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WHAT DID YOU EXPECT
By Chella Courington

 

 

The nurse tells me not to move for thirty minutes and slides me into the opening. I lie on a narrow padded bed in a narrow cylinder like a corpse in a coffin. What I really see is a pale red lipstick twisted back into its tube, waiting for the cap to seal it in.  Confined spaces terrify me. Eager to break out, my breath may bolt. My heart may push hard against my chest. Yet I can’t run away. I must endure this PET scan to see if the abnormality in my lung is a metastatic growth of my breast cancer or another cancer joining in. My pre-mastectomy lung x-ray showed a spot. Learning I was an ex-smoker, the head surgeon said, “What did you expect?”

I close my eyes and imagine a cloudy shore. No one except my brother and me sitting on a faded blue towel. Water flows over our feet and back to the ocean. Our heels sculpt bowls in the sand.

We build castle walls that erode at night. Early in the morning we start at the top of the beach, safe from high tide. With my yellow bucket we scoop sand into piles and pack top and side, sprinkling water to make the fortress stronger. Then shape the corner towers with Dixie cups. “All done but the white flags,” he says. Toothpicks and notepaper fly from his pockets.
Buzzing and clicking startle me. I open my eyes to the gray belly of the machine.

Inside my body radioactive glucose is being tracked by outside medical forces searching for the malignant cells. Hungrier than normal, they consume the sugar faster, giving off a glow. Bright spots of green and red.

They cannot hide. Neither can I. The beach has washed away.

 

 

author

Nominated for the 2009 Best of the Net Anthology (Sundress Publications) and the 2009 Best New Poets (University of Virginia), Chella Courington received her Ph.D. in literature from the University of South Carolina and her MFA in poetry from New England College. She currently teaches literature and writing at Santa Barbara City College in California. She was previously a professor of English at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, lo-ball magazine, Gargoyle Magazine, Opium Magazine, and Pirene’s Fountain. “Diana loved anything orange” was runner-up in The Collagist’s 2009 Flash Fiction Contest. Her first chapbook was Southern Girl Gone Wrong (Foothills Publishing, 2004) and her second chapbook of prose poetry, Girls & Women, was released by Burning River (March 2011).

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