"We call them pizza pillows," Cathy says to her neighbor Marlene. "But there isn't really a pizza part, they're basically just English muffin with melted cheese, and salsa."
Marlene stares at the platter, piled high. "I live alone, and I got a stomach the size of a nut." Cathy rolls her eyes and tells her neighbor to throw them away, if she doesn't want them; Cathy knows Marlene never throws anything away. She's lost too much already.
"And I have a favor to ask," Cathy adds, which lights Marlene's face up with an angry grin.
"I knew it! The pillows have strings." And when Cathy tells her about the met, Marlene is unimpressed.
"Ah, Jesus. More cancer?"
Cathy nearly laughs. "Yes, Marlene. I'm riddled with it. But let's try and keep this light?"
Marlene of course will do it, pick up her friend, take her home, woozy, drop her on the couch. Take out a homeless drifter with a shotgun, dress her neighbor's brother in an old man's gorgeous suits. Take on her neighbor's son in secret, making him a man. Of course Marlene will do it.
"You realize I'm almost eighty, right? I could die in my sleep at any time."
But before Monday?
"You've got to find yourself someone younger to be your in case of emergency. You're lousy with family. Pick one of them." Lousy with cancer, riddled with family. Genes, environment, history.
"I'm not ready to tell them yet," Cathy says, again, happy to be telling the truth. Those sad eyes, all the faces Todd Mauer makes that he doesn't know he's making. The relief and smile when she said she'd told Paul.
"Take your time," Marlene jokes darkly, "You might get out of it completely." It's almost a dare. Cathy doesn't like the implication; Cathy Jamison is never weak.
Paul and Adam are in the backyard, sanding down a bathtub and painting it bright again. "The Drain Gang," they're calling themselves. Cathy is a member. When Cathy thanks him for agreeing to the race, he looks up at her impishly, both eyes uncovered, looking up, winking. Charming. "Well, thanks for having me... In my own house!" he says it like a cartoon bear, without the anger or resentment or the childlike fear. A voice she likes, when he doesn't overuse it.
"Thank you for being here. I mean, look how happy Adam is. And I'm happy to see you too." He's happy to hear it, but focused on the bathtub. Is he so busy that he has no time for pizza pillows? Suffice to say that Paul always has time for pizza pillows.