Death Sentence

Mike has not appeared for breakfast so Sal decides to see if he has overslept. Knocking on his door there is no response, and Sal begins to have fear that something has happened during the night. Finally Mike appears at the door, and seems somewhat glum. Unshaven and still in his pajamas he motions for Sal to come into his room.
Sal inquires “did you just get up and why the glum face?”

: “I got the results of my tests and it is bad news “It’s pancreatic cancer.”

“Oh shit, is there anything they can do?”

“Radical surgery, but even with that it’s still fucking hopeless. I am not going to go through all the shit that Arlene experienced.”

“What exactly did they tell you?”

: “they did the usual mumbo jumbo dance when I asked how long do I have. Somewhere between 5 minutes and 200 years. Being a Doctor I’ve heard that so many times it’s not funny.”

“seriously, Mike how long do you think?”

“The longest would be two years, and the shortest would be six months. It’s funny when they told me the prognosis all I could think about was Vietnam.”


: “Yeah in Vietnam you lived with death every second even in the medical units. One day I was coming out of the latrine, and two seconds later it was hit by incoming and six friends of mine were killed. I hadn’t thought about that for years ,but last night I dreamed about that day.. It’s not death that scares me it’s the process of dying. I saw Arlene go inch by inch.”

“Will you be able to stay here?”

“Yeah, they have hospice here, so I won’t have to be moved, even at the end.”

“Can I do anything?”

“Yeah let me win at gin rummy.”

“Come on be serious.”

: “I Don’t know…Mike sighs and after a long pause says” but having you here kind of connects the dots for me.”


“The rest of the people here are nice, but they are still strangers. You go all the way back to the corner. You are a connection, and there are so many things that we have in common. You instinctively know where I come from and how I see the world.”

“Mike in the immortal words of Yogi “It isn’t over till its over.”

‘Things must be pretty desperate if you’re quoting Yogi.”

“Who else would you quote to a Yankee fan?”

: “Don’t go sad face on me. I don’t want to be reminded daily of my impending doom.”

“O.K. , but what can I do?”

“Just be there I can’t tell you specifics now but…knowing that you give a shit really helps.”

“ Don’t make me ask constantly what you need—you gotta tell me.”

“It hasn’t fully set in yet, but I will be straight with you about my needs.”

“Are you going to tell your kids?”

“I guess I have to.”

“Does that include Michael?”

“I probably will let Tommy tell him. They are very close.”

“If I am over the line tell me, but I think it would be better coming from you.”


Because maybe it will be a chance for the two of you to fix things before the end.”

“I wouldn’t know how to begin.

“ Mike tell me what you want to happen between you and Mike Jr?”

“I at least don’t want him to hate me.”

“I’ll bet he doesn’t hate you—he loves you, give him a chance to express the love he feels for you.”

“I wish that I could believe that he still loves me.”

He needs this more than you do. Remember how you felt when your father hugged you before you went to Vietnam? No man can be whole without the love of his father.”

: “I don’t think that I can approve of his lifestyle.”

“Mike give him all the love you’ve been saving for him. You don’t have to approve, – ,it’s bigger than that. Ask yourself what Arlene would want you to do?”

: “ I think that I am more afraid of this than the cancer.”

“ What’s the worse thing that can happen?”

”That he doesn’t give a shit because it’s too late.”

: “You will free all of your kids if you try, especially Michael
“What if he won’t come here?”

At least you would have tried, and he will know that you still cared.”

“I’m not even sure how to reach him.”

: Tommy will know.”

“ You’re like a god damn dog with a bone on this.”

“That’s because you need to do this.”

“If he comes will you hang around while I see him?”

“Absolutely where the hell can I go?”

“Thanks you’re not as big an asshole as people say.”

“: “Wait until you get my bill.”

Salvatore J. Tagliareni
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