Marios recently adapted one of his short stories into a short live action film which was produced through Left to Right Productions under the title BACK IN 10. Below is the short story on which the film was based. It was first published by PEN’s In Focus in February of 2008.


Tim sat down on the grass by my feet and continued to lick the ice cream that was threatening to drip from his cone.

As they crossed Ocean Avenue, our parents kept looking over their shoulders toward us, Dad’s voice still lingering: “I’ll be right back. I’m just dropping Mom off, see, right there, across the street. So stay here and I’ll be back in ten minutes!” Or was it five? No, I think he said he’d be back in ten minutes. They were on their way to see a doctor about something minor - because Tim was five and I was nine and we didn’t know the meaning of Hodgkin’s disease or what a lymphatic angiogram actually was (although we had often heard these words spoken at home, always after a crying outburst that was denied as soon as we entered the room).

A man in a car, who had grabbed the parking spot closest to us, was going through his briefcase, searching for something… but not really. It was as if he wasn’t looking for anything at all.

I stood across from my brother and took a deep breath before settling next to him. He looked the happiest I’d ever seen him: just there, sitting under a tree, somewhere along the Santa Monica Cliffs on an early summer day, ice cream smeared all over his face. I took the napkin he had thrown on the grass and wiped his cheeks with it. He didn’t speak or move or look at me; he just kept eating his ice cream, looking as pure and fresh as daybreak on a beach. I paused for a second, as if forced to realize that years from now, when Tim and I would no longer be kids but old men with children and grandchildren, this would be a moment I’d choose to remember. I was certain that, even then, I’d look at him and see ice cream smeared all over his face. I smiled and placed the napkin on his lap, certain he would not touch it.

I reached into the inside pocket of my jean jacket and took out my Game Boy. There was a smell of ocean in the air which was mixed with exhaust fumes and sand particles, carried there by the wind as it brushed over the Pacific Coast Highway and ever so slightly flicked Tim’s hair. Everything seemed almost perfect: The palm trees, swaying against an afternoon sky that was covered by a thin white mesh, making it almost blue, but not really, shedding a tint of ecru over everything; the surfers, standing waist deep in the water, waiting for the next wave, confirming my intention to become one of them before I turned sixteen; the blond girl (she must have been around my age and from out of town) walking with her parents along the cliffs, searching for the perfect spot to pose for a picture, offering the prospect that she would one day seem more appealing to me than my videogames. I knew then, perhaps for the first time, that I deserved to be happy, for I was nine and saw all sorts of possibilities in life and no ugliness at all, and it was obvious: my parents could trust me to act responsibly for myself and Tim.

My brother had managed to lick what had dripped down his cone and was now attacking the ice cream itself. Mom and Dad had walked into the building across the street and I had turned on my Game Boy, ready to galvanize the bosses in the latest Super Mario adventure, barely noticing that the man I would later come to call Ralph had stepped out of his car and had slowly closed the door using both hands, as if there was a sleeping child in the back seat that might be awoken by even the slightest noise. I paid no further attention to him.

“Tim! No! Just eat it from the top! Don’t dig into the cone with your fingers. Look at you, you’re a mess! I told you to get more napkins, didn’t I…?”

“Here you go kid!”

He spoke as if he knew us, as if he was an uncle who had been somewhere far away and had not seen us for years and who now, all of a sudden, bearing napkins, had appeared before us for a reason. He held out his hand and smiled, standing there with the sun and the palm trees and the afternoon haze as his backdrop, as if everything was normal, certain I would take the napkins from him without puzzlement or suspicion. I did. And after wiping the ice cream off of Tim’s face, out of habit, without knowing why, I paused and turned my head toward him and smiled.

I said, “Thank you.” He said, “You’re welcome.” And then I noticed that he was holding a color version of my Game Boy, and I said, “I thought that wasn’t available yet!” And he said, “My brother works for Nintendo and he’s put me on their testing list.” (It felt as if that particular phrase - “testing list” - was what he had been waiting to say all along). And I said, “How do you get on their testing list?” And instead of an answer, he handed me the color Game Boy and started walking toward his car, very upright. For I think that was when he had become certain he had me.

“I’ll just jot your name and address down, I’ll give it to my brother, and they’ll start sending you all sorts of stuff. It’s really cool!” I couldn’t see his face or his lips but he was saying exactly what I had hoped to hear.

“Stay here, Tim!” I said to my brother, who hadn’t seemed to notice anything at all: not the man approaching, or him handing me the napkins, or me holding a new toy, getting up, following the man to his car, bending over to offer my name, having a wet cloth pressed against my face, the smell of crushed rose petals penetrating my nostrils, the car seat that felt and smelled like a hole in the earth, the struggle… the struggle… and then the darkness.
It all happened in half the time it took Tim to finish his ice cream.