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No One Says the C-Word at the Comprehensive Cancer Center

Mikki Aronoff


You haul your ass and your cancer over for your one o’clock—the cancer your newly uninvited passenger, all grunt and elbows jostling for space smack dab in the middle of you, this bully breed, unruly teen (mercy, they grow so fast!), while feral figures, all sinew and stealth, come poking, prodding, like those buzzard girls from sixth grade who closed ranks against you at lunchtime and didn’t pick you for their teams, like Miss Foote who in kindergarten made you drink all your juice before you choked on your dry graham crackers, and blood-takers breathe frost like the Snow Queen on the once-ticklish insides of your arms and later, in the frigid clinic room, you sit and shiver till you’re numb needing to hear something you can google when you get home, some variation of x body part + unknown, but, no, they glance everywhere but at you—at the walls, the ceiling, the floor, then chirp to your lump, your bump, as if it were a newborn come screaming into this world, not this lanky delinquent eating you out of house and home, they warble Well, then as their icy fingers cup your bulge, your burl, your nodule, your knurl till you want to growl Just…Give…Me…A…NAME!  but they’re on a roll, whooping sans halts or hesitations to your scourge, your plague, your curse, praising your courage to come, then passing you up and down and over and around and through their silent chain, leading you to add vertigo to your list of complaints and begging on your knees could you please maybe please get me some kind of diagnosis (and a coke, you joke,  hold the fries), but, no, they order more tests so their cohorts—buddies they booze with and screw on weekends, can poke and prowl and prod some more and you sigh, supposing it’s all sex when you see them clump and whisper just outside the door of your room, you reckon they’ll be busy for a while, so you exhale, unclench tight shoulders and buttocks and tiptoe around, jiggling open cabinets looking for slippery answers, hunting like Sherlock for shy explanations, wondering are they all in on it, this conspiracy of euphemisms and you shudder, fearing soon you might start to emulate them and  yammer about your grit, your pebble, your boulder, or curl into yourself like a roly-poly to discuss the minutiae of your fleck, your mote, your nubbin, or whimper as you shrivel and flick at your flyspeck, your snippet, your scrap, so you shake away that thought and look out the window where you spy security guards stomping on nomenclatures trying to sneak in, at custodians sweeping up word corpses, bagging them for the dumpster and you stare, stiff and agape, at interns playing badminton with syntax in the parking lot, Latinate phrases soaring like shuttlecocks towards the sun overhead, extruding like fries through the tight weave of their rackets, becoming asemic. Your hair bursts into flames. You bolt from the room, smoke billowing from your scalp, run down the hallway, reach for the alarm, pull the red handle, and scream Cancer! CANCER! CANCER!!! CANCER!!!!! CANCER!!!!!!!!!!


Mikki Aronoff’s work appears in New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Tiny Molecules, HAD, Bending Genres, Milk Candy Review, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, The Dribble Drabble Review, 100 word story, The Citron Review, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww, The Offing, and elsewhere. She’s received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.


To learn more about submitting your work to Boudin or applying to McNeese State University’s Creative Writing MFA program, please visit Submissions for details.

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