The Dove and the Damnation

By Tyler MacDonald

Ann and Brian loved to eat Spam. They spammed crammed canned Spam and they slammed amber ham till they suddenly said, “Oh man, Ann.”

Ann had been diagnosed with cancer. 

In a desperate haste and at a breakneck pace they searched for the answer. Brian’s ears rang and his eyes sang sad songs of a sorrow that won’t go away tomorrow or maybe ever and, sure as hell, it won’t fade if they give up with an, “Ah, dang. We’ll get ‘em next time.” Not much good, anyway. Besides, there’d be no such thing as next time.

They bought brochures and talked to every doctor that suppresses the truth and assures that good will come to those who talk to her. It would, it sure should, but people need money and they’ll lie to get it. Like how some people screw up good chicken and say, “Let’s bread it.” All just a slimy do-up for dollars. Ann and Brian hate the city and the way it hollers how it can make you pretty or how you need new shitting litter for your kitty. 

But so often now they head downtown with their deep internal frowns to buy hope from the doctors that dock her of all her livelihood just like any damn person in want of wealth would do. The brochures don’t help. “Welp,” is all they can say. On to the next thing. Brian’s ears still ring. They were never really fans of God yet they need to save Ann’s dying bod so the two set out to pray every day. 

They give to charity and try to find clarity in giving and joy. “I’ll even donate my favorite childhood toys,” said dying Ann. They fed the homeless and the needy beneath the skyscrapers of the cold and greedy. They prayed and prayed and to their newly adopted God; they never strayed. 

But why was she damned? Perhaps it was the Spam or ham or the fact that their heavenly father said, “With my heavenly hand I bestow this cancer upon Ann of whom I am no huge fan.” She ate salads and cereal with raisin bran to clear her palate. She worked out like a beast and her confidence rose like yeast. 

Everything was coming together. It was also a great time of year with perfect weather. But whether it was all for naught was her foremost thought. It was the most of many ghosts. The chief of her grief. A pain so deep that it didn’t let her sleep. She had this hindrance to her belief in a God that apparently gifted her abandonment because Ann never done meant to read a Bible since her parents never brought her churchwards. But Ann never said evil words or pulled crime stunts or knocked someone dead. She was an angel in the head. So why did she have cancer? She pleaded to heaven, hoping it was not just the sky, asking for a divine answer, “Why have I been damned? Or have I just been slammed by Spam?” 

“Anything at all?” No. The only response was the wind, searing cold like snow. 

“Maybe it was just the spam, ma’am,” says her mind to itself. Maybe that or the ham.

There was nowhere else to go. So she kept giving and working and hoping. Maybe, to her, Jesus was a joke. But Virtue is a double-sided sword of a bloke with a job of giving out love. When she gave she felt like a dove that descends in peace in the burnt battlefield, where each crease is a trench pitifully trying to hide human life from the weapons that other humans wield. So many souls she helped, so much within her feeling healed. Then she goes to bed and thinks, “Oh, Lord! My heart sinks to see them, so cruelly ignored!”

She ate clean and exercised like a mean lean machine. “We might just make it,” she says.

He was silent; he wondered what the suffering does to her, whether she can take it. He looked at the money needs and wondered how they’d manage to rake it in. But there was no question, of course this good fight would never be forsaken. Not until Ann’s final breath. Or the cancer finished dying its own death. 

Months passed. Her hair gave up staying on her head. Must’ve been gassed. The hope was still not dead. Brian clocked in mad hours and did not cower from burning his midnight power. “I’ve gotta make that bread,” he often said. Ann’s organs were too weak; soon she’d need to seek. To seek a way to get away from the impending doom. To find the magical hospital room. “I refuse to die,” Ann declared. Brian refused to let her say such an early goodbye.

So the enormous cross attached to her back was shared. Brian wept for her. He underslept for her. Why deep down he knew why; of it’s righteousness he was sure. 

Then, Ann  was back in a room, getting tested. “Well, you see,” the doctor says with a neck-scratch, “The disease has you bested.” That said with a weak sorry attached. I bet you are sorry, sir. Enjoy your mansion and your luxurious coats of fur. 

Months more and many organs had committed suicide. At least the doctors never lied. At first the void showed itself like a door ajar. Suddenly it opens wide, massive to avoid. 

She was on the hospital bed and not awake. A few more minutes till the bent woman breaks. 

Brian was alone with Ann. When she was gone he’d have to live, but he wept at the thought, failing to tell himself, “I can.” A glance at the vitals. Then he stared at the vitals. They were failing. Ann’s ship was sailing. Brian silent but internally wailing. 

He squeaked the final words to his sleeping beauty, “You have been everything to me. With hair or with none, boring days or fun, dark days or sun. You are the one. So shall it always go. I hope that you know… the light you will always be to me. I know which path you want me to follow, but I don’t know if I have the strength to go on with a heart so hollow.”

A very long silence. Her breathing had been on-and-off for hours since. Then it went off and never came back. For so long, nothing, not even a cough or a joint crack. 

“How will I go on alone? How?” he strokes her soft face one last time. “You can rest now. Farewell, my love.”

That night he dreamed of a dove.