The Big C

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So, no running around the yard with Adam, playing hide and seek or anything else. Next plan: One vanilla latte. Why not two? Over to Marlene's house, with coffee to replace the coffee her couch fire ruined. There's no answer at the door, so she pushes in; she knows how Marlene gets. Inside it's still, and a little bit scary. Marlene's sitting up, in a chair, with her lunch half-eaten on a tray in front of her. Their wedding pictures are filmed in dust.

Marlene is beautiful. She was so young, in those pictures. Maybe she's prettier now, with wrinkles, and character, and skin soft as paper. Sleeping there, in the chair. Wrinkled and patrician and full of fire. Cathy reaches out, before she even knows what she's doing, and strokes the lines across Marlene's face. Jealous for a moment. Covetous.

"What the hell," Marlene growls, jerking awake; Cathy's embarrassed and startled, and the latte goes everywhere, all over Marlene, and she keeps saying Marlene's name and trying to apologize, and that's the part that pisses her off: "I tell you my name and now you're touching my face?" She looks like she might actually punch Cathy, who tries to apologize more, and explain about the latte, and the ashes in the sky, and the couch, and her life, and paintball, but Marlene is only just getting started.

"And now you're trying to scald me with it? Then what, burn my couch? With me on it?" Marlene keeps shouting, sleepy and appalled by Cathy's continuing aggression. "Do me a favor and forget my name!" She chases Cathy stumbling out; there's not even anybody to tell this story, once it turns funny again.

"Stainless steel, you are kind." She turns every which way: Awesome rack. Her beautiful body, in the middle of the day. Cathy smiles. Out into the yard, timid at first, wrapped in a bath sheet. Maybe hating your body was another country, just a dream we had. There's nothing to fear from the sun, any more than from her cigarettes anymore. The sun is only pleasure, now. Cathy holds the towel out, and spreads her wings, and smiles.

Paul comes home again, after the appointment -- "I know you're here because your car's in the driveway and the smell of cruelty's in the air," he calls to the empty house -- and finds her there, sunning herself in the backyard. No sunblock, no shame: Just Cathy and the sun.

She's startled again, and embarrassed to be seen. Covers up quickly, hissing at him. He accuses her once again of having an affair, half-heartedly, and asks what she's even doing today. "You're lying naked in broad daylight in the middle of our yard. I mean, I like it. don't get me wrong..."

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The Big C




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