So you can read my books

Sunday, August 31, 2014

In the shadows, CANCER plays a deadly hand

Michael di Gesu:

is doing THE BIG C BLOGHOP September 15th 

to help Melissa Bradley with her expenses as she fights cancer. 

Write a story about cancer. They are trying for comical, uplifting, inspirational.  (Quite a chore, right?)

My mother died of breast cancer.  My best friend is dying of it.  Their stories are theirs to tell. 

Cancer has so many variables.  How to write something that speaks to each one?

So what to do?

Sam McCord came to my rescue as he often does in my story, PLAY THE HAND YOU'RE DEALT 2 weeks early:

"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, Capt. 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.


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 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?"

"N-No, sir."

"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."

"Wow!  Really?"

"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?"

"N-No, sir."

"Neither do I.  I've won.  I've lost.  But I've never quitAll 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 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?"

"No, sir."


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.


  1. Thank you.
    And how true it is. We can choose life, with all its complications or we can opt for an existence.
    And I, and that small boy, will always choose life. Yes there is pain, and lonliness and fear - but there is also beauty, love and laughter. And the last three are trump cards and the jokers in the pack.
    Good luck to Melissa, to you, and to everyone battling. Whatever the battle.

  2. Elephant's Child:
    Each of us battle. The enemy may be different, but the battlefield is always the same: our hearts.

    I applaud you for your courage and for your love of beauty in life wherever it may blossum.

    Laughter and love are the lights we see in the storm by. Thank you so much for liking my little allegory. :-)

    I was concerned many would not like it.

  3. This is an admirable take on the blogfest, Roland. Making anyone laugh from sheer pleasure of the words is one way of distracting us from our troubles. Didn't Twain make a career out of it?

    I'm sure Melissa and Michael will like your story. With that cast of characters what's not to like?

  4. D.G.:
    It's what I do: distracting myself by finding something to laugh about -- like little Hibbs!

    And you're right, Twain made a career of bringing laughter to those who desperately needed it.

    I hope Melissa and Michael like my story! Mark assures me they will love his part of it! :-)

  5. Cancer cannot silence Courage ~ One of my favorite quotes from when it came to visit me back in 1999.

    And I think that is what your magnificent post is all about. What a caring person you are, Roland. I know your friends Melissa and Mark will appreciate this wonderful post.

    As much as I did. Here in our house cancer looms in the shadows and I am telling it this: "You cannot destroy Peace, shatter Hope, or corrode Faith."

    (The above quotes are by an unknown author, but could have been spoken by my hero, Sam McCord ~ I copied a few of his and, with your permission, they may show up on my blog sometime.)

  6. Great story. Great cause. I've had Melissa constantly in my thoughts. She's fighting a brave fight, and we've got her back.

  7. Thank you for the heads up about the blogfest--I may have missed it otherwise. And I loved your personification of cancer, despair and hopelessness and the laughter and courage that defeat them.

  8. Sorry, everyone:
    I worked all through last night and a full day before that!

    So I slept most of today. I thank all of you for visiting.

    I loved the photos on your blog. That heat must be hard on Samson and Faith!!

    Sam would be honored if you used his words. :-) I sent you his latest adventures. I basically wrote it for you and D.G.

    It is so hard to fend off fear with cancer. But to surrender only fans its flames, right?

    I know how scared I was when cancer knocked on my door!

    When unemployments strikes right after cancer hits you, it is truly frightening. Let us rally behind Melissa, a true friend in need!

    Thanks for appreciating my efforts. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to the internet, but I was exhausted from working all day and all night!! Whew!

  9. Hi Roland .. you put life in perspective for us ... and we chose to live our lives ... living positively and fully is a given, but when illness comes, or strife ... those thoughts are essential to enjoy and have at the fore .. these times can be essential for those who live happily now - to give back and help others ... thanks for this great post - Hilary