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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Mawgrim's Prompts - 4. Prompt 446 - Creative - List of Words

Prompt 446 - Use the following in a story – notebook, pen, coffee, a crystal, and a broken light bulb.

Warnings: contains mentions of terminal illness and death.

There’s bad news and there’s news that leaves you so stunned all you can do is sit there, not knowing what to do next. I'd thought I was pretty good at dealing with the crap life can throw at you. I’d got through the toxic breakup with Joe just over a year ago and re-organised my life. I’d coped with redundancy, two years before and was just beginning to see my own IT consultancy taking off. I’d moved house, after we’d sold up and divided the profits. If you Google the most stressful life events, the breakup of a relationship and job loss come fairly close to the top and moving house just a bit further down. The only one I hadn’t bagged so far was major illness and now, bingo! I had a full house.

Despite everything, the thought made me smile for the first time since I’d walked out of the doctor’s surgery that morning. I’d gone in expecting to hear it was serious. Your left foot doesn’t go numb for no reason and the kind of pain that wakes you up in the night can’t be good. I’d been expecting the MRI results to show I had some kind of spinal damage and had psyched myself up to be told I might need an operation. But when I walked in, I just knew, even before Dr Mansfield said a thing. Her body language, her grave yet sympathetic expression as she told me to sit down, then gave herself - and me - a few more seconds by looking at my notes on her computer screen.

‘I’m afraid I have some rather bad news,’ she said, pausing again to let me assimilate this.

I nodded, feeling my breath hitch and my heart speed up slightly. ‘Yes?’

‘There’s no easy way to say this. The scan showed you have cancerous lesions in several of your spinal vertebrae.’ Again, that slight pause.

The ‘C’ word. My mother had died of cancer at the relatively early age of sixty-four. Its progression had been swift. I remembered her in the last days, stick-thin with oxygen tubes up her nostrils, still putting on a brave face for the family. No! It couldn’t be.

‘…also in your liver, spleen and parts of your pelvis.’

I snapped back to the here and now. ‘Really?’

‘These lesions are all secondaries, meaning they’ve spread from somewhere else in your body. I’ve made an appointment for you to see an oncologist at the hospital…’

The rest of what she said I heard, but didn’t really take in to any great extent. How could this be happening to me? I was only fifty-three. I was relatively fit, ate healthy food, didn’t smoke - that had been mum’s downfall - drank red wine in moderate quantities. It just wasn’t fair.

I didn’t remember much of the drive home, but here I was, on a fine, crisp winter morning, sitting, doing absolutely nothing. Well, not exactly true. My mind was going at the speed of a runaway train, computing all of the possibilities arising from this life changing moment.

Sunlight streamed through the south facing window of my living room, catching the coloured glass on the sill and the hanging crystal my sister, Rebecca, had given me as a house-warming present. Typical of her, with all her new age leanings. I’d only hung it up to show I appreciated the gift, yet I couldn’t deny I liked the way its many facets cast tiny rainbows across the walls.

Normally, I didn’t have time to just sit and appreciate something like this. Who has time for all that ‘living in the moment’ crap when there’s things to be done? Only now, my whole concept of time had changed.

Most of us assume we’re going to live a long life. In your twenties, it stretches out in front of you, littered with a thousand possibilities. You’ve years before you in which to do everything you want. Then, as you hit your late thirties or early forties and you realise you maybe aren’t as fit or attractive as you once were, the idea of settling down isn’t quite as horrifying or staid as you once thought. You end up with a mortgage, a decent job with decent pay, a regular lover who turns into a partner. You look into the mirror and start to see your dad. But there’s still lots of time ahead of you.

That song began to run through my mind. We have all the time in the world. Only now, I didn’t. Well, none of us do, but we can mostly ignore it; an invisible, unknowable expiry date. More than half of the things on my bucket list remained undone and now I might not even remain healthy for long enough to do them. The thought dredged up another memory. Back in my twenties I’d had a brief fling with a guy at work, Jason. We’d been crazy, getting off in the stationary cupboard one memorable lunchtime, blow jobs in the back of my car. Neither of us wanted to end up as wage slaves all of our lives. We both had dreams. He wanted to travel while mine was to become a bestselling author.

One day, when it was all turning sour, he’d said to me. ‘You know what? You’re too hemmed in by your middle class aspirations. The only way you’ll ever give up all this shit and write anything is if someone tells you you’ve only got six months to live.’

He’d walked out of the office one memorable Monday morning, scattering papers as he left. Last I heard he was somewhere in South America, living the dream.

I thought of all the half-finished stories lurking in A4 box files, on CD-ROMs and USB drives around the house. The notebooks full of ideas and scribbled observations that might have blossomed into something, had they been given the chance. He’d been right. I’d dabbled in writing, but never had the time. Other things had always taken priority.

I sighed. This wasn’t getting anything done. Coffee would help. It always did. I walked through to the kitchen, my left foot dragging just a little bit more than it had before. Now I knew what was causing it, I didn’t bother to try and ignore it. My body was beginning to fall apart, like Jeff Goldblum when he starts turning into the fly in that film.

I was going to have to tell people. Family, friends. The prospect was almost as scary as coming out had been, all those years ago. It was going to change the way people viewed me. I’d have yet another label to get used to. So far I’d been ‘gay man’, ‘Joe’s other half’, ‘that computer guy’. Now I’d be ‘brave cancer patient’. Except I didn’t feel very brave. I imagined the reactions. Dad would be quietly supportive. Rebecca would tell me I needed to stuff burning sage leaves in my ears or align my chakras. Steven’s solution would probably involve going out and getting drunk.

I measured out the beans and set the machine going. One of the recessed ceiling lights had failed, I noticed. I supposed I might as well change it while I was waiting. I stood on one of the chairs, just the thing they always warn you against, in case you fall off and die. Once again, this thought brought a smile to my face. Big deal! That’s going to happen anyway. The lamp was screwed in tightly and as it finally worked free, my fingers lost their grip and it fell to the floor, shattering into a million pieces on the quarry tiles. Damn!

I brushed the glass into a dustpan, searched around for a spare and fitted it. By then, the coffee was ready; its rich, warm scent filling the kitchen. The sun had moved around sufficiently to illuminate the kitchen floor and all of a sudden, light flared as it caught a piece of the broken light bulb I’d missed. All of a sudden, I became captivated by the sight. An everyday thing; just a broken piece of glass, but it reflected sunlight as brightly as a flawless crystal.

If my time was limited, then there was no reason not to do what I wanted. I grabbed a notebook and a pen from the writing desk and took my coffee through to the living room.

I began to write.

There’s bad news and there’s news that leaves you so stunned all you can do is sit there, not knowing what to do next…

Copyright © 2021 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

1 hour ago, Ivor Slipper said:

Hopefully, he'll manage to finish this one.

I'm sure he will.

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10 minutes ago, ReaderPaul said:

@Mawgrim, this one you made me feel.

Thank you. When I saw those words, the plot grabbed me and i had to write it.

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I would love to see you use the terms -- tourist from the United States, UK, Australia, fog, and friendly -- in a story sometime.  I know that I am not an "official provider of prompts," but I predict you could build a fascinating story with that combination of terms, @Mawgrim.

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A very good, if heartbreaking, use of the prompt.  Excuse me while I grab a handful of tissues.  :hug: 

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