In less than seven months Ed’s sister will call and in her quiet voice with its choppy speech patterns and odd pauses inform you that Ed has died.  For now though you are talking to Ed on the phone, and he is telling you that the doctor has found something.

     “I have a neoplasm on my lung,” he says, and your brain scrambles for the right words.

     “Well,” you say, “I think this is good news. I am glad that they have found what has been causing you so much pain. And now they can deal with it, treat it, fix you.”

     “They seem to think it means business.”

     “Yeah well so do you. Death to neoplasms! What is a neoplasm anyway?”

     “A new growth.”

      You pause for a moment to keep the wobble from your words and remember advice from a magazine that if you smile whilst you talk it makes you sound cheerier. You fix a smile in place with gritted teeth whilst a couple of tears slide down your face. You want to sniff but don’t, and your voice thickens. Ed’s voice sounds as it always does; intelligent, a London Estuary accent with a huge vocabulary, a little sneery. His voice will remain the same throughout, even when you speak to him in hospital and he has had such a huge amount of Morphine that the Doctors comment on his drug tolerance. You will both laugh at this.

     You don’t know that you will never see him again. During this initial call you are already planning to make the trip.  Soon he’ll decide not to see anyone apart from his sister. He will be concerned that his appearance will prove too upsetting. He will continue to talk on the phone when he feels able, and he will email too. The emails will get shorter until the last one, sent several weeks before his death, in which he states, “I feel a little better.”  You will read those words over and over.

     You will face a Christmas without him but find an old card that he made for you in the box of decorations you haul down from the loft. It will feel as if he is wishing you “Happy Holidays!” from the after life. You will face your birthday without him but will be able to play the CD of music he composed just for you which ends with a cheesy disco beat and a synth clearly singing “Happy birthday dear Ida.” And when you read his emails they will bring his voice back to your mind so well that you can continue to have conversations with him and know just what he would have said.

    For now though you are on the phone being a little too loud as you tell him that his weird vegan diet and ferocious coffee habit is probably just the stuff to kill growths, and both you and he avoid the word cancer.


Sara Crowley's novel in progress "Salted" was shortlisted for the Faber Not YetPublished Award. Her short fiction has
been published by a variety of places including Pulp.Net, 3:AM, elimae, flashquake, Litro, Dogmatika and Red Peter.
She is a part time bookseller, some time reviewer, and full time mum. She blogs at
and appreciates you taking the time to read this.


I sent it to one place prior to subbing to you. The editor there ( Roxane Gay at PANK) suggested I try you. My friend Matt Kinnison died of lung cancer May 7th 2008 and since then I struggle NOT to write about him. I sometimes take part in the Zoetrope "Flash Factory" weekly competition and that week the prompt was that someone had to die in the first sentence of the story. When I think about Matt I conjure up his voice so I took that as my focus for the story. His voice, the sister's, the narrator's.
A couple of people weren't sure about me spelling out that it was cancer that killed him, but I thought that ending on the word cancer worked.

Lane Ashfeldt wrote a story called "California Über Alles"  that was published in a collection called "Punk Fiction."In her story she skilfully slides us back and forth in time, and I think I pinched that idea from her.



Copyright 2009