Around 142 days, plus or minus a fortnight, the Indian oncologist estimated. “And only if you are the luckiest—or is it the unluckiest?—outlier. LORD SHIVA. These charts. Your white blood cells… Indeed, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Fellow just before explosion.
“Young man, I recommend you get your affairs in order, quickly. Do not dilly-dally. Perhaps excessive amounts of espresso each morning the next few days. Familiarize yourself with the nausea should you choose to give chemo a vomiting whirl.”
“Well then. To encapsulate: I have, like, an eye chart worth of words left, and my wife has one of those thick Danielle Steel novels to go?”
“Yes. Yes. Very well said. A lovely figure. You are in a bit of a Lady Dilemma, no doubt.”
Karl Marx (name changed to incite) is an ordained Gnostic prelate. I don’t know what his sermon heralds. But his tent is dry, his cape/robe/dreamcoat medievally embroidered.
Beneath a Greater Vancouver Open golf umbrella, in the alley behind the Espresso Stop, Karl and I inhale a biscotti-sized Doobie Brother.
“Just married you say? Tragedy with a capital T that is.” Karl exhales a stratocumulus from the tumbleweed living on his face. “Listen,” he sallies, “the highly credentialed have calculated we’re either a muddle of microorganisms or an anarchy of atoms bumping about in fluid and space respectively. Equally credentialed but less esteemed posit that the bugs and the bits are actually the same thing differently considered.”
“You don’t say? Well I’ll be damned,” I exhale.
“Touché,” Karl says. “Point is with me, you get a much better story.”
“Starts with a bang does it? Or is that the other side? Oy gevalt! So many versions nowadays. Hard for a skeptic with auto updates turned off to keep up. Point is with me, Karl, I only have a blip. No time to ruminate on the divine. Need to keep my hooves here in the muck.”
Hail pelts our umbrella as diarrheic seagulls defecating five-millimetre ball bearings.
“Accepted. My counsel: Your scheme is a touch heroic for my taste. I advise that you mustn’t have her hate you. You must subtly strive to leave her indifferent.”
A fine line and not a whack of time.
Too much tequila and a pass at my gay sister-in-law, at the kitchen table, during Christmas dinner, while she’s breast-feeding her twins draws only raised eyebrows.
“JESUS CHRIST. DIE ALREADY.” I stand and heckle the prima ballerina as she performs the final sissonne tombe of her solo death scene. Silence fills the amphitheater like halon gas smothering a fire in a haberdashery. My wife’s boss and his wife freeze in their cummerbund and fur respectively. Wife’s phone drops to the floor: seeds everywhere.
My phone vibrates on the new granite counter top with her calls and texts from the airport, waiting with her bags and the sedated Jack Russell in his travel cage. I sweep clumps of my hair under our new oven. “Time to clean under your appliance,” its software coos.
They’ve figured out all the important stuff; have they not?
Etcetera and so on. Schemes of indifference.
I metabolize three pharmaceuticals, two beige ovals and one red torpedo, while watching Rattus norvegicus in the alley behind Perestroika Pawn. Me: “Whether there is or there isn’t, I’m agnostic.”
Karl: “Blip my good man, I certainly am going to miss our transactions and exchanges, our back-and-forth, our to-and-fro.”
The rats now three feet tall are clad in fluorescent green wetsuits. They bow slightly, brushing the rim of their fedoras, bang their tanks twice with their snorkels, and fly away in Hanna-Barbera helicopters.
Karl captures the rising rodents in pencil on a flattened almond milk cardboard box. “I own some furnished apartments not far from here. Dumps. If you save a spot for me at the table, there might be one available rent free for a spell. I’ll take that phone in lieu of a damage deposit. No bars where you’re headed.
Karl Marx’s kitchen table is a four by eight by three-quarter sheet of one-side-good plywood [corners not rounded]. The surface is finished such that a hookah pipe glides as an air hockey puck between the seated. Piled plastic milk crates stand in for legs and act as seats.
From within a Canadian Tire bag, I withdraw a waist-high shrink-wrapped totem pole of Tom Waits and telenovelas, CDs and DVDs respectively, and lean it against the PC’s LCD.
A red and white snowman toque for meine hairless kopf conceals a pharmacy full of doctor- recommended and street-tested pain control/reality-escape potions.
Misting No Name glass cleaner, I wipe desiccated insects from the globes of the light fixtures, replace the existing incandescents with sixty watt full-spectrums, then (finally) affix a sealed manila envelope to the refrigerator with an unusually magnetic “You Stuff You Puff” elephant.
Winecough is in genesis. She/it/he will assume many shapes. Stay tuned.