Follicular Rivalry

by Robert Kerbeck


I would never have gotten the hair transplant if I’d known my brother was going to get married the same week. The whole reason for getting the transplant in the first place was so I’d look good for Marcus’s one-thousand-person wedding later that fall. It embarrassed me that though I was barely thirty as well as seven years younger, we looked about the same age—and that was before my hair had started falling out. My girlfriend of six months, Ana, was spritzing my scalp with the follicle enhancement spray I was required to apply hourly when I got his phone call late one Thursday evening in March.

“Tommy, I hope you got your tux ready,” Marcus said. “We’re getting married Saturday morning, dude.”

My brother spent an inordinate amount of time trying to sound like one of the surfers we’d grown up with in Santa Monica. He got off pretending he was still a regular guy, even though he worked on Wall Street and had millions in the bank.

Ana was dabbing the excess spray along with the beads of sweat that had begun popping out of my head, where, if things went as promised, there’d be hair in three to six months.

“Don’t worry, we’re still gonna do the big wedding,” he continued, mistaking the reason for my silence. “But Rachel’s dad is real sick. He’s not gonna make it ’til then. We’re doing a family thing down at their place in La Jolla. She wants her dad to give her away.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, though I was really thinking something else. My big brother, who’d tricked me, beaten me, and humiliated me my entire life, had somehow done it again. How was I going to show up at his wedding when my head looked like a scene out of a horror film, with grafted freak show hairs poking out between blotchy red abrasions surrounded by purple scabs?

While I wasn’t completely bald, I’d been heading in that direction. The hair doc said if I acted quickly, most people wouldn’t even notice. Sure, they could tell I had a thicker head of hair, but, if pressed, I could say I used Rogaine. Nobody would expect a part-time hospital equipment salesman living in a shabby, rent-controlled apartment to spring for a fifteen-thousand-dollar hair transplant.

“Tommy, I need you to pick up Mom and Dad and bring them down,” Marcus told me. “Rachel and I are flying in from New York on a private jet right to La Jolla.”

“Uh, sure,” I said, despite not being sure of anything. If I went to the ceremony, everyone would know. Worst of all, my brother would know.

He must have sensed my indecision because he said something nice, an infrequent occurrence in our relationship. “I want you to be the best man.”

My brother hadn’t bestowed that honor for his real wedding, instead choosing his managing-director boss. Being a natural salesman, however, he could tell whenever he was losing something—or someone—before he’d lost it. Growing up, he’d always been smarter—as well as faster, stronger, better-looking. The list went on and on. When Marcus started losing his hair, he didn’t even bother faking it, as I’d done with my elaborate comb-overs. He simply shaved his head, after which he resembled Bruce Willis in his prime. Because he was so confident, being bald didn’t seem to affect him. Certainly, it didn’t stop him from getting beautiful women, nor did it appear to matter as he worked his way up to running the Goldman Sachs high-volatility trading desk. But in the back of my thinning skull, I knew that my having hair ate my brother up.

It was the one thing I had on him.

So when my mop of blond hair began to disappear, seemingly overnight, I rushed to have the surgery, complete with stitches in the back of my head from ear to ear, wider than the shit-eating grin on Marcus’s face when he used to hold me down on our front lawn, drooling loogies onto me while my friends watched and laughed.

I’d taken the entire week off from work—well, the three days I was scheduled, which I could afford about as much as the transplant payments. I’d planned to hide out in my apartment. Now I had to go to my brother’s wedding in less than forty-eight hours.

After I hung up, I paced around our tiny one-bedroom apartment, coming close to walls and furniture before I’d switch directions at the last second to avoid a collision and possibly dislodge some of the 2,675 grafts in my head.

“Baby, baby, sit,” Ana said. I waved her off and told her the rest of the sob story, though I knew she’d heard everything.

“How can I go there? How can I let him see me like this?” I wanted to smash something, but there wasn’t much in my place and, as of a month earlier, our place. For sure, breaking the futon I’d cracked once before wasn’t going to give me any pleasure. I marched toward the flat-screen TV my brother bought for my birthday, but Ana beat me to it.

“Don’t you dare.” She took my hand and walked me to the futon.

“He’ll never stop teasing me,” I said, almost in tears. “Every email, every phone call, there’ll be some snide comment about my hair.”

I thought of my brother stuffing me down the laundry chute on the third-floor of our childhood home. I remember sliding and sliding in the dark, then falling, over ten feet it turned out, onto a pile of laundry that scarcely cushioned the impact. It felt that way again. The news of his moved-up wedding had knocked me loopy.

“Baby, I’m gonna fix it.”

“How are you going to fix this?” I moaned, lowering my skull so that Ana, a foot shorter than me, could see its full gruesomeness. She took a half step back but, to her credit, stepped forward again.

“If you shut your mouth, I’ll tell you.”

I relented and plopped onto the futon, the cushion sliding off its frame as I did. The futon was too worn to stay in place any longer. Whenever Ana and I watched TV, we ended up reclined without ever really moving.

“Stay right there,” she said, going into our bedroom.

When she returned, she was carrying Mr. Peeps. I’d had the bong since I was thirteen, when my best friend had stolen a new one and given me the hand-me-down. We’d then gone into my brother’s room (empty, since he was in college at Wharton), taken down his beloved childhood teddy bear, and ripped its eyes out. With the stem and bowl acting as a nose, I’d glued the eyes onto the plastic outside of the bong. This was my revenge for Marcus having left me at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert a week earlier, when he’d been home for spring break. Our parents had bought the tickets, hoping it would be a nice bonding experience for him to take me to my first concert—except he met a girl at the show and split, leaving me surrounded by seventeen thousand strangers. My big brother, and supposed protector, had given me a twenty-dollar bill to get a cab home, when it cost way more than that. Even now, it gave me great satisfaction to gaze into the gouged-out eyes of his mangled bear.

Ana set Mr. Peeps on the coffee table in front of me. She’d filled the bowl with what smelled like my most expensive weed, Psychological Damage.

“Take a hit,” she said, joining me on the half-off futon.

Ana wasn’t a fan of my pot smoking, partly because of the smell that permeated the apartment (and her nurse’s assistant outfits), but mainly because the weed I purchased was on the pricey side. She accepted, however, that in times of crisis—especially those involving my brother—nothing else would stop me from breaking things or hurting myself. I pulled out my lighter and toked away. On and on I pulled, my mood changing with the speed of the exploding bubbles inside the bong. As the smoke filled me, my tension dissipated. To make sure it didn’t come back, I held the smoke in as long as possible, all the while staring at Ana’s long black hair and cute snub nose.

She gazed back at me. She could tell the inhalation had taken the edge off. I smiled and almost rested my head on her shoulder but remembered I needed to be careful not to knock out my grafts.

“I have the solution,” she said. “You’ll wear a hat.”

I coughed out the hit. “I can’t wear a baseball hat. It’s black tie. Even last minute my brother’s wedding is going to be first class.”

“No, estupido, you’ll wear a fancy hat. One that makes you look muy guapo. It’ll be part of your outfit, so you’ll keep it on. I’ll borrow one from Rodrigo.”

Ana’s brother taught dancing and performed as well, usually dressed in white. He wore a white fedora with black pinstripes as part of his routine. Rodrigo’s big trick was to remove the fedora as though he was tipping his cap to his partner, but then he’d do a complete flip, ending up right under the hat again, which he’d return to his head with a flourish. While I wouldn’t be doing any similar moves, Ana’s idea was genius. Instead of the black tux I would’ve rented, I could get a white one to go with Rodrigo’s fedora. I was so euphoric that Ana had saved me, and pretty high from the weed, that instead of thanking her or hugging her or even kissing her, I did something else entirely.

I asked her to marry me.

*   *   *

“You look like a gangster,” my father said when Ana and I arrived to pick them up. “Or a pimp.”

Normally, his dig would’ve bothered me—especially since I was chauffeuring my parents to the wedding and back—but as long as my head was covered, I was a happy camper. The slight bruising on my face had faded to the point of being almost unnoticeable, thanks to Ana’s strict policy of icing fifteen minutes on and fifteen minutes off. It was painful but had achieved the desired result. Except for the monstrosity hidden by my hat, I looked like myself. As a matter of fact, I looked better. Rodrigo’s hat somehow suited me, which I never would’ve guessed.

Once we were on the 405 South, bound for La Jolla, I even smiled over at my father, who sat next to me wearing the same black tuxedo he’d been married in. Ana sat behind him and next to my mother, who’d pulled herself forward so that her heavily made-up face was hovering over my right shoulder.

“Mom, be careful, I’m wearing white.”

“I know what color it is. I’m old, not blind. I should mess it up and make you wear black like everyone else. It’s called black tie for a reason.”

“But he looks so handsome,” Ana said.

In the rearview mirror I caught my mother giving a polite smile to my girlfriend, now fiancée. Ana and I had decided to keep that information under wraps. It wouldn’t be right to upstage my brother on his wedding day.

“Thank you, baby,” I said. “The white was my idea. I called Ana from the rental place and she told me to get black, but I didn’t listen.”

“He had to be different, didn’t he?” my mother said.

“Always,” my father said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“It means you’re not going to match in the pictures. That’s what it means.”

I turned toward my father, the top of the fedora brushing against the roof of the car, shooting pain across my scalp. “So? Marcus is lucky I’m going at all. It wasn’t easy to get off work last minute, you know. It shouldn’t matter what I’m wearing, like, what, it’s not good enough?”

“Nobody said a word about that,” my mother said. “It just would’ve been nice if you’d followed the instructions.”

I reached for the stereo. Anything not to chance my parents reviewing all my past failures to follow protocol: no college degree, no steady job, no three-bedroom house.

“Oh, please, none of that pot music,” my mother said after my Phish CD had played for all of five seconds. She was waving her hand like the sound was polluting the inside of the car.

“It’s not pot music,” I said, though Phish did likely qualify.

“Pot music for a pot car,” my father said, turning off the stereo. “I hope we’re not getting one of those secondhand highs.”

“It’s called a contact high. And I don’t smoke in the car. Ana won’t allow it.”

The lie seemed to take my parents by surprise. I observed them exchanging a look.

“It could be she’s a good influence on you,” my father said, sternly.

For an instant, I thought my mother was going to whack him. A road sign came up. We were 105 miles from San Diego.

I would’ve given anything for a hit of the weed stashed beneath my seat.

*   *   *

There was nowhere to park at Rachel’s parents’ house. Giant white trucks took up every available space. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my brother’s last-minute, family-only wedding would be catered like it was the event of the century. “Go big or go home” was his motto. He even had it listed under his picture on LinkedIn.

I dropped off my parents, but Ana stayed with me. I found a spot a block away, and together we walked back to the house. The sun was up now that it was past ten, and though it was March, it was turning into a warm and sunny day. I felt myself sweating under the hat and removed it to scratch my head.

“What are you doing?” Ana said.


“You can’t take off your hat. Not for a second. If you get hot, go into the bathroom to do it. But you’re not supposed to be scratching anyway, so keep it on.”

“Got it.”

We arrived in front of Bob and Judy’s house, a Spanish-style Mediterranean decorated entirely in white. There were stars hanging everywhere and snowflakes, too. The color scheme made me feel better about my outfit.

*   *   *

Marcus was inside waiting for me.

“Hey, bro,” he said, pulling me away from Ana. It reminded me of scenes in bad sitcoms where people move two feet away, somehow signifying that no one can hear their conversation. “What’s with the pimp-daddy look? Rachel’s gonna throw a fit. This is supposed to be black tie formal.”

“Actually, black tie is semi-formal,” Ana said, stepping in to break Marcus’s fourth wall. “If this is a formal event, Tommy is the one dressed correctly.”

My brother seemed at a loss for words. He wasn’t used to people standing up to him. I’d always been scared of him, and my parents worshipped at his feet—and why not? Marcus had paid off their house, given them money for clothes and trips, and now was getting married, no doubt soon providing them with grandkids.

“Forgive me,” he said to Ana. “I’m Marcus. It’s nice to meet you.”

“I’m Ana, pimp daddy’s girlfriend.”

He laughed. “Funny. Pretty, too. Nice work, dude.”

“Congratulations,” she said.

“I’m not married yet. Let’s see how the day goes first.”

Marcus led us through the house to the backyard garden, where workers were putting the finishing touches on an open-air gazebo that appeared to have been installed for the event. People in white uniforms buzzed about, setting up food stations and carrying bags of ice and bottles of champagne. There were even photographers taking pictures of the preparations. Perhaps Rachel was planning to write a book on how to pull off a first-class wedding in less than forty-eight hours.

My mother and father were at the bar drinking champagne when we joined them.

“This is magnificent,” my mother said, finishing her glass.

“It’s Dom Perignon,” Marcus said.

Did my brother think we couldn’t read the label? There was a gleaming silver ice bucket sitting on the bar, filled with bottles of the stuff, each with the label conspicuously facing out.

“Perfect for a warm day like this,” said my father.

“Drink up,” said my brother, glaring at the bartender, who was organizing the bar and hadn’t offered the rest of us a drink. There were unopened boxes of what I supposed was every type of liquor known to man. God forbid my brother just serve champagne and wine. No, he had to have a full bar for what was essentially a morning wedding.

“Oh, sorry,” the bartender said, returning his attention to us. “You got a lot of booze here.”

“I know,” Marcus said. “Isn’t it glorious?”

The bartender poured champagne for Ana but had to search to find a warmish beer for me. Apparently, beer wasn’t the drink of choice for the Goldman Sachsers of the world, so it’d suffered from ice inequality. It didn’t matter since I wasn’t much of a drinker. I excused myself to use the bathroom inside the house, which Ana knew was code for getting high.

After opening the bathroom window, I detached the center of my custom-ordered belt, turning its buckle into a pipe. It took me less than half a minute to load a hit, this time a strain called Mr. Hyde, and toke away.

On my way out of the bathroom, I heard some coughing. Was someone else getting high? If they were, they weren’t being as stealthy as I’d been. I followed the sound and found a man bent over in a wheelchair. It took me a moment to realize that it was Rachel’s father, Bob. It took even longer to realize that he wasn’t coughing. “It’s all gone,” he sobbed without looking up.

“Hey, Bob,” I said, but he appeared unable to hear me. I wasn’t sure what the signs of late-stage Parkinson’s were, but he was half the size of the man I’d laughed with at Marcus and Rachel’s engagement party a year earlier. Perhaps he was deaf, too.

“What’s all gone?” I touched his shoulder. He turned his head to gaze up at me.


“Yeah, hey, Bob, how you doing?”

I couldn’t believe that, even though he was this sick, he still remembered me. His head slumped like it was weighted, but his hand motioned for me to come lower. I dropped down to my knees so he could see my face.

“It’s all gone,” he said and pointed at the darkened glass door he was sitting in front of.

A voice came from behind us. “I should’ve known I’d find you here.”

It was Judy, Bob’s wife. Like her husband, she was in her mid-sixties, but she dressed like a younger woman, wearing a shimmering black leather dress.

“Where’s Leticia?” she asked, giving me her cheek to kiss. She turned as I kissed her so that I ended up uncomfortably close to her lips.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I said. “I found him here.”

“She’s probably running some errand for Rachel and parked him here. Would you mind pushing him outside? I need a young man with muscles. We’re going to start soon. My Rachel has organized a ceremony that’s longer than half the marriages in California.” Judy squeezed my bicep but seemed disappointed. She shrugged and took off, leaving me in charge of her husband.

“Okay, Bob, let’s take a ride.”

But he was shaking his head no.

“Don’t you want to see your daughter get married?”

His head rose slowly. When he got to forty-five degrees, he waved a shaky finger at the door. “Look.”

I opened the glass door. Inside was a room that had been converted into a wine cellar. On the walls were pictures of Bob smiling and holding wines at various wineries, usually larger bottles like magnums. But the pictures were the only things remaining in the room. The rest of the cellar was empty, though the cooling system was still on.

“What happened to your wines?”

“She sold them,” he said.


“Money.” Bob gave me a withering look. “Not even dead yet.”

His head drooped, this time lower than when I first spotted him. I could tell our encounter had taken a lot out of him, so I let him be, though I wanted to know why Judy would sell the wines that obviously had sentimental value to him. Perhaps she wanted to spare him the torture of having wine around that, because of his disease, he was no longer allowed to drink. Whatever the case, it was a major buzzkill.

I rolled Bob out to the garden, and right away my brother came over.

“Dude, get high later. I need you. You’re the best man.”

“I wasn’t getting high. I was helping Judy with Bob.”

“Okay, good idea. You’re in charge of him. You push him down the aisle with Rachel, then keep an eye on him during the ceremony. Get him whatever he needs.”

“No problem.”

Things happened quickly after that. At least it seemed that way to me, because the weed, combined with the heat of the day and the outfit I was wearing, was kicking my ass. The fedora was driving me batty, too, as it had no ventilation holes, creating an itchy greenhouse effect. A piano player started playing on a white Steinway I hadn’t noticed, and the small crowd gathered around the open-air gazebo. No one looked happy to be wearing black and baking in the sun. I hung in the back with Bob where the house provided a bit of shade.

I know I’m supposed to say Rachel looked beautiful, but she looked as stressed as I’d ever seen another human being. She was thinner than usual and the cords of her neck were popping out. I couldn’t blame her given the circumstances. I followed my brother’s instructions and pushed Bob down the aisle alongside her. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the poignant tableau. Everything would’ve been fine, too, if Rachel hadn’t had more readings than in a church. At one point, the Bible was passed around so that each person could read a sentence or two, including me, stoned off my ass. But what caused the tumult was when Rachel insisted her father read as well.

Bob squinted at the Bible I held out for him. I could feel the sun on its pages as if the black book might spontaneously combust from the heat. “Love,” he read.

There was a long pause as he fought the glare and the small print.


Another longer pause.

I wanted to yell at Marcus and Rachel that it was too much for the man, but they were grinning like idiots and oblivious to how hot it’d become, not to mention that the man was dying, possibly during the service if it continued much longer.


“Marcus,” I said from my knees. “It’s too bright out here. He can’t read it.”

“Give him your hat,” my brother said.

The crowd murmured and nodded in assent that this was an excellent suggestion. Anything that would move the proceedings along.

“What?” I felt wobbly, like I had that day Marcus tricked me into looking down the laundry chute and I ended up with a concussion.

“Let him wear your hat, bro.”

I almost said, “But it’s part of the outfit.” Instead, I weakly corrected him. “It’s a fedora.”

“Whatever, dude. Just give it to him so he can see.”

I looked at my parents, who were gesticulating like they were playing a game of charades, where the answer was Give him your fucking hat. And then it hit me. My brother had gotten me yet again. For this moment would live forever in the minds of my family. I would always be the selfish slacker, the loser of the family.

My brother, his head dripping with sweat, had a look I’d seen before. He was getting ready to go alpha male on me, storming off the gazebo to rip the fedora from my head. I shut my eyes, waiting for the laughter—or the screams—to begin.

But Ana moved before Marcus did, shouting in cacophonous muy rapido Spanish. I didn’t speak the language other than the basics most gringos learned growing up in Southern California, but the gist of her tirade, which included Ana pointing at the sun directly over our heads and then down at Bob, dressed in a black tuxedo and practically falling out of his wheelchair, seemed quite clear: Marcus and Rachel were terrible for doing what they were doing. Ana grabbed the wheelchair and backed it up like the nurse’s assistant she was, wheeling Bob into the shade and coolness of the house. Everyone was stunned, but I also suspected they were ecstatic that the ceremony could move forward, and, because Ana had done her ranting in Spanish, no one really knew what she said. Even my brother looked relieved. He gave me a wisp of a smile and a discreet thumbs-up. I doffed my hat to him, careful not to lift it very high.

After the ceremony ended, with Rachel and Marcus looking like they’d finished a game of pickup basketball, I grabbed a glass of champagne for Ana and headed off to find her. It took me a minute since they’d taken refuge inside the wine cellar, the coolest place in the house. Ana had removed Bob’s jacket and bowtie, and unbuttoned his shirt as well. He was in better shape, though quiet and hunched over.

“Close the door,” Ana said.

I did and handed her the champagne, which she took without drinking and placed on the wine-stained wooden counter.

“Give him a hit of your pot.”


“Just a small hit.”

“Are you serious?” Normally, I was all in favor of sharing my weed, but getting my brother’s dying father-in-law high seemed like a bad idea.

“It helps with the shaking,” she said. “They’ve done studies that show THC can counteract the effects of Parkinson’s. It improves attitude, too.”

The last part I knew for a fact. Pot enabled me to see the world and those in it, especially my brother, with less bitterness—and without seeking revenge for what had occurred. If it stopped me from wanting to kill him, or, more likely, vandalize his BMW, I could only imagine how it might help someone with an incurable disease.

“Okay,” I said. “One hit.”

As I unsnapped my buckle pipe, Bob was waving at me, as if to say, “Hurry up already.” Far from being deaf or hard of hearing, he’d been listening to everything we said and was fully onboard with the pot therapy. I loaded a small amount of Mr. Hyde and got to my knees. He inhaled as I lit the bowl. At first, I worried he was toking too intensely, but he handled it well.

“Hold it in,” I said as we stared into each other’s eyes. I hardly knew Bob, yet I felt more love coming from him in that instant than I’d ever felt from my father or brother. That was the thing about pot that people didn’t get. I wasn’t just sharing my weed with Bob. We were sharing a connection, the kind most people were too busy for.

“Still a few left,” he said, exhaling.

For a moment, I wasn’t sure what he meant. Had he hidden a couple of bottles of wine somewhere in the cabinets underneath the empty racks? I got up to search, but Bob was shaking his head with a smile, the first I’d seen from him since Marcus and Rachel’s engagement party.

“Not wines,” he said. “Good people.”

The cellar door flew open.

“Jesus Christ,” Marcus said, half entering, since the room was pretty much at full capacity. “We thought you guys left.”

“I brought him in here to cool off,” Ana said.

My brother nodded. I could tell he wanted to argue, but he appeared to take note that, unlike me, my fiancée wasn’t intimidated by him.

“What’s that smell?” he asked, sniffing.

“Medical marijuana,” Ana said. “We use it at my facility to treat a number of illnesses, including Parkinson’s.”

“You got him high? Who gave you the right to do that?”

“I did.” Bob raised his head and sat erect in his chair. I’d like to think it was the Mr. Hyde, but the man seemed to have had enough of being told what to do. He lifted his arm and held it up. It wavered only slightly.

Ana gave my brother the kind of stare-down I’d dreamed of doing. She then gave me a disappointed look and wheeled Bob out of the cellar.

After they left, Marcus pointed at the belt pipe sitting on the wooden counter. “Must be nice to be high all the time.”

I wasn’t sure if I was coming down from the Mr. Hyde or had gotten a batch spiced with LSD, but being trapped with my brother blocking the cellar exit was giving me the heebie-jeebies. It made me want to scratch.

“I’d definitely like to be high right now,” he added.

Did my brother want me to get him stoned, too? I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather party with less.

“You remember the last time I did?” Marcus continued. “I threw up.”

I recalled warning him not to smoke too much. Of course, he ignored me.

“Red wine and weed isn’t a good combo,” I said.

“Go big or go home, right? Like the floor seats I got us for that Chili Peppers concert.”

“Mom and Dad got us.”

“No, I bought those tickets. I wanted to take you to your first concert.”

I doubted that was true, but even if it was, what did it matter? “You left me there.” I slipped a finger under the fedora and rubbed.

“Yeah, and then I took you snowboarding at Mammoth to make up for it. Remember the place had that game room.”

I’d forgotten, but instantly flashed to Marcus hammering me in game after game of ping pong. To make it fair, he played me with his right hand, though he was left-handed. Eventually, he beat me playing with his shoe.

“I want you to know I’m not pissed,” Marcus said. “I don’t know about Rachel. Maybe you can apologize later.”

Even though, as usual, I hadn’t done anything wrong. Nor had Ana. Both of my hands dug under the fedora, rooting.

“What a ballbuster you got,” he added.

I lowered my hands. There was something on them, whether it was sweat or pus or blood, or a combination of the three, I wasn’t sure. When I spotted the tiny hairs seemingly growing from my fingertips, I realized I’d scratched out some of the grafts. “What did you say?”

“Don’t take it the wrong way, bro. They’re all ballbusters. Rachel’s still out there getting her picture taken. I mean, how many photos—”

I took off the fedora.

“Go ahead, make a joke. Call me names. But don’t ever say anything about my fiancée again. You got that, bro?”

I wasn’t sure which he was more shocked by: my festering scalp, my standing up to him, or the revelation that Ana and I were getting married. There was a long pause as Marcus took in the horror on my head, the hum of the condenser the only sound. When I moved to leave, he grabbed my elbow, “Wait.” Instead of shoving my skull into one of the empty wine racks, he lowered his own, “I’m such a douche.”

Was this my brother’s attempt at an apology? Something he’d never done before. And what was more remarkable, he put his hand on the back of my stitched-together scalp, and pulled me close. “A hair transplant? Why didn’t I think of that?”


Based on his short stories, fifteen of which have been published in the last year, Robert Kerbeck was selected for mentorship by the managing editor of Tin House. His work has most recently appeared in Word Riot, Cream City Review, Cortland Review, and Drunk Monkeys with stories forthcoming in Gargoyle and The MacGuffin. Robert was the recipient of the upstreet short fiction scholarship at the 2016 VCFA Postgraduate writers’ conference and he was a finalist for the 2016 Writers@Work fellowship. His first play, Putin and the Snowman, opened Off-Broadway this past July. One of his short stories was acquired by Tica Productions and adapted into the film, Connected, opening in 2017.

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