minutes ago.”


She faced forward again. “You hit a deer?” she said again under her breath.


Just then I could hear a muffled thump come from behind me. And then twice: thump-thump!


Linda looked to the back seat. “What was that?”


“What was what?”


“That sound. A thumping sound.”




“There it is again. What is that?” She began to claw around in the back seat, leaning her body over. She picked up the squeegee and poked around in the darkness behind the seats.


“Goddamn deer probably knocked something loose on the undercarriage. I’ll check it out tomorrow.”

“I don’t think it’s the undercarriage.”


And then a LOUD thump-thump-thump-THUMP!


Linda sat up straight and looked at me. I stopped the car and swallowed hard.


Maybe that deer wasn’t dead after all.


To be continued…

Poor Girl Car

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