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Christopher's Christmas Carol (Part I)

“I’ll race ya to the U-Bahn!” a petite, carrot-top English teacher shouted and darted out of the teachers’ room at our language institute.

It was an icy late-October in Munich, so I threw my scarf around my shoulders and pursued. She didn’t have a chance; after all, I had been on the track team for a couple of months in high school just 20 years before.

On the sixth icy subway step, I caught up with my colleague. But before I could leave her in my dust, my ankle snapped. (For the uninitiated, a bone cracking doesn’t really hurt that much.) When I roused from my imagined pain, a man was waving his hand over my ankle. Picture David Copperfield conjuring a BMW out of a hat, then erase his face, replacing it with something more Germanic.

“I’m keeping the energy in,” he said in new-agey German.

“Danke,” I said, weirdo.

Among a small group of accident enthusiasts, I spotted my colleague kneeling beside me. This is all your fault.

“This is all my fault,” she said.

“No, no. Of course it’s not. I shouldn’t have taken six steps at a time.”

“Well, there’s that,” she said, relinquishing ownership of blame much too quickly for my taste, but oh well. “What’s he doing?” she asked, pointing to the weirdo.

“He’s keeping the energy in of course,” I said. “And thank God for that.”

At the hospital later, my ankle was x-rayed by a brutally stout woman who made me get up on the examination table all by myself. Then, a pretty nurse set my ankle and made a cast “for the first time.” I wish I could say the weirdo was still keeping the energy in, but he had taken off after giving me a brief training course on how to keep the energy in myself.

“I’ll have to cut your jean-pants off,” said the nurse.

“You’re kidding. Are you trained in surgery?”

“No,” she said, “but I can’t put your ankle in a cast with these jean-pants in the way.”

“These jean-pants cost 200 deutsch marks. Do I need the ankle?”

“Yes,” she said, completely void of humor—or the comprehension thereof.

“How about we cut the jean-pants off down the seam?” I suggested.


A crippled cowboy with one-legged chaps, I left the hospital and went home to call my parents in Tennessee. I would be on crutches for eight weeks. And I would have to take a shot every day for the first three weeks to prevent thrombosis (I suffered through two of those shots before deciding thrombosis was an acceptable way to die). My parents took the news in stride: for the first time in my life, I wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas.

Or would I? Stay tuned as Christopher’s Christmas Carol continues.

I must be off,

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