mootz - A Living Thing “... it's benign,” Dr. Willow said, heavy brows knitting. The words came and went like a gentle breeze—one that knocked a small boulder off my shoulder. Still, one tumor down, two to go. “Just, the big one, doc,” I said. He shifted his stance, his weight falling back on a right foot that seemed to want to leave the room as much as I did. I don't think he realized how far away he seemed with that simple gesture. “The one--” I trailed off. “The one in my head.” He swallowed. “This isn't easy for me to say--” “Sticks and stones, doc,” I said with the last bits of courage I could muster. “No matter what you say, you can't hurt me. What's done is done, you can only help.” A curious, brief smile curled on the edges of his lips, only to disappear like a shadow caught in peripheral. False hope? Yes. My heart fluttered for that moment. “I admire your spirit.” “I admire co-eds with penchants for short shorts,” I wryly snickered. I kept my gaze level and the laugh that he replied with was as uneasy and burdened as I could handle at the time. My answer was there in his eyes, I just had to read it, though I wouldn't yet. “If we could've found it sooner--” My eyes glazed over. I could see his fingers twitching about his files—my files, or charts. I think they are called charts. My legs dangled over the edge of the gurney table and I couldn't feel the floor. With nothing to stand on, I felt alone. I was gone! No images flashed before my eyes. No farewells came to mind. No loose ends. As I slowly returned to my body, the doctor's words came back to me, as if the volume of the entire world rose. “--twelve months... maybe fourteen.” “In time for a check-up,” I chuckled. “In time for a check-up,” I repeated, voice low the second time. “Perhaps I shouldn't have missed so many in a row before now. Well, I did. I messed up and I can already see it on your face. I'm different now—I'm 'terminal.' Don't you dare think you can treat me like that! Don't look at me like I'm your grandfather with a foot in the ground. Treat me like a man, like your damn friend. “Say it, Willow. Say it! Look me in the eyes and say it so I know I'm not dead to you. Tell me 'I told you so.' Now!” A thousand muscles twitched in his face, ones only the doctor could name. Truth and honor, life and death, duty and disaster... I don't know what struggles were surfacing on that damn doctor's face. I just know he couldn't say it, and that I was too far gone to still be a living thing in the eyes of others.