Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘chemo’

Eve Ensler – Personal Is Global

A brief review of another intimate and vital work by Eve Ensler.

In the Body of the World
by Eve Ensler. Metropolitan.
Reviewed on 3/11/2013 Publisher’s Weekly

In this extraordinarily riveting, graphic story of survival, Ensler, an accomplished playwright (The Vagina Monologues) and activist in international groups such as V-Day, which works to end violence against women, depicts her shattering battle with uterine cancer. Having felt estranged from her body for a lifetime, and 9780805095180been molested as a girl by her father and enthralled by alcohol and promiscuity early on, Ensler as a playwright was seized with a political awareness of the dire violence committed against women across the globe. At the age of 57, she was blindsided when she discovered that her own health emergency mimicked the ones that women were enduring in the developing countries she had visited: “the cancer of cruelty, the cancer of greed… the cancer of buried trauma.” Her narrative, she writes, is like a CAT scan, “a roving examination—capturing images,” recording in minute, raw detail the ordeals she underwent over seven months. These include her crazed, “hysterical” response to the diagnosis and her treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as well as extensive surgery, chemo, radiation, and caring by a “posse” of companions in misery, like her estranged sister, Lu, and far-flung friends such as Mama C, the head of the City of Joy women’s center in the Congo.

Read entire review and others at Publisher’s Weekly.

Eve Ensler’s other books include:

Necessary Targets: A Story of Women and War
Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security-Obsessed World
Vagina Warriors
The Vagina Monologues
I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World

Don’t Die!

From Angie’s Diary. Excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter by Gabriel Constans.

Don’t Die!

I fell in love with Robin the first day we met. She was playing her role, as a recently admitted hospice patient, with great style and flair, while I lumbered through my part as the experienced “seasoned” social worker.

She wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award and didn’t give a damn about her looks. Her body looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin painted on with a thick brush. A blue and green scarf covered her almond-shaped, balding head. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds and her smile hung in the air like the Cheshire cat.

She had a warmth and graciousness that the worst ravages of metastatic breast cancer could not hide. Entering her small, low-income apartment by the sea, felt like entering a sanctuary or coming home for the holidays.

Her one-woman play about a terminal disease had about a two year run.

She talked openly about dying, but more about living. She wasn’t afraid of death, but she loved life. She loved her mother, her boyfriend, her family and friends. She loved music, art, beauty and nature. She was thirty-eight years old and she wanted to live until she was an old woman with grandchildren. She kept waiting for a new treatment, another remission, some kind of hope or miracle. It almost came twice.

An experimental trial with a new drug regime was supposed to be available through her HMO but kept getting put off, then delayed, eventually fizzling away into the land of false promises. Then came the dream of a cure with Angiostatin and similar therapies, which exploded across the media and public airwaves as “extremely hopeful cures for cancer tumors.” Again she was told of some local trials and assured that she was eligible to participate, but this too seemed to fade into oblivion as time slipped by, leaving her to use whatever means she had at her disposal – blood transfusions, medications, hospitalization, intravenous therapy, diet, herbs, detoxification, prayer, meditation, visualization – she tried it all, but the cancer kept chipping away.

STORIES CONCLUSION AT ANGIE’S DIARY

Just Around The Corner

Excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter
by Gabriel Constans.

Just Around The Corner: Hope and Healing

I fell in love with Robin the first day we met. She was playing her role, as a recently admitted hospice patient, with great style and flair, while I lumbered through my part as the experienced “seasoned” social worker.

She wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award and didn’t give a damn about her looks. Her body looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin painted on with a thick brush. A blue and green scarf covered her almond-shaped, balding head. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds and her smile hung in the air like the Cheshire cat.

She had a warmth and graciousness that the worst ravages of metastatic breast cancer could not hide. Entering her small, low-income apartment by the sea, felt like entering a sanctuary or coming home for the holidays.

Her one-woman play about a terminal disease had about a two year run.

She talked openly about dying, but more about living. She wasn’t afraid of death, but she loved life. She loved her mother, her boyfriend, her family and friends. She loved music, art, beauty and nature. She was thirty-eight years old and she wanted to live until she was an old woman with grandchildren. She kept waiting for a new treatment, another remission, some kind of hope or miracle. It almost came twice.

An experimental trial with a new drug regime was supposed to be available through her HMO but kept getting put off, then delayed, eventually fizzling away into the land of false promises. Then came the dream of a cure with Angiostatin and similar therapies, which exploded across the media and public airwaves as “extremely hopeful cures for cancer tumors.” Again she was told of some local trials and assured that she was eligible to participate, but this too seemed to fade into oblivion as time slipped by, leaving her to use whatever means she had at her disposal – blood transfusions, medications, hospitalization, intravenous therapy, diet, herbs, detoxification, prayer, meditation, visualization – she tried it all, but the cancer kept chipping away.

She went to the hospital for one final assault, then returned home. It was a glorious Indian Summer when I saw her for the last time. I knocked on her weathered door, heard her call out “Come in.” and entered her tiny sunlit living room, which was also her bedroom, library and dining area.

Moving towards the head of her hospital bed, I saw that she’d been through the ringer and was losing ground fast. Her face was black, blue and yellow, as if she’d just been in a bar room brawl. Her skin was almost translucent, stretched over her frame like a sheet of white plastic. Her arms were as thin as straws and she struggled to breathe deeply. In spite of her frailty and obvious diminishing returns, her eyes still danced and she spoke vibrantly about life and healing.

“I hope my life made a difference,” she said softly.

“You know it has,” I reassured. “You’ve given such love.”

“Yes, I guess so,” she said and touched my cheek gently with her fingers. “That’s been the best part.”

“What’s next?” I asked tentatively, wondering what she planned to do with her remaining days.

She turned away, looked out her large window and watched a mother and daughter lean against the cliff side railing, their hair blowing in the wind, the child laughing, screaming with delight. Without changing position, she replied, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

Part of me wanted to run. My many years of listening and learning how to be present seemed to slip out the door. “I don’t know,” I said lamely. “Part of me doesn’t want to believe this day has come.” I followed her gaze, not really focusing on anything. My hopeless grasping continued. “I don’t want you to die.”

“Nice thought,” she smiled, “but just a wee bit unrealistic.” She rolled her eyes and grinned with amusement.

“Yeah,” I blushed. “It’s just . . . I don’t know . . .” I struggled to find the right words then looked her way. “How do you let go of everything you’ve known with such dignity and grace?”

“I don’t have any choice,” she said without hesitation.

“I know we don’t always have a choice over what happens to us,” I blundered along, “but we have a choice in how we respond to what happens, don’t we? If I was in your position, I’d be screaming and yelling to my last breath.”

Without blinking, she reiterated, “Like I said, I don’t have a choice. This is who I am.”

Robin died two days later. She died like she lived, tenderly and peacefully. I, on the other hand, keep wailing away at the ravages of cancer, thinking I have more choices in life than are probable and hoping a cure for cancer is “just around the corner.”

MORE GOOD GRIEF: LOVE, LOSS AND LAUGHTER.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 6

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 6

Plays Conclusion

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 6 – FINAL SCENE

(Chantall’s picture appears on screen/wall.)

GODDESS: Chantall. Seventy-six. Retired professor.

(There is the sound of the door opening and closing.)

GODDESS: (Continued) Husband died twenty years ago. Children and grandchildren. Present partner, Audrey.

CHANTALL: Partner and best friend.

GODDESS: Who’s there?

(Silence)

GODDESS: (Continues) Metastatic bone cancer. Chemotherapy unsuccessful. I’m spreading to her major organs. Death is lurking nearby.

CHANTALL: It’s always lurking, what’s new?

GODDESS: (turns on lights and sees Chantall in a wheelchair in front of the couch.) Chantall! You sneak you. You weren’t supposed to know yet.

CHANTALL: What part? That my body is failing or who my friends are?

GODDESS: (Grins and goes to couch to sit by Chantall.) You know which part. Don’t play games with me professor.

CHANTALL: No need. You play enough already.

GODDESS: How did you get in here?

CHANTALL: Same as you, through the front door. Your hearing must be slipping. You look tired. Maybe you should lay down and rest.

GODDESS: That’s my line! Don’t confuse me.

CHANTALL: You’ve been confused for years. You never did know how to divide properly without rearranging everyone’s DNA.

GODDESS: I’m a slow learner.

CHANTALL: You can say that again.

GODDESS: I’m a slow . . .

CHANTALL: (Overlapping) Don’t you dare!

(Both of them laugh. Goddess goes over to bar.)

GODDESS: Like some tea?

CHANTALL: Tea?! You call that a drink? Give me a margarita or a whiskey, straight.

GODDESS: Coming up.

(Goddess pours drink, brings it back to Chantall and sits. Chantall takes drink and downs it.)

CHANTALL: That’s better.

GODDESS: You didn’t just stop by for a drink. What’s up?

CHANTALL: What’s up? Can’t a girl just make a friendly visit to see her killer face to face?

GODDESS: (Suspiciously) What do you want?

CHANTALL: There’s something I have to ask you. It’s very serious.

(Goddess leans closer.)

GODDESS: Yes?

CHANTALL: Does this gray wig make me look too old?

(Chantall pulls off wig, reaches into her bag on side of wheelchair and pulls out a long, dark-haired wig.)

CHANTALL: (Grinning ear to ear.) How about this . . . the Cher look?

(She puts that one back and takes out a short brown wig.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) This is Audrey’s favorite. She says I look like K. D. Lang with wrinkles. Sort of sexy, isn’t it?

GODDESS: Which one do you like best?

CHANTALL: (She pulls off last wig and remains bald.)
This one. My Sinead O’Conner look. No fuss. No bother. Don’t even have to shave, since my hair fell out. (Pause) Think of all the time I wasted in my life washing, drying, brushing and styling; worrying about how I looked and what others thought. Good grief . . . what a waste of energy.
(Pause.) Say, we could market this and make a fortune. ‘New. ChemoDo! Hair treatment for men and women. Take intravenously or by capsule and in just two weeks you too can look like this!’

(She shows off her head proudly.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) ‘No fuss. No bother. Twenty-one day guarantee or your money back. Only nineteen ninety-five, plus eighteen dollars for shipping and handling! Call now and receive free anti-nausea pills at no extra charge. That’s ChemoDo. 1(800) FYU-CHEM. Operators are lying nearby.’

(Both of them laugh loudly until Chantall starts coughing.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) By the way. You don’t have a cigarette lying around do you?

GODDESS: Do I have a cigarette?! That’s like asking John Wayne if he has a horse.

(Goddess gets up and looks around.)

GODDESS: (Continued) I should have one around here somewhere.

(Goddess goes to cupboard, opens it and hundreds of
cigarettes fall out. She picks one up, gets a lighter, goes back to Chantall and lights it for her. Chantall takes a long drag and slowly exhales.)

CHANTALL: Thanks. You better sit back a little. You don’t want to catch any second-hand smoke.

GODDESS: Of course not. It can kill you, you know.

CHANTALL: Really. Oh my. Give me some more!

(They both crack up, then Chantall suddenly stops.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) Seriously. There’s something I have to tell you.

GODDESS: Really? What?

CHANTALL: You’ve gotten a rotten reputation.

GODDESS: (Feigned surprise.) Why, I never!

CHANTALL: Folks blame you for everything. They act like you’re the plague.

GODDESS: The nerve. Well, as Gilda Radner used to say, ‘It’s always something, isn’t it?’

(They both laugh. Chantall takes another drag and looks down at the floor.)

CHANTALL: (Matter of factly.) I’m not afraid of dying you know. I’m even looking forward to it a little. The only thing that’s holding me back is Audrey. She’s the sensitive type. You know, weeps like a faucet. (Pause) She tries not to cry in front of me. She knows I can’t stand such dribble, but I see it in her eyes. (Pause) What can I do to help her understand?

GODDESS: She is understanding, in her own way. (Pause) Let her be. You do it your way, let her do it hers.

(Goddess puts her hand on Chantall’s leg.)

GODDESS: (Continued) It’s OK to grieve, you know. I hear it’s even a healthy thing to do now and then.

CHANTALL: Perhaps, but it seems so asinine.

GODDESS: To you.

CHANTALL: Why can’t she just enjoy the moment . . . roll with the punches? We’re dying the day we’re born anyway.

GODDESS: Some laugh, some cry.

(Chantall abruptly changes subject.)

CHANTALL: Hey, did you hear the joke about the old guy who believed in reincarnation?

GODDESS: No, but you’re going to tell me, right?

CHANTALL: This guy believed so strongly in reincarnation that he had them hang a sign on his tombstone that said, ‘Back in five minutes.’

(They both laugh. A car horn honks off stage.)

CHANTALL: Gotta go Goddess. Audrey’s giving me a ride home.

(Chantall heads towards the door, then stops and turns her chair towards The Goddess.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) You’re a riot. You know that?

GODDESS: Not so bad yourself, for a vibrant, bald-headed, elderly professor. Now, don’t go being foolish with your time, OK?

CHANTALL: Time? Don’t be silly. There is no such thing.

(Goddess opens the door as Chantall exits waving
goodbye. Goddess closes door, turns back towards front of living room.

GODDESS: (Out loud to herself.) Leave ‘em laughing Honey. Leave ‘em laughing.

(Goddess goes to turn off lights.)

GODDESS: (Continued) Let’s see. Who is our next lucky winner?

(Blackout)

THE END

MORE PLAYS

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 3

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 3

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 3

(Stage is dark. Picture of Jennifer appears.)

GODDESS: Jennifer. Forty-three years on this chaotic planet. Physician. Married to Jeremy. Two young children – Zack, age ten and Delia, six. Breast cancer. Mastectomy and radiation two months ago were successful. No sign of me now. Another great opportunity to multiply cut short.

(Goddess turns off projector and switches on lights. Doorbell rings. he goes to door, opens it slightly, looks out apprehensively, then opens door all the way.)

GODDESS: I’ve been expecting you. Here to rub it in, right? Come on in and gloat.

JENNIFER: (Puzzled.) What on earth are you mumbling about? I just came to figure you out.

GODDESS: Really? You mean you didn’t come to show me up?

JENNIFER: Show you up? What on earth for? It’s not like we were playing a game or anything. I had no choice and neither did you.

GODDESS: Could have fooled me. Let me get you a martini.

(Goddess goes to bar as Jennifer sits on couch.)

JENNIFER: Thanks. I deserve it.

(Goddess hands her drink and sits on chair.)

GODDESS: You sure do. Won fair and square. All is fair in love and war they say. You have to admit I messed you up a little though?

JENNIFER: Just a touch. I knew it was a fluke. One or two flaws in my genes, something in the environment and wham!

(Jennifer claps her hands.)

JENNIFER: There you are.

GODDESS: That’s me all right. They don’t call me invisible lightning for nothing! Actually, I’d been hanging out for some time. Lucky chance you felt me in the shower that morning.

JENNIFER: Chance had nothing to do with it! I examine my breasts frequently. I caught you just in time.

GODDESS: (Talking to herself.) There’s that time thing again.

GODDESS: (She turns back towards Jennifer.) Yep, you spoiled my party, but I took part of you with me.

(Jennifer looks down at her chest.)

JENNIFER: Can you tell?

GODDESS: Not really.

JENNIFER: (Relieved.) Good. I paid a lot of money for that surgery. (Jennifer sits up straight.)

GODDESS: Had you scared, didn’t I?

JENNIFER: Not in the least! Well . . . maybe a little. Dying did cross my mind a time or two. There was one night, two weeks after the surgery and my second radiation treatment, when I couldn’t sleep. I found myself wondering, ‘What if they didn’t get it all? What if it comes back? What if I die? What about the kids? What if . . . what if . . .’

GODDESS: (Smiles.) You lost control.

JENNIFER: No, I didn’t lose control. It was just a momentary lapse. I got over it. (Pause) By the way, how do you decide who you are going to attack?

(Goddess goes to bar and gets herself another drink.)

GODDESS: Well . . . I don’t really decide, I just react. Smokers are a cinch. I usually single them out first. After that I look for those being effected by environmental chemicals and toxins . . . you know – gas, lead, pesticides, radiation. And some folks get the privilege of inheriting me straight from their relatives’ DNA.

(Goddess walks back to chair and sits.)

GODDESS: (Continued) Far and away my most prized possessions are those I select for no rhyme or reason. I love to see the shock on their faces. Especially those who think death doesn’t apply to them.

JENNIFER: You can’t keep killing us forever.

GODDESS: Why not? You think you’re woman enough to stop me!

JENNIFER: Every day we’re closer to discovering your secrets. Once we do, you’re history!

GODDESS: Dream on Doc. If it makes you feel superior to believe that propaganda, be my guest. Sure, technology can see me more clearly, but I break through anyway. A few of my forms have been lessened with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and diet; but all in all I still get my share. And some treatments are worse than the cure. All you scientist types are still hung up on the symptoms, not the cause.

JENNIFER: You’re full of it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

GODDESS: So, now you’re resorting to stupid old cliches. Must be getting pretty desperate, huh?

JENNIFER: (Angrily) You think you’re so hot! (Stands.) Better watch your back! We’re not through with you yet!

GODDESS: (Feigning fear) Oh no. I’m soooo scared! (GODDESS shouts suddenly) Watch out!

(Jennifer jumps and looks behind her.)

JENNIFER: What?!

GODDESS: (Points her finger at Jennifer and laughs.) Got ya!

JENNIFER: (Smiles and points back.) Pretty cocky, aren’t you?

GODDESS: Look who’s talking.

JENNIFER: See you around.

(Jennifer turns and walks towards door.)

GODDESS: I sure hope so.

(Jennifer exits. Goddess turns towards audience.)

GODDESS: (Acts like she’s boxing.) Damn! I love a good fight.

(Goddess goes and turns off light.)

Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 4

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 1

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 1

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time

Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 1

(Stage is dark. Slide of Vicki appears on wall or screen.)

GODDESS: Vicki. Twenty-two years old. Student. Single. Boyfriend named Carlos. Close family ties. Recently diagnosed with acute leukemia.

(Goddess turns on lights. Vicki barges through door.)

VICKI: What in hell is going on! Are you the Goddess of Cancer?

GODDESS: What if I am? What gives you the right to barge in here?

VICKI: You know damn well what gives me the right. Who invited you into my body?! No way are you staying. It’s not fair!

GODDESS: Not fair? Who made up that rule?

VICKI: I don’t know. Everyone says so. I’m too young to die. This is a sick joke, isn’t it?

(Vicki drops her head and paces back and forth around the room as she talks, gesturing frequently with her hands. The Goddess moves closer.)

GODDESS: It’s sick all right, but not a joke.

VICKI: Sure it is. The doctors are wrong. They must be. They made a gigantic mistake, OK?! By tomorrow you’ll be history.

GODDESS: Believe what you want Honey, it won’t change a thing. Like a soda or something?

(Goddess turns towards bar and gets out soda. Vicki goes over, grabs drink, guzzles it quickly, then throws it down.)

VICKI: Why me?! What did I ever do to you?

GODDESS: Nothing particular. It just happens.

VICKI: Well, make it unhappen! My family is going crazy. They keep acting like it will be OK.

GODDESS: Maybe it will.

VICKI: How do you know?

GODDESS: I don’t.

VICKI: (Quietly) My boyfriend is scared to talk about it.

GODDESS: He’s scared or you’re scared?

VICKI: I’m not scared of you! You’re just a . . . just a bad dream.

GODDESS: If I were you, I’d be real scared.

VICKI: Well, you’re not, so get lost!

GODDESS: (Smiling) Not that simple sweetheart.

VICKI: Look at me. Once I start that chemo. crap, I’ll look like shit. No wonder Carlos is freaked. Who’d want to live with a hairless, skinny wreck? I really love him. I’m afraid he’ll split.

(Goddess steps closer to console her. Vicki screams.)

VICKI: Get away from me you creep!

(Vicki pushes the Goddess away.)

VICKI: Go pick on someone else!

GODDESS: If you insist.

(Goddess turns and shrugs towards audience. Vicki gives the Goddess the finger while she’s turned and slams the door behind her as she leaves.)

GODDESS: Youth. What a waste.

(Goddess turns off light.)

Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 2

The Barking Seal Admiration Society

Story from Saint Catherine’s Baby by Gabriel Constans

The Barking Seal Admiration Society – Part 1

My sister Joanne had come, for respite, from our hometown of Modesto, a land-locked metropolis eviscerated in the the scorching Sacramento Valley in Northern California. We were spending the afternoon on the wharf in Santa Cruz, a city on the edge of the Monterey Bay, just a touch south of San Francisco by way of Highway One; a scenic, precarious strip of pavement, hugging the coast like a black snake.

I’ve lived in Santa Cruz for twenty odd years, but you wouldn’t know it by the looks of me. My usual slacks, short-sleeved dress shirt and wide-brimmed Fedora, to cover my receding brown hair and shade my ever paling skin, stands in stark contrast to the shorts, wet suits, Hawaiian prints and Birkenstocks worn by most of the tanned, beach-faring home grown crowd. I don’t surf, the ocean’s much too cold for my liking; and I hate it when sand gets in my socks and shoes, grating roughly against my skin. To top off the oxymoron of my seaside existence, my work with an advertising agency in San Jose, though personally rewarding is not something I flaunt in this liberal college town.

Holding her floppy white straw hat, Joanne skipped down the old wooden peer, her right arm swinging freely. The pier stood on creaking stilts of old oak pylons that had been driven into the sea floor at the start of the last century. A space in the middle of the pier had been created for tourists to feed the seals. Joanne stopped at the railed opening to see the gluttonous sea creatures lounging on the braces below. As I caught up, she barked, clapped and laughed loudly, imitating the chubby, sumo-wrestling otters’ boisterous demands for food.

She was laughing like she had when we were two little toe heads. I remembered the times she interrupted my Lone Ranger play, as I made serious sound effects of guns firing and bullets ricocheting past my head. I wore my plastic red cowboy hat and holster and she’d be outfitted as a petite ballerina; her blond pigtails held to the side by bright pink, silk ribbons.

“Get out of the way!” I’d yell, pointing my six-shooter at the bad guys. She danced closer. “Stop it Jo!” I’d yelled again, using the form of Joanne she hated. She danced closer still, twirling, curtseying, falling and playing dead; her square-toed, laced ballet shoes sticking straight into the air. Everyone knows ballerinas and cowboys don’t mix, but she would keep jumping up and falling down, giggling and laughing, with total disregard for my need to save the land from desperados. Unable to keep a straight face, I’d holster my guns and clap at her performance, just like I’d seen our mother do before she’d died of cancer.

Joanne was still barking at the seals when a skinny woman wearing a blue-green scarf joined in. Momentarily startled, Joanne stopped and stared. Realizing the stranger wasn’t any crazier than herself; she smiled, laughed and resumed her barking and clapping. hey were like mimicking mimes imitating an innocent bystander.

The new addition to the barking seal admiration society turned and clapped towards Joanne, who eagerly returned her applause. They both bowed, barely avoiding knocking each other in the head. The woman’s scarf slipped forward and fell, revealing a shiny hairless scalp. She grabbed the cloth by the corner before it hit the pier. She stood grinning with the brilliance of a sparkler and quickly wrapped and tied her silk scarf. Joanne took off her hat and briskly rubbed her short soft brown curly tufts.

Feeling somehow drawn to this barking skeleton with no hair, I moved closer and listened to the enraptured duo, as the lady pointed at Joanne and said, “Chemo?”

Joanne nodded. They hollered, squealed and embraced; as if they were long lost sisters.

“Robin,” the woman exclaimed, bowing slightly.

“Joanne.” She curtsied.

They hugged again. Joanne, holding the sleeve of Robin’s full length, blue print dress, turned her in my direction. “This is my big brother Rueben; my great protector and occasional pain in the butt,” she snickered. “This is Rob . . .”

“Robin,” I interjected. “I heard.”

Dispensing with my usual reserve, I took Robin’s hand, knelt on the wood planks and kissed the back of her thin wrist. “It’s a pleasure, Ms. Robin.”

She bent her knees and bowed her head formally. “The pleasure is all mine Sir Rueben.”

I stood, offering my hands as their princely escort. Joanne, on my left, placed her right hand on mine, as Robin did the same on my right. With her free hand Robin lifted her dress a few inches, as Joanne pretended to do likewise, though she wore pants. We walked regally towards the bench at the end of the pier, with our noses turned theatrically skyward.

I brushed off the bench, pretended to place a cloth upon it and invited them to sit on their royal throne. They sat, squished comfortably together, as I descended onto the thick weathered wood next to Robin.

“Come closer,” she said, grabbing my pant leg and pulling. “It’s chilly out here.”

I snuggled closer. The waves thumped against the pilings below. We watched the surfers, as they drifted around the rising swells, waiting for the crest of a perfect wave. When their experienced eyes saw nature’s roller-coaster approaching, they began paddling and stood bravely on their miniscule pieces of wood; daring the foamy, curling blood of the sea to give them a thrill before extinguishing itself on the sandy shore. I thought about trying it once or twice, but the idea of swimming in freezing water, sharks, stinging salt-water in my eyes and the possibility of drowning; made my fledgling desire vanish faster than a crowd of punk rockers exiting the concert of a polka playing accordion band.

“Was it breast cancer?” Joanne asked, breaking the comfortable silence.

“Still is,” Robin said, matter-of-factly. “It’s such a happy camper, it’s decided to pitch tent.”

“I’m sorry,” Joanne said; her face transformed into a Japanese Kabuki mask of sorrow.

“Not your fault,” Robin replied dreamily, looking past the horizon. “Not anybody’s fault.”

“What a rotten deal,” I said.

“Yep, a rotten deal,” she said softly and exclaimed, “I’m starved.” She stood, took hold of our hands and tried pulling us off the bench. Her grip was surprisingly strong. “Sir Rueben,” she bowed. “Lady Joanne,” she bowed again, “Queen of the barking seals. Let us partake of some fine delicacies at the great dining hall of fish and chips.”

Turning our backs to the sea; Robin promenaded, with her two newly aggrieved squires, past the barking seals and tourists snapping pictures, towards the castle of greasy potatoes and dead fish meat.

After finishing a second order of fried breaded cod at Barcello’s Fish Fry and stacking the grease stained, white and red checkered throwaway containers in a heap; Robin grimaced and lurched forward.

“I think I’m going to be sick!” she covered her mouth.

The waitress behind the counter, who was as worn and painted over as the pier itself, noticed Robin’s distress and came as fast as her arthritic knees would allow.

“You OK?” she barked, with an urgency that implied, “You better be.”

Robin put her hand on the spotted Formica top and rolled her head from side to side. I placed my hand between her shoulder blades, moved my fingers up her spine and massaged her neck. Leaning closer, I heard her laughing under her breath. She looked at me and smiled, then jerked upright, “Just kidding!”

Joanne rolled her eyes with relief. The waitress was not amused. “Ha. Ha,” she scowled, lumbering back to the other end of the counter, muttering silent obscenities.

“Why’d you do that?” Joanne admonished, “It wasn’t funny.”

“Hey,” Robin replied, “When did you turn into the queen of pathos?”

Joanne’s frown turned into a smile, as she pushed Robin’s shoulder.

“Ouch!” Robin yelped, clasping her shoulder and grimacing with pain.

“Oh no,” Joanne’s face contorted once again. “I’m so sorry.” She looked at Robin with alarm. “Are you OK?”

Robin’s mischievous grin returned. She winked, letting Joanne know the joke was on her.

“Why . . . you!” Joanne waved Robin off good naturally and pushed her on the shoulder again as Robin renewed her painful grimace, then laughed hysterically, almost spitting with pleasure.

Robin turned discreetly in my direction and whispered, “I’ll act sick more often, if you promise to rub my back like that again.” I started to look away but couldn’t. She took my hand like a precious jewel and stroked it as gently as a soft kitten. “You have beautiful hands,” she purred. I glanced over her shoulder and saw Joanne watching out of the corner of her eye.

As we headed towards the car to pay the meter, not wanting to pay thirty-five dollars for a two-hour stroll, because of a parking ticket, it seemed as if the three of us had been together all day.

Reluctantly, we took our leave, as Joanne was driving back to Modesto that afternoon and offered Robin a ride.

“I’ll walk. Thanks,” she said, looking admiringly at the sky then back at me. “It’s such a beautiful day. I don’t live far.”

Joanne gave her a long hug. “Thank you,” she said.

“For what?” Robin asked.

“For reminding me how good it feels to laugh.”

“What else is there?”

They held each other’s hands, one on top of the other. Robin gently extracted her fingers from Joanne’s and turned her luminous eyes on mine. I wasn’t sure what to say or how. It felt like I’d known this woman all my life.

“Let’s go Rueben,” Joanne broke in. “I’ve got to get packed.”

My lips parted and crackled a stifled, “Goodbye.”

Robin stood quietly, nodding farewell. I started to walk away, when a desperate surge of adrenaline turned me around. Robin hadn’t budged. I hurried back.

“Could we . . . ah . . . get together sometime?” I said.

“I thought you’d never ask,” she smiled suggestively, reaching into her shimmering dress pocket and handing me a card.

Lowering my hat against the sun’s glare, I read. “Robin Magnolia. Consultant.”

“Consultant for what?” I wondered out loud.

“Surfing,” she replied, taking my hand in hers and kissing me on the cheek.

“Surfing?”

“Life surfing,” she whispered. Call me.”

“I will.”

Joanne shouted, “Come on Rueben! I’ve got to go.”

“See ya,” I said, letting her hand drop and heading towards the car. It took all my strength to not spin around and take her in my arms.

Part 2 (Conclusion) Tomorrow

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