Purple Legion is done and will be published soon. Until then, you can go to Kindle Scout to nominate it for publication in their Kindle Select program. If it gets selected, anyone nominating it will receive a free copy from Kindle. If you would like to nominate it, go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3KV1JX7UZWQ8O .
“Who would have ever thought performing oral sex on a woman could kill you?”
Age had not caused Roger Tucci to loose his Mediterranean good looks. If anything, maturity had made him even more handsome. He still had the dark skin and, even in his mid-60s, only flecks of grey in his naturally dark hair and moustache. Men half his age wished they had his muscular physique. Woman of all ages just wanted him and he had always been glad to accommodate them.
“Human papillomavirus. HPV,” he read from the wall chart in the doctor’s office.
Doctor Takahashi gave Roger a few seconds to collect himself before continuing.
“An HPV infection that doesn’t go away can cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the soft palate, base of the tongue, and tonsils. The technical name is oropharyngeal cancer. ‘Throat cancer’ is a general term that covers a couple of other kinds of cancer, but it’s good enough.”
Roger was looking out the office window, thinking about how lovely the blue sky was. “Is there any way to figure out when I got it?” He had been very calm as the doctor broke the news to him and he wasn’t going to get excited now.
“By ‘when’ I’m assuming you mean who you got it from. That depends on how many partners you’ve had. This kind of cancer develops very slowly and may not be diagnosed until years, or even decades, after a person initially gets infected with HPV. If you’ve had more than one partner over your lifetime it probably wouldn’t be possible to narrow it down. Even if you were to test every woman you’ve been with, they may have been infected then but are free now.”
“What’s the prognosis?”
“HPV-caused cancer is different than other forms of throat cancer and the prognosis is typically very good. If we had caught it early this kind of cancer is easily treatable. Your cancer is advanced, though. The real problem is it has spread through metastasis and isn’t just in the throat anymore. It’s in your lungs as well. We could start a regimen of surgery and chemotherapy, but I’ll be honest – your chances are not good. I’ve put together some literature for you to review.”
Tucci took the literature Takahashi was holding out and glanced at it.
“The fact you haven’t already booked me for surgery tells me everything I need to know. How much time are we talking about?”
“That is hard to say. Six months, maybe less. You should get your affairs in order.”
Tucci nodded his understanding. The doctor was being more honest than he probably should. He interpreted the doctor’s time estimate to be on the ‘maybe less’ side of things.
Roger was resigned to the situation. He had done his own research and had been pretty sure of the situation before he had first seen the doctor the week before. The problems had started with a sore throat some months earlier. Throat lozenges had helped and he hadn’t thought anything of it. Then he developed some ear pain and a chronic cough, but Dallas can be brutal for allergies and he had problems with his allergies before. Again, he treated it with over-the-counter medication and hadn’t thought anything more about it. When his friends commented on the change in his voice and how he had been losing weight, Roger began to wonder. The throat lozenges weren’t helping as much and he had developed problems swallowing. To top it off, he always felt tired. He did some searches on line for his symptoms and what he found made him call Dr. Takahashi at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for an immediate appointment.
Takahashi had examined his throat before taking a tissue sample for a biopsy and ordering a CAT scan. He had been very noncommittal at the time but Roger had become successful by reading people and the doctor’s body language was clear. Roger had known his fate long before the test results had come back, the results that were now on Takahashi’s desk.
“What can you do for me?” he asked.
“I can prescribe some pain killers. The pain will get worse, but that will be later. Right now, it will be manageable. I can also prescribe medication to relieve the ear problems and help you swallow. We can up the dosage as the cancer progresses. Eventually, you’ll need to check into a hospital.”
Roger waited while the doctor filled out the script. When Takahashi handed it over, Roger shook his hand and said, “Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate your help.”
As he started to leave he turned to the doctor and said, “In case you’re wondering, let me tell you, it was worth it. There’s nothing like having a woman lock her thighs around your head while she screams in passion. What a great time!” And he left with a smile and low laugh.
As he made his way back to his office he began a list of people he needed to call. His three children, his mother, a couple of business associates. He thought momentarily of calling his ex-wife, Kristen, and decided it wasn’t a good idea. They had been on very bad terms ever since she had decided she wouldn’t put up with his philandering anymore and had kicked him out of the house. He was afraid she would actually enjoy the news.
“Hey, Christmas is coming up,” he said to himself. “Maybe I’ll give her a present and tell her she’s the one that gave it to me. On the fifth day of Christmas my ex-wife gave to me h pe-ee-ee vee! She would love it.” Rationalizing his actions, he thought, “Of course if there had been more screaming in passion and less plain old screaming I might not have chased other women. I’ll let the kids break the news to her.”
But, there was one person in particular he needed to call – Patricia Kennealy
In 1919, 31-year old Conrad Hilton traveled to Cisco, Texas to purchase a bank, but the deal fell through when the bank turned out to be too expensive. As Hilton was wondering what to do next, he became aware of the housing shortage due to all of the migrant workers attracted to the town by the oil boom. Consequently, he purchased the 40-room Mobley Hotel and founded a business empire.
A town of about 4,000 in the middle of North Texas, Cisco is more reminiscent of the way things used to be in Texas, rather than the way things are now in a 21st century city. Depending how you measured it, the drive from Dallas was either 130 miles, 2 hours or 50 years.
The heavy end-of-school traffic on Conrad Hilton Blvd had put her in a bad mood and Patricia Kennealy silently cursed to herself. The knowledge she had done it to herself didn’t help. She knew she needed to go to the grocery store but had failed to take care of her chores earlier while the kids were still in school. She could only deal with it and live with the fact she had no one to blame but herself. Fortunately, the weather that October afternoon was pleasant and she was able to drive with the windows down. Texas summers could be brutal at times, but the other nine months of the year were nearly perfect and she thought of how this afternoon was a classic example.
She turned her pick-up truck into the parking lot of Brookshires, the closest thing they had to a grocery store and, just as she was parking, her phone rang. The screen said it was Roger Tucci calling.
“Roger, what a nice surprise,” she said as she answered.
Patricia Morrison’s childhood in Dallas had been simple and routine with nothing to set her life apart from anyone else’s. She attended the Southern Methodist University after graduating high school, majoring in horticulture with the intention of working in greenhouses. Along the way, she met and married Ray Kennealy.
Ray was a hydrologist and got a job working in the Dallas office of the Texas Water Development Board after graduation. They were able to rent an apartment in Dallas’s artsy M Streets, a short distance from the TWDB office and they moved in with the thought of starting an idyllic life.
Ray’s job began right away but Patricia was still setting up home before beginning her job. While cleaning her new home the warm May weather made her decide she would rather be doing it topless. The M Street area had very liberal standards and she thought the idea of working without her top on was refreshing. Even when cleaning the balcony of their second-floor apartment. That’s when she found out the door to the balcony locked automatically when it swung closed, leaving her stranded with no way to get in and no way to contact Ray.
After reviewing all of her options, she resolved herself to climbing down the outside of the building. Once on the street, she brushed her long red hair over her exposed breasts in the hope no one would notice then set off like Lady Godiva to find a payphone at the nearby convenience store.
Things were going well until she reached Greenland Hills High School with some of the students sitting outside while on their lunch break. Once they noticed the topless woman walking down the street the word spread quickly and before she knew it she was entertaining a raucous audience of whistling and cat-calling teenagers.
Changing her plan, she fled down a side street with laughter and whistling chasing her from behind, and rang the door bell of the first house she came to. A medium-height, dark-skinned, middle-aged man of uncommon good looks answered the door. Taking one up and down look at Patricia, he said, “Well, young lady. I think we need to find you something to wear.”
She waited in the living room while he went to the bedroom and returned with a dress shirt, discreetly looking away while she put it on.
“Thank you so much. I got locked out of my apartment and was heading to the corner to call my husband on a payphone, but the kids at the high school started getting carried away.”
“Can you blame them? They were just having a little fun, that’s all. Listen, I’m having a late lunch with some friends in the garden out back. Use my phone there to call your husband and then come join us.”
“I don’t want to sound ungrateful,….”
He interrupted her before she could finish. “I might remind you, those students are still out there and would probably love for you to make an encore.”
She hesitated and he took the opportunity to hold out his hand.
“I’m Roger, Roger Tucci.”
She took his hand and shook it.
“Patricia Kennealy. Pleased to meet you.”
Lunch turned into story telling and she was still there with Roger and his friends when her husband arrived after work. She and Ray became regulars in Roger’s circle after that, and they ended up becoming close. Roger, they learned, was a successful self-employed businessman who would build up a business before selling it for a handsome profit, simply to turn around and do it again. He would have been very wealthy except for the way he would burn through money, helping people out and supporting various causes. Over the years, he made several offers to help Patricia and Ray out with things, but they always turned him down. They spent time with him because they liked him, not because they liked his money.
The fly in the ointment was Roger’s wife, Kristen. She had been more than tolerant of his escapades with women but a woman could stand only so much and she viewed Patricia as another of Roger’s conquests. No amount of good behavior on her part was ever able to convince Kristen that Patricia wasn’t sleeping with her husband. The irony was she was probably the only one of Roger’s female acquaintances that wasn’t. Kristen stayed with Roger for the sake of the children, and the luxurious lifestyle he provided her. She would make the required appearances at parties and public functions and made the effort to present the face of a businessman’s happy wife. Kristen Tucci wasn’t the most pleasant of people, but no one could fault her for the effort she put into her role. When she split up with Roger she called Patricia and told her, “He’s all yours now. I’m done with him.” Patricia never heard from her again after that.
Ray and Patricia had moved to Cisco by then where Ray worked in the local hydrologic office. Life had been good to them and they raised a son and a daughter together.
Then, Roger told her he was dieing.
“He wants me to be his power-of-attorney agent.”
She had broken the news to Ray after dinner when they were alone. She didn’t want to discuss the news in front of the children. They were in the kitchen, together cleaning up.
“Why you?” he asked as he handed her a clean plate to dry.
“He didn’t say, but I’m probably the only person he trusts. I may be the only woman he has ever known that never went to bed with him and we’re the only friends he has that aren’t holding a hand out for money. It has to narrow the list down.”
“I always suspected he wanted to go to bed with you.”
“Well you can quit suspecting because he did want to go to bed with me. Ever since I showed up at his front door with my tits hanging out.”
“I’m sure he thought he had won the Lotto. Did he ever make a pass?”
“No. He was always a perfect gentleman. He never did anything improper with me. I could tell, though. It was flattering. He’s such a good-looking guy. It was nice to have a man look at me like that every now and then.”
Ray was a little hurt. “You mean I don’t?”
“Oh, you sure do. That’s the difference between us and him and Kristen. We’re happy together. They never were.”
Ray let the water drain out of the sink before asking, “What are you going to tell him?”
“If you’re okay with it, I want to do it. He has always been a good friend to us. It will mean I’ll be tied up with things at times. You and the kids will have to pick up the slack.”
He thought about it and sighed as he answered. “You’re right. He’s a good friend and now he needs someone to help out. I’ll talk it over with Greg and Chelsea. We’ll be fine. Go take care of Roger.”
“I’m sure it won’t be too bad. I’m guessing he has everything in order.”
Ray gave her a skeptical look before answering. “Dear, this is Roger Tucci we’re talking about.”
She slumped down a little and admitted, “Yeah, you’re right. It’s going to be a mess.”