Well Did You?

There is something wrong with our plumbing. A venting issue, or maybe a clog. When you flush the toilet or run the dishwasher, the smell of sewage seeps into my son’s bedroom through his open window. My husband says he’ll call the plumber. At night after bathtime, we go upstairs to put on pjs and begin our ever-lengthening bedtime routine, our noses scrunched up against the putrid stench until the bathwater finishes draining. “Did you call the plumber?” I ask, but he forgot. He’ll do it tomorrow. The next night, the same thing. Tomorrow, he assures me. We go on like this for weeks.

There is also something mysterious happening in my body. Month after month, pain and discomfort, sudden overwhelming fatigue. I have had these symptoms before, years ago when I was pregnant. It feels so much like the signs of early pregnancy that I take a test each month, but it is always negative. My period comes, but the symptoms don’t go away. It is unclear what is wrong. I’ve had to get bloodwork done. My doctor refers me for imagining. I need abdominal, pelvic and transvaginal ultrasounds, and a bilateral mammogram. I schedule them all for the same day, at a time when I don’t have childcare coverage. No problem, my husband tells me. He’ll take the morning off.

I’m worried it’s cancer. That would be awful, but we’ll make it through, my husband assures me. He adds: but it’s not cancer and I need to stop googling. He is not too concerned. At least not enough to remember to block off the time of my appointment on his work calendar and now it’s too late. His boss has scheduled a meeting for right when my breasts are set to be flattened into pancakes. I am livid. Now I hope it is cancer. I hope it’s everywhere. In my breasts and my pelvis. Malignant cells quickly spreading through every organ and surface of my body. I hope I have months of chemo. That my hair falls out and my skin dries up and I can barely eat without puking so my body slowly wastes away. And even after all that, I hope the chemo doesn’t work. Nothing works. I hope I’m dying and there’s nothing to be done about it so that on the final day of my life, I can pull my husband toward me, my beautiful partner of twenty years, and with the last breath left in my lungs gently whisper in his ear, “Did you call the plumber?”

Claire Taylor (she/her) lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband, three-year-old son, and an old cat that won’t shut up at night for some inexplicable reason. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Capsule Stories, Rejection Letters, American Writers Review, and more. You can find her online at clairemtaylor.com or Twitter @ClaireM_Taylor

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