I nod sagely, barely acknowledging him, but inside I have a warm glow in a part
of me that isn't yet frozen.
"You're right. These buildings create a bit of a wind tunnel."
"You're making excuses."
"I haven't seen you try."
He looks down, considering this. He's hugging his knees as if trying to stay
warm. It's a good sign.
A moment later a globule of spit curves outward and falls. Together we watch it
descend, almost willing it to stay on course. It hits a TV reporter squarely
between the eyes and Malcolm and I groan in harmony.
My next shot lands harmlessly on the front steps. Malcolm asks if he can change
the target. He wants to hit the TV reporter again.
"Shame we don't have any water bombs," he says, resting his chin on
"If you could drop a water bomb on anyone in the world, who would it
"I don't want to have chemo again. I've had enough." He doesn't
elaborate. It isn't necessary. There aren't many treatments with worse side
effects than chemotherapy. The vomiting, nausea, constipation, anemia and
overwhelming fatigue can be intolerable.
"What does your oncologist say?"
"He says the tumor is shrinking."
He laughs wryly. "They said that last time. The truth is they're just
chasing cancer all around my body. It doesn't go away. It just finds somewhere
else to hide. They never talk about a cure; they talk about remission. Sometimes
they don't talk to me at all. They just whisper to my parents." He bites
his bottom lip and a carmine mark appears where the blood rushes to the
"Mum and Dad think I'm scared of dying, but I'm not scared. You should see
some of the kids in this place. At least I've had a life. Another fifty years
would be nice, but like I said, I'm not scared."
"How many more chemo sessions?"
"Six. Then we wait and see. I don't mind losing my hair. A lot of
footballers shave their hair off. Look at David Beckham; he's a wanker, but he's
a wicked player. Having no eyebrows is a bit of a blow."
"I hear Beckham gets his plucked."
It almost raises a smile. In the silence I can hear Malcolm's teeth chattering.
"If the chemo doesn't work my parents are going to tell the doctors to keep
trying. They'll never let me go."
"You're old enough to make your own decisions."
"Try telling them that."
"I will if you want me to."
He shakes his head and I see the tears starting to form. He tries to stop them,
but they squeeze out from under his long lashes in fat drops that he wipes away
with his forearm.
"Is there someone you can talk to?"
"I like one of the nurses. She's been really nice to me."
"Is she your girlfriend?"
He blushes. The paleness of his skin makes it look as though his head is filling
"Why don't you come inside and we'll talk some more? I can't raise another
spit unless I get something to drink."
He doesn't answer, but I see his shoulders sag. He's listening to that internal
"I have a daughter called Charlie who is eight years old," I say,
trying to hold him. "I remember when she was about four, we were in the
park and I was pushing her on a swing. She said to me, 'Daddy, do you know that
if you close your eyes really tightly, so you see white stars, when you open
them again it's a brand-new world?' It's a nice thought, isn't it?"
"But it's not true."
"It can be."
"Only if you pretend."
"Why not? What's stopping you? People think it's easy to be cynical and
pessimistic, but it's incredibly hard work. It's much easier to be
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...