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  • Writer's pictureLuke Ramer

F*ck Cancer - Dark Fiction

by Luke Ramer






No one cares about you until you die. Then they come to visit, shed tears over your casket or urn, say a few words and prayers, and have a somber lunch where they try to laugh and smile and move on with their lives. This ritual makes everyone feel better about themselves for not being there while you were alive.



I want to do this differently. I want to see everyone I care about while I’m still alive, not from the view of a casket. So I invited all my friends and family here for one last party, one last time for us to get together and share a good time, have some drinks, and relive old memories. Some of them are flying in from across the country. Some are driving in from other states. I called it an End of Life Celebration in the invitation. Told them it would be the last time they ever see me. That I will be killing myself at nightfall.


The real reason for all of this is cancer. Agonizing, late-stage cancer that’s going to kill me within the next three months, according to my doctor’s most favorable estimate. But I’m not waiting for cancer to do the job.


Fuck that.


Fuck cancer.


Jesus Christ, I hate cancer. My miserable obsession. I stayed up many nights, studying the disease, trying to find my own way to beat it—natural and holistic healings, psychics and witch doctors, lots of praying and lots of marijuana and Vicodin—but nothing worked, and in the end, the only option was chemotherapy. I tried a few rounds of the stuff but it wasn’t for me. I had looked around the cancer ward, at the people withering away like rotting fruit. No way. I’m not going out like that. Not this late in life. I just passed the 90-year mark, that’s a good enough run for me.


I’ll go out on my terms, thank you very much—just as soon as I see all my friends and family one last time. Best of all, I know how to ensure none of them ever end up in the chemo ward like me.


-


I’m holding my End of Life Celebration at The Church of the Holy Shepherd on the edge of Wescolson, a small town of about 2,000 middle-class people, hard-working people, where I’ve lived my whole life. Behind the church is a sprawling cemetery where some of my family is buried, including my father who died at age seventy from cancer. And my wife who died ten years ago from…well, take a wild guess.


Fuck cancer.


I buried them here not only because it was my church, our church, but also because of the scenic acres of cornfield behind the cemetery. I drive out here every evening when the weather is nice and sit on my plastic lawn chair at my wife’s or my father’s grave with a can of Keystone Light, talk to them as if they’re still here, and watch the sky turn vibrant shades of orange and pink and purple. This sight never gets old. But I don’t stick around for too long, the colorful sky inevitably fades into ash. It’s all about knowing when to walk away while the world is still beautiful.




It's noon and the sky is a damp grey when the first guests arrive. My cousin Gareth walks with a cane and a tall woman—obviously much younger than us—at his side. Large diamonds dangle from her neck and ears and wrist. Gareth hugs me with his ancient body. Decades ago we got into a fist fight, and looking back on it now, it was probably my fault since I had screwed his girlfriend at the time. I start to apologize but he wags his fat cigar at me and lays his hand on my shoulder. I feel his bony fingers and their lack of strength.


“It’s all water under the bridge, my friend,” he says and nods his straggly gray eyebrows at the blonde next to him as she removes her fur coat and I notice her giant breast implants. “Everything worked out just fine.” He licks his lips and smiles.


I’m glad he’ll never have to deal with cancer.


-


By late afternoon the entire church is full. A few people are scattered on the lawn smoking cigarettes even though it’s still hazy and drizzling. A few people are slunk across the pews drinking wine, staring up at the towering cross and stained-glass windows—those conversations seem the most somber, so I avoid them. Everyone else is in the reception hall, music playing that I don’t recognize, the beer and soda flowing. Parents chatting, kids running amuck. Everyone shakes my hand, gently hugs me, shares their best wishes, their favorite memories of our time together. One thing everyone has in common is this subtle look, their eyes—sizing me up—wondering if I’ll really go through with my plan. Morbid curiosity is palpable in the air.


I make my rounds until I need to excuse myself to the brightly-lit bathroom where I fall to my knees and vomit. My fingertips and toes ache. My bones are getting harder and harder to control. But there’s no way I’m letting cancer ruin this party.


Fuck that.


I rally and get myself together and glance in the mirror. The skin on my face is a loose-fitting old-man Halloween mask.


Fuck cancer.


-


I walk outside—it’s evening now, and the slow, cool drops of rain smell clean and help me handle my nausea. I ask my nephew Kevin with the ponytail for a cigarette and a light. He smiles as if honored and hands me a Marlboro and a lighter with a naked lady on it. I pat him on the back and light up. I’ve actually never smoked a cigarette before, but it feels like a good way of saying Fuck You to my cancer. I take a huge drag and hack uncontrollably, struggling to breathe as I drop to one knee, trying to stabilize myself. I look up and the few people on the lawn are all staring at me, worry in their eyes. I regain my composure and wave my hand, assuring them I’m fine.


I hear a soft woman’s voice ask, “Can I give you a hand, babe?” It’s a voice from a distant past I still recognize. I look up and see Jennifer. She doesn’t look quite the way she did back when we were sixteen. But then again, neither do I. She’s gray now, flesh sagging, but her makeup is well done. She’s well dressed and smells like expensive perfume. I’m surprised she’s shown up. Of all the people I invited, she’s the one I’ve done the dirtiest.


She helps me up to my feet and looks off into the field behind the cemetery.


“Wanna take a walk?” she asks. And I nod, “Sure.”


We walk the dirt road out across the field, past rows of corn, and I remember bringing her back here in my rusted Mustang to make love when we were teenagers. I know she’s thinking the same thing. I also know she’s thinking about how I cheated on her numerous times, how I broke her heart.


I stop and put my hand on the shoulder of her blouse.


“I’m sorry,” I say. “For everything. I just…”


Jennifer puts her finger to my mouth, and says, “Stop.” I can taste her finger against my lips, and her cinnamon flavor is still familiar after all these years. “I’m not going to say I forgive you,” she says. “But my life turned out fine once I got over you.”


I nod and look up. The sun is still choked by the dense clouds. “Fair enough,” I say and sigh. “Honestly, I’m really glad you came.”


We sit on a tree stump beside the rows of corn and she puts her hand on the knee of my slacks. The light breeze mists our faces as we make out for a little. She’s chewing Big Red gum and I’m glad I reapplied glue to my dentures this morning. I consider the idea of making love to her, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to work even if she lets me, and I’d rather save myself the embarrassment—that’s one thing I did not plan for today.


We stumble back to the church, her lipstick smeared across my cheek. I ask her to stay, but she says goodbye and we part ways and I don’t see her for the rest of my life. No reason for her to stay, she got her closure. I hope she never gets cancer.


Fuck cancer.


I hobble back into the church, wiping my face, and I see my only child, Brian, drinking a bottle of water, holding his cell phone and looking around frantically. He’s wearing a fine suit like always, hair slicked. He spots me, runs over, and throws his arms around me. He starts apologizing for not being around enough.


“Son,” I say, leaning against a pew, tucking my shirt back into my slacks. “I saw you on television the other night—you really know your politics. You did great putting that smug asshole in his place.”


Brian blushes and giggles.


“In all seriousness, though, you have nothing to apologize for,” I say, patting his shoulder. “I’m just glad you got outta this town and made something of yourself. I’m proud of you, son. Your mother would be proud of you, too.”


Brian looks out through the stained-glass windows and sees the daylight fading. “You don’t have to go through with this, Dad,” he says. “I’ll stay, I’ll help—you can still beat cancer.”

“Brian,” I say and lean in close to him. “That’s exactly what I’m doing.”





The daylight wanes outside the church, but there’s no brilliant sunset tonight, the clouds still blanket the sky as darkness falls. All my guests are gathered in the sanctuary now. It’s quiet and everyone fidgets in the pews. I’m standing up front, like a pastor giving a sermon, leaning hard against the wooden pulpit.


I’ve supplied all my guests with a drink. We’re going to do one last Cheers before I end my life. I hold my glass. It’s filled with wine and poison. Everyone else has the wine I’ve given them, even the kids.


Brian sits in the front row next to little Eric, my great-nephew. My sister Carol and her husband and kids are to my left. Gareth and his trophy wife are drunk in the back row. They all stare at me. They all wonder if I’m actually going through with this or will I lose my nerve at the last minute.


“I’ll keep this short,” I say and cough. I see specks of blood on the pulpit in front of me. “I want to thank everyone for coming. You’re all a part of my life in some way or another. I never imagined my life ending like this but…” I feel myself running out of breath and honestly, I don’t know what else to say.


Everyone looks around at each other as I hold my glass of poison wine up in the air. “To my life, and to all of yours,” I say, “Cheers.”


I drink down my merciful death sentence in one gulp. I figure it will take a few seconds until my world turns black.


My family solemnly echoes my Cheers and they all drink in my honor.


My voice is raspy now, the last bits of my energy draining away. “None of you will ever have to go through this. None of you will ever have to face cancer. I made sure of it.”



My eyesight dims but I can see the moonlight pouring through the stained glass—the clouds have finally broken and the night is clear. I see blurs of my family and friends falling into the pews. Gasping. Confused shouting and coughing. Their empty cups and bodies dropping to the floor.


I look out across all my friends and family and former co-workers and everyone I’ve just saved from this cursed disease. I get my last words out just before we all die—fuck cancer.





Original artwork by Martin Trafford. Check out his site here!


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2 Comments


Priscilla Bettis
Priscilla Bettis
Sep 22, 2022

Oh that was a dark, compelling story. What a gut punch. But then, cancer is a gut punch.

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Luke Ramer
Luke Ramer
Sep 27, 2022
Replying to

Thanks! I've known a lot of people with cancer who have done chemo with mixed results. So I always wonder if I was as old as the guy in this story, what would I do? I mean, I probably wouldn't do what this guy did, but ya know lol

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