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20 Minutes 5


Doug stands in front of the medicine cabinet mirror. It was one of the features of the small apartment that had caught his eye the day he moved in with Tsang and Emily. He had thought medicine cabinets were a thing of the past– extinct– like rotary phones and Walkman. But there it was. Hanging on the bathroom wall above the sink. But this morning Doug is not thinking about the medicine cabinet. Nor is he looking in the mirror. He is half asleep and fully hungover. He stares into the sink. The drain bobs and weaves in front of his eyes.

If he was looking in the mirror instead of the sink he would notice something peculiar about his head. The hair on the front of it has been shaved off.

But he does not notice. Not yet.

He turns on the cold water, bends over, fills his hands and splashes his face. Once. Twice. Three times. The next handful is for his parched mouth and throat.

He straightens. Smacks his lips. He sees himself in the mirror, but not really. His eyes take in the image but it is a few more moments before his brain figures out what his eyes have sent it.

When the brain deciphers the image it presses the panic button. Then the shock button.

“My hair!” screams Doug.

Doug throws open the bathroom door and runs barefoot into the living room. It takes him all of two running bounds because the apartment is smaller than small. It is petite.

Tsang and Emily lounge on the couch. Emily has a lit cigarette dangling from her slender fingers. An ashtray brimming with butts and ash balances on her knee. Tsang has teenage-grade acne even though he is three years into his twenties. The room is a mess of take-out boxes and wrinkled clothing. Doug scatters some of the detritus as he skids to a halt. Doug points to his head.

“What did you bastards do to my perfect, beautiful hair?!” he shouts.

“We didn’t do a thing, Doug,” replies Tsang.

“That’s right,” says Emily. “That mess is self-inflicted.” She is amused.

Doug scratches his new bald spot and puts on his thinking face. Unfortunately his face can’t think and his brain isn’t quite up to the task either.

“Think hard.” says Emily. She smokes like a man. She shouldn’t be smoking in the apartment, but it is her belief that the landlord needs her rent money more than she needs to quit smoking.

Thinking hard makes Doug’s head hurt so he stops.

“Last night,” says Emily, “Party. Oriental girl.”

“That’s racist,” says Tsang.

“No it isn’t,” says Emily, annoyed.

“Yes, it is. I don’t call you Occidental.”

“I don’t even know what that is.”

“It is the opposite of Oriental.”

Doug interrupts them with an utterance of “ooh, now I remember,” thus triggering a flashback.

Party. Last night. At the apartment. Quite a few people jammed in. Doug spots an Asian girl. A cute little thing. Doug talks to her. Small talk. Ice-breaking talk. Doug is charming. Doug holds a beer in each hand.

“My buddy, Emily, needed a place to stay so Tsang and I let her crash at our place. It’s my place, really.  I got settled first and Tsang needed a place to stay so, you know, my cassa is your cassa. But she’s not my girlfriend.” Doug takes a swig of his beer and watches the cute girl react to this bit of news.


Doug and the young Asian woman are sitting on the sofa. Four empty beer bottles stand sentry on the coffee table. The Asian girl leans away from Doug.  (She told Doug her name, but he forgot it when he left her side momentarily to hit the chip bowl).  She does not smile much anymore. Doug is very chatty. His liver has been hard at work.

“I’d love to visit China,” says Doug. “I love the culture. The Great Wall. Kung-fu. Shaolin monks rule.”


Doug talks to the Asian girl. Her back, in fact, because she does her best to ignore him. She talks to another female partygoer. If Doug had three sheets they would have blown away long ago.

“Jet Li. Now there’s a kung-fu master. Fuck that Donnie Yen guy. Jet Li would kick his ass. He’d kick Bruce Lee’s ass too, if Bruce Lee was still alive that is, and not an old man like he would be if he was still alive…”


Doug stands triumphant with both arms high in the air. He holds an electric razor. The front of his head is bald. Hair that once filled that space now lies in clumps on his shoulders. There is no colloquialism yet invented to describe how sauced he is. None either for how proud he is.

Doug yells, “Look at my traditional Chinese haircut!”

Back in the present, Doug looks grim. Emily, walking past him on the way to the kitchen, tosses him a tuque. Her cigarette dangles from her mouth. It does not fall as she says, “Here, put this on.”

Doug puts on the tuque.

He likes it.

[20 Minutes is a self-imposed ritual in which I write, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes a day. No self-editing is the goal. Just 20 minutes hammering on the keys. After the 20 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. 20 minutes a day. Every day. Today is day 5.]


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