Qualified Entry, Second pixelhose Writing Competition. Fiction Category.
By John Malone
“Why can’t you be more like doctor Cancer?” my wife says, pushing me away.
“Doctor Cancer? What sort of name is that?”
“It’s not his real name. It’s what others call him. He’s a tv doctor. Cuts away cancers. All sorts of cancers but mainly breast cancers.”
“A soapie surgeon! What does he do with them? The cut off breasts, I mean? Mount them on his wall as trophies?”
“That’s disgusting. No. He’s nothing like that. He’s caring, compassionate.”
“Until he gets the money.”
“No need to be so snide.”
“Anyway, what’s he got that I haven’t got?”
“Are you sure you want to know? He’s forty three, rugged, handsome, drives a flash sports car and owns a string of houses. And he’s unmarried.”
“Shall I go on?”
“No need. I think I’ve got the picture. When does he come on?”
“In the afternoons. On one of the new cable channels. You’re at work. And anyway you probably wouldn’t like it. You’d scoff.”
“Can’t imagine why.”
I go upstairs, turn on the computer, check him out on the net. She’s right. He is handsome in a rugged sort of a way. And something she never said. Maybe it’s the angle the camera shot him from but this guy is BIG! Bloody huge! He’s the sort of guy who could snap you in half as if you were a matchstick. You wouldn’t want to get on his wrong side.
And he’s rich, absurdly rich. Got two SUV’s and a red Porsche 911 Carrera. Nice. He’s always in that car. You check him out on his website. He’ll be in it. The car and him are inseparable. Conjoined twins. There’s always a woman beside him. Some trashy blonde or buxom brunette. The lucky bastard. Some of the houses are mansion size. There’s one on the coast, not far from us. towering over the cliff-face. Maybe it was a foggy day when they took the photo but the peak of the castle seems to disappear in the clouds. Scary stuff.
What is even more scary, she’s really into this guy. What am I to do? Change my body image, my outlook? Take the TV back?
While I’m up there in the room, I hear her mobile ring. I think nothing of it until a few minutes later she comes in the room all excited.
“Guess what? she says. You’re not going to believe this.”
“We got an invite.”
“What! He doesn’t know us.”
“I send emails sometimes.”
“You send emails?”
“Only occasionally. About the show. What’s wrong with that? I tell him about you. Your job. He’s dying to meet you.”
“When are we expected?”
“This evening. For dinner. Over at his place. How good is that?”
I mull over it for a while. I don’t think much about the invite, how it seemed to come out of the blue but I know darn well it didn’t. And it’s no good saying she can’t go. She’d go anyway. I could stay home but all I’d do is mope.
I put on my best clothes, try to get in the spirit of the thing. But there’s an uneasy feeling tugging at me.
We get in my little green Mitsubishi Lancer and drive off. There is still a little fog around but not much. The road along which we drive leads up to the brow of a gentle hill from which a wide expanse of country can be seen. The great basin of the valley, in which the narrow, leafless trees rise up tall as church steeples, seems very dark. But what stands out in the distance is the white house on the other side of the valley on a high barren hill. Doctor Cancer’s residence, I assume.
“It looks like a castle,” I say with a mixture of awe and envy.
Half an hour later we are driving up the winding driveway at an ever increasing slope. Finally we arrive at a parking area. There is a space for ten cars. How busy does this guy get? It looks like, however, we are the only visitors.
The house itself or rather mansion, the upper levels of which seem almost to float, to shift slightly like clouds in an unsteady sky, stands on a cliff face high above a stormy sea.
I’m already feeling woozy.
Why would anyone build there? I think.
“Don’t look down,” I say more to myself than my wife.
The lower levels are shut off except for a garage which houses the two sleek black SUV’s and the red Porsche. The only way is up. There is a lift which looks like a vertical coffin, tall and narrow. My wife knows about my claustrophobia and knows I will not take it. She also knows about my vertigo. Okay, I admit it: I’m a psychological wreck. And what’s the alternative to the lift? A tall winding staircase which except for the railings and occasional glass panels opens to the weather. And looks down to the black waves crashing against the cliff.
“What are you waiting for?” she says.
“You planned this,” I say. “You and the doctor. You know I would not come up and join you.”
“Nonsense,” she says. “It’s all in your mind. Come on. The doctor expects us.”
I look out as we climb to the first level. My heart plummets to the bottom of my chest. My mouth dries up. I can barely breathe.
It does not worry my wife who climbs nonchalantly up, up , a diminishing blue dot. The sea rises in fury, the black waves lashing up at me. their tips curling fingers reaching to pull me in. It is a long way down.
My wife climbs higher and higher then a funny thing happens. As I climb, the staircase seems to lengthen, to grow taller, narrower and windier. Up, up it goes into the clouds.
“Wait! Wait!” I call.
But the blue dot disappears.
I sit on the landing of the first level, unable to go higher.
Silence then laughter and then in full throttle passion the aria from Wagner in which Isolde climaxes.
I sit deflated on the step in post-Wagnerian sadness.
The bastard. I say to myself. He, they planned this all along. I’ll murder the guy.
But who am I kidding? I’d be murdering no one. He isn’t coming down and I’m not going up.
Hours seem to pass.
“Are you still there?” she calls.
“Yes. When can we leave?”
“I’m not coming down,” she calls. “I’m not coming down Ever.”
The words king hit me. She’s the goose that laid the golden eggs of our children, the one I wanted to spend my life with. And now this gargantuan of greed has abducted her. Or at least inveigled her to join him.
“Wait! Wait!” I yell but, of course, she does not hear.
I make my way down the spiral staircase shuddering.
“I’ll get you back, you bastard, I’ll get you back,” I shout to the empty air, a parody of a man shaking his fists.
Then I see his red Porsche, bright and gleaming in the sun.
It almost kills me to do it, it is such a beautiful car, but I do it anyway.
As I pass the garage I scrape the car keys along one side of the Porsche and then the other. It makes a satisfying screech. It is not much. But it is something. I hope he hears it. I hope he’s looking down.
*Photo Credit:This photo is used under the Generic Creative Commons license.