There was always something with her.  If nothing made her pace back and forth I’m not sure she’d know what else to do.

But I guess this is something worth worrying about.

“It’s gonna be fine,” I told her.  She always swore she knew that, but if she did, she wouldn’t be acting like this.  “It’s probably an April Fool’s joke!”  I half-laughed then stopped when I saw she wasn’t gonna budge.

It’s hard to feel okay about bullshit when you’re trying to convince someone everything’s fine and they won’t believe you.  I stood up, done sitting in this sewer hole.

“What. Where are you going?”

Seriously?  “Um, you didn’t seem to care if I was here or not.”

That was the wrong thing to say.

“WHAT?  You know I want you here!  Why else would I pay for your medical bills and why else would I be so fucking concerned about your health?”

Mom doesn’t cuss.  And that’s not what I meant.  But I sat down anyway.

“You and your father always say I worry too much but you don’t realize how important these things are.”  I watched her pace.  “It’s a big deal. You could die.

Everyone dies.

“I just care about you.  That’s all I’m saying.”  Her arms fell and relaxed at her sides. She’s done, I thought.

“I know you do.”  I smiled.  “And I care about you too.”  I brushed the remnants off my plate and into the trash, then put my plate in the sink.  Why do these talks always happen in the kitchen?  It’s conditioning me to hate food.

She looked at me all worried-like.

Actually. I can’t tell if that’s her normal face.

I just smiled and laughed as I walked away, because what else was there to do.


.     .     .     .     .


I put my beanie on and walked across my room.  I flew the blinds up and budged open the sticky window with my elbow.  Mom wants to fix everything except the sticky window.  I climbed out onto the roof and laid down.

There’s just something about being there.  A little less comfy than the couch but a whole lot higher than the rest the world.  Cocoa snuck up on me and started pawing at my closed eyes.

“Damnit Cocoa, you’re lucky we got you declawed.”  I pet her head.  Cocoa was the kind of obnoxious you liked to be around.

I picked her up and walked to the side of the roof that the trees touched.

If only they were a little more dense, maybe I could hide there the way Cocoa does.

Eh.  I gave it a shot anyway.

My phone shook violently in my pocket and Cocoa flew out of my lap and up the branch beside me.

“Jesus, Chris.  You coulda killed my cat.”

“What the hell is going on, Dill? Were you not going to tell me about this shit?  I had to hear it from Max for chrissake! MAX!”

“Max?  How is he?”  It’d been so long.

“ARE-YOU-CRAZY-DYLAN-LEE? You get diagnosed with cancer and you want to know how your ex-boyfriend is doing? Well he’s just dandy. Fucked about half the girls on my block.  Anything else you wanna talk about?”

“I just hope he’s being safe.  I heard Nick got Jess pregnant and I just can’t picture Max being a dad.  He didn’t even play well with Cocoa.”

“You know what?  Fine. Pretend like it’s all okay but I’ll tell you this, Dylan.  You can’t fake your way out of cancer.”

He hung up and I laughed.

I dialed my dad’s number.

“Hey, Pickle.  How are you?”  Dad could talk deep if he wanted but he didn’t want to unless you did.

“I’m good.  Sitting in the tree.”

“You know that Cocoa’s the cat and you’re the person, right?”

I smiled.  “Hey.  Did you hear about that new movie?  With WhatsHisFace that just married that tennis chick?”  He said he’d love to see it.  He’d do anything with me nowadays.  “You can invite Jackson if you want.  He loves those zombie movies.”

Jackson hated zombie movies.

“Sure!  I’ll ask ’im.”

I laughed.  Because he’ll ask him.  And he’ll say no.  And I didn’t wanna see him anyway.


.     .     .     .     .


Later that night, I heard mom crying in the shower.  It’s sad to hear her cry but I guess that’s where I’d do it too.  And where’s John been anyway?  He’s usually good at comforting her during this shit.  Then again, I’ve never been sick like this.

I knocked on the door and the sound of her whimpers drowned in the running water.

“John?”  She asked all sweet-like.

“Hey, mom.”

The water shut off and she opened the door in a towel.  She started wiping at her face like she could hide that she’d been crying.

“Soap in your eyes?”  I asked.

“I’m just so scared, Dylan.”

Damn.  I was hoping she’d go with it.

“I know.  But.”  What the hell was I doing?  I had nothing to say.  “But John will be here soon.”

She just sighed and looked at me like it was the last time she would.

Why does everyone have to do that lately?

I awkward-hugged her and dismissed the weirdness as “because you’re in a towel.”  But I wouldn’t of given a shit if she was naked.


.     .     .     .     .


When I finally called Chris back, he talked for too long about how sorry he was for getting mad.

“I wouldn’t run around telling everybody either,” he said.

I didn’t care what he’d do.  “Thanks, it’s okay.”

He told me he loved me and I lied back to him.  ’Cause the thing about Chris is, he loves everybody.  And when someone loves everybody, it feels like they love nobody.

It made me think about Max.  He loved nobody.  And nobody was me.  And I was happy to be Nobody.  But, I mean, now he runs around sleeping with all these somebody’s and I bet he doesn’t love any of them.

I sighed and sat in silence.  Because some things are worth being quiet for.


.     .     .     .     .


Cocoa barged in, not caring about love or nobody’s and somebody’s or who got pregnant or who’s got cancer.  She jumped on my bed and batted at my arm.

“What do you think, Cocoa?”

Cocoa rubbed her back against my dresser then laced her body through my legs. “You know,” I said, “you’re the only one I want to hear from and you’re the only one who can’t talk.”

I looked at the clock.  What time was my appointment again?

I looked toward my dresser and saw the suitcases my mom had been packing.  Do they even let you wear real clothes in the hospital?

I shrugged and laughed.  Because I was taking all my real clothes to the hospital and what else is there to do.


.     .     .     .     .


I’d been lying in my hospital bed for what felt like hours before my dad showed up.  Mom had been pacing back and forth the whole time.

“Thank God you’re here,”  she squealed.  She’s usually not happy to see dad. And where the hell was John?

The doctor came in and said things that I ignored.  Then some nurses came in with razors.  They shaved my head and that kinda tickled so I laughed, and they smiled, because what else was there to do.


.     .     .     .     .


I’d been in therapy for about a week when the doctor finally said Chris could bring my cat in.  I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed and I’m pretty sure he yelled that at me a lot.  But I kept asking anyway.

He said yes because 1) I don’t think he gives a shit and 2) I have cancer.

I smiled pretty big when I saw Cocoa.  I asked if she recognized me with my newly-bald head.  That made my mom cry for reasons I didn’t understand at the time.  But later, my dad told me John had left mom for his high school sweetheart, so everything that happened lately had hit her like a brick house.

I guess finding out your daughter has cancer always feels that way.

That made me cry a little because my mom’s a nice lady and, even though she worries too much, she shouldn’t ever get hit by a brick house.

So I just looked out the window with those tears in my eyes.  Then I looked at my mom with tears in hers and I wondered what Jackson was doing.  I looked at my dad and thought about how I’d never seen him cry.  Then I cursed John for leaving my mom.  I thought about Max and remembered the first time he said he loved me.  Then I looked at Chris and thought of when he said the same.

The doctor came in and told my mom something that gave her a hopeful smile.  And my dad shook his hand because that’s the thing to do.

So I watched mom and dad.  Standing side by side.  And I pretended they were happily married.

Chris handed Cocoa to me and she pawed at my face.  I pet her head.  Then she let out a loud meow and everyone laughed.

Because the doctor told my mom it was going to be okay.

Because my dad looked at her like he thought so too.

Because Chris brought a cat in the hospital and even the nurses laughed when it meowed.

So there everyone was.  Gathered around my hospital bed.

And we just laughed.

Because, really.  What else was there to do?


Jessa Perkinson is a psychology major at SOU. She also paints, runs, plays softball, and misses her dogs back home in Roseburg. "Cocoa" is her first short story.
Jessa Perkinson is a psychology major at SOU. She also paints, runs, plays softball, and misses her dogs back home in Roseburg. “Cocoa” is her first short story.