Michael di Gesu asked us to write a cancer story to be included in an anthology.
All sales will benefit our friend Melissa Bradley's fight,
as with losing her job and undergoing chemotherapy, the cost of staying alive is sky high.
She needs our help.
There is also a medical fund to help raise money for the expensive treatment.
Go here if you feel you could spare a few dollars for Melissa.
Michael and Melissa would prefer funny stories.
Sometimes laughter is a scarse commodity when cancer is in the same room.
But bravery, grace under pressure, and a firm resolution to go out standing tall ...
those can be found in souls staring straight into cancer's eyes.
My own cancer is too close to write about.
My mother died of breast cancer. My best friend is dying with it.
So what to write?
This is the fable I crafted. I hope you enjoy it.
PLAY THE HAND YOU'RE DEALT:
"All of us have a path to follow, and that path begins in the heart."
- Samuel McCord
The gas lights gleaming from his bald head, the young boy in the wheelchair looked up at me.
"Gosh, Captain McCord, I always wanted to see the insides of Meiloiri's."
He sipped his ice tea held with unsteady hands. "To think a hero like you'd make time for just a kid with cancer like me."
The ghost of Mark Twain sat down beside the boy and winked.
"There ain't no just kids to Sam. And you're the hero. Me & Capt. Sam, why we get so jim-jammed with fright sometimes we get all turned around and actually RUN to danger instead of AWAY FROM it!"
A flurry of snowflakes slowly formed in the chair beside me into a tall, regal woman in white buckskins & lightning hair.
THE TURQUOISE WOMAN.
Eyes the color of her name pierced me. "This poker game has the potential of a loaded gun."
Mark nudged the frightened boy with a wink. "Mother Nature there sure sucks the joy clean outta the air, don't she?"
The boy clutched my arm as the 3 remaining players pulled up their chairs and sat down.
The bald man in grey Armani grinned like a skull. "Am I late?"
I said, "You always come too soon, Cancer. I see you brought your usual companions, Despair and Hopelessness."
Cancer smiled at the trembling boy. "Ah, I see you recognize them as well. They keep you company with me in the long, long watches of the night."
"I've heard that," I said. "That's why I set up this game."
Cancer laughed like the breaking of brittle bones. "You cannot win."
I patted the boy's shaking fingers. "Watch us."
Cancer drew out a deck from his inside jacket pocket. "I'll deal the cards."
His shark smile widened. "I always do."
I patted the boy's tightening fingers. "It's not the cards you're dealt, son, but how you play them that counts."
The heavy fog called Hopelessness murmured, "You have Zero Chance, boy."
Mark refused to look at his dealt cards, winking at the boy. "You know what the Zero said to the Eight?"
"Why, ain't that a lovely belt you're wearing!"
The boy laughed, and the fog thinned though it growled.
Mark nodded to the threatening fog. "What did the right eye say to the left one?"
The boy shook his head. "What?"
"Between you and me something smells!"
The boy laughed so hard that ice tea came out of his nose, and Hopelessness faded away completely.
The man-shaped leech called Despair murmured, "Laughter won't stop the pain, boy!"
The boy cocked his head. "I-I do hurt less now."
Despair whispered, "But the pain kept you up all last night."
Turquoise Woman sent a spiral of snowflakes shimmering to the boy.
"And so you were awake to see my sunrise, were you not? Was it not beautiful?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am!"
"All else in New Orleans slept thru it. Only you saw it."
"Really ... which is why I sent you the robins this morn to sit on your sil and serenade you."
"It was lovely, ma'am. I heard them in my head all day."
Turquoise Woman smiled. "See how much more you lived than everyone else in New Orleans?"
She stroked his cheek. "The pain does not let you sleep thru life. These past weeks you have lived on a level few ever achieve, appreciating what most take for granted."
I winked at the boy. "Know what you get when you quit?"
"Neither do I. I've won. I've lost. But I've never quit. All it takes is getting up one more time than they knock you down."
I patted his steady fingers. "Each scar life gives us is a gift, son."
"It sure doesn't feel like a gift, sir."
"No, not at first. But think on it, son. Where we are unhurt is where we are unsure of who we really are. Where we are wounded & healed is where we get to show what we're made of."
The boy's jaw firmed, and the leech called Despair disappeared.
Cancer flipped over his cards. They were a Royal Flush. "I win!"
"No," calmly said Turquoise Woman. "You lose."
She smiled like a new sunrise at the boy.
"You may hold the boy for a season. But only a season. And even in that season, the boy decides if he chooses laughter and courage over despair and hopelessness."
Turquoise Woman gestured, and a robin fluttered on the boy's shoulder. "If his treatment works, you will lose your hold on him."
Cancer sneered, "And if I kill him?"
Turquoise Woman smiled wider.
"Then, he goes to the Great Mystery where those like Mark Twain here will keep company with him for eternity. And pain will not even be a memory."
I squeezed the boy's arm. "Forever with laughter and love. Not too bad, huh?"
Mark Twain nudged the now-smiling boy. "You know what sound porcupines make when they kiss?"
The boy covered his eyes and groaned, "That was terrible, sir!"
"Hey, whipper snapper, you got it for free!"
"I was over-charged," grinned the boy.
And Cancer got up and slowly walked away.