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Stage Zero

by Hal Ackerman

The squall has passed.
The bay is a small mean dog tattering a yellow towel.
We walk the winter swept beach
Talking about our cancers.
You in your smart leather jacket, your hair tied back in a knot,
Me in a blue hooded sweatshirt.
We debate the value of early detection.
You're at stage zero, you say, does that even count?
Some things the body kills on its own.
The hillside across the highway is pooltable green.
A thick bandage of cloud
Is rolled across its forehead.
We stop for a moment,
Bend to examine a mangle of seaweed.
A swarm of gnats erupts like a cloud of tight punctuation.
You tell me you are going back to the Midwest.
Winter here is unsatisfying.
You crave the onslaught and remission.
I ask if you have a new sweetheart.
You startle quietly.
It is your way of absorbing impact.
When you turn toward me
Your face catches the full sun
So I think you may be smiling.
It's new, you say.
Stage zero.
Your body will probably kill it.
I adjust the sunglasses on the bridge of your nose. I tell you,
This time make him say I love you first.

Hal Ackerman has been on the faculty of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television since 1985. His short Story, "Roof Garden" won the Warren Adler 2008 award for fiction and is published by Kindle. "Alfalfa," was included in the anthology, I Wanna Be Sedated...30 Writers on Parenting Teenagers. His play, TESTOSTERONE: How Prostate Cancer Made A Man of Me, won the William Saroyan Centennial Prize for drama and enjoyed a successful run in Los Angeles and has been performed nationwide for Prostate support groups. His first novel, STEIN, STONED (www.tyrusbooks.com) was published July 2010. STEIN, STUNG is forthcoming late spring of 2011.