The Big C

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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
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Come Clean
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Adam Jamison's accident has become every accident, and his concussion has become every concussion, he will ever have. His mother worries, wants to keep him in bed, wants him to physically shrink in size and to become invulnerable; his mother wants to take him by the heel and dip him in the river and make it so that no one and no thing can ever hurt him.

In this his mother is no different from any mother; in its futility his mother is no different from any mother. No mother can ever fully protect her children, whether she is alive or dead. It's a beach you keep swimming for until your last breath but you'll never really reach it. The best you can hope for is that when the time comes for them to hurt it will be somebody else doing the hurting. Nobody wants to hurt what they love.

"I don't want you to end up like one of those football players that didn't listen to their doctor, and now it's ten years later and they don't know how to make toast." Adam promises that his agenda included sedate activities, video games, nothing along the lines of professional football. "It's not like I'm gonna go outside and like bang my head against the curb," he says, and promises to wear a helmet in Brad's living room. She knows he's joking but she wishes he weren't joking.

In the moment before her wounded son walks out the door, out of her life and through the door, just for the afternoon, a sharp pang settles in her chest. Sometimes the world moves very quickly and in these times even small things can seem large. She rushes to her son and points a camera at them both, trapping another moment. This time, she manages to capture their faces. Kissing him, on the cheek, as the shutter snaps and his eyes close, in adolescent irony and the luxurious shame of gratitude. They seem happy, in the photograph: No different from any mother or any son or any family that ever lived, no different from any other person who will live forever in a photograph.

Marlene is painting her house, rejuvenating the world around her, cleaning and clearing and making room in her life for this new family, these people across the street who have moved into her heart and made it operate again. The young and beautiful woman only a little further from death than herself; the boy with the anger she recognizes; the brother, who lives to shock his sister but could be the biggest prude of all. Nancy is learning about her place in the world, as her brother is learning to separate himself from it and the noise, as her son is learning of its existence. Marlene thought she was in it but that was before this family. Before she realized how dark and late it had gotten.

Casually as she can Cathy tells Marlene that Paul has demanded a divorce; more casually than that Cathy tells Marlene that she's been having an affair. Marlene's sympathy turns to righteous anger and she slaps her friend across the face. She sings a song that Cathy can hear, finally; she sings a song for family.

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The Big C

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