Your fiancée is ordered, by her orthopedic surgeon, to stay off her foot. She should elevate it above her heart. Three times a day, she should ice it.
For pain, he prescribed an anti-inflammatory. And a second pill, to be used when the anti-inflammatory isn’t enough. This pill should not be taken on an empty stomach.
Each morning, before you leave for work, you make sure there is food in the house. You make sure there are books and magazines to read. You check to see that her phone has a full charge, in case of emergency.
In the evenings, you bring home dinner. Unhealthy dishes, which, you hope, will take her mind off her injury. One night you order shredded beef enchiladas topped with tangy tomatillo sauce. Another night you bring home chicken parmigiana with a side of fettucine Alfredo or a pizza with sausage and green olives.
When you are not distracting her with food, you are distracting her with wedding preparations.
You must hire a florist, a photographer, a hairdresser and a make-up girl. You must choose a venue and find a caterer. All of this costs money at a time when your fiancée is out of work and her short-term disability pays only a portion of her salary.
You decide you have done enough wedding planning for one evening. You decide each of you have room in your bellies for another slice of pizza.
“If you’d like,” you say, “I could get us some beer.”
Your fiancée is a month into her recovery when you notice the cat acting strange. He won’t come out from under the bed, even when you open a can of tuna.
You try and pull him out. He hisses at you.
“In fifteen years,” your fiancée says, “he has never hissed at me.”
You make an appointment with the vet. Then you no longer need food, beer or wedding plans to distract you. The cancerous tumor, growing inside your cat, is all the distraction you need.
He is given three months. But after a few short weeks, he stops eating. Then he stops using the litter box. Then the vet comes to the house with a syringe full of pink solution.
You write her a check. It seems odd, paying a woman to kill your cat. You remind yourself she took him out of the pain he was in.
With the cat gone, you have more time to focus on your fiancée’s foot, which, stubbornly, refuses to heel. On the internet, you research bone cancer. You wonder if the orthopedic surgeon is clever enough to test for bone cancer.
You go to his website and read his biography. His degree is from the University of Central Florida. You wish he went to a better school. Like Tufts, in Boston. Or Harvard, also in Boston.
Why didn’t this guy go to Boston for his education?
While planning the wedding, you get into an argument with your fiancée. She wants to hire a D.J. You think a D.J. is a waste of money.
“Why not just load a playlist into the IPod?” You raise your voice. Then apologize for raising your voice. “I’m cranky today,” you explain. “I’ve barley eaten anything.”
You call an Indian restaurant and place an order – fried samosas filled with mashed up chickpeas, homemade paneer in tomato sauce, two orders of garlic naan.
Dinner is interrupted by a call from your mother. Your cousin has died. He was watching a football game. During a commercial, he went to the bathroom. His wife heard a noise, like someone had dropped a sack of potatoes.
You research brain aneurisms on the internet. You want to find out if they are hereditary. You curse your faulty genes.
When you were young, your cousin took karate lessons. He used to demonstrate his moves on you.
“I’ll give you one free shot,” he would say. You’d end up on the floor, your arm twisted behind your back. “All I have to do is apply a little pressure and your arm would snap into two pieces.”
You have a beer with your fiancée, in honor of your cousin.
You are on your third beer when you get a call from a friend. Another friend’s kid brother purchased a pistol and sat at his kitchen table and stuck the barrel of the pistol in his mouth.
Your friend’s brother, you and your friend agree, has not been right ever since he got back home. You and your friend agree that the country needs to take better care of combat Veterans.
You tell your fiancée you are no longer answering your phone. Every time you answer your phone, its bad news. You don’t think you can stomach any more bad news.
But then you find out you have the stomach for at least two more pieces of bad news:
- Your niece finds your sister’s pills. She manages to pry the cap off, even though it’s childproof.
- Your grandmother’s bowel movements are full of blood.
These two pieces of bad news turn out not so bad:
- Your niece’s stomach is pumped. The doctor gives her a lollipop and sends her home.
- Your grandmother does not have cancer, like the doctor suspected. It’s merely an ulcer, treated with antacid tablets.
When your fiancée’s foot finally heels, things return to normal so quickly, it feels like the bad parts never happened. (Although you do miss your cat and your cousin. And you think often of your friend, who lost his brother.)
You have a small ceremony on the beach. Even though the weatherman forecasts sun, it storms. The thunder sets off car alarms. You don’t need a D.J. nor an IPod. Your vows are accompanied by a chorus of car alarms.
Michael Cuglietta’s work has appeared in NOON, The Gettysburg Review, Passages North Tampa Review and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook Vertigo(Gertrude Press, 2014).