The Big C

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Consider the Lobster

Dying people have great ideas, she thinks. "Dying people have great ideas," she says, to push this story away from her again. Dr. Miller begs her not to run with the bulls, if she's going to play this story out. "You know? Start with something smaller, like chickens." She considers him, as a man, as a friend. Her eyelashes dip softly. "You're funny."

He shies away; he asks about the car. "Why a convertible?"

Amanda Montgomery was a girl they knew in high school. One of those perfect girls. Amanda Montgomery drove a cherry-red convertible, every morning, into the parking lot. She would head into the building in impossible clogs. Everything about Amanda Montgomery seemed effortless.

"She had life by the balls, you know? She knew she was gonna get whatever she wanted."

To be Amanda Montgomery means no glass prisons, no suffering, no choices between pain and greater pain. No cancer. "And I bought that car because I wanted to know what it would feel like to be her. "To know that anything was possible." His eyes slide away; Cathy changes the subject again.

"I want more pie. Where's Bangy?" He looks at his watch, anxious for her, caught in doctor/patient, knowing she doesn't want his pity and knowing he can't give it. Prepares to run. Late for an appointment.

Aren't doctors always late for appointments? She smiles, her hands reaching toward him to keep him there, with her, in her little glass world. It's not a medical appointment, his deck is cleared: He's meeting a realtor. Cathy's eyes light up; her voice asks before her words do.

"You're going house hunting? I love house hunting!" Because it's voyeuristic, she says. Other people's lives. Did they cry? It's crossing a line, he starts to waver, and she fans out the cash once again.

"Look, I will pay you $800." He barks at her; this is inappropriate. For Bangy, for him, for Cathy Jamison. Her face goes sad and young; Cathy Jamison stoops, for a moment, to conquer. "So you'll take me for free?" Only to keep an eye on her, he lies, in her mania. She hands him the keys to the car she can't drive, tells him to pull around, offers him a scandalous last chance at a urine sample, heads to the bathroom.

Outside, she's not alone: Chased by Bangy, lobster in hand, clawing at the air. They speed away. Amanda Montgomery.

David Foster Wallace's 2005 book of essays takes its name from an essay within, "Consider The Lobster." It concerns itself with the ethics of lobster: Catching, live boiling, delicious meat cracked from its hard skeleton and dipped in butter. The question he asks regards the ethics of boiling something alive, just to enhance our own pleasure. The implicit entertainment of watching something slowly die. No matter how delicious.

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The Big C

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