Celebrating Jack by Kirby Wright

Jack? Prostate cancer, chemo a waste. PSA level threatening a super tide. An approaching tsunami of death moving through the blood. Jack’s vision of a Pac-Man-like radiation devouring free radicals has been erased from his blackboard of hope. Joy, his CNO wife, grinds the doctors with fears of spreading and hints at a lawsuit. The needle on her pessimist gauge redlines.

Stout mellows Jack. He wants things neat and orderly before being tucked in. Tomorrow he’ll release the dogs in his IRA and fire sales the gold. His agony is leaving Joy alone. He imagines her with one of his pals, not a divorcee but a widower or even a silver bachelor. Who will be his replacement? He draws a blank. He wants her to avoid internet men, especially friends on Facebook. His cell rings. Jack lets it go to message and a woman with a girl’s voice pitches a cruise to the Bahamas. He wants a simple goodbye. Celebrations of Life bug him, those seas of joyful faces prepared to swing to tears at a moment’s notice.

The cat rubs against his leg—he strokes her. “Goodbye, Marilyn.” He hears the garage door swing up and the clunky valves of an antique Jag. It’s Joy. He’s sure she’s repulsed after treatment took his hair and made a prune of his body. His penis can’t get hard. He retreats to the second floor, flops in bed, and squeezes his eyes shut. He pictures his beloved with a younger man at an ocean view restaurant. They’re sipping martinis. He wonders if Joy will hunt down their old OU yearbooks and remember him as studious, blond, and soccer athletic. Their first kiss? During a 99¢ horror flick on campus when Joy took her eyes off the screen. He’d helped her laugh off worries about her GPA, GMAT scores, and getting into nursing school a decade before she said, “I do.”