My dad had cancer. Lung cancer. He was a pack-a-day, Winfield Red sort of man, with the odd self-rolled durry—minus filters—so no-one was terribly surprised, though this didn’t temper the devastation. Mum assumed battle-stations after the diagnosis. She was a strong woman. He was a strong man too, but he could fight his own illness as easy as he could punch his way out of a steel box. So dad more or less became Poland during the Nazi blitzkrieg of cancer, and mum became the Polish soldier with outdated weaponry, poor training, but the anger and tenacity of 10,000 men. It read just like the history books: defeat. Like I said, dad was a strong man, but stubbornness goes hand-in-hand with strength, and he refused to go to hospital until he eventually couldn’t control his bodily functions enough to resist anymore. It became pretty fucking bad during his last few weeks at home. I remembered my eyes fluttering open at 3am one night, and hearing noises reverberating from downstairs. I was 22. I could make out the groaning and sobbing before I got to the lounge room, but kept going regardless. I was obligated to witness this. First I saw mum, sitting on the coffee table with her head in her hands and her elbows between her knees, like she was trying to swallow herself up into a black hole and disappear. She was bawling her eyes out in a consistent, almost noiseless, despair. Fuck. Dad was lying on the couch groaning and groaning and groaning, with occasional shrieks—I’d never heard him shriek before—signifying stabbing pain. FUCK. I mean, it was, it was fucked, it was the most fucked up thing I’d ever seen and all I could do was stand there like a dumb shit and gawk. Then dad started screaming; not in a feminine way, but like a dog in a junk-yard before it rips out the jugular of some trespasser. And, on cue, mum’s despair also turned to screaming. I managed to get my legs moving, and walked closer to this tragic symphony. I went to dad first. We were never big huggers, ‘cause I had more of a respectful than buddy-buddy relationship with him, but I tried to put my arm over him. His screams increased in pitch as he batted my arm away. I turned to mum. We’d always been huggers, but this situation just couldn’t be fixed by them. I managed to embrace her though she didn’t stop screaming, and didn’t take her hands from her face or her elbows from between her legs. I like to think I was helping just a little before she spoke, through the sobs and screams. ‘Oh Jim,’ she whisperingly wailed, ‘just go to bed, please.’
‘I love you,’ I said, loud enough for dad to hear too. Neither replied but their groaning and crying decreased in volume. I let go of mum and went back to bed. Fell asleep pretty easily; always felt bad about that. Dad went to hospital the next day and lasted three more weeks, fucked up on drugs and shit to the point in which none of us knew if he heard when we said goodbye.
Apparently, piling tragedy on-top of tragedy has a predictable outcome. I began screaming in pain. The entire right-side of my body felt as if it was on fire. Coupled with the memory of my late father, the screams were interspersed with uncontrollable crying. I was a crying, screaming, pain-paralysed machine. I eventually managed to get control of myself. The pain didn’t go numb like before, but I guess I was able to distance it or get used to it or something, because I started thinking about something other than the pain; namely: how the fuck do I get out of this heap of twisted metal? It was about noon, though it didn’t matter, as saying I was in the middle of nowhere wasn’t much of an overstatement. I was somewhere about 300km north of Tamworth, on the New South Wales north coast. North ‘coast’ is definitely a loose term, as this part of the north coast happened to be about 700km inland. Like I said: middle of fucking nowhere. I was out here because —apart from getting into a serious prang—I was heading back to the regional newspaper at Tamworth to belt out a story about the redistribution of federal representative boundaries, because so many people were moving to larger, more coastal urban centres. The story would be late, the story was quite simply boring, yet the story was ironically the reason why I wasn’t expecting a rescue any time soon. There wasn’t nobody nor nothing out in this here part of the wide-brown land but me, myself and any imaginary crows I could dream up. Alright, time to do something. The car door hadn’t wrapped itself around my arm and leg or anything, it’d just crushed them, so I knew I’d probably be able to move them, but was simply scared. By crushed, I mean, CRUSHED; I, again out of fear, hadn’t looked directly at them yet, but knew there was something seriously wrong ‘cause of all the blood and the pain. I used my good leg to shift my weight to the left just a little. The pain shot like a firework from the tip of my right-foot, to my brain where it exploded into a celebration of agony. But I knew I had to do it again. . . .