David Shipko is a Los Angeles based scholar and writer.

Cancer

There was a youngish man, single and just barely past the threshold of middle age, who contracted, as the result of years of secret chainsmoking, a lung cancer that was quite incurable, and as a result he stood to die before his mother, his sole surviving biological parent—his father having died from skin cancer many years ago—who had lived to the ripe old age of eighty-five, and who had long ago made ensuring the lifelong success and happiness of her sons, for he had a younger brother, her life’s work and enjoyment. For Christmas, he flew to see her, and not having the heart to tell her of his condition or the story of how it had come to be, not wanting to break her heart with the knowledge she would live to see her oldest son die a shameful death, as a professional failure nonetheless, at least by her standards, he instead, during Christmas dinner, after the toasts had been given and wine had been drunk and food had been eaten and for the first time in many years the family had been together and happy, retired to his room where he retrieved a small pistol, and returning to the dining room, in the middle of a funny story told by his stepfather, before anyone could recognize what was happening, shot in the head, in order, his mother, stepfather, brother, and himself. His doctors never revealed their mistake in his diagnosis. 

A Story That Was To Have Been

Time Management