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Still The Beginning, But A Bit Later

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There were a lot of C words that Peter was fond of in the English language. Chocolate, for example—that was a pretty sweet word. Cilantro was also a fun word to say. Coyote was a weird and confusing word, but still enjoyable nonetheless. There was one other C word that he particularly loved, but in the interest of keeping this book PG-13, we shall omit it entirely.

Cancer was, arguably, not one of those fun C words. Not only because it might be the last word you want to hear your doctor say, but also because it reminded Peter of the Horoscope, something he thought to be a stupid and pointless pseudo-science followed by brainless masses. Typical Libra mentality.

"So," said Peter as he eyed an expensive pen on the doctor's desk, "how much money do I have to throw at you to make it go away?"

"Not a dime," said the doctor.

And that was the end of it. He began his treatment, which was intense, yet fair, and he lived a full and plentiful life thanks to the wonders of Canada's universal health-care system.

But our more avid readers will remember that this story is not, in fact, set in Canada. Canada is boring and polite, not unlike good Dr. George, and since we already established how dull would it be to have Dr. George as a protagonist, it would be a futile endeavor to use the same arguments again.

"So you say," asked Peter with a little disbelief, "I don't have to pay anything to make this go away?"

It took a few seconds for Dr. George to realize that his very crass joke flew over Peter's head. "No. I mean, you can't make this go away with money."

"Of course I can," said Peter with unfounded confidence. "I can make everything go away with money."

"You can't make this go away."

Peter took out a one-hundred dollar bill from his wallet and slowly slipped it in front of Dr. George.

"There must be something you can do about this, right?" said Peter with a wink.

Dr. George ignored his pathetic attempt at bribing him, and instead gave Peter a stern look. "Mr. Katz, I'm afraid what you have cannot go away with money. At this point in time, you have Stage IV Cancer."

"Why are you using Roman numerals?" asked Peter. "And what does that even mean?"

Again, ignoring his strange first question, the doctor stood up from his seat and approached an anatomical figure at the far end of the room. "This," he said as he took a part out of the figure, "is the Colon."

"The shitter," said Peter.

"Yes, you can call it like that. Have you experienced any form of discomfort, rash or diarrhea?"

"Gotta be honest, doc," said Peter, "I'm a single, workaholic man. I work from nine to nine, and my diet consists mostly of Chipotle, McDonald and microwaved ramen, all washed down with Jack Daniel's. I shit every day like a broken soft-serving machine."

"That might be the problem. You see, Colon cancer has been closely associated with poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. You seem to fit in the bill. Are you listening?"

While the doctor droned about Peter's poor life choices, Peter was already plotting how to sue the fast food companies for his woes. He only nodded instinctively to let the doctor ramble to himself some more.

"First, win the lawsuit," Peter thought to himself, as most thoughts are, "Then, all of the cocaine."

His train of thought was robbed, derailed, and dastardly blown to smithereens by something he heard the Doctor say about alcohol.

"I'm sorry," said Peter as he snapped out of his trance, only to see that Dr. George had pulled a few more organs from the doll and was waving them in the air like airplanes, even making battle noises. "Could you repeat that?"

"Which part?"

"The alcohol part."

"Ah!" said the Doctor, putting the figures down to take an anatomical figure of a liver and making it gallop like a horse.

"The abridged version, please," said Peter. "No props."

The look on the Doctor's face was of pure disappointment. He had practiced a whole puppet show just for him. All that time, completely wasted. "Well, you can't drink after the surgery."

"Surgery? What Surgery?"

"Why, the surgery to remove the tumors, of course."

"You said this couldn't go away with money," said Peter. 

Dr. George was so baffled by Peter's utter stupidity that it took him a minute of him staring Peter down to calm down. "Mr. Katz, you didn't hear a word of what I was saying, correct?"

"Yes," Peter lied. "Did you?"

"What?"

"What?" mocked Peter.

Then, silence. Complete silence. No one said a word. It was, as people said, a pregnant silence. It proceeded to have little baby silences, and as most Father silences often do, it abandoned his silent family with the excuse of buying cigarettes at the corner store, forcing Mother silence to lie to her little silence offsprings and tell them their father went to fight for the Salvation Army. A situation that could have been easily avoidable if Peter had just paid a modicum of attention.

"Okay," said Dr. George. "The abridged version. Stage IV Colon Cancer-"

"Stage 4," corrected Peter.

"...is also known as Terminal Cancer."

"Like the Tom Hanks movie?"

"No," said Doctor George. "Not at all. It means it has no cure and will most certainly kill you."

"Wa-" said Peter, half smiling through panicked breaths. "Dead? But how? Are you sure?"

"Positive."

No, it couldn't be. Not to him—not now. Peter always thought his death would be epic and sorrowful, a thing for bards to sing throughout the ages. At the very least not from a dumb cancer with roman numerals.

"But you said something about surgery, right? There must be a cure."

Dr. George placed the organs back into the doll, hoping he would get a case like that again just to put his show to good use. "While I do recommend surgery, it will not save your life. It will only prolong your life."

"By how much?"

The doctor pondered for a minute before adjusting his glasses. "Since the Cancer has spread to your liver, we will have quite the snipping to do. I'll say if we act fast we can add five, maybe six-"

"Six years? That's nothing."

"Months," said Dr. George. "Five or six months."

That froze Peter on the spot. For the first time, he didn't have any funny quip, or retort, or any other form of response. He was speechless. It gave Dr. George a weird sense of power, one that was going to be a good anecdote to tell his wife later that day. Taking advantage of Peter's stupor, he continued.

"Of course, this surgery is not gonna come without some complications. First, we will be removing part of the Colon and installing a bag instead. Then, we must remove the tumors from the liver. That will extend your lifespan, but your diet cannot include heavily processed or spicy foods, no alcohol, and-"

The doctor couldn't finish his sentence, as Peter ran out of the room in a flash, but not without grabbing his one-hundred dollar bill back along with the doctor's expensive pen.

Peter ran like his life depended on it. Every second he remained there was a second he wasted. He needed fresh air, pronto. He tried pressing the buttons on the elevator, but it was taking too long—those about to die seldom have the luxury to wait for elevators. He ran to the emergency stairs instead, jumping two at a time.

Unfortunately, he made a poorly calculated skip and ended slipping on the last set of stairs. He tumbled down the stairs until he heard a sickening crunch, followed by an intense darkness enveloping him.

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