Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Prognosis- a fictional short story

Genetics work with mathematics.  "They also work with little plastic toy monkeys," I tell myself as I pull a line of them clinging for dear life to each other from the little plastic barrel. You shake them up or God does or whatever and dump them out. Grab one of them and whichever ones hold on to another, you get your DNA. Its completely random, yet feels so completely planned. One thing compensates for another. One shortcoming weighed against one strong least for me. For some, it is all consequence.

It is about balance. This life. It is about the bad making the good so good. One cannot exist without the other. I have forgotten how to tie my shoes a thousand times I would guess, but I won't forget how to solve the most complex mathematical problems. I have always resented this gift. What good is math? How does it change a person's fate from one day to the next being able to calculate the amount of times it takes the toilet to flush before the bowl is completely white again? How does it help me to know how many seconds are left in my life? I wasn't given the gift of tact. Whoever may or may not be up there, decided that the monkeys that held on were as far from emotion that they could be, but full of cancer. I don't feel much, just the weight of numbers, which brings me anxiety. Statistics and mathematical probabilities. I had calculated my survival before the Dr. had even told me, and the numbers did not look in my favor. So I count.

I count down the days until the numbers finally and eternally become irrelevant. If there is something up there, I don't believe they have much dealing with time and figures. I would imagine it to be much more artistic, which in reality is just another way to interpret mathematics.

This is my final letter to you. This is the end. I do not have the energy to figure the binary that is taking place with every keystroke anymore. I am tired. I have been writing every night for ten days. My exhaustion has gotten worse and this record of my death is becoming more work than I had expected.

I have a real passion for good record art also based in simple mathematics. Everything in it's right place...even me. I will waste away and turn to dust and the energy inside me will travel out somewhere different from here and join more energy and make mathematics possible for another expression of whoever is up there's imagination. Or I will just become the number of molecules that have passed away and blow with the wind into old plastic grocery bags and beer bottles. Either way, I don't care anymore. I just want to scramble the numbers. I want to shake the barrel of monkeys and see what holds on to each other.

I am not good with speech. I stutter. I say inappropriate things that seem to bypass my mind and cross my lips. When my Dr. told me it was over and mathematically there was too minute a chance of success to continue, I just said "Ok, when in Rome.?" I had just watched a movie that said that as a joke the night before and it was the only thing I could think of to say. I didn't laugh at the joke when I heard it and the Dr. didn't laugh when I said it, but I think we both understood it in this situation.

I have never been on a date. I got close once. I had miscalculated my odds with this girl. We grew up together. Well, she used to babysit me. I never saw it as babysitting. Somewhere I always thought she was always coming over because she wanted to see me. I waited until it was mathematically appropriate to ask her out...I had just turned 18 and she was 26. I had miscalculated the way she looked at me which was something I had never seen before as being love. I think it may actually have been pity. I asked her to come help me hold the dog down to bath her and when she put her hands on the dog, I leaned over and kissed her. She got up and the dog ran off tracking soap and water everywhere. She just looked at me embarrassed and again with that look I had misconstrued. It was then I learned it was pity.

I have stage 4 lung cancer. I didn't get it because I smoked. I would never take such a risk. I got it from the barrel of monkeys, yet no one in my family as far back as 1878 has had lung cancer. I worked most of my life as a medical statistics analyst at The University of Michigan Hospital. The statistics always point to cigarettes or our parents, and there really are no happy endings. One gets cancer before they could have been treated and the cancer gets worse as they dump toxins into you and try to kill your entire guts to kill it. In the end, the majority of stage 4 get bad news. Good news is a medical anomaly. So I am not keeping my fingers crossed. I am instead writing this death journal because someone who cleans out my little apartment might decide to look into the black and white camouflage looking notebook sitting right here as I write, and read my about my journey from here to there...from mathematics to the abstract.

I'm not going to cry now. I will open the results. 2 weeks after they arrived to my house, I'm finally opening the results. I don't quite know why I waited so long. I guess I have always rooted against the numbers...against everything I have ever believed in. So I open it slowly while my hands shake. I pull out the sterile white folded letter size sheet of paper and read it.

The little cursor in my head keeps blinking on and off, waiting for a conduction that would stimulate my body to tremble and tears to fall. But they never fell. Nothing happened. Ten days after my diagnoses, my prognosis says I am gonna live. I pick up the letter and set it on top of the refrigerator and head off to work.   


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, September 15, 2012


A guy walks out of his office, down the road in the bustling business district. He won a huge account today. He walks through parking lots with venders selling spots to have your car babysat. He comes to the edge of where it is safe. He stops at the big red line on the ground that says danger in front of his feet. Today, he feels invincible, so he steps over and makes his way down the section of hell that houses the less desirable. He watches the little kids play on the porch with no shirts or shoes, the old 7-11 door sign still pops in his head. He can see the pan handlers on every corner holding their cans out to those passing through district hell to the business district. He sees a house fire down the road and smells in the aroma of burning fabric and methamphetamines.  He pictures devil's night 1987 when he started an old shed on fire in the woods behind his house. He assumes no one lives in that burning institution either. He looks down at the man in the wheel chair with no legs and long dreadlocks holding a can and just shakes his head no. He doesn't try to mask his distaste. He just looks him in the eyes and shakes his head. He has seen enough and makes his way back toward the thick red line. He reaches it, looks down in relief and steps over it.

On the other side isn't the business district. On the other side is paint dripping off of walls. On the other side are shrieks far off in the distance. This place gives him the same feeling he would get as a kid when everything would sleep and the furnace would awake and throw noises and echoes throughout the house. He makes his way through the labyrinth of rooms watching one story unfold after another. He walks first into a little room in a beat up house where he watches this guy make something other than love to a woman, then get up from the bed and drop 20 cents on the floor and leave. He walks to the next room and the same woman holds a baby screaming, while she tries to put a needle in her arm. He walks to the backyard and watches the same little boy, grown up pulling the trigger on a store clerk.

He enters a theme park that is empty, as if it hadn't opened yet. The rides are moving, but no one is operating them. He walks through and sees rides he used to ride as a kid. He sees rides he always wanted to ride, but was too small for. He sees cotton candy and elephant ears sitting without predator on the benches that line the road through the park. He remembers this place. He has been here before. The very time spent here is making him feel something terrible. This crushing pain in his chest that begs him to remember something he has tried to forget. He always wanted to be able to ride that Ferris wheel. He blocks the thought out and tries to keep moving, but still trying to define the pain he was feeling. He wanted to let it in, but it belongs to a different and weaker person.

He gets to the nearest door and opens it. Light. Bright light. He walks through shaken but fearless. He opens is eyes and tries to adjust. He pushes away the blur with his fists on his eyes until he can see the wooden box in the front of the room that held his child, his wife, his mother, and his dog. He closes his eyes and feels his stomach trying to wretch onto the floor. It wasn't really them. They died long ago. People hurt them for no reason. He wasn't here. He got courage and opened his eyes again to nothing.

A white area of nothingness filled with nothingness. If there were a state of actually being alone, this would be it. This is where he was. This was where he has been for so many years. This is home. Not there. Everything beyond that red line was broken and cruel. He had made a living of tearing out his own soul and this is where the soulless go. From out of the nothingness-nowhere came this homeless looking man walking toward him. As he got closer he could make out a familiarity in the man's eyes. His face was something different, but his eyes had looked into his before. The disheveled man leaned over to him as he was about to pass and kneeled down at his now sitting form. The bum reached out and put his hand into the pocket of his suit and put something in it and walked away. Filled with fear and curiosity, he takes out the item. $10. Money. The man fell back into the nothingness-nowhere.

What had happened to him? The bum didn't even want the money, he wanted something different. In fact, "I don't want the money!" he shouts, all of the sudden angry. "I don't want much of anything but this white board I live in....but there's nothing here. Who was the one in poverty? The bum has his head up and I have nothing!" The man walks over to the ledge that overhangs something other than nothing marked with a red line on the ground and leaps off into wherever. Just not nothing.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, September 8, 2012


She had two options that she could figure. She looked at him as he slept in that bed she got him from the Salvation Army. The corners of his lips turned up when he was relaxed...when his face could feel nothing. This was the first thing she noticed about him while running her fingers across the contours of his face, moments after giving birth to him. He was a first grader now. He was a really good kid. She believed he was no reflection of her. She believed he was the very character of God, rising with Him with the sun. She wouldn't soon deserve him. She couldn't. She was only mistakes. She had to choose between the sickness and the sanity of her son. She would have to choose later, she could not right now as she watched him sleep. He didn't deserve that.

His father was a married man. She didn't even know his name, but he wore a wedding ring opposite hand of his 1977 class ring. He would come and give her money and she would make believe love for him. She didn't even know how long this went on for, but knew he had a disgusting smell to him. His hair smelled like old sweat. His beard smelled of garbage. He was always sweating on her. He would get up when the love faded and leave the hotel room smiling and forgot to say goodbye every time. She didn't care, she desired him dead when he used words, she desired him dead anyway. She didn't even tell him he had a son, she just ignored his calls and got a job at a supermarket bagging groceries.

Her two options now? Take her life now or let it happen. Just let the cancer slowly eat her away while he watched from just below the bed rails. Using her head, she could only come to one logical decision. She had a sister who was much better off than her and loved her son as if it were her own. She had a big house with an extra room and two kids the same age. If she just said goodbye now, her son would be OK. But everything that isn't supposed to feel logical told her to stay. Every moment would be worth a pound of gold to both of them. She would give him the world even as a skeleton.

She had this choice to make. She had a tube down her throat that would not let her speak to him. At night, he would crawl up on the bed and they would take turns writing things on each other's backs and guessing what the other had said. This night was the THE NIGHT. She had to make a decision before she couldn't anymore. She had to give him something. She couldn't lie anymore or wait for some miracle to happen. This was her life. His life was about to change. Soon enough, she wouldn't know his face or even be able to see it. Soon enough he would be dead to her mind...a thought that was more torturous than anything she could think of. She knew that he knew she was going away. He just couldn't say it.

She flicked his ear to wake him. He stirred and she knew he was listening. He always seemed to be listening. She began drawing on his back. Her hands shook with every letter and she could feel his body tremble with every completed word. Her tears made it hard to keep going. His tears made it hard to feel what she was trying to tell him, but he knew I think.  Her hand stopped at his lower back and he felt her squeeze his small frame against her even smaller one. He braced himself and closed his eyes to think about when she was well. He went to this thought every time he was scared. He went to he time he fell out of the tree in front of his house and she she rocked him back and forth like the wind as it blew storm clouds through the trees. He remembered when she held him when his friend was hit by a car and killed. He didn't understand death until he saw his friend lifeless in a coffin. Then he only knew death as just being plastic looking. He closed off the entire world, even when he felt the gasp of his mother's chest and the alarm sounding on the machine next to her. He was definitely crying, but could and would only allow memories of laughter to flood his brain. He would never see the tube in her hand. He would never see all that she sacrificed for him. He would never understand that Salvation Army Bed that took the last of the money she had made with a legitimate job before she started to get sick.

He would never know all that her life had produced, but he would never forget what she was to him.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Different Way To Live

Live a life without fear. Fear holds true happiness at bay. It doesn't matter what can happen to you, at least in the grand scheme of things. What matters is how you spend every minute of your life here. Regardless of what some people say and even what some of my previous posts suggest through my venting, life is beautiful. Life is what you allow it to be. It all depends on the lenses you see it through.

It may feel both euphoric and tragic. It can be the steel that crushes your chest and it can be the cloud beneath your beloved feet. It just is. We face all of these things, like them or not. You may perceive only the bad and ignore the good. You may take the good and refuse to believe the bad. Neither is a productive or truthfully balanced way to live. God sets the sun on us some days and puts us in he dirt others. We need both to appreciate life.

What if we live without that fear of the bad things that can happen? What if we just understand that they happen and move forward? It isn't easy, but it may just be necessary for you. It is for me.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


You can stare at the shapes for days and days and it will never make any sense until the night time, when the monsters appear from the the sponge painted brown blobs that inhabit your thoughts and fears. When you're a kid, light and dark are everything. The noises heard in the day time go completely unnoticed until the sun sets and falls and the same sounds ring violence and terror from the basement into the hearts of little kids all over the world.

Fear is universal, so I guess it should be respected. Old wooden things creak and crumble in the night in China, just like in our own homes. People always fear what they cannot see. They fear the dark because nothing can be seen in front of them. They fear the unknown because the unknown has been known to cause great harm to us. Fear is both a motivator and a killer of potential. It can be used to overcome and to be overcome.

Fear is easy to overcome in theory, but in life practice, we find a beast that cannot and will not be tamed. A couple of weeks ago, I was on a high ropes course. I have always known about my fear of unstable heights, so I was a little reluctant to go up there in the first place, but if my kid, who is afraid of so many things can do it, so can I. I got to the first level, which is about 50 feet in the air and begun my walk across a very bendy 2x4 plank hanging over what I imagined were hungry sharks and a pool full of razors and black widow spiders. I got to the middle and froze with fear...paralyzed. I was connected to a steel ring which was attached to a steel pulley which was attached to a tweed rope? Really? This little rope. Ropes scream when you put weight on them. I couldn't move for a moment, until I saw my son two levels above me (about 150 feet up) walking across the same 2x4 without even holding the rope like it was the sidewalk. I then took a breath and walked across and made myself finish the course. I tell this story because I think fear has always meant to be a test that you should really try to pass. Some fear is good obviously, because if you don't respect death, you will get yourself killed acting a fool. But the things we fear in life can be very temporary and meaningless. Sometimes, we have to take a deep breath and walk across that rope despite your heart stopping desire to be somewhere or someone else.

One foot in front of the other until you forget the sequence and are just rhythmically moving forward.


Thanks for reading...Z