Drop 171: Good

horns‘I saw Sally yesterday,’ Joe said.

‘Oh yeah?’ Hal said. ‘I also bumped into her last week, at the gym, after almost a year.’

‘She just joined. First time you saw her since you guys broke up?’

‘Pretty much. We only talked for like ten seconds.’

‘Yeah. She mentioned she saw you. She said you looked good.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah. So she didn’t tell you about her sister?’

‘Who, Maddy? No.’

‘Car crash. Was in intensive care for three months. She’s out now but she’ll never walk properly again, and she’s got major scarring on her face and neck.’

‘Bummer.’

‘Yeah,’ Joe said, ‘and I guess she didn’t tell you about her parents either?’

‘Her parents?’

‘Mom asked for a divorce—’

‘After 30 years?’

‘Yeah, and just a few weeks before her dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.’

‘Shit!’

‘He won’t last long. Maybe he’s already gone.’

‘Wow.’

‘Yeah. Sally said her mother started drinking a lot after, neat vodka mainly, and is pretty much addicted to painkillers now.’

‘Shit!’

‘And she lost her job too, you know.’

‘Sally’s mom?’

‘No. Sally.’

‘But she was there ten years!’ Hal said. ‘She ran that place!’

‘So I heard. But she’s unemployed now.’

‘Wow.’

‘I know’

‘Jesus!’

‘Yeah’

‘So,’ Hal said, ‘she said I looked good hey?’

 By EM Vireo

Drop 118: Bump

He noticed the bump just after lunch, while washing his hands in the bathroom. It was an inch below his left eye: small, irregularly shaped and light brown. He touched it timidly; it was semi hard. He pulled at it cautiously; it would not budge. How long had it been there? he wondered. Had it grown from an inconspicuous dot? God, he thought, why was he so inattentive?

He returned to the mirror every few minutes to check on it. What was it? It looked dodgy. He had work to do, but could not concentrate, so he typed: small, brown, irregular bump on face, into Google. Many results. They all suggested most were likely to be harmless. Most. Likely. Others were dangerous and should be checked out. Has the area in question suffered severe sunburn? Yes. Several times. Is the bump crusty around the edges? Sure looked that way. Do you have any of these other symptoms? He did have a sore neck the other day, and stiff joints too, and what about that mysterious cough last week?

It could be anything. Most likely, nothing, they all claimed. But anything included something awful, and it was definitely not nothing. It was there, on his face, after all. God, he wished he had been more observant. Could have meant the difference between life and death.

He stopped his research, closing the laptop with a callous click. Too much evidence suggesting he was in trouble. He opened the scotch and poured himself a big glass, gulping it like they did in the movies. Then he sat there, motionless, drenched in the afternoon’s lengthening shadows.

She came home at 5. ‘Why are all the lights off?’ she asked cheerily, switching them on. ‘And why are you drinking?’

She walked over to kiss him.

‘Oh, you have a little schmutz on your face,’ she said, leaning in to pick it off. ‘Looks like chocolate or something.’

She rubbed her fingers together and flicked it away. ‘So, how was your day?’

By E.M. Vireo