Holly completed Kate Clanchy’s short story ‘The Not-Dead and the Saved‘
She scans the ward, ‚ÄúStop talking like that-someonell here you. Youd never be talking like that on your deathbed.‚Äù
The Son scoffs, only just able to conceal his disapproval, but he is quickly interrupted by the oncologist, ‚ÄúLucas Owen?‚Äù
The Mother nods in return, though the doctor is watching the computer screen instead. Somehow, the uneven typing on the keyboard lulls the Son; he takes comfort in its unpredictable nature, a rarity in his timetabled, cotton wool life. But then his records fill the screen and the doctor swallows. Lucas doesnt need to be there. He knows what is about to be said. Theyre going to tell him exactly what he wants, and then hell be expected to cry, and then they can go home.
‚ÄúWeve received some results, Lucas, that your tumour has been there all along. That means its spread, too much for removal. Im very-‚Äú
‚ÄúBut youre contacting some of those people at that New York centre, right? We could fly out there, Im sure theyd be something to try,‚Äù insists the mother, sceptical of the doctors abilities.
‚ÄúIm very sorry.‚Äù
Her lips quiver as the Son reaches for a pen on the doctors desk, adding to his graffitied jeans. Was he even listening?she wonders, or does he just not care? Though he didnt seem to register anything the oncologist told them, his mouth is cracked at the corners as though hes smiling. Hes been told that hes a ticking time bomb and hes smiling.
Suddenly bored of sketching, he tosses the pen back onto the desk and gets up, stretching as he ambles towards the door, ‚ÄúIm gonna go grab something to eat.‚Äù
Despite the effluvium of bleach in the corridors, the Son saunters aimlessly towards the vending machine, admiring the empty walls. The light bounces off the crisp packets, trying to make them look more appealing amongst their bleak surroundings. A few effortless taps, a brief whirr and his coins drop down to join others, the crisps exiled from the machine with a crunch.
‚ÄúI really dont recommend that you eat those,‚Äù advises a nurse behind him, ‚ÄúHave you checked the expiry?‚Äù
The Son turns over the packet, eyeing the date printed at the bottom. Two months ago. He wouldnt normally care, being out-of-date himself, but etiquette prevails and he throws them away. The nurse is still in uniform, though a handbag is slung over her shoulder.
‚ÄúI could show you to the shop downstairs? That is, assuming you dont need to get back to anyone.‚Äù
She thinks Im a visitor, he realises. She seems sweet, offering to help, and shes pretty, too, especially with her not-so-subtle flirting. But hes fed up of people like her toying with life and death.
‚ÄúIm sorry, I need to be going,‚Äù he answers, ambling back to his Mother. As he walks, the Not-Deads eyes follow him desperately.
‚ÄúIm so sorry. Their world just really isnt worth being Saved for.‚Äù