The Treachery of Unspecified Cancers (#fiction)

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VIII

He was fun. He was a lot of fun. That’s what everyone said. He was funny and jovial and he just loved to be around people, and people loved to be around him. I swear he could make a joke out of just about anything. And he was cute, so he collected plenty of phone numbers, if you know what I mean.

It’s just that right when everyone would be getting into things and really enjoying themselves, Mike would call. And when Mike called, he always went to him, because Mike was experiencing hellish pain from cancer and needed help and support. That’s what he told us. Mike had horrible pain because he was dying from cancer of the leg.

Now, I’m not saying Mike wasn’t sick or anything like that, but I always thought cancer of the leg sounded a bit generic. I mean, I think Bob Marley’s cancer started with a melanoma on his toe, but I never heard anyone call it cancer of the toe. That would sound weird to me.

I guess people do what they have to do, and Mike didn’t leave the house much. He just kept to himself, taking medicines and things, and just trying to get through each day, hour after hellish hour. He didn’t seem to want visitors, as no one I knew was ever invited over to their place. Because I didn’t see him much, I never gave him much thought. I felt a little sorry for him, of course, and I was glad he had someone to take care of him. But I didn’t really know him—there was no connection to him, see?

So that’s why I didn’t think of inviting Mike when we decided to go to the movies. I didn’t think Mike would be interested in going out late, hobbling around town, and getting home in the wee hours.

To be honest, that’s a lie. I simply didn’t think of Mike at all when we made our plans. But I was surprised when Mike was outside the theater when we showed up. And I was surprised when Mike got a ticket and went inside with us. I was relieved, of course!, to see that he walked with no signs of pain or a limp or anything, and he seemed to be handling the cancer treatments quite well. Really, he seemed strong and healthy. I think he could have taken me in a fight, if it came to that.

And I kind of got the feeling Mike wanted me to know that.

Living a Life of Social Acceptability (#fiction)

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I really don’t think you’re in any position to judge. I mean, she had a hard day and you don’t know what she’d been going through. For that matter, you don’t know a damned thing about what her life was like. What she’d already been through and all that. You have no idea, so what she did with her afternoons might be perfectly understandable, except to a bunch of prudes or something. I don’t know, maybe you’re not a prude, and I’m just being too defensive of her for some reason.

Whatever, she had a hard day, like most of them, and she just wanted to unwind, and unwinding meant she’d go see Jim and get a little weed, because Jim always had a little weed on hand, and a few hits off the bong would just do the trick. Of course, a visit to Jim would take most of the afternoon as he’d want to set the mood with a little Neil Young—it was always Neil Young, even if she’d have preferred Bob Marley or something, but a little Neil Young in the background is really nothing to complain about, especially if you really need a couple of hits off the bong. And let’s face it, that’s what this is all about.

Of course, after some Neil Young in the background, a couple of hits off the bong, and some time to relax, some people get a little horny, and Jim was likely to expect something for getting that cheap but quality grass and being hospitable and everything. And he wasn’t so horrible in bed, even with the bad leg and all. I mean, he wasn’t selfish or mean or anything. He just got to business and took care of himself, which is okay if you can focus, and a little pot does help to focus, so you can sort of do your own thing while Jim takes care of himself. That’s the great thing about marijuana: two people can do their own thing and take care of themselves without really feeling lonely for a while.

It’s like the self-loathing takes a break for a minute, and you can just take it easy. Or, maybe she wouldn’t have thought of it that way, but you know, in hindsight, we see things differently. Anyway, I’m sure she and Jim just did what they needed to do to get by, and it’s none of your business or mine why they lived the way they did. That’s what we’re all doing, really, just trying to get by. And I don’t know why I’m defending them, either, as I had nothing to do with any of it, but that’s how it went down that day.

That’s how it went down at least once or twice a week. Purely business, you see. Business with benefits, or something like that. Outside of these encounters, they didn’t really socialize. I don’t know how many other similar arrangements Jim might have had, but I reckon he was harmless enough, and the cops never seemed to take notice of him on account of how quiet he was, so he really presented a good situation overall. You know, for someone who just needed to take the edge off from time to time.

So she went there and got what she needed, and you can imagine that might take a couple of hours at least, so it was dark when she got home. It would probably be a good time to study, but sex and smokes can make a girl a little hungry, so she’d be starting a pizza for sure. And she would need some ice cream for after, but, wait, no ice cream, unless she could be bothered to make an impromptu visit to the Piggly Wiggly.

So that pretty much explains this particular series of events. That’s why she drove to the grocery store in her bare feet. That’s why she was being quiet but also feeling relaxed and a little friendly, which might explain why she felt confident enough to flirt with the guy trying to get some pecan praline ice cream out of the freezer. At that moment, she just wasn’t in the mood to worry about anything, and he didn’t seem the least bit scary.