By Noelle Palmer
“Cathy?” Clark questions as he fiddles underneath the sheet.
She looks up from her book and registers the time. She still has 15 minutes before she needs to get ready for work.
“Mhhm?” she responds vaguely, finishing her page before turning over to her husband.
“Cathy…” Clark sounds shy now, uncertain. He takes her hand in his. “Feel my ball?” he requests, leading her right hand under the sheet.
Cathy cannot help but smile. She lets her book drop, unmarked, to the pillow, cuddling into his shoulder.
“You feel that?” Clark asks as he wraps her hand around his right testicle.
Cathy tilts her head in hopes of a kiss, her fingers searching for his other ball, brushing over his lifeless dick.
“I think it’s cancer,” Clark answers himself. “I looked it up,” he adds, waving his new iPad at her, a retirement gift she soon learned to regret.
Cathy exhales in quiet exasperation. She probes his nut medically before pulling her hand away. “I don’t feel anything,” she reports wearily.
Clark continues his jiggling. “I dunno…it feels strange.”
Cathy leans over to kiss him on the forehead. “Maybe it just needs some good old-fashioned release,” she teases, swinging her legs heavily out of bed, wanting him to pull her back in, needing some release herself.
With his face tight with concern, Clark misses the pass and continues probing his testicle.
Cathy pulls on her dressing gown and heads to the shower, catching a fleeting glance of her aging self in the mirror before she steps in to clean off the night and start a new day.
A glass of red wine is waiting for Cathy on the railing when she arrives back home, as it has been every night for the last year, ever since Clark retired.
He opens the door for her even as she snatches up the glass with a simulated smile.
“I have volleyball tonight,” she admonishes, taking a small sip nonetheless to show she appreciates the thought.
“One glass…for confidence…” He waves aside her qualms. The rich, tantalizing smell of buttery seafood hovers inside. He pours himself a glass of white while she sips her red. “It’ll be ready soon. You won’t be late,” he soothes, following her into the bedroom.
She slips off her work clothes, the outfit shedding before Clark, who smiles at his near-naked beauty. Cathy elaborately flutters her eyelids in return, as if in jest, before pulling on her volleyball sweats.
They head out onto the balcony, the autumn sun still warm. Clark lays the crab legs and melted butter next to the wild rice and avocado salad already waiting for them. Cathy coos over the elaborate meal, silently cursing her waistline as she overindulges once more.
“I went to the doctor today,” Clark announces as she sucks out a crab leg.
Cathy nods her head as she chews, finally managing to ask with surprise, “You managed to get in with Dr. Husain?”
Clark shakes his head and reaches for a glass of wine with one hand while the other one subconsciously heads to his balls. “No, I went to the walk-in clinic.”
Cathy lets her fork of avocado and shrimp drop softly to her plate. “Well…why? We’re lucky enough to have a family doctor. I… Don’t you think it’s better to have someone who knows your, um, history?” Cathy has never liked Dr. Husain. But then again, maybe if she knew everything that Clark has been putting the medical profession through these past months, then maybe—maybe—Cathy would not have to be the one to confront him.
“She has a waiting list of over two months, Cath,” Clarke counters, aghast at this cold reception to his potential doom. “I needed to see someone now, before it’s too late.” His eyes start tearing up.
Cathy looks back down at her glistening dish, scraping up the ends of rice before ostentatiously looking at her phone.
“I have to go,” she states, unequivocal. “Thanks for the beautiful meal, my beautiful man,” she adds, getting up to give him a kiss. She picks up her plate and opens the screen door before adding, “You’ll be fine, sweetheart. Remember last time? You’re just getting older. Don’t sweat it. Breathe.”
She lets the screen door close behind her before adding, “Although it couldn’t hurt to be more active. Have you thought about taking up bowling again?”
“Have fun,” he tells her absentmindedly, his plate pushed aside, his mind traveling through the cosmos of cancer.
“I got the results back from the ultrasound,” Clark announces as Cathy walks in the door.
“Happy Friday,” she answers back, taking the glass of wine he hands her.
“They say”—dramatic pause—“I’m okay…” Clark’s voice wavers slightly. Cathy gives him a hug.
“I knew you would be,” she says, squeezing him tight: just like with the colon cancer, the stomach cancer, the diabetes scare before that.
“I dunno, though… It still feels swollen,” Clark mumbles quietly, as if to himself.
“Let me see,” Cathy says, tossing off her purse, lowering his pants.
“Cath…” Clark admonishes, “that’s not…”
But Cathy ignores him. She is intent on bringing him back to life, resuscitating him from the depression eating away at him, the true cancer coursing throughout his body.
And, finally, he succumbs.
Afterwards, they follow each other into the shower, something they have not done in years. He soaps up her breasts as she does his dick and contented, healthy balls.
“What’s this?” he asks, a sudden pause in their pleasure as his thumb and forefinger probe the small knot protruding out from above the nipple of her left breast.
“Oh, nothing,” she says, moving his hands downwards to her smooth, wet buttocks with a kiss.