Cancer Beetles

by Shawn Aveningo

Annie grew up back east, in one of those hundred year old
ivy embossed stone houses that make the perfect backdrop
for Christmas card photos at the season’s first snow.

Did she know? Did anyone know the Bostonian tendrils
snaking their way up the north façade of her childhood
home harbored a secret, a bit of a death pact, if you will?

Sure, the mere vertical nature of the green beast
proved to be too challenging for the most common of
furry four-legged vermin who scavenge under the moon.

And the usual variety of cold-blooded pests found the winters
too cold, too frigid for any lengthy visit. But what if,
under this leafy green cloak of charm, lurked the most dreaded

alien parasite of our time? Cancer. Could it be this plant, this
Hedera Helix, serves as basic training for the malignant neoplasm?
I imagine miniscule scarab carcinoma marching up & down,

back & forth, under their camouflage foliage, lacing up teeny black
boots, loading tiny ray guns to combat radiation blasts, building
dams to block the intravenous deluge of human designer

chemicals. Nine weeks later, each Cancer is assigned a duty station.
One soldier goes AWOL, hitches a ride in the luggage of our now
24-year-old Anne, on her way to her new life in Sunny, California,

where she buys her first house, plants ivy out of respect
for her roots. She also plants a row of cannabis outside her kitchen
window, so she can bake special brownies to send back to her father,

his lack of appetite making it difficult to stomach his constant side
effects. The stockholders of his billion dollar pharmaceutical empire
refusing to invest in ‘progressive’ research, while both the disease
and the cure continue to grow, right under their noses.


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