The Cancer Walk

Wilson McBee

Wilson McBee

Davey’s behind the diving board doing one of his favorite moves—carrying a foam noodle wedged between his legs and walking around as if it were his elongated member. “I have a very very long schlong,” he says in a fake Indian accent to a lifeguard sitting on the high-chair three feet above. “Would you be very interested in a poking?”

The lifeguard sits statuesque in her throne, skin glistening and motionless. I am floating out in the middle of the deep end, Davey’s audience. Davey throws the noodle at me. It lands a few feet away and I swim over to it. “My schlong is very good for floating,” Davey says.

This is our summer afternoon. The sun dying slowly on a bed of pink clouds, this beautiful goddess being paid to watch us act like the thirteen year-olds we are. The pool is nearly empty on a weekday, just us and a few kids. Some retirees with socktans and leathery faces might come down from the golf course and take a dip. Mothers with People magazines and cranky toddlers might show. But mostly, Davey and I have decided, it is all for our pleasure.

“So you’re doing the Cancer Walk tomorrow?” Davey says to me, and starts to do a goofy little shuffle on the way to the diving board. “That sounds like a dance,” he says. “You put the chemicals in, you take the cancer out, you put a wig on your head and you shake it all about. You do the Cancer Walk and you get to stay alive. That’s what it’s all about!”

It’s possible that a smile cracks the face of our elevated idol.

“It’s a Walk for Cancer,” I tell him. “No big deal. Just me and my mom walking with a bunch of other people from the high school to the town hall.”

But Davey doesn’t hear me say this because he’s already cannon-bombed into the water. He hoped to splash the lifeguard, but she’s too high up. Only her feet get wet.

“Did I get you?” he says to her. She shakes her head.

Later we’re back in my living room, our suits still wet, watching music videos. My mother is at the clinic with my dad. Pizza rolls are warming in the oven, the air conditioner is working hard to keep the hot breath of August at bay. Davey leaves the room momentarily and comes back with a bottle of Scotch.

“We ought to taste this,” he says. “Ok,” I say. We each have half a shot-glass’s worth. Then Davey fills the shot-glass with water and dumps it down the bottle.

“Ingenious,” he says to himself. “Just brilliant.”

“Who would you rather have sex with more?” I ask him. “Mariah Carey or Kelly Kopowski?”

“Here’s the thing,” Davey says. “Would your mom know about it? I mean could I trust you not to tell. Because I don’t want to ruin anything with her. Even for Mariah Carey.”

Darkness falls as we’re walking my rat terrier Raphael. The neighborhood is putting on her lights: dads returning, kitchens glowing, the soft purr of an engine in a garage. Davey carries a cigarette we’re going to share when we get to the undeveloped section of our subdivision.

We walk past the pool and the shuttered country club, where we meet a gang of elementary kids on bikes.

“Hey Davey and Billy,” one of them says, “we’re coming up here after supper to play spotlight. You in?”

“Spotlight?” Davey says. “With you? I think we’ll take a pass, thanks anyway.”

As we walk away the kid speaks up again: “Hey Davey, guess what I saw today?”

Davey doesn’t answer.

“I saw Becky Sanderson’s nipple.”

“You did not,” Davey says.

“I did too. It was after you guys left. After we were all out of the pool she dove from her lifeguard’s stand into the deep end. When she came up her top was a little down.”

Davey turns around and walks briskly in the kids’ direction.

“You ever been punched before? I’m about to do you a favor. I’m going to teach you something important. You need to be punched.”

“Oh shit!” the kids say and start giggling. They all disappear down the street and into side-yards like pigeons from a motorcycle.

“What a bunch of turds,” Davey says.

After the cigarette we walk Raphael back to my house. My dad is in the kitchen warming a plate of lasagna someone brought by. My mom is resting up, he explains to us, in order to have plenty of energy for the walk tomorrow.

Davey stays over for supper. Afterward we bounce a basketball in my driveway. “I wish I had another one of those cigarettes,” Davey says.

“Maybe we should go play spotlight,” I say.

“Hell no. With those little kids? I’ve got an idea,” Davey says. “Wait here.” He goes inside my front door and comes back out less than a minute later. He’s carrying one of my mom’s wigs, a long blond number received at her recent wig party.

“Check it out, I look like Axl Rose,” says Davey, putting it on.

“You’ve got to take that off,” I say. “She’ll put it on and smell your funk.”

“Your mom’s never going to wear this one. It was in the front hall closet with all the other junk nobody ever uses.”

“Did my dad see you?”

“He was asleep on the couch. I don’t think he noticed about the Scotch. Listen. Have you ever gone ding-dong-ditching?”

I tell him I haven’t.

“Here’s how it works. We go to someone’s front door and give it a good loud knock. Then we run. When they come to the door, no one’s there. It’s hilarious. And this way with the wig, even if they see us, we’ll never get caught.”

“What if they see me?” I ask. “I’m not wearing a wig.”

“But I will be wearing a wig. They’ll think I’m a girl. No one would ever think you’d be out playing with a girl, Billy.”

“Thanks, Davey,” I say.

First we try a townhouse by the third hole. I hide on the lip of a sandtrap while Davey approaches the front door—stepping lightly among the shrubbery and garden figurines, golden locks hanging down to his waist.

Davey tiptoes to the door. There is a single light on in the house, in the second- storey window. Davey knocks loudly and flees to the sandtrap. As he runs across the yard a face appears in the window.

We lie in the sand waiting for the punchline. But no one ever comes to the door.

“I think we should go get em again, send a message,” Davey says.

“What’s the point?” I say. “They probably know it’s a joke.”

“I don’t know,” Davey says. “But I want to try again.”

Once again Davey tiptoes toward the front door, blonde hair flipping against his back like a superhero’s cape. He isn’t able to knock this time, though. Just when he gets to the front step and raises his fist to pound away—the door opens, revealing a tall dark figure outlined in murky light.

Davey turns and beelines it out of the yard. The figure, in slippers and a robe, runs after him.

“Hey you!” the man says. “Hey!”

When Davey is on the other side of the street and heading my way, he trips on a rock and lands in the grass. His chaser, who has been running, now walks toward Davey. As Davey stands up and turns away the man grabs his shoulder.

“Where do you live?” the man asks. “What’s your name? Who are your parents?”

His voice erupts into the stillness of the night like a quake. The man tries to turn Davey forcibly in front of him, but Davey hides his face.

“My name’s…my name’s,” says Davey in a high-pitched voice, “my name’s Kelly, Kelly Kapowski. I live at 1600 Bayside Way. My dad’s Richard Belding, he’s a principal at the high school.”

“Bayside Way, that’s not in our subdivision,” the man says, and momentarily loosens his grip on Davey, who bolts.

“Run!” he says to me. So I do. We cross the sandtrap together and go flying across the golf course into someone else’s back yard, then around the corner of the house and down the next street. Finally we land underneath a tree a few blocks away and catch our breath. As soon as we are breathing regularly we start to laugh.

“I can’t believe you said you were Kelly Kapowski,” I say.

“It was the first thing that came to mind. But the guy believed it! Who are we going to do next?”

“No way, Davey,” I say. “After that, I’m done.”

“Oh come on,” he says. “You didn’t even do anything. You need to try knocking one yourself.”

“Nope,” I say. “Not going to happen. It’s getting late anyway. I have to get up early for the Cancer Walk tomorrow, remember?”

Davey smiles. “The Cancer Walk, right.” He does a little shuffle and starts to sing, “You put the chemicals in, you take the cancer out…”

As we walk home the moon comes out. There’s barely a sound in the neighborhood besides the clap of our soles against the pavement. Once a car comes toward us down the street. Hoping it’s a patrol-car, that our victim has called the cops to complain, we scramble behind some bushes to hide. But the car’s only a regular Toyota.

We turn the corner in front of where Davey lives, and we see that there’s a black pick-up parked in the driveway of his house. This truck is only an occasional visitor to our neighborhood.

I know enough not to mention the presence of the pick-up to Davey. We continue past his house.

We reach the fork at the top of a hill. One way leads toward my house, the other to the country club lawn where the elementary kids are playing spotlight. For a moment we stand in silence and watch the flickering spotlight dance along in the darkness, hear the distant giggles of evasion and pursuit. Occasionally the light finds a leg or a face, cheers erupt.

Happy Gilmore’s on HBO tonight,” I say to Davey.

“Sweet,” Davey says. “Let’s do it.”


Wilson McBee is an MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He has been published previously in Kitty Snacks, and he writes about music for Slant Magazine and Prefix.


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