A Cruel Fate

"What are you doing?"

            "Yoga."

            "Yoga?"

            "Yeah, it's 'the downward facing dog' position."

            "I don't care what the hell you call it, just cut it out. People are staring at us!"

            Megan stood and looked at her brother sheepishly. "Sorry, it just helps me relax. I guess this really isn't the place for it." She looked around the small cobblestone courtyard they were standing in. The early morning sunlight reflected off of the stained glass windows in the church and cast hues of blue and red on the benches below them. Behind the church the hospital loomed in concrete radiance, dwarfing the church and courtyard. Looking at it made Megan feel unbearably fragile and small.  As she looked at the gargoyle griffin sitting atop the "St. Lucius Charity Hospital" sign, she thought "This must be what Frosty the Snowman felt like, looking up at the sun and knowing it was going to eat him alive." Her eyes filled with tears and she looked away, absentmindedly wiping the dirt from her pants.

            "What're you thinking about, Meg?" Chris was five years older than Megan, and she understood innately that the twenty-two year old history major was barely holding back tears himself.

            "Frosty the Snowman."

            "What?"

            "Nevermind."

            Then came that silence between them that neither one was used to. Both of them staring at their shoes and waiting for the other to speak up. Before this summer they had never had that problem, Chris would come home from school blabbering about his new expert knowledge of Josef Stalin, or how he had won his fraternity bowling championship, and the two of them would fall back into their normal brother-sister routine. But everything before this summer seemed worlds away now.

            In her last week of school Megan had watched a video on the newest images from Hubble Telescope. It was about the Thackeray's Globules, dense opaque dust clouds, and how they blocked out the light from even the brightest stars around them. Since then she had written countless angst-ridden poems about how her life was like a Thackeray Globule. When she thought about it it wasn't so far from the truth, instead of dense opaque dust clouds she had dense opaque breast tumors.

"Semantics."

            "What?"

            "Nothing. Let's go back inside."

            "Sure thing, Meg. You know…I was thinking I should bring you a big care package."

            "Gee thanks, just thought of that did you?"

            "Cut it out. Now, what do you want in it? Twinkees, Doritos, that comic book you like…what is it…. 'Dogbert?"

            "Dilbert."

            "Right. See, it won't be so bad. Staying here, I mean. It's not like it's forever."

            "Yeah, I know. There are worse things, right?" She knew she'd apologize for her sarcasm later, but she couldn't bring herself to stop.

            Chris seemed to ponder it for a moment. Then, seriously, "Of course there are. You don't know half the stuff I studied last year. You're just lucky we're not on a ship in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle or anything."

            "What?"

            "Oh, nothing."

            "Goddamn it, Chris. Why do you have to be so damn quirky?" But it had worked. She could feel the laughter rising up in her chest, and the painful constriction of trying not to laugh.

            Chris smiled. "Oh, what a cruel fate it is."