Some stories and movies begin at the ending. I tend to like these stories but only if done well. The middle of the story must be exceptional since what is usually the best part is given up front.
So you read, see, or hear this spectacular part of the story and just wonder how this character got to this point. A good example would be the movie American Beauty in which the lead character says (in narration) that he will be dead in less than a year.
I used to think authors used this cart before the horse technique to lessen the blow if a well liked character was going to die. We would get to choose how much emotion to invest in the doomed character and not get all pissed at the author for killing them off.
But that’s not it. I don’t think. It is to get the audience to focus more on the journey and maybe for the author to flaunt his/her skills at story structure.
Now that I’ve told you all that, I will begin this post at the end. Not to flaunt skills, but I just don’t want anyone to worry about me for a second.
I do not have cancer and I am not dying.
It started last week with a routine x-ray. A couple of days later I got a voicemail telling me I have to go back in to have some additional views. I knew what that meant. They saw something. I didn’t check my voicemail until the place was closed, so I had to sleep on that.
Next day I call and get that person’s voice mail. No one else will discuss the matter with me. So I Left a message. Waited all day and finally got a call back just before the place closed. I wanted to be in the place already having the additional films.
I get the next available appointment which is another couple of days out. So for a few days I’m thinking I could be dying. I don’t tell anyone as it is useless to worry someone about something that could be a false alarm.
I fill these days with distraction. Go out to the cemetery and take photos. Get eaten up by bugs or poison ivy or oak or something really dreadful. I have thousands, yes, thousands of red whelps all over my body. They itch like nothing I’ve had before, and I’ve had measles and chickenpox. This is horrible.
That is “Death of Marat” by David. Marat had a skin condition so he was always in the tub. That’s where he was murdered.
Anyway, I go back for x-rays and I’m covered in these red bumps. Tell the woman she may want to wear gloves (I would). She shows me the previous x-ray and, fuck, it looks like I’m ate up with cancer. She tells me I will know the results of this day’s xrays within an hour. Great. I get to find out I have cancer while my husband is out of town.
Same thing shows up. She tells me to go wait down the long hall to the left because they might need to do a sonogram. Patients whose films look good get to go to the right, put their clothes back on and leave. I get to go to what I thought of as death row. Sit. Wait. Read women’s mags. Wait. Why don’t they hire a masseuse for this part, huh?
Another patient joins me. I’m thinking about cracking a Green Mile joke to lessen the tension but decide not to after she says something about people who sew their own clothes being idiots. “It all ends up costing more than if you bought the clothing.”
The tech finally comes get me and I chant to myself, “Walking the mile, walking the mile…dead man walking…”
Anyway it turned out to be scar tissue from a surgery I had as a child. No cancer. Deep sigh.
Not the end of the story. Hang in there.
I get a piece of paper from the radioligist saying “You do not have cancer.” Get home, put it up on the counter in the kitchen.
Later that night I ask Spanky to spray some Benadryl on my itchy back. When she sees all the whelps she is horrified and says, “There’s something really wrong with you. This can’t be bug bites, it looks really bad, Mom.”
I tell her it’s nothing, not to worry.
What happens next is pretty horrible. She finds the radiology report and through her worried little eyes reads it wrong. She thinks it says, “You have cancer.”
She doesn’t ask me anything. Thinks I’m hiding bad news. In the middle of the night, she’s sobbing uncontrollably and wakes her sister Sweetpea. Tells her the news. Sweetpea comes downstairs and reads the report correctly. Tells Spanky. But Spanky says she read it on another paper.
Today I find out all about this and am sickened that the girls had to go through that.
Sweetpea says, “Man, I thought I was going to lose my hair.”
“You? Or me?” I ask.
“I was going to shave my head to make you a wig,” she says.
“All the way off?”
“Well I was gonna do a mohawk thing. Almost all.” She says.
Spanky chimes in, “Well I was thinking mine would be better because it’s longer and healthier.”
Man, I wanted to cry. I explained to them I would never hide such a thing.
About these horrible bites or whatever, I spent almost the entire day soaking in the pool. It feels as if I’ve rolled around in an ant pile.
But I don’t have cancer and I’m not dying. Whew.