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Image by Mattias Diesel


“Cancer Claims Local Restaurant Owner.” The local rag’s third-page caption shatters your morning read, sours your second cup of coffee. Louie. You’ve eaten pasta at his diner, shared and caused nervous laughter in your cancer support group, much to the dismay of the group’s facilitator. Suddenly the story blurs. Your brain slams its fist into the palm of your hand, bellows, Not me! Not on your life! You crumple The Reaper’s counterfeit claim ticket, mutter Death shall have no dominion, then wonder where you’ve heard that before. How shall I evade thee? You’re on a roll, hear the choke and rattle of Louie’s chortles and snorts, egging you on. Let me count the ways, you chirp, looking for a scissors to cut out the article..

You flash back to the times you thought you were toast. Your favorite but fiendish shawl that almost garroted you twice, once whipping over your face as you were driving your convertible on a windy, winding highway, once almost catching in a moving escalator. No Isadora Duncan demise for you! Your first cancer. That feral tumor that wasn’t cancerous but still life-threatening. That sailing tour you decided not to book last minute. The time your car got totaled but you scrambled out, made eyes at the EMT. All those one-night stands with guys you didn’t know and didn’t want to beyond your short time together. How you escaped rape and maybe murder that holiday night on the beach by asking the stranger throwing you to the sand and stripping off your skirt, What would your Virgin say?

All these you think about, and more. You ponder the shrinkage of your meaningful circle — family, friends, support systems, the old mulberry in the back yard. Dogs. After dinner, not for the first time, you retrieve the bottle of pills from the cupboard, arrange them on the kitchen table like soldiers in a line. You sit back, close your eyes. Louie’s face floats above you, grinning, drifting. Waiting.

Mikki Aronoff’s work appears in New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Flash Boulevard, Bending Genres, Milk Candy Review, Gone Lawn, 100 word story, Atlas and Alice, trampset, The Offing, The Wild Word, Midway Journal, and elsewhere. She’s received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.


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