Prognosis by Michael Loveday


She’d first noticed it five years ago, just after Jake had divorced her. Sebacious cyst, the GP had insisted. Five years later it was still growing, so slowly that she could hardly prove it. (As was her fear it was a sign).

The conversation with the specialist was brisk. “Fatty lump,” Mr. Kuloor said, hiding behind a shrub of black beard. Cold hands like steel on bare skin. “I think,” he hesitated, pressing. Then: “Do you have any others similar?”

“Tiny things,” she said, “on my stomach – here and here, like bubbles under the surface.”

Mr. Kuloor leaned back and clasped his hands together on his bulging midriff, his thumbs jabbing up to heaven. “We’d better remove it. Simple operation, local anaesthetic, two inch incision. We’ll send it for testing and know more.”

It was too late: pictures began to tessellate through her head. How many months did she have? Was there time for her to make amends? And what was she doing to her children, dying like this? If this was her punishment, then she deserved it.

That night, she dreamed of Jake again. He was wearing a white doctor’s coat, a stethoscope, and giant fancy dress spectacles. He touched her side. “You need to be opened, just to be sure.” He took one lens out of the joke glasses and used it to carve her abdomen neatly. He sewed her up with a shoelace. What had he claimed in his fist? He uncurled his fingers and there was her heart, tiny as a sparrow’s, beating quick in the open air. He studied it through one squinting eye. Was he laughing or crying as he put the joke glasses back on, fumbling the lens back into place? She couldn’t see his left eye for the blood.

“You’re benign,” he insisted. “Completely benign.”

She tried to speak, but no sound came out. They stood there, watching each other. He raised his flat palm to his mouth, put his teeth around her heart, started chewing.




Michael Loveday’s debut pamphlet collection “He Said / She Said” was published by HappenStance Press (2011). His poems, short stories and book reviews have been published in Ambit, Envoi, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Iota, Magma, The North, POEM, The Rialto, Spelk and Stand. He lives in the UK, and teaches in adult education. Website:


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