The Big C

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The Three Cathy Jamisons
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Cathy Jamison has uncovered a new memory: The summer she and Adam rode a tandem bicycle down for soft-serve what seemed like every day. She finally manages to wheel it out of the garage just as her husband Paul is pulling up on his Vespa. Angry and whining as usual, jerking his sock drawer out of the bureau so hard that he topples over. For Cathy this is nothing new but he's a man on a mission, Paul. He's starting to feel emasculated without answers, and so he needs his socks.

"Angela says you're holding me emotionally hostage," Paul says, as though it will cut his wife to the bone. And who is Angela? The therapist. The one Cathy Jamison walked out on, after only five minutes, leaving her husband's face as open as a cabinet door. "Tell Angela she's kind of a bitch," says the terrorist, and Paul says they have that in common; in the stairwell he takes a framed picture from the wall, once a birthday gift, snapping at his wife as he goes. He drives away again on the scooter, narrowly missing the yard across the street, dropping socks as he goes, like breadcrumbs.

At Cathy's feet is Thomas, the neighbor Marlene's beagle. He appears, now, whenever she needs him. Or when she doesn't need him. Or any time at all. He's trying to tell her something but all she can see is that he dogs her like her loneliness. Hounds her. Hunched over and across the street, back to Marlene, who complains happily about Paul's driving and wonders if he's losing his marbles. He's losing more than that, is Paul Jamison, but he doesn't know it yet. Only Thomas knows for now.

Adam Jamison comes hopping angrily out of the house as his mother returns, asking after his father, hatefully brushing past. She stops him, steers him, turns him back around: The tandem bicycle, built for two, ready for the summer. She says the word chillax and she knows she's already lost him. But it was built for two.

"Then you shouldn't have kicked Dad out of the house, because you're high if you think I'm riding that with you. I'd rather die." It strikes her, chilling, his syntax. Don't say you'd rather die. You have no idea what it means. He tells her not to say "chillax," he says that it's "gay," and she tells him not to use that word either. He's gone. She boards the bicycle herself, wobbling off down the road. She was built for two, at least.

Paul is gone, in a cloud of Vespa fumes and angry socks. Marlene and Adam are angry for reasons they barely understand. It was built for two, so Cathy rides it to a shambles, a palace of garbage in which her brother Sean sits in a throne, like a king. Sitting in the sun, the terrible angry summer sun, like a king.

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The Big C

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