Be careful what you ask your mates.
By Daniel Norrish
Adrian opened the door for his brother and was met with tears. Garry was completely distraught, his face was red and his head sank low below his shoulders as he leant against the wall.
“Jesus mate, what’s wrong? You look terrible.” Adrian said as he placed a hand on Garry’s back. Garry moved forward, still doubled over, and stumbled into the front hallway as if his spine didn’t work.
“What’s wrong? Are you drunk? Please, talk to me, what’s wrong?” Adrian repeated.
“I’m not…” Garry paused to take a deep breath, “I’m not drunk.”
“Talk to me, come on. You’ve got me really worried.”
“Is Paul here? I asked him to come too.”
“Yeah, he’s in the kitchen. Why don’t you come through and we’ll talk about whatever is bothering you?”
Garry trudged ahead, his feet scraping along the floor. Paul was standing at the kitchen bench buttering toast. As he looked up and saw Garry, his natural smile vanished.
“What’s going on?”
Neither of the other two said anything, Garry just moved to a chair in the corner and sat weeping. Paul and Adrian sat beside him and waited for Garry to speak.
“Isabel has a growth in her stomach.”
Adrian glanced at Paul. Paul looked down to the ground and swore under his breath.
“Your daughter is only six, how can that be possible?” Adrian asked. Garry just sat still and silent.
“It happens.” Paul began, “It’s rare but it happens. Did the doctors give you any specifics of the mass? Has a biopsy been done?”
“Yeah, the doctors did an endo-endo-something without having to operate before now.” Garry drooled the words as if the simple movement of flicking his tongue was too difficult.
“An endoscopy? That’s perfectly safe.”
“Yeah, but the analysis revealed cancerous tissue.”
Silence in the room. The trio listened to a car honk at something out on the street and the ignorant sound seemed disrespectful inside that triangle of grief.
“They need to operate.”
Still no one spoke.
Eventually, Garry said, “Paul, I need a favour. I need you to do the surgery”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, there are more qualified surgeons than me and you could even look at taking Izzy interstate or-”
“NO!” Garry erupted, desperation overtaking the destitution. “No, I don’t want a stranger doing this. The doctors’ say it’s close to her spine, they already think she’ll die. They’ll try to heal her, but it’s not enough.”
“I’m sure they’re doing everything they can,” Adrian added.
Garry shook his head again.
“It’s not enough. I need family. I need someone who really knows Izzy and cares about her. Isn’t this something that would be better handled by the people who love Izzy? She’s your niece, you need to help her.”
Paul’s eyes were closed and he was chewing on his lip as if attempting to make sense of some impossible conundrum. Then he erupted with, “of course. Of course I’ll do it. When?”
The features on Garry’s face seemed to move and rearrange in a single instant and, all of a sudden, the only emotion he exhibited was relief.
“Tomorrow. And Adrian, can you look after Jeremy? There’s no one else and he’s still too young to be any trouble. He isn’t walking yet.”
Exactly twenty-four hours after Garry had arrived at Adrian’s house the first time, he reappeared in the same spot on Adrian’s doorstep. Adrian opened the door to a totally different character. Garry was numb, totally numb. His eyes sat back in his head as if the pupils were trying to hide from the world. His cheeks sank down over the corners of his mouth, leaving a plain and selfish frown.
Adrian asked, “thank god you came by, I’ve been trying to call you all day. How is everything? How did it go?”
As before, Garry asked, “Is Paul here?”
“No, should he be? Are we meeting here tonight? Maybe we should be at the hospital? I can drive you back.”
Garry’s nose crunched up so that it almost looked as though he was snarling and he glared at Adrian.
“There is nothing at the hospital anymore.”
Adrian clutched his hand to his mouth. He reached out and hugged his brother. Garry stood limply, enduring the awkward moment, then he spoke.
“Paul made a mistake. I didn’t see him after the surgery. No one did. He left straight away and he won’t answer his phone. He hasn’t been back to his house.”
“Oh no, look, you must be having some crazy thoughts right now but we need to stay calm.”
“Adrian, I need a favour. I need you to look after Jeremy for a while longer and I need you to help me find Paul.”