“This was real cool of Mrs. Baker,” Michael said as he once again showed Ellen the small black box that had two engraved roses on its cover, one in pink and the other in red, with gold intertwining stems and leaves.
“You really like it?” Ellen asked. She was unsure that he would when her ballet instructor handed it to him.
“Sure do,” Michael gloated, “especially when you open it up and the tiny ballerina dances!"
“She gave us those for last Christmas. Mine’s still in the closet. I already have three jewelry boxes from my mom.”
“Well now I've got one.” Michael opened the box as they got to the corner. “I just don’t have any jewelry to put in it.”
“Maybe you can get your ear pierced. A lot of boys are doing it.” Ellen pictured her friend with a small stud in his right ear and thought it would look good there.
“Yeah, and maybe I’ll actually enjoy living in the garage and the spanking.” Michael closed the box and continued on his walk.
“Your dad is so strict.” Ellen was glad that her mom seemed far more lenient.
“He’s not that bad. He’s just trying to make me a man,” Michael defended his dad.
“Obviously failing," Ellen interjected.
“Hey! What’s that suppose to mean? Just ‘cause I have lumps ..."
Ellen cut him off. “I wasn’t talking about that. You’re just too cool to be a boy.”
Michael didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by such a comment. Sure he didn’t like a lot of things other boys his age liked, but that didn’t make him any less of a man. It just made him cultured and sophisticated, like his mom said.
“You going to come up?” Ellen asked as they arrived at the cobblestone walkway leading to her house.
“I can’t, the doctor was supposed to call today and I promised my mom I’d come straight from ballet.”
“Okay, good luck.” Ellen quickly moved in and gave him a peck on the lips.
Michael stood there dumbfounded as she sprinted to her house.
Michael felt warm all over and extraordinarily proud as he walked the rest of the way home. It wasn’t a romantic kiss like he watched in the movies with his mom all the time, it was the same kind of kiss that the girls at ballet gave each other and was meant to show that each of them was special. Michael’s only regret was that Ellen kissed him so fast that he couldn’t return the favor.
“Mom, I’m home!” Michael called out as he entered the kitchen.
“Shh!” his dad said. “The doctor is on the phone.”
Michael sat down and tried to make out any clues from the one sided conversation.
“No, it’s a perfect time to call,” Francis spoke into the receiver.
“We can, but can’t you tell us anything over the phone?”
“Tonight is fine. I haven’t even started dinner yet.” Francis wrapped the telephone cord around her finger.
“Okay, see you in a little while.”
Francis put the phone back on the receiver with a look of utter frustration on her face.
“He says if we can get there in a half an hour we can have the results tonight. But, for some reason he couldn’t tell us over the phone.”
Greg had a different look on his face, one that said he wasn’t going to like what he heard.
There was hardly any talking as Greg whisked his family to his car. There was even less talking during their drive to the hospital. The silence only told Michael that there was a lot to worry about and little his parents could do to comfort him. He glanced at the speedometer, which read sixty. The only problem was that the speed limit was only forty five.
For the first time in his life, Michael saw his dad speed. The child wished a cop would pull them over, write a lengthy ticket, and somehow he could be spared the doctor’s prognosis.
No such luck. His dad skidded into the hospital parking lot and found a spot, one that was evidently reserved for a Dr. Rosenthal. Before Michael could reach the metal handle, his father tore open the door and, with frantic gestures, Michael was told to get a move on.
Everything seemed to be going at hyper speed since his mom hung up the phone; getting into the car, the drive over, the practically running to Dr. Adam’s office. If he moved like this at school a visit to the principal's office would definitely be in order. But at the speed he was going, Michael couldn’t think about the quickness; he just had enough wits to concentrate on the rear pocket of his father’s jeans.
Finally, they were in the doctor's private office and everything came to a grinding halt. Michael found himself longing for the speed, which only seconds ago he was forced to endure.
“I know the last few days must have been hell for you,” Dr. Adams said, addressing Michael’s parents instead of his actual patient. “Please have a seat.”
Greg and Francis sat at the two chairs situated in front of the doctor’s large cherry wood desk. Aware that Michael had nowhere to sit, Greg pulled his son onto his lap. It reminded him of when his son was a smaller boy and he found himself longing for those carefree days.
“I hope we didn’t inconvenience you by insisting we come today,” Francis said almost apologetically.
“No, not at all. Usually in such a circumstance people require a bit more time to get themselves situated.”
“So,” Greg let his impatient side show through, “how’s my son?”
“I guess there is no beating around the bush. He is not well Mr. Davis; the biopsy came back positive for cancer in both testes. The good news is that it has not yet spread to other parts of his anatomy. His abdomen and chest were both clear.”
Michael sat on his dad’s lap confused and petrified. Did the doctor just say it was good news because he only had cancer in a boy’s, any boy’s, most sensitive area? Was this guy a quack, Michael thought, or just trying to soften the blow by profound stupidity?
“So what does that mean,” Greg asked as the news settled in and registered. “Some kind of chemo or something?”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Davis, it is far too advanced for chemotherapy. Perhaps if we caught it a year ago, that would definitely be the way we would have gone.”
“So where are we at now?” Greg asked as he felt his son shiver with fear.
“We have to remove the tumors.”
“And what about his testicles?”
“And those to, unfortunately,” the doctor said somberly. Michael was waiting for the doctor to start laughing and tell him he was on a practical joke TV show.
“Are you out of your mind?!” Greg shot up, almost catapulting Michael over the desk. “You’re sitting there, telling me that you’re going to take away my son’s manhood before he’s even a man? Oh, I think we will want a second opinion!”
“Mr. Davis, please settle down,” Dr. Adams used a calm soothing voice. “I know you are understandably upset. Please know that I have consulted several colleagues and you aren’t going to find any doctor who will tell you anything different. Time is of an essence here; it is not a question of if the cancer will spread, but when. You must take into account that your son’s life is at stake.”
Greg shifted nervously in his chair. “I am thinking about his life. Look at how he is now. How is he going to grow into a man without them?”
“When the time is right, I suppose at the age of twelve or thirteen, there are supplements he can take to grow a more masculine form. As for now, his development is on par for his age group.”
“So when do we do this?” Francis finally spoke up, as she saw her husband trying to figure out which one of his million questions he should ask next.
“The sooner the better. I do have a block of time available on Saturday. We can schedule the procedure for 9 A.M. and probably have him home by the start of next week. I also recommend Michael see the staff psychiatrist, this is after all, a major ordeal."
“Yes, yes, that’s all fine.” Francis said as if unfazed by the situation.
The doctor produced a small mountain of paperwork from one of the desk drawers for Michael’s parents to sign. Most of them the child didn’t like the sound of, as the doctor briefly explained what they were. One paper was about what would happen if he died. Another gave the doctor permission to remove all the cancer that was found. Other papers wanted to know who would pay for what; luckily his dad’s insurance would cover it all. After many forms were signed, Michael walked back toward the car in a daze, shutting himself down so he wouldn’t have to think.
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