Art by Mark Evan Walker
by T. J. MacGregor
On a Wednesday morning in late September, Owen and I putter around the kitchen, getting ready for work. My iPad Pro is open to FaceTime, and we’re talking with our handsome son.
“So, parents, that hurricane out there.” Craig sits on the living-room couch with Bo, the retriever, in his apartment off campus. “As of the five a.m. advisory, it’s cat three. Maybe headed here, maybe not. You two keeping an eye on it?”
Owen snaps his computer case shut. “What hurricane?”
I roll my eyes. Owen leaves weather-watching to Craig and me. “Hurricane Jonah. Cat three. As of five this morning, it was eight hundred and fifty miles southeast of Florida. We can get through a cat three in this house. Not so sure about a cat four or five.”
“You guys did okay in Irma last summer,” Craig says.
Did we? For thirty-six hours, Irma’s sustained winds broke records—185 mph, a cat five. But when she hit South Florida, she was a low cat four and although our roof didn’t peel away, it was breached—leaks in four rooms that seeped into drywall, then into floors, and one of the skylights in the living room leaked so badly we had several inches of water in that room. Finally, by late spring this year, everything was repaired—a new roof, new skylights, new floor, new drywall. It was as if the house was rebuilt from the inside out.
“Well, yes and no on Irma,” I say. “We can always evacuate to Orlando if we have to. Our condo is hurricane-proof.”
“We’re not going anywhere,” Owen says. “It’s not going to hit here. Gotta run, Craig. I’ve got a client to woo in the Keys. See you Saturday for some softball, buddy.”
“Okay, Dad. Stay on top of this storm, though, and make sure your phone isn’t set to go to voice mail, okay?”
Owen laughs. “Right.”
“Talk to you later, Mom,” Craig says, and we sign off.
I shut down my iPad, slip it inside my bag, but I’m stuck on a client to woo in the Keys. Really? Since when does Owen travel to clients for web design? He did in the early years with this company, when the bosses sent him here and there. But now he’s one of the partners and does whatever he wants.
“You’re traveling to a client?” I ask. “Since when? Why?”
He names some international sporting-goods company located in Key West. “They have several million to spend, that’s why. I should be back later tonight or tomorrow sometime, Lori. Depends on how difficult this client is.” He gives me a perfunctory kiss and off he goes.
I watch from the kitchen window as his Hummer backs out of the garage. A gas-guzzling Hummer. Who drives these monsters now? They’re extinct dinosaurs from the early days after 9/11, when all of them had miniature American flags flapping from the side mirrors. READ MORE
Art by Jason C. Eckhardt
by Adrian McKinty
Black is the swastika, black is the night, black are the cold waters of the Skagerrak.
Rain pouring down the glass of the double-glazed windows.
We were up on the seventh floor of the hospital and from here on a clear day you could see all the way down the fjord to the ocean beyond. Not that there were many clear days in Trondheim. Not at this time of year.
The doctor put down the folder and gave me a tiny embarrassed shake of the head. She was nervous and perhaps a little too young for a job which often required her to give out devastating news. Nevertheless, I liked her. She was originally from Denmark and we had our foreignness in common. We were both outsiders dragged to this distant shore by what strange stars? For her, of course, the culture shock was not as extreme as it had been for me. Danish and Norwegian are mutually comprehensible. Twenty-two years I’d been here and I still asked everyone to speak a “little slower please.”
“I’m so sorry, Ivan,” she said in English.
“No response at all to the new drugs?” I asked. We’d been quite optimistic about this clinical trial.
“It seems to have had no discernible effect.”
I nodded, leaned back in the chair, and looked beyond her blond bob and green eyes to the windowpane behind her. It had been snowing in the morning, but the temperature must have risen to just above freezing, for now the snow had become that miserable bitter northern Norwegian rain that I had come to loathe.
“And there’s no way of finding out if I’m in the placebo group or not?”
“I’m afraid not. The study runs until the end of the year and only then will we be permitted to know.”
“I see. So, how long have I got?”
“I don’t know. There are a lot of different factors.”
“Again it is very difficult to—”
“Britte, come on . . .”
“Six weeks, plus or minus two weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Ivan.”
Only about three or four percent of pancreatic cancer patients are still alive five years after diagnosis, which is the same percentage as in the 1970s. It is not one of the “good cancers,” and the clinical trial of this new drug had been a long shot at best.
I sat there, stunned, but only for a moment or two.
In the last sixty seconds that crazy Plan B I’d been working on had become a definite Plan A. It was the only way now.
I nodded slowly, stood, shook her hand. “Thank you, Britte, you’ve done all you could and to be honest, this is what I’d been expecting.” READ MORE