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Cancer Of The Circumstance
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Cancer Of The Circumstance
When a man meets a friend in the street, a long lost friend, he sees that he is dying of cancer. The signs are all there, he is thin, his eyes have dimmed from their once brilliant blue and his hands have withered like leaves, but what this man has is a cancer that is contagious, a cancer that lives in us all...a cancer of the circumstance.
Paul Leighland MacLaine
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL ADDRESS
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (15)
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After She Left (Short Stories) When a relationship ends and partners go their separate ways, the memory of the lost love begins to fade. The half of the brain they once occupied is gradually reclaimed so a person returns to being a... [708 words] [Suspense]
Anything Has To Be Better Than This (Short Stories) Nixon lives a quiet life, he minds his own business, keeps to himself...it’s his neighbours who are warring. The paper-thin walls of this hotel reveal everything and one night, as the battle rages nex... [952 words] [Relationships]
Ash Bester - The Devil May Care (Novels) Here are the first two chapters of my crime novel. I am looking for feedback and motivation to get on with it. Ash Bester, war hero, boxer and Melbourne private detective in 1953, is about to fall vi... [5,188 words] [Crime]
Close? Only When We Danced (Short Stories) Secrets and promises are often the hardest things to keep. They have a habit of slipping out in conversation. Phillip, a boy on the verge of manhood, tells all his secrets to a man he’s just met in th... [908 words] [Relationships]
Dropping The Red Doll (Short Stories) He hasn’t seen his ex-wife in three years but suddenly she is back in his head and back in his life. As he sits next to her, while she is dying from injuries sustained in a car wreck, he sees the red ... [822 words] [Mystery]
Especially Brilliance (Short Stories) A little bit of heaven has just come back to earth [2,340 words] [Spiritual]
Everything's Falling Into Place (Short Stories) As his girlfriend throws all his possessions from a balcony, the man realises the order in which they are discarded reflects their story relationship. [957 words] [Relationships]
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The Man Who Turns The World With His Feet (Short Stories) An ancient pendant, a Gypsy curse and a small child all combine to release The Man Who Turns the World with his Feet. [1,884 words] [Fantasy]
The Spirit Tree (Short Stories) A small boy was living with his Aunt and Uncle on their farm discovers a magic tree, and a miracle of nature. [4,197 words] [Spiritual]
Cancer Of The Circumstance
Paul Leighland MacLaine
I saw him little and when I did I could do nothing to stifle my shock at the extent to which he had deteriorated; shock at his sullen, sunken disposition; awkward, shifting walk; and uneasy, Prozac-induced smile. At seeing how the cancer had progressed so rapidly from one small insignificant area - to now virtually all - as if his body had cherished invasion, warming to invite the alien into all its tissue. His face, once chiseled handsome, was now drawn – unnaturally face-lifted. His coal-black shock of hair – white and limp...and his eyes,
dear God, his eyes...
and the control they now held over my own.
I stared helplessly into a gaze that to me alone revealed a black-blooded and shapeless form, pulsing with a separate life inside him. He reached out to touch me. His hands were covered with thin, wicker veins, and his breath was rank with lies - just like my father’s had once stunk with alcohol.
Moving closer, I realised just how painful my unbelieving stare had become to him when he crossed his arms against his chest, the past-prime prize-fighter protecting his torso from looks received like precision body-blows.
I then knew that this man before me was no longer the same I had known since childhood, no more the brother that I had once cherished so dearly.
I stepped back, reversing from our situation. His body shuddered violently and independently of his will like I’d caused some draught by my action. He was, and I’m certain because I could actually see his decay, being eaten alive by his hate and pain and loneliness – consumed by a rapacious and unstoppable cancer of the circumstance.
He had stemmed my thoughts of insignificance and non-consequence by what I can only describe as his duality – his walking death. A photosynthesis where a normal life with its fulsome share of love and pain, tranquillity and frenzy had first entered bright, ice eyes, but were now viewed by these new ones – grey ones, teary and sore, mutating every daily event from a life experience to personal misfortune.
He sipped the air slowly, gained a little strength from a shallow reserve, and spoke.
‘Sometimes, when I’m sad, I will walk for miles so I can avoid going back to my house, and some times it does take miles. And sometimes I’ve forgotten just how far I’ve travelled and, in my condition, I have too great a distance to return. My stamina is poor and I wonder as I walk, each step automatic, each city block becoming more and more the pained mermaid’s search, why it is that I’m going on?
Why don’t I simply stop and inhale once last, fresh and final breath, die and fall to the pavement free of all I was and everything I have become - and with not one single regret.’
He placed his thumb to the skin on his forehead, pressing between his eyes like a surgeon indicating where he is to incise. When he removed it the welt line swelled to bleeding, but it didn’t.
‘What is it that keeps me travelling along the street, moving my legs first one pace and then another, stopping me from flying away from my body. Will I look down to see it still walking back to my house and discover I was not at all needed – that my body would cope just as well without the crushing weight of its soul accessory?’
He stared at me, pleading in his eyes for solutions to his trial. I had none.
‘Insanity,’ he said, ‘is the repetition of the same set of actions with the expectation of different results. Therefore are self-preservation and perseverance insanity?
A tear searched its way down his cheek, its course altered only by the deep lines in his face.
It reached his chin, holding for the briefest of moments, then dropped to the street below. He grabbed my arm at the wrist and elbow, squeezing it gently.
‘I miss her so much, and I realise with such clarity the importance of getting on. This for me is fact, irrefutable fact, but I can’t for the life of me imagine if it is at all worth it to find another to be with, and love, and live with if I must face a punishment that, when I have this new person, I’m pretending it’s someone else.’
His face curled to a smile, forcing the lines deeper and making them appear irreversible.
He continued, ‘My mother used to tell me, when something in me was sad or I had fallen playing, scraped or injured myself in some fashion - Butter doesn’t melt in a dead man’s mouth. She was right, but right now my life is a hard lump in my throat too large and dry to swallow.’
He reached forward and touched my face with the back of his hand. I recoiled, my senses telling me his fingers had burned my cheek, rationale dictated they were icen.
I looked at him and wished the strongest love I knew possible – my body shivered with the power of the thought, but I knew it wasn’t anywhere near the required dosage.
He was one to perform every task the hardest way possible and, as he lit a match to place to the tip of a hastily rolled cigarette, I could not help believing that if requested by God to be the first man to make a fire, he would have chosen wet sticks to start.
‘I miss her too,’ I said, and remembered how I loved seeing her enter a room, noticing her for that first instant, feeling the slight jolt in my chest and wishing that it was me she had come to see. And I also remembered how, on those rare moments, I wanted her to leave just so I could live in the pain of the anticipation of her return.
Once I had witnessed her take a stray lash from his face, smoothing her fingertips over his cheek, looking for the something that had only then become hers. The glow became warm deep inside my chest, emanating from my centre outward to my goose-fleshed skin, making me close my eyes and rock gently with the yearning for her. I had touched my own cheek, like I imagined she might have, to see if it felt different...
and for that moment it had.
I had never before thought of her as beautiful. Endearment is sly - once seen it may be dismissed as momentarily cute. Twice and her features are favourite to your dreams.
Three times and you will never again be able to enjoy the experience of another woman as an individual. Comparison and longing bed-check hourly in solitude. What was it indeed that kept him going?
The expectation that she, or at least what she represents, will someday return to visit him?
I reached to touch him. He retreated, grabbing at his chest, the cancer forcing his body to shake and twitch – and then, as immediate as its decent, his attacker withdrew. He lifted his face to look me in the eye. He smiled like he’d just cheated death and had instructed me in its execution. He nodded to my body. Its language was a mirror of his own, and his smile curled to a grin. I raised my head, stared hard into the blackness, beckoning in his eyes, grabbed his two-dimensional face and pressed my thumbs deep into his eyes. Glass shattered and fell into the sink. My hand, sliced open, sprayed blood across the bathroom wall.
I did nothing more but stare at the now visible contents of my vanity cupboard: my soap, my medicine, and my three bare shelves.
That night, in bed, just as I moved toward sleep. In those few floating moments before dreaming, I heard him singing to a record that had played the day in my head – a revolutionary torture more persistent and will-breaking than any guilt. He sang softly to the blood beating through my injured hand.
‘Blue skies are smilin’ at me,’ he sang.
‘Nothin’ but blue skies do I see.’
Then his voice faltered and became hers and she sang to me like she once had when the touch on my cheek had been real and the time between us now, not so distant.
‘In the morning the blue birds singin’ a song
nothin’ but blue birds from now on.’
She mixed up the next line, like always, and the next few words were punctuated with her sobs.
I heard one more ‘blue skies’ and then she was silent.
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"ok . once again paul is a wowing authour. i have myself experiance the pain and hatered of a cancer ridding illness. those who have ever experiancence anywhere from to them or t a family member will sobb to this story of sadness and fear." -- rachel williams, west melbourne, vic.
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© 1994 Paul Leighland MacLaine
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