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Good News & Bad News

"we've got some good news & some bad news. which would you like to hear first?"

normally when i hear that, my immediate response is to sucker punch the person with the news, steal their wallet, tie them up with steel safety cables and hang them from a telephone pole. however, i was out of safety cables at the time.

"uh... let's hear the bad news."

"the bad news... well, let's see. for starters, we got the results of the test back."

"took you long enough."

"yeah, well, next time please mention to the lab that you aren't actually a member of the human race and things might go smoother."

"so the results?"

"it's not pretty."

"leave my mother out of this!"

"no, the results aren't pretty. they say you have [some jargony gobbledygook] that basically amounts to cancer of the everything. at first we thought it might be cancer of the soul, but earlier tests reminded us you don't actually have one."

"well, they're pesky."

"true, they're just standard in humans and not so much for you. anyway, you haven't got much time left, and the time you do have left is likely to be extremely painful."

"oh, as opposed to the non stop wall of extreme bliss and pleasure life has been before now?"

"well, you may have had this cancer of the everything since birth."

"is that what you call it?"

"call what?"

"i would have used the term 'desperately unfortunate catapulting into horrifying mortal form,' but i guess 'birth' is actually a bit more succinct."

"can i continue please? i do have other appointments."

"oh please, it all boils down to cancer of the everything on some level, doesn't it?"

"sure, but with my other patients, i can usually string them along with jargony gobbledygook like 'we have meds for that.'"

"right, right. say, about those meds--"

"i'm getting to that. so this cancer of the everything... it's not treatable. at least, not with anything we know about."

"treatable in the 'make it go away' sense, or treatable in the 'make me forget about it and feel all mushy and warm until it kills me' sense?"

"i was thinking more the former, but about the latter, i do need to inquire... we did actually, to our great and utter surprise, notice an organ that seems to be masquerading as a liver inside you--"

"ah yes. as i have been telling friends for a long time now, the rest of my body has posted armed guards around my liver, to make sure it doesn't flee in abject terror. we need that liver!"

"well, you need a liver, whether you need that particular one much longer is subject to debate. it's, uh, been a bit overworked lately."

"you have a strange definition of lately obviously."

"well, starting the painkillers when you were in grade school was a bit much."

"hey, haven't you seen saved by the bell? school is harsh!"

"my point here is really that the cancer of the everything is being a bit exacerbated by the fact that the rest of your body isn't particularly putting up much of a fight."

"oh really."

"yes, you seem to have an immune system that uses a definition of 'immune' i'm somewhat unfamiliar with."

"ah yes, i remember now... back when most of my major organs made that pact with each other to catch absolutely any disease they possibly could, in a desperate attempt to stage a coup against whatever malevolent entity is currently masquerading as my brain."

"actually that leads us to more bad news."

"if it's about the fact that my brain has sealed itself up in a bulletproof box and has stopped responding to basic autonomic requests for fear of severely incriminating itself, i can explain."

"don't bother. it's actually about the fact that your body doesn't particularly seem to be taking directions from... from your 'brain box' anymore anyway. we're not sure what's in charge. gall bladder? spleen?"

"does it matter?"

"well, someone is responsible for this bill, i can tell you that much."

"you have such a droll sense of humor."

"i'm not joking."

"yes, and that's part of what makes it so delightfully zany. the way that stern look on your face almost completely disguises the inherent comedy in your attempting to actually communicate something meaningful to me. i would laugh, if i actually cared."

"there's one more piece of bad news."

"celine dion is still alive and walks the earth?"

"well, fine, if you want to be technical, there are two more pieces of bad news. but the one that does in fact directly concern you refers back to the aforementioned cancer of the everything."

"you know, there are few things i love so much in this world as hearing proper application of the word 'aforementioned.'"

terrible, terrible pause.

"well, that, and a good solid round of burying the evidence, but you knew that already."

"yes, more to the point... the cancer is at its earliest stages now... detectable, but not treatable. i haven't described the cancer's course, however. i'm not sure if you'd care to hear me describe it?"

"doc, please, if i can handle the sight of dozens of unfortunate filipino slave girls working 18-hour days to craft glorious purple velvet love seats for my station wagon, then i can-- well, actually, i don't know if i can handle that, those love seats didn't really fit now that i think about it..."

"please, let me just--"

"hold on. miranda, take a note! next time we get slave girls, please make sure they know how to operate a frickin tape measure!"

miranda takes a note, resumes surreptitiously nicking sample packs of pills for curing wasting disease, which, she knows from reading the inter-web, will probably get you high if you just, repeat after me, take a high enough dose.

"my point, and i do have one here, is that this cancer of the everything is likely to thoroughly, savagely destroy your quality of life for the next indeterminate period of months, perhaps even years depending upon your constitution."

"aha, that's the one part of this organism that seems to be working overtime."

"we'll see how long it lasts. cancer of the everything is insidious. mean-spirited. relentless."

"like an episode of hunter."

"exactly. you have this in your body now, and it's not going away. we don't know how long you'll last, really... you're a special case, and for all we know, someday we'll invent some unique drug cocktail that might cure it or at least give you a normal lifespan."

"doc, look, i expected to be dead at 25, so all of this is already frosting on the cake."

"you say that now, but it won't be easy. it savages your body to the point where you can't handle food, sex, recreation... crushes your spirit, your psyche, your willingness to live..."

"are you talking about american idol here?"

"no, this is cancer of the everything i'm talking about."

"because, look, paula abdul is hot and everything, but really, truly? she does crush my willingness to live."

"will you please be serious for just a moment?"

a moment passes.

"okay, see, i can be serious for just a moment. if you have some proof that it actually accomplished anything, i would love to hear it."

"oh for god's sake, i can see this is going nowhere."

"no, it is, it is. i'm dying. i have cancer of the everything. it's incurable. at some indeterminate point, i will start to deteriorate - well, more so than i have already done deliberately, at least - and my health will give out, and i will descend into a morass of weakness, sores, internal bleeding, psychic trauma, reading piers anthony again, the works, i gotcha. because my constitution is unusual, we don't really even know when it will start or how long it will last, only that i won't survive it. not to belabor an already horribly belabored point, but this cancer of the everything is different from the condition i usually refer to as 'life' ... how, exactly?"

uncomfortable pause... the pause where my doctor is searching for just enough jargon to justify billing my insurance til they bleed.

"well, with cancer of the everything," doc says slowly, "you at least have a very, very, very, very small chance of survival."

"please tell me that's not the good news."

"it's not. the good news is we now have tootsie pops in the lobby."

"soaked in demerol?"

"for our special clients like you, it almost goes without saying."

"almost. i'd better take two... they're small!"

3/27/2003



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