Weekly Whack: The Cancer
The Cancer
December 7, 1997

Hey gang! I know I promised some of you another Whack on the guestbook, but after weighing my work load, I concluded I would not have time for such an Herculean task. So that will have to wait until later. But until then I have another short story I wrote. This is the last one you'll get for awhile. Please read it and tell me what you think. I admit that as it stands it has a lot of rough edges, but I see it having a lot of potential for being expanded into something bigger. Let me know what you think.

The Cancer

"...And Pittendorfer vowed that he would get his revenge against the aging judge as soon as his prison sentence was through. In other news, President Clinton was in the area today visiting ten year old cancer patient Billy Riccardi at St. Barnabas Hospital on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation which grants the wishes of terminally ill children across the country. The president took pictures with Billy and his family, and presented young Billy with a copy of this fiscal year's federal budget autographed by the president, vice president, and members of the House Ways and Means Committee. Talking about the budget, we have to cut to some commercials to help pay our's, so stick around and we'll be back with more news, weather, and sports."
"Ok, cut! That was great, Jim. Let's get some make-up people up there."
"Thanks Charley. It's a shame about that kid, eh?"
"Yeah, tell me about it. Ok, get the make-up people down and let's get the cameras ready."
"Man, ten years old and he's already concerned about government waste."
"It's a sick world, Jim, a sick world. Ok, we're coming back in five, four, three..."

"Come in."
"Ok kid, get out of bed."
"What? Who are you? What are you doing, frisking me?"
"The president is visiting a patient in the room next to your's, and I have to secure the perimeter."
"Where the hell am I going to hide a gun in a hospital robe?"
"I can't afford to leave a stone unturned when the president's life is at stake. What is in this container?"
"Hey! Put my grandmother's cookies down."
"Phil! What are you doing here? We need you in the hallway, the Eagle is on his way."
"Got to go kid, but I'm keeping an eye on you. Don't try anything stupid."

"...And I agree with you about the whole Pittendorfer thing. The guy is scum. He showed no emotion throughout the whole trial, he threatened the judge at the sentencing, the guy should not be let back on the streets again. He should have gotten life in jail, or even the death penalty. It makes me sick. The justice system is way too easy on scum like Pittendorfer. Ok, it's 5:15 in the PM, forty-two degrees, let's go to the phones. WMTR, you're on the air."
"Yeah, caller, you're on the air, talk to me."
"Hi, Lou from Little Falls, long time listener, first time caller."
"Great to have you on Louis."
"Thanks Chuck, I'm calling because I heard the president was in the area, down at St. Barnabas."
"Yeah, he was making a Make-A-Wish visit to a young cancer patient who's wish apparently was to meet the president."
"Right Chuck, but I heard another part of his wish was to receive a copy of the federal budget autographed by Clinton, Gore, and members of the House Ways and Means committee."
"Yeah, you're right Lou, I heard that one as well, but I haven't heard anything more as to why he wanted an autograph copy of the budget."
"Maybe he'll do a better job with it than those clowns in Washington though."
"Good point, but it's not really something to joke about. It's terrible about the kid having cancer and all, and you would think the federal budget would bring more pain to his life that he doesn't really need. I mean I read Fox in Sox when I was a kid, not Pork in Waste. I don't know, I guess I can't understand kids today. Well I got to break for commercials, but we'll be back with traffic and weather, and then we'll take some more calls."

"Hey, Jeff."
"Oh, Mom, hi."
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm not too bad. I thought you were going to come earlier."
"I did, but they wouldn't let me upstairs."
"Why not?"
"I don't know, nobody would tell me, but rumor was that the president was here. I noticed more security guards than usual."
"Yeah I think he was, I had an encounter with a Secret Service agent. I think he was visiting the kid who lives in the room next to mine."
"Who, Billy? He's such a nice kid. I was talking to his parents the other day. The way they sounded, I think he's in pretty bad shape."
"I only met him once. He was in the patient's lounge watching C-Span and taking notes."
"He must be a smart one. He sounds like your brother Neal."
"Weird, if you ask me."
"What's weird about it? Neal has been interested in politics ever since he was five, and look where it got him?"
"Where? In a Washington law firm working as a corporate whore? If that is was that Billy kid has in mind for his future, he is better off dying."
"JEFF!! I can't believe you said that. Neal is your brother, you should be proud of him."
"Proud of all he accomplished? I pity him for all that he has accomplished."
"Are you jealous of him?"
"That's bullshit! If I were him, I would be jealous of me for being the one dying."
"Don't talk like that Jeff! You're not dying."
"Stop kidding yourself. What did the doctor say?"
"He said that if you kept a positive attitude, fought hard, and kept your faith, then you could beat it."
"Doesn't sound like something they teach in med-school."
"Well it's good advice."
"He doesn't feel what is inside of me. He doesn't know what it is like to have something eating at you whole from the inside. Sometimes you are better off letting it win."
"Stop talking like that! You can't give up."
"It's hard to fight, when you have nothing to fight for."
"How about your life?
"Neal would never give up."
"GODDAMMITT MOM!! I'm not..."
"I don't care if you're in a hospital bed or not, you don't talk to your mother like that! You might think that you're dying, but I'm still you're mother, and you should treat me with the upmost respect. You're going to regret treating me like this when it is too late."
"I'm not going to have any regrets."
"I'm going to ignore your behavior because you're sick, but it's still no excuse for how you're acting."
"It's has nothing to do with me being sick. I'm healthy, everyone else is sick."
"I'm leaving. I think you need some rest."
"Remember I always love you."
"Stop trying to make up for the past now."

Dear Editor,

I think this whole Pittendorfer case should send a message to all the politicians down in Trenton that we need to tighten our drunk-driving laws. Why can't drunk-drivers who kill other people be given the death penalty? Pittendorfer killed that little girl while driving drunk, so the courts should be able to kill him. An eye for an eye, that's how I was raised. I may not have any fancy degree, but I can tell you one thing, if they gave drunk-drivers the death penalty, then you wouldn't see many more drunk drivers on the road. It would send people like Pittendorfer a message. Frank Rosen - Newton, New Jersey

Dear Editor,

I was appalled after reading your article about President Clinton visiting that young cancer patient in the hospital. I was shocked that the president had such little class that he would use a visit to a cancer patient as a way to advertise his budget. Doesn't he have any decency? That young boy is dying, and he capitalizes on it as a good opportunity to get some favorable press. And I was also appalled that your reporter who covered the event tried to justify the president by saying that the child asked for a copy of the budget as part of his wish. Come on, what ten year old cares about the budget? I think it is just more evidence of your obvious liberal slant. I want to find the truth in my newspapers, and if you can't deliver it to me, I'll find another newspaper that can. Judith Plescia - Montville, New Jersey

"Come in."
"Hey buddy!"
"Hey dad."
"How ya feeling?"
"Not bad."
"That's good. Did you hear about your neighbor?"
"Yeah, they actually sent Secret Service agents in here."
"Yeah, they wanted to make sure I wasn't hiding a gun anywhere."
"Interesting. I heard about the whole thing on the radio, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get near the place with the press and all, but I guess they all left before I got here."
"Yeah he was here earlier in the afternoon. They wouldn't let mom come up."
"Well I brought some brownies that Sarah baked for you. She was going to come with me but she had to work late, but she told me to send you her best."
"That's cool. Tell I her I said thanks. There's nothing better than her brownies when I'm forced to eat the hospital crap all the time."
"True. So did you see Duke the other day, they looked pretty good against Virginia. If they keep it up it this may be their year."
"Yeah, they're a young team, but Coach K is the greatest."
"True. Did you watch any of the game."
"No, I was getting some treatments so I kind of missed it."
"Oh. How was it?"
"Nothing too bad."
"That's good. So did you see the Yanks may get Johnson?"
"No, I didn't. Where did you hear that?"
"I think I read it in one of the papers, or maybe I heard it on the FAN."
"That would be good, a lefty like that would dominate in the stadium. They must be offering him a bundle."
"Yeah, I'm not exactly sure how much, but you know Steinbrennar."
"That's true."
"So did you hear anymore from your doctor?"
"He just said that I have to keep fighting, don't lose faith, and all that good stuff."
"Hmmm... So did you see the Nets won last night?"
"Yeah, against Miami, that was a pretty good win."
"Yeah, they look like a new team with Van Horn."
"I give Calipari credit. He made them a new team. He did it at UMass, and now he is doing it with the Nets."
"That's true. Well, I better be heading out, I got to fly to Chicago early tomorrow."
"Yeah, I'll be back by the weekend. I'll come visit you then."
"That's cool, see ya then Dad."

From: demiurge@mindspring.com
To: jgoodlan@du.edu
Subject: re: pittendorfer

Hey Jake! :) I got you're e-mail. I didn't think the whole news about that Pittendorfer guy reached all the way to Denver! It's all they talk about here. But it did happen right near to where I live. I take that road almost everyday to work. But you're right, they should have gave that guy at least life in jail. Did you hear the latest thing about him. Supposedly he wasn't really drunk. They're saying he failed the sobriety test on purpose. Isn't that crazy? But talking about New Jersey news, did you hear the president was over here. He visited a young cancer patient whose dying request was to get an autographed copy of the federal budget. Crazy, eh? :) But hey, I love this state.

From: jgoodlan@du.edu
To: demiurge@mindspring.com
Subject: Re: re: pittendorfer

Sup Carl! I heard about that cancer patient. It was in the USA Today in that section where they give a little bit of news about each of the fifty state. I thought it was pretty messed up. What a waste of a wish! If I had a terminal illness and got to do one of those Make-A-Wish things, I think I would ask for that babe from Singled Out. ;-) You think they would grant that wish? I would definitely die a happy guy. :) --Jake

"Hey! What's up, Jeff?"
"Not much, who's this?"
"What, you don't know me? I've known you for years!"
"The voice doesn't sound familiar."
"Well, that's because this is the first time I'm talking to you."
"Really? Is this some kind of joke?"
"I would never joke with you, you can trust me."
"How? I don't even know who you are!"
"Oh, you know who I am."
"Well, first of all, hang up the phone, I feel like an idiot talking to you through a phone, I just used it to get your attention."
"Just do what I say, Jeff."
"Do you still hear me, Jeff?"
"Yeah, what the fuck? Where are you?"
"Well, that's hard to explain."
"What do you mean it's hard to explain. Is this some sort of prank?"
"Nope, I'm very real."
"Well then where the fuck are you?"
"Fine, if you must know, I am inside of you."
"Inside of me?"
"Yeah, like in the movie Innerspace, but you're no Martin Short."
"Wait a minute. How the fuck are you inside of me? Who the fuck are you?"
"Well, to put it simply, I'm your cancer."
"My cancer?"
"Yeah, that thing that has been eating you up from the inside, constantly growing, that's me."
"Gee, thanks."
"Hey, don't take it personally, I'm just doing my job."
"If you are my cancer, why are you talking to me?"
"I like you Jeff, I want to get to know you before I, well, uh..."
"Kill me?"
"Yeah, you got it."
"So, you're going to kill me?"
"Well I guess, but technically you are killing yourself?"
"I am? How?"
"Well who do you think created me?"
"You did, you dumbass."
"I did? How?"
"Well, that's complicated."
"Try me."
"Well first we have to learn a little about yourself? How old are you Jeff?"
"Oh, Twenty. Do you work? Go to school?"
"I went to college for a couple semesters, but I dropped out when I found out I had cancer."
"Sorry bout that. So what were studying at college?"
"Nothing really. I hadn't declared a specific major yet."
"Well what were you're plans for after college."
"I didn't really have any. I had no clue what I wanted to do after college."
"That's unfortunate, you should have listened to your guidance counselor more closely in high school."
"Fuck that, my guidance counselor didn't know anything about me."
"Well it sounds like you don't really know much about yourself either."
"You may be right."
"Bullshit, you know exactly who you are, you're just afraid of him."
"Afraid of who?"
"Afraid of you, you imbecile."
"What do you mean?"
"You had fight with your mother today, right?"
"That doesn't answer my question."
"I don't care! You had fight with your mother today, right?"
"What was it about?"
"I don't remember."
"Bullshit! What were you fighting about?"
"I told you, I don't know!"
"You're not making this easy, Jeff. You had a fight about you're brother, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Tell me about your brother, Jeff?"
"I don't want to talk about my brother."
"Too damn bad! I told you tell me about your brother!"
"Jesus, calm down."
"Sorry, but if you won't cooperate with me, I'm going to have to use forceful techniques."
"Ok, ok, I'll tell you about my brother."
"Good, now we're getting somewhere."
"Well my brother Neal is five years older than me, and he is sort of the family hero."
"How so?"
"Well he is perfect. He can do no wrong. He was top of his class in high school, graduated an Ivy league school, went to Georgetown law school, and now he has a job at some big law firm in DC."
"Why aren't you proud of your brother?"
"I am, but at the same time I'm jealous because things always came so easy to him, he knew what he wanted to do ever since he was five, it's like he had his life handed to him on a silver platter."
"And you didn't?"
"Hell no! My life was never handed to me, I still don't know where it is."
"So you wish you were as smart as your brother."
"No, I'm smart and all. I never got the best grades in school, but that was because I never really tried. I just wished my life was more of a straight path like his."
"I see, so is this why you were fighting with your mom?"
"Well, not really."
"Well then why were you fighting?"
"It's because she was comparing me to him. I hate that."
"Because I can't fucking compete!!"
"Ok, I understand, you don't have to blow up at me."
"Well, it's just that she always compared me to him. Why can't you do this like Neal?' Why can't you do that like Neal?' I hated it. And she never really cared about me, she just wanted another trophy. Neal was her trophy. She could show him around to all her friends and make them jealous. I couldn't be her trophy, so I was no good to her."
"What about your father? You seem to get along fine with him."
"Well yeah, I have no problem with my dad. I never really saw him much growing up and especially so after the divorce, but I have no complaints about him. My father is a great guy."
"Your parents got divorced?"
"How old were you?"
"Fairly young."
"Do you think it had any impact on you?"
"Not really, I think I handled it fine. Sure it was tough growing up with parents constantly fighting, and to this day I feel uncomfortable when I hear two people arguing, but I don't think it had a negative impact on me. If anything it had a positive impact. Both my parents got happily remarried, so while I saw one marriage that didn't work, I got to see two that did."
"That's fantastic. Now going back to your father, you talk a lot about sports don't you?"
"Yeah, it's a common interest we have."
"Don't you talk about anything else?"
"Like what?"
"I don't know, meaningful things like your hopes, your fears?"
"No we don't really talk about stuff like that, but I don't really talk about stuff like that with anybody."
"Does that justify it?"
"I don't know."
"You don't open up to many people do you, Jeff?"
"No, not really."
"Have you ever opened up to somebody Jeff?"
"It was this girl, Melissa. We met on the Internet about a year ago."
"Go on."
"Well we met in one of those chat rooms. We talked for hours, and e-mailed each other nearly everyday. I could say anything to her. I don't know whether it was the medium we used, or the type of girl she was, but I just opened myself up to her, and let it all flow out."
"And what happened?"
"Well, she started to really like me, and I guess that I digged her too. So we set up a meeting. She didn't live too far away, so we decided to get together."

"It was a horrible mistake. I met her and I just couldn't be the person I was on the Internet. She fell in love with my personality on the Internet, and I was a huge disappointment in real life. We ended up drifting apart after we met, and now I never hear from her. It was the first and last time I opened myself up to someone."
"So you have no problem open yourself up and letting yourself flow all over the Internet, but you can't do it in the real world?"
"I guess not."
"I don't know. I guess it also has a lot to do with my brother Neal."
"Wow, he really fucked your life up."
"Yeah, I guess. But it's just that he always had the spotlight on him growing up. I got very little attention, so I escaped into my own little world. Eventually you build up such a complex world inside of yourself, that it is hard to relate to the real world."
"Yeah, like did you ever read Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground?"
"Well it is about this super-conscious person who traps himself in his inner world of thought and consciousness. He becomes no longer a part of the outside world, but an observer."
"Sounds interesting, I'll have to buy the Cliff Notes, but how does that apply to you?"
"Well I can relate to that. At times I feel like I am a third person observer of life, and that I am trapped by my thoughts and consciousness deep inside of me."
"Interesting. So would say that this thing trapped deep inside of you is constantly growing, and eating you alive from the inside?"
"Yeah, at times it feels like that."
"Huh? What? Oh!! I get it!"
"It's about time."
"You're good."
"Hey, if I wasn't so good, they would have found a cure for me by now."
"So now that I know what is killing me, can I stop it?"
"I don't know, that is for you to decide. It may be too late, I've grown pretty big."
"Well, how do I stop it?"
"I don't know, you got to figure that out on your own."
"Damn, nothing comes easy with you, does it?"
"Nope, and before I give you any hints, I must bid you adieu. But I wish you the best of luck."
"Gee, thanks."
"Hey, I'm just doing my job."

"Hey mom, check out this headline in the National Inquirer."
"What does it say?"
"Drunk-driver Pittendorfer has affair in jail with mother of the girl he killed."
"That's great son."
"Or how bout the one for the World Weekly News."
"What does that one say?"
"Dying cancer patient finds error in federal budget, saves the country billions."
"You shouldn't really be reading those tabloids, they're not true."
"How do you know?"
"I just know son, I just know."

"What's up man?"
"Hey, Jerry! What the hell are you doing here?"
"You think I was going to let my friend stay in some hospital room all alone?"
"You're the greatest man."
"You bet I am."
"No seriously man, you mean a lot to me, I really care about you."
"Jesus, Jeff, you're scaring me out. What is that the cancer talking?"
"You're damn right it's the cancer talking."
"That's what I thought."
"Let's get out of here Jerry."
"We'll sneak out. I just got to get out of this place for awhile."
"No problem man. Get out of that robe and let's roll."
"Our first stop will have to be Wendy's, I'm starving for some real food."
"Sure, but you're paying man."
"You never change. I'm dying, and you're still hitting me up for cash."
"Hey, what are friends for?"

"...Two, one, and we're rolling."
"Welcome back, I'm James Doyle with the news. Our next story is bit of a sad one. Two young adults, one nineteen, one twenty, were killed when their car was struck by a drunk driver on Route 80. The driver of the car that struck and killed the two youths came out of the accident unharmed and was promptly arrested, and is awaiting trial. The two deaths mark the second and third drunk driving deaths in under a week in what has become a scary trend in the Garden State. But on to brighter things, here is Gary Haas with the sports."
"Thanks Jim, and the news is definitely brighter for you Nets fans. The Nets whomped all over the Heat last night. They are just a different team with Van Horn in the lineup. I really give Coach Calipari a lot of credit for turning this team around."