issue thirty-three

art gallery
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(520 words)
David Woodward
Train from Siberia
Photo by
Volkan Colak
Since I didn't want conversation and there were still a few minutes before departure, I tried to concentrate on the a dusty brown lizard just a few inches to the left of the railroad ties and likely only visible because of some sort of grease spill spreading like Stage IV cells over the ground in weird metastatic globules of slick oily brown figure eights or perhaps infinity symbols or maybe just separating circles fractionally distilled into stained sand next to unkempt crinkles of yellow grass and Douglas fir cut smooth on two sides and steeped in pentachlorophenol and slathered with creosote that showcased an anole or a skink or a whatever-the-hell-the-damned-thing was as it basked in meager sunlight and lifted itself up and down on all four legs as though the mineral oil growths about him had no significance at all. I didn't know if the old man on the other seat stared at the lizard or off into space and I didn't know if the man had ever heard the good news that eleven tumors on the spine and two at the base of the skull were in fact good news because the original tumors originated in the colon and that made treating the tumors in the bone as simple as fourteen days of radiation treatment that could actually be as few at ten and had a very good chance of extending life for another six months on the short end and perhaps as long as eighteen and it was important not to give up hope and there really wasn't anything to worry about at this particular juncture because we expected these kinds of setbacks and maybe setback was too strong of a term anyway.

The expression in the old man's face told me there was an issue on his mind or maybe more than one issue and there had been times when I found solace in the midst of pain by offering compassion to another in deeper pain, someone who could relate woes and receive the comfort of my eager ear and never understand the malevolence of my purpose in seeking a side where my grass was greener and in this case, despite a troubled countenance it wasn't a probability and probably wasn't even a possibility -- because even if his issue were thirteen issues, would any of them outweigh a single of the malignant growths on vertebrae conveniently labeled on the surprisingly cartoonish graphic chart the white-smocked and appropriately solemn surgical oncologist slid across the polished oak with the muted stain in the office decorated with soft, calming colors offset only by the somewhat garish-seeming framed diplomas, certifications and good standing documentation that was probably very impressive to anyone other than a patient suffering from the malady on which his practice focused and the treatment of which was his specialty? -- so, I didn't engage conversation and instead I imagined a host of problems he might encounter and I didn't imagine long at all because even if I imagined children in jeopardy or crippling loss or just terrible regrets, I didn't know him and there was nothing about him that let me stop worrying about the radiation at all so I gave up trying to guess or understand him or know a damned thing about him at all because the lizard seemed happy to bask atop his oily cancer and ignorance felt a hell of a lot better to me as well.


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This work is copyrighted by the author, WJ Rosser. All rights reserved.

WJ Rosser