June 22, 2013

Over a second pint in a West End pub, Ben was explaining the new features of the iPhone 5 to his old mate Brad from back home in Sydney. Brad had just landed that morning in London – his first port on a whistle-stop tour of Europe.

“Ben, can you put the phone down for a minute, mate?” said Brad. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“No worries mate,” said Ben. “Just gonna show you a couple more Apps first, ok? I’ve got some proper little beauts on this.”

“Ben,” Brad said again. His voice was firmer this time, though a bit on the croaky side, too. Ben looked up and saw that bubbles of spit had gathered at the corners of his friend’s mouth; also, the bottom lip was shaky and a bit slobbery. It wasn’t very pleasant to look at, really.

“Ben, d’ya know why I’m here mate?” Brad’s voice had shot up a couple of notches and sounded kind of squeaky. “D’ya know why I’ve chosen to do my tour of Europe now mate, instead of waiting ‘til April like we’d talked about?”

Brad raised one sleeve of his shirt, dabbing first at his eyes, then his nose, and finally (to Ben’s relief) at his slippery mouth. There followed a brief, awkward silence during which Ben moved his eyes around a bit and nibbled at his bottom lip, in that way he did when he couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Ben, mate,” Brad went on, “What it is… I’ve got leukemia, mate. I’m gonna be doing the treatment – you know, chemo an’ that – as soon as I get back to Oz. So that’s why I’m here now, mate. Packing it all into six weeks. Thing is… they’re not sure what the chances are. You know. Of me pulling through.”

Ben looked down at his pint. He began to play with it, swirling the glass, trying to rejuvenate the lager’s once-frothy head; although you could never really get it back to how it was in the first place, of course – however much you whizzed it around, it never quite tasted the same. ‘Leukemia,’ he thought to himself. It wasn’t one of those words you could easily put an image to – like, for example, ‘Zebra’. You never heard anyone say ‘L is for Leukemia’. It was one of those mysterious words. ‘Leukemia.’ He rolled the word over in his mind. Was it four syllables or just three?  He supposed it depended on how you said it. Most Brits, he reckoned, would drag it out over four. But if Ben’s old man was here, he’d get it out in three, no dramas: ‘Loo-keem-ya?’ Say what you like about Ben’s dad, he wasn’t one to mince his words.

“Hey Ben?” Brad’s voice startled him. “Ben, you okay mate?”

“Yeah mate,” said Ben. “I guess. I just got to thinking, ya know?”

Cancer. It didn’t matter who you were, it was out there. Lurking around in the shallows like a great white. Like a big, hungry, pissed-off great white, hell-bent on sinking its teeth into your leg; maybe even taking it clean off in one bite. You heard about those things happening; there were documentaries about it on the TV sometimes. Only this wasn’t TV – it was real life. And it was coming for his old mate, Brad.

Even Steve Jobs – even Jobsy, the smartest bloke in the universe – even old Jobaroo hadn’t been able to fight off the great white cancer shark. Still, he thought, at least Jobsy will be remembered for coming up with some pretty cool stuff; like the iPhone 5. He wasn’t sure if Brad would be remembered for anything, really.



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