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    BWS Stories - Contest Winners

    Contest Winners - Diagnosis - 2nd Runner Up of the Sue Silverman Writing Contest

    Meredith Karen Laskow has been the Poet Laureate of Placentia (California) Library District since 2003. Her poetry and essays appear in numerous publications, the most recent of which are Descant, a Canadian literary journal, and Sometimes in the Open, an anthology of California Poets Laureate. She is also the winner of several past NABBW writing contests. Her writing website is Meredith is also a full-time jewelry artist

    Diagnosis - 2nd Runner Up of the Sue Silverman Writing Contest

    The lump looks suspicious. My husband Les accompanies me to a breast cancer specialist who seems too young to be a doctor. “Neither sonogram nor manual exam indicates cancer. Your lump is perfectly symmetrical; cancers rarely are. We can watch it for six months.” She flicks back a tuft of light brown hair fallen from her barrette. I inhale deeply and spit a staccato directive.

    “Take it out, as soon as possible.”  The vehemence surprises my husband, who knows my aversion to all things medical.

    The doctor hesitates, then shuffles through a small sheaf of papers. “We can schedule a biopsy in three days.”    

    “I’ll be there.”    
    Les grasps my hand.        
    The doctor smiles.  “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

    * * *

         The follow-up appointment is one week later.  Les stays home, confident the lump is benign.

         The doctor asks me to sit. Her demeanor is more contained, and she doesn’t smile. She slowly explains the procedures and results.    “...cancer...”    The words roar and rush around my head. I’m drowning. I forget almost everything that happens next, except the following:     I remember repeatedly thinking, “I need to sit down. I’m going to faint.”    

    I remember the rational voice inside my head, the one that seems to know everything and has never abandoned me, cooing to my subconscious the way a mother comforts a frightened child, “You are sitting down.” I remember the word “you,” as if the calm came from someplace or someone that was not me.       

    The atmosphere oozes with faraway sound. A spectral bagpipe encapsulates the doctor’s office, causing walls to expand and contract and turn an odd shade of gray. I sit on a leatherette chair trapped inside the membranes of the bellows. All around me, rainbow flecks dance. The bagpipe sucks the air from the room.  I become its long moaning note, bleeding into the molecules of time.

    * * *

    I leave the doctor’s office and drive home. Les greets me, ready to smile at the good news.    “It’s cancer.” His smile crashes. The walls of the house ululate. Colors fade and then become annoyingly bright. We are both in shock. His arms encircle me and guide my head to the hollow of his collarbone. For uncounted moments, the bagpipe’s shrill is obliterated by the melody of my husband’s steady lilting heartbeat. He asks how he can help, and I have no answer. I trudge into my bead room and sit on the floor.      

    The bagpipe seeps from the corners of the room and shrouds the particle board with mist, as if to protect me from the outside world. The whine drowns out the birds in the avocado tree past my window. A pen and pad of paper appear on my lap. The bellows hiss, then hush. Pages fill up with “The Mountain,” the first piece I‘ve written in twelve years. Over the next two days, I reread the poem and cry.   

    I don’t remember anything else about those days except the color of my carpet — faded vanilla, and fading.
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