David Emami hadn’t gone ice skating at the Lloyd Center in Portland, Oregon, since he was little, but after seeing a commercial for it on the television, he decided he should give it a try again. He never liked it as a kid, but he wanted to see if he was any better as an adult. When David had an idea, he usually went with it, no matter how absurd or random it truly was.
When David arrived, he rented his skates and strapped them on, eager to get on the ice. The place was packed with tons of children. “Look at those brats everywhere,” said David aloud.
“What a jerk!” said a mother standing right next to him. “They’re just kids having fun!”
“Oh, shut up, you old hag!” replied David. “I’m going to show these kids a thing or two,” said David in a sassy tone.
When David put his feet on the ice, he immediately fell down, landing hard on his back. The woman laughed hysterically. “Looks like you really taught those brats a lesson!”
A little girl came up to David and said, “Can I help you get up?”
David rolled his eyes. “No, you can leave me alone, or I’ll have you booked for assault!”
The girl looked at her mother, shook her shoulders, then continued skating. David helped himself up and clung tightly to the barrier, not unlike the 5 year olds surrounding him. He pulled himself around the rink, hating his decision more and more with each passing step. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stand up without losing his balance.
After a single lap around, he was done. He got off the ice, took off his skates, and promptly returned them. “These skates must be defective. I fell immediately upon touching the ice. I expect a full refund!”
“Dude, you rented the skates. You knew the risks. No refunds.”
“You’re nothing but a no-good, miserable, oaf!” said David. He walked away angrily like a child that has been told “no” after asking for a cookie.
David went home, iced up his sore back, and watched figure skating on television. “You see, Fred and Barbra Streisand? That’s what I did today. You should’ve seen me. I made all of those brats so jealous,” he said as his cats slept at his feet.
David Emami enjoyed his peace and quiet and highly disliked having visitors (especially when they were unexpected). While watching a special on PBS about the life of painter Bob Ross, David heard a knock on the door. He rolled his eyes, and slowly walked to the door. He opened it up and standing before him were two missionaries dressed in a finely pressed black suits.
“Good evening, we’re missionaries from The Church of the Vine and we’re here to share a message of hope with you,” said one of the missionaries with a blushing red face and striking part in his blonde hair.
“Well, the only hope I have is that you’ll leave me alone so I can find out how Bob Ross died,” replied David.
“Well, speaking of death, we have a message that can help you better understand what comes after this life. Would you mind if we shared it with you?”
“I’d rather not. I have to feed Fred and Barbra Streisand soon or they’ll perish from hunger.”
“What we bring is food for the spirit. Did you know that your spirit needs to be fed?” asked the other missionary, this one with red hair and freckles.
“I did know that. That’s why I listen to smooth jazz and watch The Lawrence Welk Show. If that show isn’t from God, then I don’t know what is.”
“I’m happy to hear you’re finding peace in your life. Why don’t we come in and get to know you a little better?”
“My, you’re a persistent bunch!” said David, rather annoyed. “Won’t you just go away and leave me alone? I pay my bills and work hard so I can have peace and quiet without annoying people knocking on my door!”
“I’m sorry you feel that way. Our message can help you deal with life’s daily annoyances.”
“My goodness, your message truly answers all of life’s questions, doesn’t it?!” replied David mockingly.
“Actually, it does,” said the blonde one.
David was silent for a moment. “Okay, why don’t you come in?” David couldn’t believe what he was saying. The missionaries came into his apartment and began to sit down.
David told them, “I hope you don’t mind my cats. They won’t hurt you.”
The red-headed missionary said, “I’m more of a dog person myself.”
David darted to his feet and yelled, “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you! Get out now!”
The missionaries looked shocked. “I was just joking,” he replied.
“I don’t care. You’ve offended Barbra Streisand and now I’ll hear about it all night! Get out before I phone the police!”
The missionaries left, apologizing the whole time, but David wouldn’t have it. Once they were gone, David relaxed back onto the couch and quickly forgot about the whole thing.
David Emami sat alone at an Applebee’s in West Linn, Oregon. He liked being alone because conversations always bothered him. He was there for the food and nothing else. However, out of nowhere, Bette, David’s neighbor that lived below him at the apartment complex, came into the restaurant. She was a lonely woman that had her eyes on David the moment she moved in, and dreamed of a life with him.
“Well, if it isn’t David Emami himself,” she said as she sat across the table from David.
“I didn’t invite you, Bette! Leave me alone!” demanded David.
“You always push me away! Look how empty this place is! Let’s spend some time getting to know each other. I bet you might like me if you just took the time to get to know me!”
David looked at the holes in her purple sweater and her ratted, gray hair. “I know enough about you. You look like a dreadful, sad widow and you smell like mothballs.” David rolled his eyes. “What else is there to know?”
“You like being mean and grumpy, don’t you?” She smiled at him. “I’m not leaving that easily. So tell me, what turns you on?”
David’s eyes opened wide. “What a preposterous, inappropriate question for the dinner table! I won’t answer it!”
“Well, I’ll answer my own question then. It’s black rain boots!” She rubbed her foot against David’s black rain boots and started playing footsie with him. David pulled back in disgust.
“Get your filthy feet off of me! For all I know, you have a fungal infection or some other nasty ailment!”
She pulled her feet away. “Fine. So what are we eating tonight? Let’s do the 2 for $20!”
“I already ordered that, except the other meal is to take home for Fred and Barbra Streisand.”
“How sweet of you. You know, I have cats too. I’m sure they’d love playing with your cats.”
“Unlikely. Your cats smell of tuna and look like they weren’t loved as kittens.”
“Well, that’s a terrible thing to say!”
“Well, I think you’re a terrible person!” David felt bad for treating her so harshly, but he just wanted her to go away.
“Fine then. I’ll leave.” She stood up. “But you know where to find me when you feel lonely.” She walked to another booth and sat with her back facing David. David ate his food victoriously, happy that he had stood his ground and won.
David Emami was very excited for the soft jazz festival that was coming to Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon. He had waited all year for it, and at last it had come. He put on his Kenny G. shirt and was ready to party like it was 6:15 on a Tuesday evening.
David arrived at the festival and eagerly went through security. The concert-goers were mellow, quiet people and David felt right at home. This wasn’t the kind of festival that attracted belligerent, loud people that can often be found at other events; this was a place to relax, sip a glass of wine (or diet orange soda, which was David’s favorite), and listen to some of the best music ever performed by the hands of mortal men.
David unrolled a colorful quilt his mother had made when he was young. He opened his can of diet orange soda, and the concert began with soft, soothing sounds that made him feel at ease. He was happy, relaxed, and absolutely loving the warm, breezy summer evening. It was practically perfect.
Suddenly, a group of drunken men and women crowded around David and began talking loudly. “Yeah, I know, right? This place sucks!” They tossed bottles onto the stage and screamed, “Boo! You sound like crap!” David was deeply offended and looked around for security guards, but none were coming.
“You’re ruining a beautiful evening, you know that?” yelled David.
They turned around. One man sat down on his quilt and smiled. “Nice quilt you got here,” he said while laughing. The rest of the group joined in mockingly.
“Nice man bun, you millennial trash!”
“I’m sorry, are we interrupting your evening listening to this elevator music?”
“This is fine art! It’s clearly not something you would understand!” The man started looking ill, then promptly threw up on David’s quilt. The group laughed and the guy said, “Sorry, bruh.” He got up and they walked away.
“My quilt! It’s ruined!” David shook his fist and screamed, “You lousy kids!”
Suddenly, a security guard approached David and said, “I’ve received some noise complaints from over here.” He looked at the pool of vomit and added, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
David protested, but it was no use. He rolled up his disgusting quilt and walked out. He was determined to never listen to soft jazz again.
David Emami was proud of the new porcelain doll he had just purchased and displayed it prominently for him and his cats to enjoy (he never had visitors, so all of his antiques were for him and his cats only). The doll was made in 1916 by a Russian immigrant that had lost her entire family aboard the Titanic. The doll would have creeped most people out with its painted face, rosy cheeks, gigantic smile, and uncomfortably large eyes, but David thought it was beautiful and had no problem spending $1400 on it (which nearly drained his savings in the process).
When David went to bed at midnight due to a M.A.S.H. marathon that he was eager to watch, everything seemed normal and fine. David crawled into his bed and quickly fell asleep. Suddenly, he heard something moving in the living room, so he went out of his room cautiously and was distressed when he noticed the doll now sitting on his couch. “I didn’t put you there!” said David groggily. He grabbed it and placed it back on the shelf, then went back to bed.
Again, he heard something moving around, so he ran to the living room and was startled to see the doll sitting on the kitchen counter. David realized that this wasn’t a dream. He screamed and ran back to his room. “Fred! Barbra Streisand! Prepare yourselves! There’s an evil doll in the kitchen!” They looked up at him, then fell back asleep. “Clearly you don’t care for your poor master at all!” he said, offended by their lack of action.
Something crashed in the kitchen, so David ran out, eager to catch the doll in the act, and the doll stood by the television with its head spinning. David couldn’t take it any longer. He kicked the doll’s head off, sending it shattering across the room, and the body fell to the ground, lifeless and limp.
David woke up in a cold sweat. It had all been a nightmare, but that didn’t stop David from taking the doll to the dumpster the next morning. It was an expensive trip to the garbage, but he couldn’t risk having the nightmare come true. After David threw it away, Lonnie, the homeless man that lived in the lot next door, grabbed the doll and sold it to a pawn shop for $50.
David Emami tossed and turned one night as he heard what he thought were scratches on his outside door. He brushed it off at first, certain he was losing his mind. He decided to check it out, however, when his cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand, began hissing and growling uncomfortably. David looked through his peephole, and could definitely hear whimpering and scratching, but couldn’t see anything.
With a deep breath, he opened his front door, and like lightning, a mangy, skinny, filthy dog darted into his apartment, immediately breaking an antique vase in the process. The dog barked and ran under David’s bed and wouldn’t come out for the life of him. “What in the world?” screamed David as he stood at the open door in his tiny white briefs and tube socks nearly up to his knees.
David ran into his room and his cats hid behind the couch with their hair standing up on their necks. Their eyes were so big they could have burst. David called for the dog, but nothing he could do would bring it out.
“Come on, you filthy, mangy mutt! I didn’t invite you in! Fred and Barbra Streisand sleep under the bed, not you!”
The dog whimpered and slid back farther under the bed.
“Oh, you miserable little sassy! You are greatly disturbing my pussies!”
David then had an idea and ran to the kitchen to get some bologna from the fridge. He ran back to the bed and dangled it in front of him. “Here you go, you ugly beast!”
The dog slowly crawled out, leaving a muddy, furry trail behind it, until it was close enough to eat the bologna. David slowly stood up and tossed a few pieces behind him as he inched toward the door. When the dog was near the door, David opened it up and threw a few slices outside, which the dog quickly followed. He slammed the door and let out a sigh of relief. The dog was gone and at last, things were back to normal, just the way David liked them.
“It’s okay, Fred and Barbra Streisand,” said David, “that mean bully is gone.”
David Emami smelled something terrible in his apartment and couldn’t figure out what it was. Even though his home was full of antiques and oddities, it was at least clean and free from smells. However, something was indeed creating a foul odor, and David was determined to find the source of it.
David got on all fours and began looking around the apartment from top to bottom. He took out his trash, cleaned out his fridge, and still couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from. He picked up Fred and Barbra Streisand, much to their displeasure, and gave them a good sniff and determined that it wasn’t them either. The mystery was driving David mad, and yet he still was no closer to a solution than when he had started hours ago.
David sat on his couch, completely defeated. He decided that he would probably just have to deal with the smell for the rest of his life and die in his filth. But then it struck him: the smell was coming from the couch. He pulled the cushions off and found a massive, dried up fur ball that one of his cats had coughed up and it had somehow slipped into the couch. Repulsed, David grabbed it with his rubber gloves on and quickly tossed it out the window. It landed near Lonnie, the homeless man that lived in the empty lot near the apartment. He looked up and asked, “What the heck was that?”
“Something disgusting,” said David as he quickly closed his window without further discussion.
David sprayed the couch, but the smell still lingered. He decided it was a perfect opportunity to get the 1950s loveseat he had seen in the antique store just days before. With the help of Lonnie, who he had bribed with a turkey sandwich, he took his old couch to the curb, and had the new couch delivered. Lonnie asked if he could come in to try the new couch, but David told him he wasn’t feeling well and slammed the door in his face. David loved his new couch.
David Emami had trouble walking because of a problem with his toe. It had gotten worse over the weeks, and at last, he determined that he had an ingrown toenail and that the only way to fix it was to see a doctor. He made an appointment and decided to work a night shift to make up for the missed day at work since money was getting tight. He had recently purchased a lamp from the 1940s that cost him $800, so he could use all the money he could get his hands on.
He put on his socks and tried not to bump or damage his red, oozing, swollen toe. David wanted to vomit when he looked at, but held back his impulses. He got into his minivan with some difficulty and pulled up to the doctor’s office.
When he arrived, he checked in and waited for about 10 minutes before the doctor could see him. When the doctor walked in, David explained his predicament in intimate detail.
“Well, take off those boots and we’ll see what we can do,” said the doctor. David did as he was told, and the doctor took a look. “Hmm, definitely an ingrown toenail. We’ll have to cut it out a bit.”
“Cut it out?” David pulled his foot back in terror. “Can’t you just give me a pill that will make it go away?”
The doctor laughed. “There’s no pill that makes ingrown toenails go away.” He poked around some drawers and pulled out a needle and a scalpel. “This will numb the area, and then I’ll be able to cut into it without you feeling a thing.
David sat nervously with his foot extended toward the doctor. “Please be careful, Doctor. I’m very delicate.”
“You’ll be just fine. This is a routine procedure.”
“Has anyone ever died from it?”
“Only 12 of them under my watch,” he replied dryly.
David pulled his foot back. “12?! How?!”
The doctor laughed again. “It was a joke. You’re a grown man; you’ll be just fine.”
David hopped off the bed and put his boots back on. “I don’t believe you’re qualified to treat such a serious ailment,” he said. “I’ll take care of it myself.”
“You can’t be serious,” replied the doctor.
“Good day, sir,” said David, as he left the room without another word.
David went home and covered his toe in Icy Hot cream, turned on The Lawrence Welk Show, and told himself that everything would be okay.
David Emami had a favorite 1950s diner that he liked going to because it was close, it was cheap, and it had some lovely antiques that he dreamed of someday owning. David sat in his usual spot in the corner, and the waitress brought him what he always ordered: a salisbury steak with mushrooms on the side. Everything was going well as it always did at the restaurant until something extraordinary happened.
David ate his food, then looked up as a woman with firetruck red hair sat in the booth next to him. She was with 2 other women and was dressed eccentrically. David readjusted his glasses and watched her closely: it was none other than Cyndi Lauper, one of David’s idols.
David nearly choked on his salisbury steak when he realized he was sitting only 10 feet from the greatest voice of the 1980s. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was a song that David regularly played on his record player while dancing with his cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand.
David just couldn’t finish his food. He felt like God was sitting next to him. He nervously watched her in the corner of his eye, and after paying his check, decided to approach her as meekly as he could. Soon, he stood over her and said, “Are you Cyndi Lauper?” It was a dumb question that David immediately regretted.
“Yes, I think so,” she replied as she smiled. “And what’s your name?”
“David. David Emami. I think your voice is divine. You sound like an angel and you are absolutely stunning. I can’t believe I’m standing here meeting you.”
She giggled. “That’s very sweet of you. Thank you for your support.”
David pulled out a napkin, which was the only thing he had for her to sign. “I’m sorry to bother you, but could you sign this for me?”
“Of course!” She pulled out a pen and signed a note for David while he anxiously waited. She handed it to him and said, “You have a wonderful day!”
“Oh, I will,” said David. “Thank you so much!”
David walked out of the diner clenching the note in his hands. He read it aloud: “David, Girl just wanna have fun!” She then signed her name, followed by a big heart. He felt as if he were holding the Holy Grail in his hands.
David liked being a substitute janitor because it allowed him the freedom he craved in his daily routine. One day, while mopping the girl’s bathroom at an elementary school, David Emami smelled smoke coming from the kitchen. In an instant, the fire alarm went off, and David darted for the door.
The kids and staff made their way to the field, as did David. It was bitter cold and raining outside with horrible winds. The blustery day made for a miserable time to be outside, but David had no choice. He was on the clock and couldn’t just abandon his duties. He had forgotten his jacket inside and simply wore his baggy blue jeans, his black rain boots, and a thin, worn and yellowed Who’s the Boss shirt he had purchased when he saw Tony Danza perform at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall in Portland, Oregon, in 1986.
Firefighters arrived at the scene just minutes after they got outside. Smoke now billowed from the roof and it was clear that this wasn’t just a small ordeal. David shivered as his thin layers quickly got soaked.
“Just a while longer, we hope,” said the Principal. “I know everyone is cold and wet, but we shouldn’t be out here all day.”
But then an hour passed. And then 2 hours passed. David was certain he was going to die. The Principal allowed parents to pick the children up as they huddled together for warmth. David wanted to huddle together with someone because he was nearly frozen, but hated the idea of touching another person. He figured a slow death would be better.
One by one, the children were picked up as the smoke continued to billow. At last, the Principal told his freezing staff, “You can all just go home for the day. I’ll stay with the last few kids until they’re picked up.” David walked back to his car slowly and figured he should get his will in order because he was no doubt going to die soon. He thought about what he would put in his will and decided that it would all go to his cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand. Then a thought hit him: they couldn’t live without him. David found a renewed reason to live and decided today would not be the day to die.
He got into his car, cranked up the heat, and went home to tell his cats about his terrible day.
David Emami is Alone in Portland is a collection of stories that peer into the life of a middle-aged curmudgeon with a fondness for cats and antiques.
Playfully illustrated with Bitmoji characters, his story comes to life as each day brings a new adventure.
He was obsessive compulsive and mad about antiques. The apartment was covered, top to bottom, in decor that would be more aligned with that of an old woman that peaked in the 1960s. david-emami-takes-on-portland.html