The Big C
Happy Birthday, Cancer!

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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
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The Suitcase Kid

"That's basically the entire time you've known me. I don't know how to not take that personally. I mean, if there's a straw for me to grasp at, I'll grasp at it. Hell, that's what I've been doing for the last two months..." How much has he been drinking? "Not enough," he hisses, and she goes on the offensive, brushes past, ignoring drunk Paul again. He's not wrong, but the degree to which he's right keeps shifting. She doesn't have it all and she never did. The bomb drops.

"When you kicked me out of the house for pissing on the lawn, I never should have sobered up. I definitely should've never left my house. This is my house, by the way. It's my fucking house. I thought it was our house. I thought it was our dream house, but I guess I'm the only one dreaming, because it's all a big fucking nightmare for you. You know what? You should've moved out! Because this is my house."

She stares. It hurts more than when he told her about the handjob, somehow. In a fresh place. A new bruise.

"If you're happy and you know it clap your hands!" he sings. "Not you, Cathy! You don't clap!" Paul is getting ridiculous; he knows he's getting ridiculous and the only way out is through so he raises his voice, gets hysterical, throws a temper tantrum because there's no coming back now. "You know what else? This is my fork. And I miss my fork. Hello, fork, how you doing? Oh, look, it's my balloons. My fork, meet my balloons!" With every word a punctuated pop. "How you doing? Nice to see you! What's up? Merry Christmas! Nice to meet you!"

It's a song he's singing, and the words go like this: "What about love? Don't you want someone to care about you?"

It goes from the kind of anger she has to take seriously to just another reason on the list, and Cathy retreats. Whatever point he's making, however valid it was a moment ago, it quickly is subsumed by his overarching complaints: Not that she left him out of the speech, but that it's on his list of grievances now, which have snowballed, pushed past him and both of them and on into a rageful future. There's a sound like a freight train, shoving itself along. She flees, retreats, goes to see what this new problem is.

Down in the basement, on top of the washing machine, Rebecca and Sean are fucking like a freight train, shoving themselves along, getting younger and further from death as she watches, staring: A pair of freaks, and the train shoving past.

Cathy shouts her best friend's name, and Sean grins up past her, at his sister. Another choice made; Rebecca calls out in apology. Rebecca and men. And upstairs her husband, popping every balloon in the house, screaming incoherently. Adam, put safely away for the night, a good kid. Marlene, home for the night.

What about love? What about it, Cathy Jamison thinks. What about everybody having it all, walking around with bombs they don't even know are ticking: Is she really responsible for this? Subtract Cathy from this equation, just for the weekend: Does anything change? Not tonight. Paul will rage and Adam will giggle upstairs. Sean and Rebecca will keep fucking forever in her basement like a freight train.

And then, thinks Cathy Jamison, what a morning -- fresh as if issued to children on a beach. What a lark! What a plunge!

"It's me," she tells the artist on the phone. "I'm coming with you."

What the hell.

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The Big C

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