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This Shoal of Space:

Zoë Calla & the Dark Starship

(World's First E-Book—Published On the Web in 1996 For Digital Download)

a Dark SF novel originally titled Heartbreaker

by John Argo

Preface   Chapter 1   Intralog  Part I-Chapter 2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65   Part II-Chapter 66   67   68   69   70   71   72   73   74   75   Outlog


Chapter 70.

ZoŽ quit her job at the newspaper. A specialist flown in by the Burtongale Estate discovered yet another tumor, this one in Max's brain. Metastasis had set in. He had less than three months to live, Dr. Boutros said.

I will die with him, ZoŽ vowed silently to herself.

She took Max home toward the end of the week. It was a sunny day, filled with bird song and flowers. Max seemed in good spirits. "I'll be playing basketball again before you know it," he told her. He patted her knee. "Don't worry, I'll get through this one okay just like last time."

That evening, after dinner, they all sat and watched Disney movies in the den. ZoŽ had the illusion that she'd had a bad dream and now was reality. They were a family; how could Max die now that he finally had a family? She went in the bathroom and cried quietly for a while so nobody would know.

Later, as Max was going to bed, she sat by him. It was as if they were alone in the big house, with the wind blowing gently outside, and pine boughs rubbing against the house saying how wonderful it was to be alive.

"Mom," he said, hands folded on chest, eyes glittering into a ceiling of thoughts, "I'm not sure I can take it again. The chemo, I mean."

"Max," she said and pressed a hand over his. She knew what he meant. He'd already received massive doses of poisons designed to kill the tumors, at the expense of sickening his healthy body too. It was okay now, but in a few days he would be immobile, glued to the floor, gasping, vomiting glassy fire. She remembered it all from before. "Max, darling, you HAVE to! I'm going to be with you every second, do you hear? I'm going to suffer with you, and we're going to make it together. You've got to! You have a family now."

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," ZoŽ told Roger as he held her. They lay, dressed in pajamas, on the bed.

"I understand," he said. His tone told her more: he would stand by her. But would it be enough? Would all the hopes and prayers be enough?

Jules and Patricia visited next day. So did Martina. So did Sister St. Cyr. Some kids from school came, including the boys who had been playing basketball with him; they brought a basketball and signed their names to it. Several girls came with their parents and wrote hearts and valentine messages on Max's cast.

A bald Max MacLemore preened in all the attention. He'd asked that his head be shaved so that he wouldn't look weird as his hair fell out in patches.

He was the star of the show, but he tired easily and had to go to bed.

Roger swapped Elisa's bedroom on the first floor for Max's on the second, so that Max would have easier access to the kitchen.

Vic Lara and Martina Strather stopped by. "We're working hard to adopt Evvie," she said. "Oh, didn't Vic tell you? We're engaged to be married next year."

"That's great," ZoŽ and Roger said.

Vic said: "ZoŽ, I'm sorry your son is so sick."

ZoŽ said: "I wish you had left me to die when Gilbert..." Immediately she realized that then Max would have died alone, and she covered her face and cried. Vic put a hard hand on her shoulder, with soft fingertips that vibrated sympathy. He was a mensch, after all.


Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.