The Big C
Two for the Road

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"Still think I'm a goody two-shoes? Still think I can't be wild and crazy? Well, this is what it looks like, Sean. My caution is officially thrown to the wind." As though he'd been the one pressuring her, as though it was possible to crack behind that curtain. As though she had worries, or the world was capable of pulling back for her, like a curtain, and coming for her. As though she weren't a part of the problem.

"Fuck you, Cathy," he said, like a promise. Like she was part of the world he was holding together. He pulled away. It wasn't a joke this time. She started walking and he backed up again for her. She wanted him to pull away, tap the gas, laugh and call her names, but he was too anxious. The closer they got, the more nervous he got; the liar in the car and the liar in the house. He refused to go inside, when they arrived. So his sister was alone.

Adam thanked the neighbor for her ginger ale, and apologized for throwing it up again on her rug. She noted the resemblance between Adam and his father, lying on the floor, and sent him upstairs to bed. "First thing you're doing in the morning is clean this crap up," she said, and Adam didn't even complain. He sighed, and she patted him fondly on the back. Left alone with Paul, just a heap on her friend's floor, she thought about kicking him. She threw a bowl of chips on his head and thought about her gun. "I don't care if you're living here or on the moon, being a father's not a part-time job. You can't quit every time you feel like tying one on. Your kid's sick, and this place smells like raw sewage. Take care of it." He stared around, confused.

Sean's mother sat where she always had, in an urn in an empty fireplace. Sean's father wasn't unhappy to see his daughter, but he wasn't happy either: An important baseball game meant he was entertaining, not seeing his children. Sharon was at her bridge game, so he couldn't even feed his daughter. He balked at the suggestion of talking, so she thought for a moment before trying again.

"...How are you doing health-wise? You still taking your Lipitor?" She could hear it in her head, Marlene's daughters; the way they didn't really care. "And how's that knee?" He spoke to the television, ignoring her altogether. It would have to be bigger than that. Bigger than the body.

"Daddy? Paul and I are separated." That got his attention. For a moment it nearly seemed as though he'd say something kind.

"You've got to work that out," he said, agape. "I really don't see you doing much better than Paul." Sean's sister was offended. She was a ten and Paul was a four; that was how it worked. "Sweetpea, you have to be realistic, that's all. You're a forty-four-year-old woman. Your options are not great." Her "options," behind the curtain, were nil. She tried to turn the mess around, steer it somewhere safe. "And who knows what I can achieve?"

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The Big C

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