23 June 2009 | Vol. 9, No. 2

New Lease

The nurse pulls my legs one way and my arms the other, positioning me to her liking. Her face is beautiful, like a magazine cover, and I lie across the cold metal table like a wounded dog, my side pressed flat against the surface. A long-armed x-ray device hangs over my head. She smiles, and I lose myself in her face, imagine myself wandering into Candy Land; I walk over her gumdrop eyes.

My wife is beautiful too, but she's not here. When I told her I was going for some tests she said, okay—you're fine. She said nothing about my tendency to over dramatize or my need for attention. She didn't ask why she should care or if womanizing could cause cancer. She said none of the things she wanted to.

The lab technician stands behind a curtain and speaks through a microphone. He tells me to sip the chalky milk that will sketch my stomach. Hold and swallow, he says, now… and again. I imagine the milk is a white chocolate version of Willy Wonka's river, and I'm Augustus Gloop, a big fat greedy nincompoop, selfishly sucking. Maybe I should've been a Buddhist, fought against human desire, laid off the smoke and the booze. Maybe not, maybe I'd be here alone anyway.

The nurse pulls my arm down further between x-rays. My side is not pressed flat enough, and the machine cannot take proper pictures. I imagine she is trying to comfort me as we walk hand in hand through Candy Land, but she lets go and slips behind the lead curtain.

Hold and swallow, the lab technician says, now… and again. Then he says, okay, and leaves the room. He doesn't return. I'm afraid to lift my head.

The nurse says, you can put your shirt back on, and I'm embarrassed by our one-sided love affair, by my nakedness.

I ask what she saw.

She hesitates. Looks like you're okay.

No tumors? I ask.

No tumors, but you didn't hear it from me.

I dread telling my wife and daughter the news; I bet they'll be disappointed. I'm disappointed myself. I was hoping this might be the thing to make them love me again—to let them forgive me.

As I go to leave, the nurse smiles and says, you should consider this a new lease on life.

I tell her, my family hates me, and I leave the room.

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About the author:

Joseph P. Thayer is an expatriate of New York, living in The Hills of northern New Jersey with his wife and two children. Once settled in New Jersey they pitched a big top and performed circus acts nightly. Joseph's most recent work has appeared in Ramble Underground, Flash Quake, and Ghoti. He's a real lucky bastard, who is oddly comfortable writing about himself in the third person. He is available online at josephpthayer.blogspot.com.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 9, No. 2, where "New Lease" ran on June 23, 2009. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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