The Big C
Taking Lumps

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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
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Unhealthy Competition

"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.

"You know, you should wear skirts more often. You really should."

The eyepatch is off. He's looking at things again.

Inside, going through the kitchen doors, Cathy's brother Sean is beaten bloody. She didn't hear him come in, although presumably Adam said hello on his way out. Someone tried to steal Sean's sleeping bag. He tried to hand it over, he says, "But I had to fight my way out of it first." Cathy points out to her brother that it's not fair to laugh at her for worrying, when her worries come true. He doesn't answer that part, because if she wasn't worrying, they wouldn't have anything at all.

"The bad news is, it's very easy to break into your back door. The good news is you apparently have no duct tape for an intruder to tie you up with."

Cathy tells her brother this is what comes of sleeping in the streets; Sean Tolke tells his sister he was sleeping in the park. He asks her to tape him back together, lifting his shirt: An ugly bruise, three cracked ribs, crawls up his body. A wound you can look at, and understand. She reaches out to touch it and he gasps.

"If you could just wrap me real tight in some packing tape, or electrical tape. Some kind of sturdy tape. I know how much you love to wrap things, you could even put a bow on me if it'll give you an extra thrill."

He won't go to the hospital. He has no fondness for those places. "They don't do anything about cracked ribs anyway, they just tape them up. So tape them up?"

The pillows have strings. "I will help you, but only if you promise to stay here for a few days, so I can keep an eye on you." Not for him, but for her. "I want to take care of you. Please let me do that."

Not for him, but for her. Cathy Jamison knows it sounds manipulative, when she says things like this, but it's the truth: It's not for them, it's for her. Cleared, like the bookshelves. He refuses to sleep in the house; she tells him he can sleep in the yard. Just closer.

Do you want to learn about history?

Adam Jamison complains: The wheels on the bathtub suck.

"Don't say suck," Paul says, sounding just like his wife. "Say, 'These wheels fall below my expectations.'" Adam laughs at his father, but Paul knows that it's a compliment. "Your mom has a wonderful vocabulary," he says, just before she comes back out into the yard.

Sean admits he's staying with them, "just until my double vision goes away," and laughs that he's seeing four of Paul somehow.

"That's so weird," sneers Paul. "For some reason I'm smelling three of you."

Workin' on the Drain Gang: Does it cancel out, if she's thinking of the painter? Does it measure up? Are they two different things, or unrelated? If there aren't any rules, or punishments, then what has ever held her back? She shouts at them to stop fighting.

"Adam, go help Sean unload the cart. It's in the back."

Adam, as they go, laments there aren't shopping cart races, but this sends Sean off again.

"I don't do organized sports. They promote unhealthy competition..."

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The Big C

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