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Appearing in the recent issue of Blackbird, Nicola Mason's "Cancer Party" launches off with a tone whose effect is both jubilant and melancholy.
Hey! There's a party going on, and everyone's invited. Cliff's got cancer, and it's not your average household malignancy—not your zap-and-run, slap-a-hat-on-it kind. Cliff's cancer is crafty. It's pushy. It's crass. It's a desperate salesman who shoves through the door with a vacuum no one will buy, who gives a demonstration so sloppy you find the attachments weeks later, one at a time, in all those hard-to-reach places. Deep in the stuffing of the sofa in the living room. Clogging the kitchen drain. Rattling through the A/C ducts like the last cashew in the can.
Just as moving as the tone are the many beautifully accurate, dead-on metaphors, such as,
Then come the doctors—bandits who unmask at bedside, their pink chins gleaming. And this is significant, because outlaws only show their faces to the safe bets. The ones who won't get away.
This is a rare story whose tone seems to embolden a reader even as she is invited to embody a guy who slowly learns he's got more than just indigestion. It's a brave tone, a story with an attitude that laughs at death (what else is there to do?) while seeming to enjoin readers to cherish what living there's left to do. It's a communal tone, one that makes a reader feel strength in family and friends and our shared vulnerability.
Check it out at one of our finest literary journals.