DIMINISHING ODDS. A short story by Neil Coleman April/22/2019
‘Come on Erick … get up. You have got to get that form done. You know it’s important … bloody important. You can’t keep putting it off. Your slot is at three.’
I rolled over, trying to put Alex’s voice into another place … like the backyard. It’s not as if I didn’t know what today signified. Hell … I’d thought of nothing else for the last few months. Everything was on hold. What the hell … nothing else mattered. Even the trip Alex had planned for our thirtieth anniversary didn’t seem real. Other people had those, not us. His plans for a special dinner tonight, with friends, some had survived several throws of the dice.
‘Do I have to replicate your dear old mum’s method then?’ Alex said from the kitchen. My thoughts drifted back to my teens … to that brick house in the ‘burbs,’ and the time when bugger all mattered, other than homework, noisy brothers, competing for … everything. I could smell the coffee and almost see the milk frothing for my usual ‘Flat White.’ “
‘Is that bacon I can smell?’ Shit … I must have done something right, or he was feeling sorry for me. After all, he still had about six years to go before he hit the mark.
‘Don’t get too excited. You’re only getting one piece and it’s grilled, not fried, along with the other three or more bits you have when I go to work early. You know what the doctor said.’
I laughed. He obviously didn’t know about the Hash Browns … the ones I had hidden at the back of the freezer.
‘Sorry … we’re all out of the Hash browns… you’ll to do with toast.’
I threw back the blankets, to discover I had company on the bed. Jenna, our Jack Russell, had sneaked into the bed during the night. She wasn’t in a hurry to vacate her warm spot. I wasn’t the only one approaching an elderly state. Yeah, we both loved our comforts. She differed in her approach to her morning shower though. She started the process whilst still in bed, as evidenced by the slurpy sounds and the white hair on the sheets.
‘Jesus, Jenna. Can’t you do that on the floor?!’ I threw on a dressing gown, one purloined from a stay at a hotel. It had somehow slipped into my case when I left. I’m not sure what conference it was. It still fitted me, so I wasn’t about to send it to the recycle bins … just yet. I wandered into the kitchen, followed by Jenna, her tail wagging in anticipation of her breakfast and morning walk.
Alex had lied. The little table was set for two, complete with a crystal vase and one red rose. A solitary petal that had fallen on to the table cloth. Erik hadn’t bothered to pick it up; it kind of belonged there.
‘I’ve used your favourite Crown Lynn,’ he said as he embraced me in a ‘Alex hug’ … the kind that leaves you in little doubt as to his ‘mountain man’ strength. ‘I’m breaking all the rules … what the hell … It’s not every day that you face the ‘spin.’
I returned his hug and a wave of emotion flooded over me. I didn’t need reminding of the ‘one in ten chance’ … the one that would decide if I could see another breakfast like the one spread before me. Erik had lied big time: Bacon, toast, fried tomatoes, black pudding, fried eggs and creamy mushrooms.
‘You do know that the chooks are gonna get a large part of this,’ I reminded him.
‘Bullshit … you really think I can’t help you out a bit,’ Erik replied, rubbing his ample stomach.
‘I guess you’re taking a gamble of an entirely different kind to me then,’ I quipped as I sat down and placed the linen serviette across my legs.
A strained silence ensued. We both avoided the elephant in the room. The trip to the doctors to get my lab test results, and the interview with the doctor and the Ministry official …
Neil Coleman April 2019