The fucking Doctor did it wrong. Ben Casey or Marcus Welby would have had him come into the office and sit down and break the news gently, even pat him on the shoulder, ask him if there was someone he’d like him to call. That’s how it’s done. Those are the rules. Everyone knows that. Everyone but this Dr. Siegel. Him with his terse phone call. “Mirsky, Dr. Siegel. Those polyps were malignant—think I got everything but you never know. You should feel lucky we got to it when we did. Here, talk to my secretary she’ll set you up with another appointment.”
He remembered getting up and locking his office door and telling his secretary he wasn’t taking any calls. He also remembered thinking about all the people in his family, who died from cancer, but he was only thirty and everyone else got it much later in life.
The next day he called his former wife—they’d only been divorced a few months and he thought she should know because of their two young kids. At the coffee shop, trying not to cry, he told her the story of being sent to the specialist. She said, “I need more money.” He repeated his story. She repeated her four words. She didn’t acknowledge his plight. Mirsky got up and walked out of the coffee shop. She left the bill for his coffee and toast in his mailbox.
Mirsky’s a senior citizen now and his children are older than he was during the time of that incident. He’s not had a recurrence. In fact, he and his ex—widow and widower, get along fine now and meet at the coffee shop once a month to talk about their kids and grandchildren and other things. Sometimes they take in a movie together and every once in a while they’ll cook each other a meal. They never speak of the past or the future.
Mirsky went for his annual physical and afterwards, as usual, went into his doctor’s private office where they schmooze and trade gossip. The doctor came in after a bit holding a thick blue folder. He took out an x-ray and stuck it into the clips of the light box, turned, walked back to Mirsky and patted him on the shoulder.
Paul Beckman’s new flash collection is Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press). His stories have appeared in the Norton Anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, and the 2016 Best Small Fictions anthology. His story “Mom’s Goodbye” was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Fiction Southeast Editor’s Prize. He’s widely published in magazines such as PANK, Blue Fifth Review, Matter Press, and Literary Orphans. Paul hosts the FBomb flash fiction series in New York City at KGB’s Red Room.