If this were a book, this would be the start of the second chapter. As with the previous installments, I welcome your thoughts.
The world in which Jack existed had been obliterated in an instant. At this moment, he was seated on his bed in his bedroom and he was alone. He never returned to Michael, who had long since vanished off line, and as far as Jack was concerned, he never wanted to see anyone again because he was afraid that if he did, then he would utter the truth to them. The truth was: he was scared. If he thought being almost knocked over by a car was true terror then he was very wrong. Right now he was staring down the barrel of a gun and fate was holding the trigger.
Only an hour ago, his mother had wanted a talk – he couldn’t believe that he was eating his dinner only an hour ago! It may have well as been a million years ago, in a different life and on a different planet. He had never felt so devoid of anything before and he didn’t know what his next move was going to be. This was the test you see. His parents were waiting downstairs for him. Fight of flight mode was kicking in. Was he going to stick around and fight or was he going to flee? His parents had made their decision; they needed to see what his was going to be.
“You and I need to have a little talk,” was all his mother had said.
It was nothing. Or, so he thought.
After dinner had been cleared away, his father vanished into the kitchen to wash up. Despite the news concerning his father, it was to be his mother who would send Jack’s world crashing down.
Jack followed his mother into the living room and she gestured for him to sit down on the settee. He complied. Once he was seated, she too took a seat right next to him. He could see the creases in her forehead and the lines around her eyes. His mother was beautiful, but today she appeared to be worn out.
“Your father and I have been to the hospital today,” she began to explain.
Immediately, Jack’s stomach plummeted.
“He has been struggling to eat recently and I don’t know if you have noticed, but he frequently suffers from hiccups. We didn’t think it was anything serious, but his hiccups were painful and often resulted in terrible heartburn. Your dad finally agreed to go and see a doctor after I had been asking him for weeks. When he finally saw someone, Jack, your father was referred to the hospital straightaway and that’s where we have been today.
Jack nodded, but didn’t speak.
“Your father has a tumour, Jack. Do you understand what that is?
Once again, Jack nodded, and couldn’t speak.
“It’s a tricky tumour, Jack. That’s going to be the real problem. We can fight it and we will fight it, but it’s going to be a tricky little bugger and it’s going to be a struggle.”
“Where?” Jack asked.
“It’s in his oesophagus,” she paused, waiting for a response from Jack.
He searched in his head for something to say. He thought back to biology lessons when he had learnt about Cancer and mutated cells, but nothing of any significance came flooding back – only the memories of the rat they dissected a few months earlier – the rat that had made three girls shriek and caused Michael to lose all colour in his face. The memory fizzled away as he noticed that his mother was waiting for him to speak.
“Osof…osofa…ohwhatagus?” was all he could say.
Sadie smiled at this.
“I know; that’s what I thought too. The tumour is in his gullet, dear – she placed her hand in the centre of a chest and traced her fingers up to her throat.
Just then, his father walked in the living room and was drying his hands on a towel to signal that the washing up was complete. He looked over at his son and smiled. Jack looked at his father then – really looked at him. He took in his size, his weight and the way in which he held himself. He’d lost weight. In fact, he had lost quite a bit. How had Jack not noticed that? Carl was quite a big man. In his younger years, he had been a keen sportsman; he played football and rugby and regularly frequented the gym. He was tall too. Only now, as Jack was staring at his father, he didn’t appear to be quite as tall. He was stooped over slightly and Jack wondered whether this was an attempt to hide the weight loss or whether it was because he was ill. A pang of guilt shot through him then. How had he not noticed these changes?
“Son,” his father spoke then. “Your mother thought it would be better to speak to you about this tonight before we start any treatment. Do you understand what we mean by treatment?”
“It means chemotherapy,” Jack said quietly. “It’s what you need to help you get better.”
“Yes, son. To help me get better,”
Carl glanced over at his family then and paused. Silence swept over the living room like that small wave that catches you unaware at the beach and knocks you off your feet. Jack waited for someone to say something. Anything. But neither parent spoke. No longer looking at him, both parents stared at one another and Jack noticed him mother give his father the slightest of nods. It was her signal to say that she would do the rest; she was relieving Carl of his duties because he had said all he had needed to say. Realising that he was still holding the wet towel, Carl, without speaking, gestured towards the kitchen and left his son and his wife alone.
“Is there anything you want to ask?” Sadie finally spoke once Carl was out of earshot.
Jack thought, but he couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say. He couldn’t think of anything comforting or soothing to say, so he just said:
“Can I go to my room?”
Again, Sadie gave the slightest of nods as her eyes dropped to her hands that were twisting and turning in her lap like she was solving an invisible Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
So, that was where he was now: his bedroom. An hour had passed and Jack couldn’t hear anything from downstairs. He knew that he would not see his parents again that night; he needed time alone and they accepted that. Watching Michael kiss Chloe Peterson from English was a million years ago now. The sneeze that Jack thought was going to be tomorrow’s talking point and tomorrow’s ‘roasting’ was no longer of any importance. Hell, it didn’t even register on his radar anymore.
The fact was: Jack’s dad was ill. Not just poorly ill, but seriously ill. A tumour had been growing on his gullet for God knows how long and now, as a family, they had to fight it. In fact, they had to annihilate it, just like it had done to his family. He couldn’t even contemplate living in a world that didn’t have his father in it. Who would he sledge with in winter or play football with in the summer? Who would he speak to about girls when the time came? Above all though, who would teach him how virtuous in adversity? Who would show him how to be the pillar of his own family and who prepare him, when the time came, for fatherhood? Jack’s instincts were screaming at him to run and hide. And that, just for now, is what he did. He folded back his bedding and climbed, fully clothed, into his bed pulling the covers up over his head.
This story isn’t going to be sad. The plan is for it to be uplifting, but sometimes describing terrible events is essential before the magic can begin. And by magic, I mean literal magic. Stick with it and see.
Any comments would be greatly appreciated again.