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False Blood

Sometime over the winter of 2010–11 I began to be gorged with blood – or, rather, my blood itself began to be gorged with red blood cells, with haemoglobin. I didn’t pay it much attention – mostly because I didn’t realize it was happening, the only perceptible symptoms being a certain livid tinge to my face and to my hands, which, I joked to family and friends, had started to resemble those pink Marigold washing-up gloves. When I took my gorged hands out of my jeans pockets the tight denim hems left equally vivid bands smeared across their backs – these, I facetiously observed, were the colour of those yellow Marigold washing-up gloves.

I had no intention of doing anything about my pink-and-yellow-striped hands. This is not, I stress, because I’m especially neglectful of my health – at times I can verge on hypochondria – but rather because they didn’t strike me as obviously cancerous. I was on the lookout for the crab – but then I always am. It scuttled away my father and mother, the latter at sixty-five, an age she would’ve described herself – also facetiously – as ‘getting younger’. And during the preceding year it had been nipping at my forty-seven-year-old wife, trying to drag her down the sable strand and into the salt, chill waters that lap against life. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2010, had a mastectomy in August, followed by a gruelling autumn then winter of chemotherapy and a silent spring of radiation.

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